The two biggest summer blockbusters, The Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Knight Rises will be released this July. How do they stack up against each other? Here’s a point-by-point analysis of the superhero smackdown.
Directors. Christopher Nolan wins, until Marc Webb proves otherwise. Nolan crafts crime neo-noir and psychological thrillers, which Dark Knight Rises will definitely be. Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, his indie romance directorial debut, could not be more different from Spider-Man; he won praise for creating a “clever, offbeat” romantic comedy with non-linear structure and understated honesty, and before film he directed music videos like Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” and Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul.” But a quality director is a quality director, regardless of genre. So I think Webb will deliver, and possibly bring enhance the superhero action adventure genre with a touch of sensibility.
Story. Batman. The Nolan brothers are better screenplay writers than the Spiderman writers. But it also depends if you’re an origins-story or finale type of person. As the third installment of Nolan’s trilogy, Dark Knight Risesfeatures Batman battling both his tarnished reputation — he took responsibilities for the crimes of the Chief Commissioner — and a traditional villain, Bane, who threatens to destroy Gotham. Much darker and more violent, the finale will be a force to be reckoned with. Amazing Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a coming-of-age story. Webb takes Spider-Man back to high school, when he struggles to understand the truth about his parents and to navigate the stormy waters of first love. While he fights villains like any other superhero, this film is about figuring out his identity as a hero and as an everyday person.
Musical score. Tie. Both will deliver strong soundtracks for their directors. Hans Zimmer (Inception, Gladiator) is a film score-pumping machine. His slightly cheesy, but irresistibly dramatic movie soundtracks are perfect for summer blockbusters. Such a creative-yet-industrial composer suits Nolan’s films, which are better-than-average, smarter action-adventure that everyone enjoys. James Horner (Avatar, Titanic, Braveheart), on the other hand, writes less frequently but has mastered the ability to balance intimacy with grandiosity. Horner’s ethereal celtic style will soften the bulky, massively horn-driven blockbuster film themes, reflecting Webb’s desire to provide an “intimate” look at the superhero. They’re basically John Williams vs. Howard Shore for a younger crowd. So expect the musical styles to be a midbrow version of Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings — both ambitious and unbelievably catchy, but in different ways.
Leading superhero. Spider-Man, as he's more complex and speaks more to young people. He is nerdy, insecure, unsure about his identity and his past, falling in love for the first time, and trying to understand his past. Transitioning to adulthood, his personality has yet to be shaped by obstacles in his way. Batman is a brooding, vengeful, intelligent, wealthy loner who questions his role with justice but ultimately chooses to serve the city. Though heroic and tragic, Batman’s martyrdom is portrayed one-dimensionally. To be fair, Nolan explored much of the complex psychological terror and anger behind the Dark Knight in the first films. But as a more traditional hero-beats-villain story, Dark Knight Rises will likely focus on Batman’s role as a self-sacrificing hero. The Dark Knight is probably a better person, but Spider-Man is more a sympathetic and relevant figure to our generation.
The third trailer is more action-adventure, but the second trailer is more coming-of-age.
Leading actors. Well, they’re both English, so we shouldn’t even be choosing. But Andrew Garfield. As Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, Garfield owns the sexy geek. To prepare for Spider-Man, he “just watched spiders whenever I saw them and tried to emulate that patience, that stillness.”
Christian Bale, though more talented, honestly scares me. First, American Psycho. Second, did you hear his on-set rant? For The Machinist, the six-foot man starved himself until he was 122 pounds, 20 pounds below what he was advised to reach. Weird. Also his Batman sounds constipated.
Leading actresses. Emma Stone, by far. Is it just me or has Anne Hathaway gotten annoying? Her Princess Diaries and Devil Wears Prada performances were exquisite, but since then she’s taken some weak roles — her Love and Other Drugs and One Day characters were excruciating. (Thank God Nolan has thrown in the reliably elegant Marion Cotillard).
Stone is so likeable — she’s charming, talented, nerdy, gif-able, mainstream gorgeous, and freaking hilarious. Her role choices — Superbad, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and The Help — make her a guy’s girl, good-hearted and “reasonably smart,” and a pretty great actress. She just seems so refreshingly down-to-earth.
Opening weekend. Batman. Spider-Man has the advantage of a holiday, but Batman will be a bigger smash by far. Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will rake in anywhere between $125-150 million, whereas the Dark Knight Rises is estimated to make at least $150 million, maybe even $200 million.
Superhero outfits. Batman. The Dark Knight’s noble cape makes Spidey’s apple-red leotard look more ridiculous than it already is.
Alfred. There's room for only one tireless valet/father figure/life advisor this summer.
Cage fighting. Finally, which superhero would win in a smackdown? Gotta say Batman. As much as I love Peter Parker's spidey senses, Batman is a better fighter — all the more because he doesn't have superhuman powers. And the Christian Bale factor, man.
6 for Dark Knight Rises, 3 for Spider-Man. Batman will be a bigger hit. They have different strengths - Batman is more traditional, majestic, and dark, while Spider-Man is simply younger. But Spider-Man has more movies ahead, which will probably grow to become another Batman.