Spider-Man: Seven film retrospective

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The highly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home is just hours away from release, the film follows Tom Holland’s version of the web-head as he deals with the consequences of his identity being revealed and the multiverse breaking.

Multiple villains from previous iterations of Spider-Man have already been confirmed to appear in Holland’s third solo outing, however Sony have been tight-lipped on whether previous Spidey’s Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will also appear, which is highly rumoured due to leaks.

So in preparation I have re-watched all seven live action films, from Maguire to Holland, to recap the highs and lows leading up to this Spider-verse crossover.

The following will contain spoilers for the previous Spidey films.

Spider-Man (2002)

The original Spider-Man was my childhood film, it was one I watched probably every week and have fond nostalgia for. So I was curious to see how well it would hold up and it didn’t disappoint. 

The film, directed by Sam Raimi, is the perfect origin story in my opinion, and a heartfelt love letter to comicbooks.The cinematography often looks like panels from a comic and Danny Elfman’s theme goes down in history as one of the best.

Sure, Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst look far too old to be playing teenagers, but their performances are so endearing that it can be forgiven. Speaking of performances, the film is stacked with iconic ones, from Rosemary Harris’s Aunt May to J.K Simmons J.Jonah Jameson, everyone is great.

But the standout for me has always been Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin. Sure the costume could’ve been better, but his laugh,  accompanied by Danny Elfman’s theme, makes for a villain that has presence and feels truly evil. Dafoe will be returning in No Way Home, which is what I’m most looking forward to. It’s about time Holland’s Spidey got to face the character’s arch nemesis, so it’s fantastic that it will be Dafoe’s defining version.

Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.  Image credit: Sony Pictures

Spider-Man 2: Extended cut (2004)

I’ve re-watched this movie countless times but this was the first time that I watched the extended version, which is only a few minutes longer but adds a lot of humour, which was joyous to watch.

This film is often credited as not only the best Spider-man film but one of the best comic book movies of all time, which I definitely agree with after this re-watch (although I still kind of prefer Spider-Man 1).

The themes of this film (and the trilogy as a whole) about deciding who you want to be, about choice and the responsibility of it, is really beautifully done and is why I love this film. A lot of time is dedicated to the character of Peter and his struggle of being Spider-Man, which gives the film a lot of depth and emotion.

The whole cast returns to give great performances, but the standout to me was Rosemary Harris who gives a really emotional performance as Aunt May. Her monologue about what it means to be a hero is a genre defining moment and made me feel emotional even after all these years.

Alfred Molina gives an iconic performance as Doc Ock, whose signature tentacles are used very creatively throughout the film and especially in the action sequences. The horror-esque scene in the hospital channels Raimi’s Evil Dead days and is thrilling to behold. But it is the train fight that most people remember, which is brilliant and tense. The extended version makes it even better with more harrowing moments.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

This movie has a bad reputation, but I for one really enjoy it.

It’s well known that there was lots of studio interference with this film, but I think Raimi’s style and passion still breaks through.

Sandman makes for a cool and sympathetic villain and the action throughout is entertaining and creative.

However, there are some flaws, such as Harry’s plot being pushed to the side lines and a story that feels quite repetitive.

Yet the emotional beats (of which there are plenty) all hit hard and the performances, score and cinematography all make this film special and a good ending for the trilogy.

The film ends on a relatively ambiguous note, which makes any possible return of Maguire’s webhead very exciting.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

I remember having zero interest in this film when it was released. I was disappointed that there was no Spider-man four and instead it was a reboot. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I rewatched it, despite it’s issues.

The main problem is that it’s almost a beat for beat remake of the original film, except with a different cast and some plot and character changes. So it’s hard to rewatch because the original is better so if I want to watch Spidey’s origin I’ll just watch that instead.

Saying that, the whole cast was really good. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry and worked better with each other than Tobey and Kristen did, and they remain the best live action Spidey couple. While Garfield doesn’t portray my ideal version of Peter, he still does a great job and is a more charismatic Spidey. Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary are also great supporting characters, I was particularly surprised with how much I liked these versions of Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who were definitely highlights.

Rhys Ifans also did a great job as Lizard and there was some really good uses of body horror here, however it did leave me wondering how Raimi would’ve handled that villain.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

This one is widely acknowledged as the worst of all the Spider-Man films, which it kind of deserves. 

 I was interested in rewatching this one as I had never really watched it the whole way through before. And while it’s not great, it does have its moments.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were the highlight, however the arc for their relationship feels very similar to the plot of Spider-Man two, just not as good. They give great performances and the tragic ending of their story remains a bold move, which makes the ending a melancholic yet uplifting one.

As is known, the film is packed with villains, however all three don’t get too much to do. The best is Electro, played by Jamie Foxx-returning in NWH- who has a great scene with Spidey in Times square. However, the new Goblin was quite wasted, as was Rhino.

Maybe my biggest gripe with this movie is that it sets up so much of Spidey’s comic lore, yet with very little substance or narrative payoffs. J Jonah Jameson, Black Cat, and countless villains are teased for sequels that were never made. Not to mention the parent plot which concluded in a deleted scene and wasn’t very interesting.

Overall, this film was entertaining yet very flawed. It was a shame that this version of the franchise got cut short, but at the same time the ending leaves Peter in an interesting place and I am very excited to (possibly) catch up with Garfield’s Peter and see how he is doing after the death of Gwen.

Peter and Gwen.  Image credit: Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man’s long awaited entrance into the MCU in 2016’s Civil War gave us a great version of the character played by Tom Holland.

Director Jon Watts brought Spidey back into highschool but was wise to skip the origin story, instead choosing to establish Spidey’s role in the wider Marvel universe. Watt’s style is a highlight of these two films, packed with an awkward sense of humour and scenes showcasing Peter’s relatable high school issues.

The film being set in the MCU makes it quite refreshing compared to the previous reboot as it’s a totally different environment for Spidey and it’s great seeing how he is viewed compared to heroes like Iron Man. The best part of this new setting is the Captain America education videos, which are hilarious.

The film has a great cast including Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei and Zendaya, who all have great moments, but do feel a little underused. Laura Harrier’s Liz and Peter’s relationship is a highlight of the film, and the breakup is a great moment which emphasises Peter’s “Parker” luck very well.

The best parts of the film though are Michael Keaton’s Vulture and the Dad plot twist, which is an all-time great moment for Spider-Man. Keaton gives a fantastic performance and his scenes with Holland were all great.

Spider-Man: Far from home (2019)

While Holland’s second solo outing improves upon many aspects of the first, I think overall I prefer homecoming.

The film develops Peter and Zendaya’s MJ very well and the two have many sweet moments. However, it’s a shame that Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is left to the sidelines and her plot about finding out Peter’s secret is totally ignored.

However, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is the highlight of the film and maybe my favourite of Spidey’s villains since Goblin. The plot twist is done very well and Gyllenhaal’s double performance is scene stealing.

The film leaves Tom Holland’s Spidey in a very interesting place, where his identity is revealed by J Jonah Jameson (J.K Simmons brilliantly reprises his role) and his world is turned upside down.

Spidey and Mysterio. Image credit: Sony Pictures

Overall I am beyond excited for No way home. Although not all films have been perfect, I enjoy watching all of them and all three actors have done a brilliant job as Spider-Man. 

Whether or not the trio actually share the screen together, in the newest instalment, we’ll have to wait and see when the film swings into theatres tomorrow. 

Featured Image credit: Sony Pictures

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First year film and media student.

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