I think I may have mentioned it on the blog before, but in case I haven’t, Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I really gravitated towards him in high school and his athletic abilities and biting (no pun intended) humor really won me over as a character. I’ve seen several sites ranking the Spider-Man movies, so I thought I’d get in on the act myself. Following is a list of the current Spider-Man movies so far that I’ve ranked in order of my own personal preference as to the best (& worst) of the Spider-Man universe (regardless of studio, be it Sony or the MCU). I’ll be updating this post both when I see Spider-Man: Homecoming and when other movies are released with Spider-Man as the primary character. As with my Marvel post, I’m going to try to keep things spoiler-free, but (as always) I can’t guarantee that things that I mention won’t spoil things for knowledgeable Spider-Man fans.
This is by far my favorite Spider-Man film. This film had everything that I wanted in a Spider-Man film: the idea of personal responsibility, the idea of with great power comes great responsibility, great special effects, great villain, great internal character conflict, great external conflict and an ending that gets it (mostly) right. There are some things that this movie gets wrong, but is as accurate a depiction of Spider-Man as a character and as a comic (so far) that I’ve seen as a movie. Things were changed and manipulated in Spider-Man 2 that is different from the comic, but I can see the reasons for each change. To me, this stands as the (current) definitive Spider-Man movie.
Okay, so I like this one, but not nearly as much as its sequel. I think my enjoyment for this one was muted because it is an “origin” story and I know Spider-Man’s origin like the back of my hand at this point. Seeing the character evolve (especially when you already know the story) isn’t nearly as impactful as seeing an original adventure featuring the character and I think that’s what hurts this one the most. Also, the changes the filmmakers made didn’t seem to be needed (unlike the sequel), so I didn’t really feel that the Spider-Man that I knew from the comics and games was presented on-screen faithfully.
After seeing Spider-man Homecoming, I have to say that while I liked it, I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped. Much of that is due to the fact that they regressed the character and made him a typical “high school” student. That wasn’t bad in itself, but I have to confess, I’m not much of a “high school drama” type of person and fully half of the movie revolved around Peter’s interaction with his high school friends and environs. I think the action and the humor was spot on, but the emphasis on high school (Homecoming actually refers to the “homecoming” dance, BTW) really diluted some of the enjoyment of the movie for me. Still, I liked the acting and the script (sans high school stuff), so I think that I’m most definitely on-board for a new Spider-man movie, especially if they move out of (or minimize) the high school elements.
Amazing Spider-Man 2
Okay, this one is one that the critics and I disagree on. Critics hated this movie. I think it is okay. Not great, not horrible, but in the middle. I liked the fact that they tried to incorporate the “Gwen Stacey” storyline and that they had the guts to try to replicate it on-screen, even if it didn’t hit/work just right. I also like that Peter and Gwen were young adults, not high-schoolers and that eliminated one of my dislikes of the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, teen angst (see below). Too many villains and too much “convenience” really hampered the story and brought it down in my opinion.
In a word (or two), teen angst. This is what kept me from seeing it in the theaters and why (along with a modified retelling of the origin story) kept me from seeing it until much later when I was able to rent it cheaply. For me, I made the right choice. It wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be, mostly because of the actors’ performances, but Spider-Man/Peter Parker is better when he is put in the young adult role, not in the teenage role. Yes, I know he started/was bitten as a teenager, but the stories that helped grow the character and push him into mainstream consciousness are not his teenage years, but his young adult ones (as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, trying to make rent, trying to hold up his relationships with family and friends, while at the same time trying to be Spider-Man and live up to “Great Responsibility” creed).
Easily the worst of the Spider-Man movies. This is a prime example of filmmakers not trusting their source material and cherry-picking it for what they want without understanding why it works. Venom should have been awesome in this movie. The whole Peter/Mary Jane marriage sub-plot should have worked, the antagonist/ally sub-plot should have worked, but no one tried to understand the storylines from the comics. Venom works, not because he is a psychopath, but because the symbiote loves and hates Peter Parker. It doesn’t want to turn Peter into a “dancing fool” as the movie portrays, but it wants to join with Peter. When he rejects it, it hates him and wants to kill Peter and it knows everything about Peter Parker–it knows just what will affect him physically and psychologically–and it can disguise itself and be anyone at anytime. Now throw in Peter wanting to marry Mary Jane and there is the plot that the movie should have followed. Again, an almost horror take on the superhero genre similar to where Avengers: Age of Ultron should have gone. How can Peter protect himself and his future wife (i.e., when the movie opened she should have been his fiancé) from a psychopathic killer out for his blood when he can’t even tell where and when that killer is going to strike? I have the original Venom storyline and I know how that character can be used in stories based on the original writer’s (David Michelinie) interpretation and the original artist’s (Todd McFarlane) illustrations. What audiences got instead was a watered-down (way down) version of this story without very elements that evoke menace in the character/story. I could go on, but you get the picture–this one is bad, both because it is bad and because of so many missed opportunities.