With “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” opening in theaters this week, it’s time to take a swing down memory lane.
In 12 years, the wall crawler has starred in two very different series with two equally divergent, but quality performances. The common theme that runs through all of them, however, is that villains can make or break a movie.
I’m talking about you, Venom.
So without further ado, here’s is my ranking of the Spider-Man movies thus far.
5. “Spider-Man 3”
This is what happens when a studio doesn’t trust a talented and tested filmmaker like Sam Raimi. What started as an emotional Sandman-focused story became a mess once Venom was shoehorned into the final product. Essentially everything the symbiote touches in “Spider-Man 3” turns rotten. The real tragedy of this movie is that you can watch it and see Raimi’s original movie buried in there, past all of the misguided fan service. It’s a text book case of super villain glut, and in many ways, “Spider-Man 3” ended the first part of the comic book movie renaissance.
4. “The Amazing Spider-Man”
“The Amazing Spider-Man” is also a mess, but it’s an enjoyable mess. As the fourth movie in a series that began just a decade earlier, there was never a need or a desire from the audience to see another origin story. The time spent watching Uncle Ben die again would have been better served seeing more of Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, the movie’s strongest element. He and his chemistry with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy are even good enough to overlook a ridiculous villain.
What Raimi was able to do with the first “Spider-Man” is something that still echoes in the best comic book movies today. The “Evil Dead” director brought Peter Parker to the screen in a way that was true to the classic character, fun and competent as an actual film. While the “X-Men” movies led tonally to “Batman Begins,” “Spider-Man” planted the seeds for what Marvel Studios eventually did with their Marvel Cinematic Universe. As with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” obligation to the origin story holds the film down. It’s only once Raimi is freed from it that he hits his stride.
2. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
To really appreciate “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” you have to look past a few things. There’s the wild tonal shifting, the choice to ignore Electro in favor of introducing the Sinister Six-forming Green Goblin and an almost fanatical observance of comic book lore; but what’s good is so good.
For my money, Garfield is the definitive big-screen Spider-Man, and possibly the best match of actor and character in the comic book game. Plus, no two actors today have better romantic chemistry than him and Stone. Garfield’s deep love for the character is apparent every second he’s in front of the camera, and seeing him in his much improved costume comes makes it easy to get lost in the moment and believe you’re watching the real Spider-Man.
His take on the character comes so close to the Spidey that so many of us grew up with that he elevates the movie around him.
1. “Spider-Man 2”
Whereas every other Spider-Man movie has suffered because of its villain, at least in some capacity, Raimi’s sequel is only enriched by the presence of Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius, who follows an arc equally, if not more compelling than Peter Parker’s crisis. On top of intelligent and emotionally satisfying character moments throughout, Raimi filled the screen with memorable set pieces and the strongest presence of his personal style in the series. “Spider-Man 2” became the bar for all other superheroes after its release and remains as a benchmark for the genre.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” opens in theaters on May 2.