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Ranking The Spider-Man Films

Since debuting back in 2002, few superheroes have captured the imagination of audiences on the big screen quite like everyone’s favorite neighborhood web-slinger. With the latest Spider-Man film hitting theaters this weekend, let’s take a look at the character’s history on the big screen.

6. The Amazing Spider-Man

What’s Good:

Casting-wise, this reboot does a good job at filling out its roles to a talented cast. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone share some sparks on screen as Peter and Gwen, developing a relationship that has more potency that Raimi’s trilogly. Garfield also has a few fun moments as Spider-Man, doing a better job than Maguire at embodying the snarky persona.

What’s Bad:

Out of all the Spider-Man films, this is the one that is easily the blandest. Aside from a few sparks between Parker and Gwen, this film is stuck following most of the trappings of superhero origin films. Having to sit through Peter getting the Spider bite again and seeing his Uncle Ben die for an hour is dull, seeing how Raimi’s film had already done that so well only a decade ago. Rhys Ifans is a good actor, but he has virtually nothing to do as The Lizard except be a part of some routine action setpieces. The Amazing Spider-Man is not only the weakest of the series, but also one of the more lackluster superhero vehicles in some time.

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming

What’s Good:

Spider-Man: Homecoming does the best job of capturing the day-to-day anxieties of the character. Parker’s high school life plays a more significant role than in previous films, which makes for a refreshing new approach. The high school parts of this film work extremely well, updating the character into a modern setting while still capturing the sentiment of high school. It’s not quite the John Hughes movie many are labeling it as, but its surprisingly thoughtful and humorous throughout.

Putting this film on his shoulders is Tom Holland, who delivers a strong performance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Holland from the start has a charisma that makes the character earnest, embodying Parker’s awkward, but lovable persona like a glove. As Spider-Man, Holland nails the character’s quippy-persona while still capturing his desire to do good for society.

What’s Bad:

Even for a superhero film, I was surprised however at just how little substance the film has. I’m all for having a fun time at the theater with a Spider-Man film, but its ultimately the substance that made previous entries in the franchise so effective. This film is sorely missing a lot of the smaller personal moments that Spider-Man 2 or even the criminally-misunderstood The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had, making the final product feel kind of weightless in comparison. Hopefully by exploring a lot of Parker’s personal relationships a little more in future films, there will be more dramatic effect. Still, this is fun summer blockbuster with some strong signature moments.

4. Spider-Man

What’s Good:

Before getting into the film itself, it’s important to note the significance of Sam Raimi’s first film in the Spider-Man saga. This film did played a huge role in spawning the popularity of superheroes on the big-screen. After being delayed for over a decade, the fact that Raimi and company were able to make a solid-enough movie is impressive.

Spider-Man falls in line with most other origin superhero movies, but Raimi infuses a lot of style and energy into the effort. The action, despite some iffy-CGI, still holds up reasonably well. This film also has one of the strongest villains in the series with Williem Dafoe’s menacing take on the Green Goblin. Toby Maguire also flashes a lot of the signature charm that made him such a beloved Spider-Man.

What’s Bad:

To be frank, this film hasn’t aged the best since its release. It’s not as much about the action scenes as it is the origin story aspects, as so many superhero films have since hit the same beats repeatedly. There are also some noticeably hokey moments that stick out like a sore thumb. While a very entertaining movie, Spider-Man does suffer from the same problems many other origin films do. Due to there being so much time dedicated to the initial set-up, we don’t get to explore the characters like future films. Still, it’s a fun ride that starts the Spidey brand on the right note.

3. Spider-Man 3

What’s Good:

To start, I know many superhero fans despise this movie, but personally I am a fan. Spider-Man 3, despite being a giant mess, is a satisfying conclusion to Sam Raimi’s trilogy. Like most third entries, the tone here gets noticeable darker, focusing on Peter’s transformation into Venom. Still, Raimi does a good job of interjecting some comedy, and people must be lying if they admit dancing Peter Parker wasn’t a little funny. Making Peter Parker into this wanna- be cool guy instead of someone cool is the point, it shows that as his heart Peter is a dork.

As far as narrative goes, there is a lot going on, but a lot of it works. The triangle of Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry Osbourne is a strong one, as the film takes the dynamics it built to a satisfying conclusion. The film is certainly bombastic, but it provides a lot of summer entertainment with some great action setpieces.

What’s Bad:

Any hate on this movie I completely understand, as it’s a big mess. This is one of the many superhero films that suffer from having way too many super villains, making it impossible for them to have any impact. Topher Grace’s take on Eddie Brock/Venom is especially embarrassing, as it’s a giant waste of a memorable character. Spider-Man 3 is overlong and overstuffed, but has quite a few highlight moments that are satisfying.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

What’s Good:

This is easily the most divisive Spider-Man film (it’s the only one to be ‘Rotten’ on Rotten Tomatoes), but I personally think it has a lot going for it. The relationship that showed sparks in the first film is heightened further, with Garfield and Stone being lovely to watch. While many comic fans may telegraph where their relationship is going, their sweet dynamic makes for some extremely effective dramatic moments towards the third act.  Like Spider-Man 2, this film has a lot of strong moments when it comes to Spider-Man’s everyman image to the public. Parker’s arc here is also effective and takes the character to some fresh and interesting places.

What’s Bad:

This film shares similar issues with Spider-Man 3. With Electro and the Goblin, there is just too much going on, with it being clear that one strong villain would be better than two. Also, the action setpieces here are fairly over-produced, with director Marc Webb’s use of slow-motion and other stylistic ticks making the sequences less believable. Still, this is a criminally underrated flick that deserves more credit.

1. Spider-Man 2

What’s Good:

This is not only the most accomplished Spider-Man film, but its also one of the best superhero films of all time. After getting the origin story out of the way, Raimi and company focus in on tackling the ultimate dilemma of Peter Parker, a character who must put his social responsibility above his everyday relationships. This is one of the most in-depth representations we’ve seen on the big screen, with Maguire shinning on the big-screen. There is a real heart to this movie, with some highlight scenes capturing the earnestness of Spider-Man.

Not only does this sequel add more substance, but makes for a genuinely more entertaining blockbuster. Raimi’s handle of tone is exemplary, throwing in some comedic touches while still making a plausible threat. Alfred Molina’s take on Doc Ock is great, and his brawls with Spider-Man make for some great action setpieces. Returning players like James Franco and Kirsten Dunst also have more to do, setting itself up nicely for the third entry. It’s a masterful blockbuster, one that future Spider-Man films failed to top.


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