For those looking at what makes Spider-Man one of the most popular comic-book heroes, the answer has been distilled in one sequence of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (2004). Starring Tobey Maguire as the superhero who is ready to put himself in harm’s way to save a subway car full of strangers, the scene shows Spidey’s moral compass, his integrity and strength. However, what is most telling about the train sequence is the moment he ends up revealing his secret identity, leaving the onlookers to marvel at the fact that he’s “just a kid.”
He is this awkward, geeky teenager who is saddled with the responsibility of being saviour of a city. It’s like your neighbour kid nobody pays attention to got superpowers, and saved your life without you being any wiser.
Spidey spends a troubled childhood as an orphan, his uncle dies, and yet despite all that pain, he ends up becoming a kind young man who just wants to help others.
Spider-Man: No Way Home’s release is around the corner. The film continues the adventures of Tom Holland’s wall-crawler after the fallout of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Peter Parker’s identity was exposed by J Jonah Jameson and Mysterio (posthumously), and he enlisted the help of Doctor Strange to undo the damage. The ritual performed by Sorcerer Supreme to help him, however, goes wrong, and the supervillains from previous Spidey movies enter the MCU.
Before watching the movie, let’s rank all the previous live-action Spider-Man films. I have included Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse because, well, the list felt incomplete without it.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man was quite lovable and comic-accurate, but the second film was woefully overstuffed, with no less than three villains. It didn’t help that the plot was a mess and despite some impressive action, the film felt completely flat. It would be interesting to see how No Way Home deals with the problem of too many villains.
7. Spider-Man 3
This film was the live-action debut of Venom, one of Spidey’s best villains (if not *the* best) and it was so underwhelming that it felt like a PG-13 version of the massive, hulking comic-book Venom. His teeth were akin to a baby shark’s instead of the usual otherworldly set of huge canines and his size was the same as Spider-Man. The size of Venom is probably the first thing one notices while reading comics involving the character. He is much, much bigger than a human. Whatever the faults of Tom Hardy’s Venom, the look of the character is on point. Spider-Man 3 was also ridiculed for other stuff. Peter in one scene is partially controlled by the symbiote and capers playfully on the street and also suddenly remembers he is a virtuoso pianist. The scene has rightly been parodied several times.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man
Quite a decent film, especially considering how soon it came after Tobey Maguire’s trilogy. Andrew Garfield’s web slinger was arguably more accurate to the lore than Maguire’s was. Garfield played the role in the the character’s trademark cocky way, uttering one-liners while fighting baddies, but also displaying sensitivity.
Tom Holland’s brief appearance as Spidey in Captain America: Civil War was a revelation. His take felt fresh and different from both Maguire and Garfield. Due to his boyish face and higher-pitched voice, Holland really did look and sound fifteen. The film also boasted of one of MCU’s best villains, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes or Vulture. An ordinary, working-class person, Adrian turns to crime to support his team and family. He is not an evil sorcerer, a cackling demon, or an all-powerful alien with world-conquering designs. He is just an everyman with a little alien technology at his disposal. As it is often said in the Indian political context, “Never underestimate a common man”. A common man who is protecting his family? Nothing could be deadlier.
Despite a few minor issues, Far From Home was a hilarious, action-filled adventure as well as a strong sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Had there not been that Mysterio twist, the film would have been a fine but if not exceptional MCU entry. It was that revelation, and those trippy visuals that made the film special. That the film deftly handled complex real-world issues like fake news, manipulations of reality and the distinction between truth and fabrication in the post-truth world, was just icing on the cake.
The film that kicked off the modern age of superhero movies with their elaborate, computer-aided visual effects. It still does not feel dated after 17 years of its release. An origin story of one of most loved superheroes, Spider-Man had Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker being bitten by a genetically engineered spider. The bite gave him powers of a humanoid spider and a muscular body. He could also swing through the powers of web that, unlike in comics, came from his own wrist and not from a gadget. The film feels earnest and innocent. It also had the perfect balance of humour and darkness. It is not a coincidence that MCU’s Spider-Man skipped the character’s origin story altogether. It was because Spider-Man had done it so well. It would have felt redundant.
2. Spider-Man 2
The one nearly perfect film on Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 surprisingly managed to better its excellent predecessor. The action scenes and CGI still hold well after all these years (it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects). Like all the best superhero movies, the villain was solid. Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus was a sympathetic bad guy who went crazy after he lost everything. He still clung to his dreams after everything disastrous that happened in his life. The film was pretty dark, but also extremely funny. Peter Parker in this film felt more like his comic-book counterpart.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is simply the best Spider-Man film ever made. It is visually stunning. Every single frame appears like it is handcrafted, every scene whether it is action-packed or sombre, has distinctive touches that make the visual experience unique. The action scenes are some of the best you will ever see — animation or otherwise. The story is funny, heartfelt, poignant, and still the classic Spider-Man story. Into the Spider-Verse is easily the best Spider-Man movie ever, and also one of the best movies of the superhero genre.