The Amazing Spider-Binge of 2021
It has long been rumoured that the upcoming ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ will be akin to a live-action ‘Into The Spider-Verse’. So, I wanted to look back on all the Spider-Man movies of the past 19 years, some of which I haven’t seen in a very long time.
There have been 7 live-action movies, plus an incredible animated movie, and two Venom films that can be (easily) argued are linked, not to mention his appearances with the Avengers. That’s a lot to get through and I have housework to do, so I’ve cut it down to the essentials, the 7 live-action Spider-Man movies, that we know for sure definitely factor into what’s coming next. Here are some of the thoughts I had while watching them all over the space of a week…
Dir: Sam Raimi
This was one of the first DVDs I ever bought. I vividly remember the buzz I got watching it on my computer in my room, seeing Peter trying his powers out! I love scenes where a newly emerging hero is learning how to use their new abilities, and this is one of the best, a pivotal moment that got me into watching superhero movies!
I spotted so many famous faces that have gone on to big success since. From the likes of Octavia Spencer who has a brief role, to Joe Manganiello as Flash, and Elizabeth Banks’ recurring role as Betty Brandt. I also spotted the Moondance Diner, which is featured in another fantastic film I’ve seen recently, ‘Tick, tick… Boom!’. I also spotted a few brief DC nods – at least 3. Eternals is not the first Marvel film to name drop Superman.
Lashings of foreshadowing, which isn’t so frustrating as it might be in other films, as we often know where things may be leading when characters and storylines are adapted from well-known comics.
What really struck me now I’m a lot older and deeper into cinema is how much body horror and psychological horror Sam Raimi brings into this. It’s so much darker than I appreciated as a kid. The other thing that really stood out is how Peter’s inaction leads directly to Uncle Ben’s death, something I didn’t fully appreciate as a teenager, now as an adult it hits hard.
New York doesn’t always look real, but you can see that a lot of the effects are done practically, and that looks good. This film has some beautiful shots that haven’t been bettered in other Spider-Man movies yet. It’s also clear that thought was put into how this would start a series, as it sets up themes and arcs for the sequels perfectly.
Willem Dafoe is great in a villainous role, and though I’m not the biggest fan of the Green Goblin as a character, I think it will be amazing to see him back with a bit more of the Marvel Studios’ polish. Also, James Franco is also really good, he was a great bit of casting, though the actor has fallen out of favour in recent years, he has range and talent.
Danny Elfman’s score is excellent, it’s interesting he composed for Burton’s Batman too, which some of the sets reminded me of. Also, we should never forget that this movie has a theme song, ‘Hero’, which holds a special place in my heart and is still brilliant!
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Dir: Sam Raimi
The story was written By Millar and Gough who were the pair behind ‘Smallville’, a show I loved. I love how the opening credits recap the events of the first film through artwork, I love how the time elapsed between stories is the same as between releases.
I love how it goes deeper into themes and plots set up in the first film, at times covering very similar lines but strengthening them. There’s a real sense of loneliness, that Peter has distanced himself from the people he cares about.
Sets up well for the third, a well thought through trilogy. It’s clear that with the current conventions of comic book movies, Harry’s Goblin scene would now be a post-credits one, it is perfect for that.
Do I really need to say much about Doc Ock? The performance is great, much more nuanced and complex than Willem Dafoe’s Goblin, less cartoonish, and the mix of practical puppetry effects mixed with CGI help to make the character more realistic and compelling in every way. The city also looks better in this film, less like a set and more like a real location, it’s a great movie.
All the pieces were there for the next film to be amazing…
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Dir: Sam Raimi
The early flying fight with Goblin looks bad. There’s a much heavier reliance on CGI after the incredible mix of practical effects for Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2, and it shows. On the other hand, I thought the way Sandman is shown first taking shape still looks pretty good, he’s such a visually interesting character and much of those scenes worked quite well. Retells bits, everything is revised.
Defining feature is Venom, yet Sam Raimi didn’t want to use Venom in this movie, that was a later addition by the producers. When you know that, and think about the film again, imagining it without that thread, the difference it would’ve made is immense. Almost everything that doesn’t work in this film is Venom-related.
Breaking up with MJ creates a void in Peter’s life that gives Venom a way in, that makes some sense, but emo jazz peter is abysmal. I hated that part of the film when I saw it on opening night in the cinema, and 14 years later, I think I hate it even more. Even Sam Raimi wasn’t happy with this movie, he knew it was overstuffed and underwhelming, so he planned to do a fourth movie, one he said would be the best yet to finish on a high.
Sony had other ideas, thinking a total reboot would be a better option. In the end, Raimi walked away, leaving them to do…
Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Dir: Marc Webb
Opening with Peter’s parents’ story, something not touched on in others, starts things off on a different foot, with a nice bit of mystery. From there on, this film hit me with the quick story development, everything gets set up at a pace, so Peter’s swinging around the city sooner.
The biggest differences are Peter’s a little bit younger, though he’s also upped from being merely ‘brilliant’, to genius level, but this movie stays in high school rather than seeing him graduating halfway through, which is nice. Also, his love interest is Gwen Stacy not MJ, though he pines after her in a similar but more modern way, setting her as the desktop background wallpaper on his computer. While J. Jonah Jameson always described Spidey as a menace in the Raimi films, this time he’s also disliked by the police, which ties in very well with Gwen’s father and how that arc develops.
Great casting for Uncle Ben and Aunt May, you know instantly they’re going to get a few bigger scenes this time. ‘Great power…’ catchphrase isn’t said, but it is paraphrased and followed by a very similar direct consequence of inaction leading to Ben’s death, so it makes the same point, though I’m not sure it’s as deeply affecting.
I hadn’t realised until seeing the Raimi films again this week that Dr. Connors was in them but not developed as a villain. I think they could’ve done with more development of Connors before he becomes Lizard, there’s the odd internal monologue to explain his thinking but he turns into a villain so easily, it doesn’t make you care for him much at all.
Gwen knows halfway through, which sidesteps some issues there, but quickly there are others such as an arrest warrant and tensions with her family. What holds that together so well is how Emma Stone’s Gwen is very likeable, you can see why Peter likes her, they get on, she’s equally smart, determined, resourceful, and so they make a great pair.
There’s also a great scene of New Yorker solidarity, like in Spider-Man 2’s train scene, which is a nice moment, as is the beautiful Stan Lee cameo. There’s a lot to like about this film, it was a great start…
Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Dir: Marc Webb
My Original Review can be found here, but right now I’ll focus not on what I thought then, but what I think now, watching these movies in release order, with my added maturity and the passing of time, as well as the benefits of hindsight that have been enhanced by over a decade of seeing how brilliant Marvel movies can be.
The new storyline about Peter’s parents is developed at the start, opening with action, drama, and mystery. Sadly though, within minutes the film feels very messy. Other stuff has happened between the movies, Peter and Gwen are already ‘complicated’, he’s literally haunted by his promise to her dad, and then lots of threads are set up in the first half hour of this film, crisscrossing and tangling. It’s clear that it’s headed for problems.
Peter Parker was a genius in the last film, yet for some reason now he’s frequently pretty dumb. Peter and Gwen’s relationship is on again, off again, which gets really tiresome very quickly, it also lessens the effect of the final act a little. Though, that Gwen death scene, still hits hard, no pun intended.
Though Peter and Gwen were nicely set up in the first film, and there’s much to explore with their developing relationship, the film is so determined to set up the Sinister 6 that it sidelines them, yet somehow still fails to properly develop the villains. I hate the Osborn thing, absolute waste of Chris Cooper and Dane DeHaan, who both could’ve been so good, but the friendship with Peter isn’t developed enough to raise the stakes, and the transformation into Goblin is, in my opinion, awful.
Characters keep saying they ‘don’t want complicated’, and should ‘keep it simple’, yet the film completely ignores its own advice, there’s so much going on, with no focus at all, like there’s a checklist of things to touch on, but no reasons why or what to do with them. For example, Felicia Hardy is introduced, and it’s potentially great casting, Felicity Jones wasn’t an A-lister then, not even close. Yet her character is named, has a few lines, yet all the rest is saved for the presumed sequel, or possibly the Sinister 6 spin-off.
Electro is another character whose casting suggested great things, Jamie Foxx could’ve been great, but he’s so badly developed. The metal music internal monologue, and in another scene how he musically explodes electricity transformers, feels like something that would be good in a trailer, but in the film, it makes this character feel so less grounded, no pun intended, when this version of Spider-Man had started out feeling really believable.
This Peter has been to two funerals, and there was another he didn’t attend, so it’s positioned really well for him to be dark and moody for the third, but with all the things set up in this film that would’ve had to be brought back and developed, any subsequent film was going to be a mess. Though I really loved Andrew Garfield’s take on Peter Parker, and much of these two was really good, maybe it’s for the best that Sony decided to team up with Marvel Studios for a reboot, finally introducing a new portrayal of Peter into the MCU in ‘Captain America: Civil War‘, before swinging into his own series…
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Dir: Jon Watts
I took very few notes when rewatching this film, I’ve seen it a fair few times and it is so good, that I just got immersed in it again.
I love how it doesn’t go over the stuff that’s been done before, for example no spider bite or Uncle Ben shown. It’s focused, not on establishing a well-known character, but more on who this version of that character is, what’s new about him and how he fits into this universe.
Despite Tony Stark being his mentor, and appearing in the film, it doesn’t overuse him, and I love how that dynamic between them works.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Dir: Jon Watts
My only criticism is that the film doesn’t really show us Peter and Michelle getting to know each other, so though some time has passed since they were blipped back, we miss out on seeing exactly why he’s fallen so hard for her.
Mid credits scene starts off feeling like a fun little continuation of the scene before the credits, then it turns into a huge game-changer that’s going to lead straight into the events of the next movie, I love that, making these scenes vitally important and a foregleam, not just a joke or setting up another property that’s about to be released.
There are a few moments that watching it again now for (at least) the 5th time, I noticed, especially tiny lines with ‘Nick Fury’, that should’ve been a clue. We haven’t yet seen much development of the end-credits scene, and I don’t know what we will see that come into play in ‘No Way Home’ though it’s possible.
Which all brings us to…
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)… Spoiler-free first impressions HERE…
I didn’t get around to rewatching and reviewing ‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ but simply put, it’s incredible, arguably the best, I’ve also reviewed ‘Venom‘ and ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘ in the past, so I’m feeling pretty well prepared for my first viewing of ‘No Way Home’ on Wednesday 15th.
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