Four actors. Three reboots. One detour. One ensemble. An attempted parallel universe. And eight movies.
That’s much ado about something in the world of CBMs, but if any character deserves this many times to get it right, it’s Spider-Man. The friendly neighborhood Webhead easily makes the Mount Rushmore of every geek and comic book cinephile, but not every attempt to bring him to screen got it right. And some flat-out failed in epic style.
From worst to first, let’s rank them all:
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
When you are baking, recipes must be held sacred. One dash of something more than it should and the cake falls flatter than an inflatable chair holding up J-Lo. That was the mess we got with the first–and last–sequel of Marc Webb’s glaucoma-ridden vision of Spider-Man.
Three villains (including 10 seconds of Rhino because what the what) were forced on us. And just as many plot lines with no more Gwen, no more parents, and Peter’s bestie looking as if he shops at Hot Topic on the regular. Ironically, this story was completely constipated, which left people thinking “Awwww, S*!t!” A recipe for disaster for sure.
7. Spider-Man 3
Speaking of bad recipes, you would think Marc Webb would have learned from the mistakes of the past. Like this one. Again with the force feeding of villains, all lead into battle by the epic fail of Topher Grace’s Venom. He looked like a dude in cosplay instead of this nine-foot-tall, face-eating symbiote.
This was supposed to be the culmination of well-done trilogy. Instead, patrons leave the theater in a haze of bewilderment wishing on what could have been. All the good moments (Sandman’s fading hands unveiling his daughter’s pendant for one) were blown away because of one loud thud of a letdown.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man
There was so much promise. There was so much hype. Then, there was so much disappointment. Did someone at Sony tell Marc Webb, “Okay, we really liked the origin story Sam Raimi did. Can you just try to do that again?” No different take on his upbringing, his spider bite, his skill. Nothing.
Oh sure, we tapped into those unknown parents…but why?! The ironic thing about marrying two different ideas together is Webb got a lot of “something old” and very little of “something new.” (And yeah, it all seemed borrowed, which left us all blue.) Thank you, I’m here all week.
Admit it. This was not the movie you thought it would be. Spidey or not. While this film was the surprise hit of the year, no one went to see Venom thinking there was potential for rimshots. Maybe Tom Hardy could voice over “Thank you. Try the veal.” The entertainment was the conversation between Eddie Brock and his parasitic symbiote.
Oddly enough, the painful watching moments were the plenitude of CGI we get with Venom and Riot. It hurt with all the tendrils making a broken map of Los Angeles highway construction. It was a great depiction of what a sardonic altar-ego would do if given the levity, even if it was wrapped in just a good film.
Consider this a one-off because there was no cinematic universe. There were no plans of having Tobey Maguire co-star in other movies with other freaks of nature. It was one movie about one kid who got one freakish bite. He spent the rest of the movie learning how absolute power can corrupt absolutely, even if it’s those around you who don’t have that power. Unless you’re the demented Norman Osborne. That’s different.
If you place this movie against some of the more recent origin films, it may suffer in comparison. However, as an origin on its own, this was a solid, believable movie about a kid becoming a man before he’s ready to accept what that means to the world around him. From casting to conclusion, Sam Raimi did this movie right.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
This was the triumphant return of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man we wanted (and deserved after that abysmal send off with Electro in TASM 2). In the other versions, he’s an immature man growing into his suit. In this version, he really is a young kid learning to become a man who has more than a suit, but a responsibility.
The story suffered a little by making Peter Parker look like Tony Stark’s charity project. This was Spider-Man, not Spider-Pet, but look past that because we had Michael Keaton’s ‘Vulture’ and that was awesome. He was visceral and hated the system which forced him into this life, and then he forced others. Story telling aside, this was welcomed entertainment that had been missing for so long.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse
As I was told before I saw it, and will gladly tell others who will stand in line, “Yes, it’s that good.” And who knew?! Pixar animations are brilliant, but stand up to a CBM during the halcyon days of nerd watching? Yup. It’s really that good.
In a world of reboots, remakes, and reviews of what shouldn’t have been, Sony takes a masterful approach to creating an origin by taking “lesser known” characters in the same multiverse. All these different takes on the same premise of a superhero that spans gender, culture, creed, and purpose. Stan Lee created this hero largely because it was tangible. He was real. He could be anyone. That premise has never been more visible than in this movie. Again, it was that good.
1. Spider-Man 2
Toy Story did it. Captain America did it. Terminator did it. Star Wars is best known for doing it. Few franchises can say they have sequels that outshines its progenitor. Sam Raimi pulled out all the stops for his sequel and it delivered a rich story of roller coaster emotion that has fans guessing if Peter Parker would make it or not.
Back to Stan Lee’s original goal for Spider-Man, sure Peter is fighting crime but his life sucks. That’s not supposed to happen, but it is, and it leaves us all wondering “Wait, what?!” From tumult to trust, we experience it all with Peter Parker. And then when Octavius enters the picture, we understand how far down that spiral turns. This is easily the best in the mix, but Spider Verse gave it a tussle.
Fitting how this is the only one in the franchise to win an Oscar. (Sure, it was for visual effects, but it deserved it.)