Tuesday 15 April 2014

Rank the Films: Spider-man

As any regular reader of feeling fuzzier will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. We have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of bad to good. 

In this edition, I put the Spider-man films under the microscope - from Sam Raimi's superb Spider-man 2, to the much maligned third instalment *shudder*. What'll come out on top? Well, read on...

4th - Spider-man 3 (2007)

Ahh, Spider-man 3. With possibly the exception of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, has there been a bigger let-down in recent blockbuster history?

Maybe that sounds a bit harsh, but you know deep down, that this is a terrible movie. First off, the decision to throw as many villains at the screen as humanly possible (one of which, Sandman, is really bland) was a massive mistake.

It's common knowledge that the film was effectively produced by a committee down at Sony, rather than by Sam Raimi himself. As it turns out, too many cooks really do spoil the broth, as this film lacks focus and is a complete shambles at times. Sandman's origin story is so contrived, Green Goblin's resurgence in the form of Harry Osborn was tacked onto the end of the previous film, and it was some genius' idea to make Peter Parker turn into some kind of hip-swaying/emo-fringe madman mid-way through the film.

Also, the opportunity to include iconic villain Venom is completely wasted. Tacked onto the final third of the film, Eddie Brock's transformation into Venom is rushed, and lacking in the gravity it deserves. In all honesty, his arc should've formed the basis of the majority of the film, rather than compressed into the movie alongside many vying plotlines.

Anyway, Spider-man 3 is a complete step in the wrong direction for the series, and ultimately resulted in everyone involved jumping ship and Sony starting from scratch with The Amazing Spider-man in 2012. In that respect, it ain't all bad.

3rd - Spider-man (2002)

The first Spider-man is where it all begins - the superhero film renaissance. Some say it begins with Bryan Singer's original X-Men, but things really get motoring here, in what is a sublime first entry into a defining superhero trilogy.

Casting the dorky Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-man and Kirsten Dunst as girl-next-door Mary Jane, director Sam Raimi charmed audiences in this delightfully well-told origin story that saw Spider-man go toe-to-toe with Willem Dafoe's villainous Green Goblin. 

And whilst it is a great film, can we really say that is has aged well? Over a decade on from its release, and I can't help but feel that Spider-man has aged a lot faster than Singer's X-Men, or even Tim Burton's original Batman films.

First off, Goblin looks awful. His suit is garish and is possibly trying to be accurate to the comics a little too much. Secondly, after 10+ years of repeat viewings has left the Maguire/Dunst on-screen chemistry feeling very soggy and flat to me in this first entry. And of course, some of the SFX look a little mediocre by today's standards.

This isn't to say the first film is bad - oh no, there are lots of defining superhero film moments here. Bits like where Peter first discovers how to swing with his web, catches Mary-Jane and then everything on her tray, and where Goblin and Spidey fight it out during the parade are classic. And of course, THAT stupid upside down kiss in the rain. Ugh, so cheesy.

2nd - Spider-man 2 (2004)

Widely regarded as one of the most complete films the superhero genre has seen, Sam Raimi's stellar Spidery sequel sees Peter Parker face off against the villainous Doc Ock.

So why does Spider-man 2 dwell down in 2nd place on my list? Personal preference to be honest. There is nothing inherently bad about Spidey 2, just that I prefer Garfield/Stone over Maguire/Dunst. I prefer the overall tone of the new Spidey series to the original trilogy - even as blasphemous as that may sound.

The plus sides with this second film is the kick-ass action - like I said, whilst Spidey 1 has aged in my eyes, this second film still holds up 10 years on. The train sequence, the bank sequence, the final showdown on the Hudson River; pretty much everything here is fast-paced, thrilling and defining of the genre.

Despite having seen this film possibly more than any other superhero film, Spider-man 2 is still a fantastic film that checks all the right boxes along the way. Now if only they had kept up that quality for the third film...

1st - The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

Now, this may come as a shock to some of you, but I'm going to stick my neck on the line and put Amazing Spider-man up here at the top, ahead of Spider-man 2. Why? Well, let me break it down...

First up, Andrew Garfield. The guy is fantastic as Peter Parker, much more likeable and entertaining than moany Maguire. Sure, his character isn't as much of a dweeb, but the guy's love for the character (Garfield is a life-long Spidey fan) comes across in his acting. He's cheeky, awkward and has a lot of fun with the high-school scenes.

Secondly, Emma Stone, for two reasons. 1) Phwoar. 2) Her chemistry with Garfield is brilliant, one of the best aspects of the new series Sony is crafting.

Thirdly, I liked that the film sowed the seeds for future entries into an Avengers-esque universe. People may dismiss this as annoying sequel bait, but you have to credit Sony's ambition with this reboot. They are aiming high and planning far into the future - separate movies for Venom, The Sinister Six and more are all on the table. What's even better, is this element is set to continue in the soon-to-be released Amazing Spider-man 2.

Sure there are some downsides - Lizard (Rhys Ifans) has a very generic origin story, Martin Sheen isn't as iconic or memorable as Uncle Ben, and Peter's transformation into Spidey is kind of rushed, but on the whole, I enjoy this film a lot more than any of the other Spidey films previously put together.

So there we have it, my take on Spider-man; the good, the bad and the ugly. Let me know what your favourite Spider-man movie is in comments section below. Thanks!


  1. lol, this is the second post this week that I've come across where I feel the need to jump to Spider-Man 3's defense. But I absolutely LOVE that movie, and think it to be by far the best Spidey to date. Even wrote a long, in-depth defense for it about a year ago (http://cwiddop.blogspot.com/2013/01/spider-man-3.html). But personally speaking, I actually liked all of the Spider-Man movies to date, and your list does resemble pretty much how I'd expect the popular opinion to be for the most part. As for my own ranking, I'd probably place them like so:

    Spider-Man 3
    The Amazing Spider-Man
    Spider-Man 2

    1. Fair enough, hard to argue with own personal preference - for me, I just really like Garfield much better than Maguire. He brings a lot more charisma to the role - maybe that's not what Peter Parker is about, but I think it works really well :) Thanks for commenting Chris!



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