Thursday Trailer Face-Off! The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Dark Knight Rises




Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, next summer’s giant blockbuster superhero movies.






As has been pointed out by other astute observers, The Amazing Spider-Man covers territory we’ve seen played out on film pretty recently—nine years ago, to be precise, when Sam Raimi directed Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man. So the story’s familiar: nerdy high-school kid gets bitten by a genetically modified spider while visiting a science lab, develops spider powers and web-slinging abilities, makes out with a cute girl. (In this movie, she’s Gwen Stacy rather than Mary Jane Watson.) The Dark Knight Rises, conversely, is the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster re-imagining of the story of Batman. (But let’s be honest, you knew that already.) The plot’s been kept pretty closely under wraps, and this trailer tells us basically nothing about it, but if Internet rumor is to be believed, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman teams up with Batman to take out a mutual enemy: the League of Shadows, a vigilante group that was headed up by Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) in the first installment, Batman Begins. And Tom Hardy will be playing the terrifying, jacked Bane. Plus, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a cop! Both of these trailers are a little unsatisfying, for opposite reasons: we feel like we know exactly what will happen in The Amazing Spider-Man and have no clue whatsoever about The Dark Knight Rises. Ideally, we could strike some kind of balance. Advantage: Tie

We do like that Andrew Garfield—he was the most human thing about The Social Network and the cutest thing about Never Let Me Go—and it’s possible that this will be the movie that makes a genuine A-list movie star out of him. But as things stand right now, we still can’t be sure he’s ready for leading-man status. (If you saw his starring vehicle Boy A and want to issue a rebuttal, we’re happy to hear it; we, like most people, did not.) Garfield’s a contender, but this category clearly belongs to The Dark Knight Rises‘ Christian Bale, who’s more than proven his mettle as brooding billionaire Bruce Wayne. We have the feeling this will be his best Batman performance yet—the stakes are so high! Advantage: The Dark Knight Rises

Tom Hardy is getting pretty significant billing for The Dark Knight Rises—listed even above Christian Bale on its IMDb pages, which strikes us like someone’s mistake – so it’s probably safe to assume he’s going to be Batman’s main adversary in this installment. (Plus, he reportedly gained 30 pounds of muscle for the role, so we know he’s committed.) Frankly, Hardy’s a bit of an enigma to us. We liked him as Eames in Inception—and Christopher Nolan clearly believes in him enough to cast him again—but that’s the only role we’ve really seen him in, and it’s not a big enough one to be the basis for an assessment of his acting chops. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the antagonist is a little more clear-cut: it’s The Lizard, a scientist whose attempt to regenerate his missing arm goes awry and turns him into a lizard-human hybrid (not unlike Spider-Man himself). And he’s played by Rhys Ifans, who’s been busy lately. We are documented fans of the weirdo Welsh actor, who narrated Exit Through the Gift Shop, is a member of Super Furry Animals, and stars in our number-one most-anticipated ridiculous Shakespeare conspiracy drama of the fall, Anonymous. Ifans! Advantage: The Amazing Spider-Man

Rest of the Cast
In addition to Garfield and Ifans, The Amazing Spider-Man stars Irrfan Khan (say it out loud: “Rhys Ifans and Irrfan Khan in Spider-Man.”), Denis Leary, friend-crush Emma Stone, Sally Field, Julianne Nicholson, Campbell Scott, and Chris Zylka—so mainly TV actors. The Dark Knight Rises has an impressive cast list a mile long: Bale, Hardy, Hathaway, Neeson, Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine…! It gets the win, even though we’re leery of the fact that Marion Cotillard is in it—we seem to be the only ones in the world who have noticed that she’s not good at acting in English. She’s just not, you guys. Advantage: The Dark Knight Rises

Special Effects
We had to double-check to make sure we had the official Amazing Spider-Man trailer and not a fan-made fake-out, largely because of the CGI sequence at the end—it looks like it’s cribbed from a video game. But hey, at least it’s something. The trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is frustratingly mysterious—not just with plot details, but also with what kinds of awesome explosions we can expect. At one point (0:30), some bats fly around Christian Bale in a cave, and at the very beginning, there’s some billowing blue fire, and at 1:12, some buildings start to fall down; but that’s not cutting it for us. The silly CGI in The Amazing Spider-Man wins it—but know that we don’t feel great about this. Advantage: The Amazing Spider-Man

We’re not big nerds for Christopher Nolan like some people we know: we thought Memento was great and Inception was very good, though not the Holy Grail that Empire Magazine­-type fanboys made it out to be. But he’s definitely got enough under his belt to beat out The Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb, whose biggest credits to date are the pretty-okay (500) Days of Summer and, gulp, something called Jesse McCartney: Up Close. Yes, it’s what you think it is. Yikes. We do think it’s neat that someone whose last name is Webb is directing a Spider-Man movie, but it’s not neat enough to cancel out Jesse McCartney: Up Close. Probably nothing is. If Orson Welles had directed Jesse McCartney: Up Close, we’d make fun of him, too.  Advantage: The Dark Knight Rises

The Verdict
Look, The Amazing Spider-Man will be a fun movie to watch while eating popcorn, maybe when you visit your parents next summer. It will definitely be a fun way to spend two hours. But it isn’t an event. Fifteen-year-old boys won’t start lining up for it two months in advance, armed with nothing but Big Gulps, beef jerky, and a dream. We’re not that kind of moviegoer, but even we can testify: this movie’s going to be huge. And probably with good reason. Winner: The Dark Knight Rises