Excitement is continuing to build for Captain America: Civil War, and early reviewers are united in the view that Tom Holland's new Spider-Man is amazing.
Tom Holland is the third Spider-Man to hit the big screen since 2002, and now seems like a good time to run through his competition. So here's a breakneck tour of the webslinger's cinematic adventures!
5. Spider-Man 3
Although Spider-Man 3 was the highest-grossing of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy at the box office (it grossed $891 million worldwide), it's also usually viewed as a disappointing end. In a sense, it was always going to struggle; it was following on from Spider-Man 2, and a number of reviewers critically compared the villains (Sandman and Venom) to Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus.
The problem with Spider-Man 3 is, quite simply, that it tries to do too much. There are too many characters - the film features the Green Goblin, the Sandman, and Venom - and, as a result, there are also too many plots. In fact, with so many characters and concepts forced upon him by the production team, screenwriter Alvin Sargent actually considered splitting the film into two parts. He couldn't work out how to create a successful climax for the first half, and abandoned that idea. Instead, we wound up with a movie that just felt oddly disjointed, swinging from plot to plot faster than Spider-Man gets through his webs.
For all that I'm critical of Spider-Man 3, it still has most of the vim and vigour you saw in the first two films. Characters were generally good, although the impact of the Venom symbiote on Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker veered into the absurd!
4. Amazing Spider-Man 2
The second of Marc Webb's series, Amazing Spider-Man 2 reprised Andrew Garfield's role as Spider-Man and Emma Stone's as Gwen Stacy. Although the film performed poorly in the American Box Office, it was something of a hit in the international market.
The cast are, in my view, superb; the special effects are excellent. I'm more than a little impressed by the fact this film follows the Spider-Man canon to a shocking degree, daring to kill off Gwen Stacy in a scene hauntingly reminiscent of her death in the comics. The death is so artistically done, and even has the subtle touch of horror first seen in the comics - there's a 'snap' when Spider-Man's web catches Gwen, suggesting the sudden tug broke her neck and killed her.
Unfortunately, the film was critically wounded by Sony's desperation to build their own Spider-Man Cinematic Universe. Sony viewed the film as the launch-pad for everything they would try to do, and so they threw far too many concepts into it (such as the groundwork for the Sinister Six film). The failure of Amazing Spider-Man 2 ultimately led to Sony doing a deal with Marvel to share the franchise.
3. Amazing Spider-Man
I almost feel harsh putting Andrew Garfield's first outing in third place, because actually I consider this to be a reasonably strong film. Garfield's portrayal of Spider-Man is controversial, not least because the script rewrites his origin to a degree that irritated many fans. The goal was to reinvent Spider-Man in the way Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy had reinvented Batman, and it was at least partly successful; unfortunately the tone arguably doesn't quite fit for Spider-Man.
Personally, I didn't mind it; and I actually rather enjoyed the daring introduction of Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. This was a radical departure from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, which had focused on Kirsten Dunst's Mary-Jane. It was a smart play, consistent with the comics while ensuring that this film felt distinct from what had gone before. The death of Gwen's father is tragic, not least because Peter will ultimately fail to honour his promise.
All in all, Amazing Spider-Man was fairly successful. It relaunched the franchise in an intriguing new direction, and performed well enough for Sony to commission a sequel.
This was the film that started it all! Spider-Man launched Sam Raimi's trilogy to critical and financial success, and from the outset it was clear that Raimi was a fan. Spider-Man benefited from strong casting, with near-definitive interpretations of Mary-Jane (played by Kirsten Dunst), J. Jonah Jameson (played by J. K. Simmons), and Aunt May (played by Rosemary Harris). Tobey Maguire took centre-stage as Spider-Man himself, and the casting seemed perfect.
The script is superb, and wisely focuses in on the relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane; all future Spider-Man films to date would share a romantic focus. That said, Spider-Man isn't perfect - Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn seems poorly used, and the final Green Goblin armour was simply cringeworthy.
1. Spider-Man 2
The undoubted jewel in Spider-Man's cinematic crown, Spider-Man 2 showed just how effective a comic book character could be on the big screen. It carried on from Spider-Man, with most of the major cast reprising their roles, and introduced Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus. The villain is surprisingly well-portrayed, and is a truly three-dimensional character in his own right - something of a rarity in superhero films.
As before, the plot is as personal as it is superheroic - naturally Mary-Jane is the girl whose life is on the line during the fateful final battle. The script weaves several iconic Spider-Man plots together, adding an arc where Peter seemed to begin losing his spider-powers; although this isn't resolved as effectively as it could have been, it strongly added to the human side of the film.
It's impossible to overstate the financial success of Spider-Man 2; in the space of its first six days after release, the movie grossed over $180 million. But this was no undeserving blockbuster - it truly was (and remains to this day) a classic superhero adventure.
So there you have it - my thoughts on the first five Spider-Man movies! We've had a wild ride, adventuring with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but in just a few days' time we'll be seeing how Tom Holland compares...