Superhero movies have always resonated well with audiences. For some reason, ordinary people with extraordinary abilities seems to strike quite the emotional cord with people. One of the more famous superheroes that resonates particularly well is Spider-Man. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, the nerdy kid who can swing from building to building and climb on walls. Now whether you consider Spider-Man to be Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield or even Tom Holland, he is quite the memorable character. Now with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” hitting theaters this weekend, we here at Next Best Picture have decided to take a stroll, or a swing I suppose, through all of the Spider-Man films to date!
The first big screen installment of Spidey began in 2002 with legendary director Sam Raimi at the helm. Now, these previous installments of the “Spider-Man” franchise may have seemed disjointed and corny at the time but they definitely deserve a re-watch. Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy executes quite a few things rather well. Raimi crafted his own cinematic language for the superhero movie and since then we have strayed quite far from it.
Now all superhero movies seem to be churning out of a machine, each installment made with less and less heart, but Raimi really achieves something greater. We actually care about the characters and the events in the film have an emotional weight to them. We are nervous that Peter Parker might get discovered, we are nervous that the Green Goblin might actually kill him, the entire film is crafted from the point of view of Peter Parker and that is what is lacking from superhero movies nowadays. Now we’re just an outsider looking in but with Raimi’s trilogy we really, honestly and truly feel for Spider-Man.
Not only do we connect on a deeper level with Peter and Mary Jane but we also are terrified of the villain. The villain carries substantial weight in this world. Green Goblin is setting out to kill Peter and take over the city. A relatively typical scenario in the superhero world but it is done so effectively with this film. Instead of giving us a few monologues here and there about how he’s gonna take over the world and he’s the strongest being ever, we receive a glimpse into Goblin’s background and Willem Dafoe plays him to sinister perfection. We see what has befallen him and what is causing him to go down a different path than Peter. Raimi easily created one of the best superhero movies ever made but also made us care about the characters and made the villain truly menacing.
“SPIDER-MAN 2” (2004)
As if Sam Raimi hadn’t crafted something truly iconic enough already he decided to drop a bomb on the cinematic world with the sequel. “Spider-Man 2” holds a truly dear place in many a people’s hearts and for good reason. Not only does it carry over everything that its predecessor achieved but it also has some new material for us to chew on as well. Again, we have a deep emotional connection with Peter Parker and Mary Jane, the villain is menacing and has a realistic motive for his “villain-ness.”
An argument could be made that Doctor Octopus possibly has an even greater agenda than Green Goblin. Using his own twisted experiments to benefit himself and his family after a tragic incident, he begins taking his needs versus working for them. Not only is this a realistic scenario but it makes us as an audience connect with it as well. We can completely sympathize with that logic and his reasoning for committing crimes. Look, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and Raimi’s formula sure wasn’t broken.
Another thing that “Spider-Man 2” excels on is reminding us that Spider-Man is human. Often times when watching superhero movies we forget that underneath that mask or suit of armor is a human being. And more often than not the filmmakers forget to remind us of this. But in “Spider-Man 2,” Peter begins to struggle with his own problems in his personal life. He struggles with Mary Jane, with Aunt May and then to top it all off he begins losing his powers for no said reason. The sole thing that has built up Peter’s confidence is now being stripped away from him and he must remind himself it is not the suit that makes him the man he is, it’s himself and his own mindset.
And to top it all off Raimi gives us probably the greatest superhero action scene, ever. The train fight sequence is remarkable to this day and still has quite the emotional pay-off at the end. As if Sam Raimi hadn’t achieved enough in his career.
”SPIDER-MAN 3″ (2007)
After the spectacular achievement that was “Spider-Man 2,” including an Oscar win for Best Visual Effects, the only place to go was down. “Spider-Man 3” may not be as great as “Spider-Man 2” or even the first “Spider-Man” but it sure as hell is better than the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man. We’ll get to that. “Spider-Man 3” begins to stray a bit away from Raimi’s established formula. We do still have a deep connection with the characters but the menacing factor of the villains begins to sway.
The villains still keep their clear, crisp motive elements but in this film, Raimi introduces so many villains its hard to believe in the tension. The action and suspense are there but it feels much more fabricated in this installment. That being said despite there being so many villains, each villain brings a rather distinct and unique personality to their characters. Venom, Sandman and Goblin Jr. are all quite electrifying in their roles.
The film ends on a high note reminding us just how much we actually care about the characters in Raimi’s universe. Not to mention the final battle in the construction zone is pretty exciting to watch. Raimi achieved quite a bit with his trilogy and though you may think that the films are cheesy and outdated, give them a revisit and they might just surprise you. Except for everything involving “Emo-Peter Parker,” that was just horrible.
“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” (2012)
Everybody loves a good reboot, right?! I mean “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” anytime Hollywood decides to reboot a franchise we can hardly contain the excitement. You sense the sarcasm here, right? Now don’t get me wrong, some franchise reboots have been outstanding like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” but some did not even deserve to be mentioned in conversation. Whenever the Hollywood big wigs meet up to discuss what franchise they would like to reboot next, Spider-Man should never have been in the discussion.
“The Amazing Spider-Man,” directed by indie darling Marc Webb, is a disjointed and unclear recreation of the hero’s story. Now it isn’t all that horrible. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone bring quite the charisma to their characters, not on the level of Maguire and Dunst but still. At the bare minimum and I mean BARE minimum, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is entertaining.
The action sequences are well choreographed, the emotion is halfway there, and it’s a story we’ve seen before and quite adore. However, it lacks every bit of passion that went into Raimi’s trilogy. Raimi had built up such a glorious formula for the superhero movie and it worked to near perfection. But sadly this reboot of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man did not feel so friendly.
”THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2″ (2014)
Oh boy. As if the first installment didn’t make us bash our heads against a wall enough, the sequel certainly did. The sequel isn’t the worst superhero at the table, but it definitely would receive a participation medal for said category. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this movie. The first one was entertaining. This comes nowhere near that word. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is downright atrocious in every sense of the word.
The plot is all over the place, there are too many characters to keep track of and every bit of emotion feels completely manufactured. However, the final scene does give good room for Garfield to play with, but its nowhere near enough to save the movie. The CGI is horrible, the action is poorly edited together and it just falls flat in every category.
If Sam Raimi proved Spider-Man could have a heart and soul, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” took that heart and soul and crushed it within its hand. There are so many bad things to point out about this movie and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time attempting to break all of them down so I will leave you with this: the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is pretty exciting. It is crafted incredibly well and deserves much more attention and a few re-watches.
“CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR” (2016)
After the disaster that was “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” our favorite web-slinger took a break from the silver screen and finally fell back into the hands of Marvel where he made his first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War.” Although brief and certainly not the focal point of the story, most fans would argue that Tom Holland’s version of the character was the best aspect of the movie. Finally, being played by an actual young kid instead of a near thirty-year-old adult, Holland brings a giddy sense of joy and wonder to the role which fits right at home with the other properties within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After having his world set up in “Captain America: Civil War,” Marvel is giving the young superhero from Queens New York his own standalone film. It might be the seventh time Spider-Man has made an appearance in movie theaters since 2002 but it is easily one of the best. You can check out Matt’s review for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” here.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” releases nationwide this weekend and it stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr. and Jacob Batalon and the film is directed by Jon Watts.
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh-williams09