Live Action Spider-Man Film Rankings
With Spider-Man: Homecoming just around the corner, the MCU’s iteration of the “web-slinger”, I thought it prudent to talk about the past Spidey films. Of course, I can’t do all of them, so I’ll stick to the live-action ones since we all mostly know those. I’ll be briefly going over what worked and what didn’t work with our previous Peter Parker’s, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
5. Spider-Man 3
Tobey’s Spidey had already seen some great commercial success after the first two films and the third film was shaping up to be an epic finale for this Spider-verse. James Franco’s Harry Osborn discovered Peter’s secret identity, and so did MJ, there was quite a bit going for the third film. So why is it the mixed barrel that it is? Perhaps the misuse of Spider-Man’s iconic nemesis, Venom. No hate to Topher Grace himself, however, he’s not at all Eddie Brock. Venom’s arc was so glanced over like nothing and that’s not at all that a villain of this caliber deserves. Sandman wasn’t the worst thing about the movie, in fact, he was pretty cool; he probably had the fullest character arc through the whole film.
What I take issue with is the strange priorities this film had. Between New-Goblin, Sandman, Venom, Peter’s relationship with MJ, his relationship with Aunt May, his job, his new relationship with Gwen Stacey, and this weird alien symbiote thing, the movie could not find solid ground. It struggled to keep pace with itself. Plus an awkward goth, emo Peter Parker? Who actually liked that? I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s a bad film, but it’s definitely a disappointing end to a trilogy that had plenty of highs and contributed greatly to the rise of comic book hero films that are in an abundance today.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The sequel to the reboot, starring Andrew Garfield, had still had some living up to do. Andrew may have impressed audiences generally with his first outing, but the second film needed to stand out to solidify that Andrew was meant to play the character, for the long-haul even. By the end of this film, it was clear that Sony was trying to build some sort of franchise, or connected universe, they were setting up the Sinister 6, and it’s a shame to see none of that happens because I did like Andrew as Peter Parker. But the film has too many missteps. The poor use of Electro (Jamie Foxx), the weird use of The Rhino (Paul Giamatti), the overplayed Harry Osborne’s Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), and the jumbled handling of Peter’s relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone).
This film falters in the many of the same ways that Tobey’s Spider-Man 3 did. It couldn’t get its footing and make the world convincing. As heart-wrenching as Gwen’s death scene was, it couldn’t pick up all of the emotional baggage that TASM2 couldn’t handle. I adored Spidey’s new look, plus a lot of his movements in action sequences were all very fluid and satisfying, and they brought his quips up to new levels, but the movie fell flat of its own goals as well as fan expectations, thus dashing the hopes that this Spidey-verse would become something special.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man
This somewhat controversial reboot of the character had an uphill battle upon its announcement. About 5 years had passed since the let-down Spider-Man 3 was released, but it still seems a tad too soon for a rebooted franchise. And that might have been one of the biggest things this movie had to fight through, people not really sure they want a new Spider-Man. But I think Andrew Garfield did a great job as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I personally think he’s a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker, but he did do well in both respects.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey was a refreshing change from what we know from Tobey Maguire’s fixation on Mary Jane throughout the series. Both Emma and Andrew played their roles very competently and they had a special chemistry throughout that was easily felt. The choice to have The Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) was an interesting one since I wouldn’t say The Lizard doesn’t have the mass appeal as some other Spidey villains do, but he wound up being a generally exciting character. As far as reboots go, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had plenty to live up to, but I think landed just enough to generate some excitement for the character and future installments.
One of the earliest live-action superhero films that started the huge success of, namely Marvel’s, comic book films now. It was composed of a competent cast of Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco, JK Simmons, among others, and it paid off I’d say. It was funny, it had that comic book cheesiness that you couldn’t help but adore, it had some great action pieces, a cool villain, and Tobey pulled off Peter Parker/Spider-Man really well. Sure, Dafoe’s Green Goblin had that weird mask that blocked his facials, it was a strong choice to go that route, but it was convincing with what they were going for.
They garnered a lot of positive reactions from general audiences and fans alike. It was important to do that too because at this time superhero/comic-book based movies hadn’t quite taken off yet, they still hadn’t convinced everyone that they were going to be the new big blockbusters that will command the film industry. Spider-Man has become iconic, and rightfully so. It did a heck of a job with keeping it fun, exciting, serious, and cheesy/comedic all at the same time. This landmark superhero film gave us a character to sincerely root for, and a series to look forward to.
1. Spider-Man 2
There are only a few sequels that come to mind that can stand up to originals; Godfather Part II and Empire Strikes Back being the most infamous. Spider-Man 2 had plenty of steam rolling into its making, and I think the creators hit every note they could. They beefed up the action, they continued to steadily character build, they made a real, sympathetic villain, and it was just a joy to see.
The true standout in Spider-Man 2 is Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius. Doc Ock was a tremendous success in terms of movie villains, and to me, he still ranks as top tier amongst all the villains we’ve seen from Marvel. Tobey returns as our web-slinger and he doesn’t disappoint, giving more emotional leveling to Peter, and struggling with his identity as Spider-Man. He’s never put on a pedestal, even when he comes into full swing. And that’s probably the best analogy I can give for this film; it never tries to make itself out for more than it is. The writers were very strong in this, giving us some of the best Spidey moments, and great Peter Parker story arcs. Spider-Man 2, as I said before, does it all very well.
There is so much to love about the past Spidey films. Watching the CGI effects go from good to great comparing the original Spider-Man to The Amazing Spider-Man, the key differences between Tobey’s and Andrew’s portrayal of both Peter and Spidey (they both did well in their own respects, of course), the different villains, the loves and losses, and the pure fun seeing one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes take the silver screen by storm. I find myself enjoying each Spider-Man film differently, appreciating them for what they are. This isn’t so much of a list of “What Spider-Man movies were bad, and which ones were good” but a list of why we love Spider-Man and why doing him right is the most important to us.
Will Spider-Man: Homecoming take the cake and be the most well done Spidey film yet? It definitely has the workings for it, with its nice cast and access to the MCU’s established lore. Holland is quick-witted and fun so far, I wonder if he can keep the same energy throughout the film without it getting tiresome. He has a lot to work with though, looking at what went well with Spidey’s past live-action incarnations; Holland has to stand out from the two. I have no doubt that the Homecoming script will be strong, they have a ton to play within the established MCU universe; skipping the origin, having Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) play a role, and bringing in a demanded villain, The Vulture, played by none other than Michael Keaton (an awesome casting choice). What may fault the film is Spider-Man himself. Tom Holland may have impressed in Civil War, but he has to show that he carries the character on his own, without a ton of support from the rest of the Avengers. Spidey shouldn’t be a cameo, background Avenger, he’s one of those guys that has to be at the forefront, and this is the MCU’s chance to change their universe for the better.
Catch Spider-Man: Homecoming in theaters on July 7th!