Spider-Man

2002, Marvel Enterprises et al

Although director Sam Raimi demonstrated confident proficiency at weaving a solid action film, Tobey Maguire just didn't cut it for me; he seemed too old and too... well... odd. Likewise Kirsten Dunst was too adult to pass as a highschooler. But they both had the acting chops to deliver earnest performances, so if one pretended they were college students instead, it worked a little better. At any rate, Spider-Man proved to be reasonably successful, critically and financially, and more than adequately entertaining.

     

 

CRAP

MEH

WOW

Spider-Man 2

2004, Marvel Enterprises et al

Sam Raimi's sequel demonstrated that he knew what he was doing, and continued applying his skills to good effect. The story presents a conflicted Peter Parker, who sheds his spider suit as he does considerable soul-searching. Unfortunately, this introspection is nearly drowned out by a needlessly overcomplicated antagonist plot that hinges on a surfeit of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. While the film proved to be an even bigger hit than its predecessor, I felt as though it was just sort of running in place, saddled with the same skilled but miscast lead actors. Entertaining, no question, just not wildly so.

     

 

CRAP

MEH

WOW

Spider-Man 3

2007, Marvel Enterprises et al

The same team reassembled to make what they surely must have felt would be another hit. Unfortunately, the writers spoiled the winning streak by overloading the story with no less than three villains plus a good-spider/evil-spider subplot. The result was a nearly incoherent mess full of uninspired action and little to nothing in the way of humor or heart to sustain our emotional interest in the hero. Although it made plenty at the box office, it took a critical pounding, which ended plans for Spider-Man 4.

 

     

CRAP

MEH

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The Amazing Spider-Man

2012, Marvel Enterprises et al

With no acceptable script forthcoming, Sam Raimi exited the franchise, and the studio elected to reboot it. While that may have seemed like an idea from the Department of Redundancy Department, it actually worked sorta OK. The biggest improvement was Andrew Garfield, a pitch-perfect Peter Parker. Emma Stone, while still a bit adult for her role, was likewise an improvement over Kirsten Dunst, and Stone's real-life relationship with Garfield yielded a palpable onscreen chemistry. While not as tightly constructed as previous efforts, the exuberant performances made up for the film's shortcomings, resulting in the most enjoyable entry in the franchise to date.

       

CRAP

MEH

WOW

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2014, Marvel Enterprises et al

Sadly, the team responsible for breathing new life into Spider-Man fell right into the age-old more-is-better trap. Thus the charming performances of Garfield and Stone were suffocated by a trio of villains and hectic action seemingly for the sake of hectic action. The ending was obviously intended to be a tear-jerker, but by then the life had been drained out of the film, along with our emotional investment. The film's poor reception doomed two planned sequels and multiple spin-offs.

   

   

CRAP

MEH

WOW

Spider-Man: Homecoming

2017, Marvel Studios et al

With a dead franchise and rights ownership at risk, Marvel and Sony took up arms over the property, eventually reaching an accord after some bitter feuds. The plan was to ease Spider-Man back onto the screen via a cameo of sorts in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. Then, for the first stand-alone Spider-Man feature, the studio wisely chose to dispense with yet another origin story and instead just cut to the chase. Another sound decision was to include Tony Stark/Iron Man as a kind of father figure, as well as to provide more solid footing for Tom Holland's solo run. Turns out the insurance wasn't necessary, as Holland proved more than capable of carrying the film on his own, creating the most believable Peter Parker ever. And Michael Keaton delivered a masterful turn as the villain. The result was a sorely-needed, certifiable hit for the franchise, and a guarantee there would be more to come.

       

CRAP

MEH

WOW

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