Before Into the Spider-Verse, here’s a ranking of every Spider-Man movie
No matter how many superhero movies they throw at us every year, Spider-Man will forever be India’s favourite. Save for the Avengers films - the latest of which made an incredible Rs 250 crore-plus in India - Spidey has been uncommonly successful at the local box office. For many years, Spider-Man 3 was one of the highest grossing Hollywood movies in the country, and as you’ll find out very soon, it didn’t even have to be any good to achieve this feat.
Perhaps it is because of that viral Hindi Spider-Man video - you know the one; it has a man in a Spidey suit chasing a saree-clad woman around in a field - or perhaps it is because of the many local language translations of the popular Spider-Man cartoon, but the wall-crawler’s popularity remains as strong as it was all those decades ago.
This popularity is reflected across the world, where multiple new movies featuring the character are currently in various stages of production. Spider-Man: Far From Home, a direct sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, is on the verge of debuting its first trailer, ahead of a July, 2019 release. Venom, the first in a planned new cinematic universe that will feature supporting Spidey characters, broke box office records upon its September release.
But this Friday will see a fresh new version of the superhero at our local cinema screens. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an animated film - the first to feature Miles Morales as Spidey’s civilian alter-ego - that is getting some of the series’ best reviews ever. The film currently sits at a 99% rating on review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, and features fan-favourite talent both in front of and behind the camera. Produced and co-written by Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and starring Shamiek Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage and Liev Schreiber, Into the Spider-Verse introduces a Spidey for a new generation.
So before its release, let’s revisit the character’s cinematic journey by ranking his movies - from worst to best, and excluding his appearances in ensemble adventures.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 derail before your eyes makes you wish that Tobey Maguire would fly in to get it back on track, just like he did with that runaway subway train in Spider-Man 2. It is very easy to identify the problems with the film - it was hastily produced, too preoccupied by setting up future sequels to focus on the story at hand. It was overpopulated and cluttered, with several plot-lines juggling for space, and featured a categorically loony performance by Jamie Foxx, which didn’t at all gel with the indie tone that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were going for.
Their relationship, as it was with the previous film, was the highlight of Amazing Spider-Man 2, and whatever little emotional impact it had was all thanks to the bond we’d formed with Peter and Gwen. You could sense director Marc Webb struggling to maintain control over his film - only he could play Song for Zula and Philip Phillips in a $200 million tentpole - but it was all for nothing.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s lacklustre critical and commercial performance put an end to Sony’s plans for future films, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made the studio sign a deal with Marvel.
What made the failure of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 all the more unforgivable was that it was essentially a case of history repeating itself. Sony had made the exact same mistakes half a decade earlier with Sam Raimi’s final Spidey movie, Spider-Man 3.
With a fourth film already being planned, Raimi was overwhelmed by the challenges of the following up what many considered to be his best work. Like the Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 had too many characters, an unfocussed narrative, and holds the distinction of featuring the single most embarrassing moment in Spider-Man’s cinematic history - that jazz dance on the streets. Years later, Raimi acknowledged that he had ‘messed up plenty’ with Spider-Man 3. “People hated me for years — they still hate me for it,” he told Nerdist.
In many ways, Spider-Man: Homecoming - the first solo film to star Tom Holland in the title role - represents the essence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its pleasant and relatively lighthearted tone was a departure from the MCU’s increasingly hefty stakes, but this made the film feel rather forgettable. Save for a couple of scenes - each of them smaller, character moments - there’s barely any recall value to Holland’s first solo outing, which isn’t to say that it’s a bad film. It’s simply a Marvel film.
The Amazing Spider-Man
While the laziest reaction to the The Dark Knight’s success was to make everything a little darker, a little more grounded in the real world, others had brighter ideas. Unlike Fantastic Four or the recent Robin Hood, The Amazing Spider-Man, which gets a bad rap by most die hard fans - undeservedly so; it’s quite a good film - is one of the few to have got it right.
Marc Webb’s Spider-Man came darn close to creating a new Peter Parker, and differentiating itself from Raimi’s iconic trilogy. Garfield remains the best actor to have played Peter, but the same can’t be said for his performance as Spider-Man.
For an entire generation of fans - myself included - this was our first introduction to the character. It was a film that did just as much for Spider-Man as it did for the superhero genre in general. For Sony to have picked Sam Raimi - a filmmaker known for schlocky horror movies - to helm a huge action blockbuster was a risk, but it paid off handsomely.
The first Spider-Man film made its trio of leads - Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco - stars in the same way that the Harry Potter movies elevated the careers of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. It felt like a major turning point in the history of film - it set box office records upon release and garnered critical acclaim. But most importantly, Spider-Man earned for an entire genre the respect that it had sorely missed for many years.
For his follow-up, Raimi delivered what is considered by many - again, myself included - to be one of the best superhero movies ever made. Spider-Man 2 took everything that made the first film so special - the irreverent tone, the flashy special effects, and the central relationship between the characters - and took it to another level.
It’s the one movie on this list that is remembered just as fondly for its fantastic set pieces as it is for the directions it took its characters in and for its path-breaking portrayal of the villain.
To this day, very few superhero films have been able to achieve this sweet spot of balancing action with story. And for that reason, Spider-Man 2 remains the best film to feature the character.
Raimi’s original trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are available to stream on Hotstar Premium, The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: Civil War is available on Netflix; Spider-Man: Homecoming is on Amazon Prime Video.