The popular Spider-Man fable “with great power, comes great responsibility” is one that has not necessarily been followed by the brains at Spidey’s feature film distributors Sony over the course of the franchise’s cinematic shelf life, the studio often finding themselves overlooking their current release with an eye towards expanding their universe before it has even got off the ground. That said, Sony’s Spider-Man (2002) is unquestionably one of the forefathers of superhero cinema as we know and love it to be, and Sony’s nine further Spidey-focused pictures (plus two major spin-offs) are some of the most popular and influential blockbusters of the 21st century. Even in the shadow of the central MCU, Spider-Man has remained a franchise with a lot to offer…
In this edition of Ranked, we at The Film Magazine are counting down each Spidey-universe feature-length theatrical release from worst to best, judging each inclusion by its own artistic merit, critical and financial reception, and overall importance (to its genre and cinema as a whole).
Follow @thefilmagazine on Twitter.
12. Morbius (2022)
Very little was expected of Sony’s Spider-villain-verse entry Morbius when it was revealed to be hitting our screens in 2020, but when it finally arrived after mass delays the low bar for “acceptable” superhero/villain cinema was… barely met.
Jared Leto worked hard to carve someone interesting out of a character with little by way of personality development, and the pacing was rapid (which is particularly impressive as a lesser Spidey entry), but Morbius ultimately felt like the best moments from other films thumb-tacked into a CGI mess that left said moments absent of meaning or purpose.
A lot seemed to happen in this 2022 film, yet very little gave us a reason to care for the characters, and the picture’s almost complete absence of threat only compounded this issue. It would be a stretch to claim that Morbius was trying to say anything about anything – it certainly wasn’t allegorical of past or present human issues like most vampire films, nor presenting a particularly obvious audience fantasy like other superhero movies – and it did little-to-nothing to make it look, sound or feel unique within its franchise.
Like Venom before it, Morbius was a film that seemed to be a film made for audiences of the mid-2000s, and yet unlike Venom it lacked all of the charisma needed to carry its more corny or less inspired moments. Even the post-credits’ mildly exciting previews of other films to come couldn’t save this one from the title of “worst Spider-Man movie”.
11. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was bad. How forgettable it is often lets it off the hook, but the sad, grim reality is that this Marc Webb-directed film was so badly received critically and at the box office that Sony finally caved in and brought Marvel Studios back to the table, in effect admitting their own inadequacies as regards their treatment of the character and thus sacrificing some of their multi-million-dollar profits to rival studio Disney in an attempt to fix their mistakes.
The major issue with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is its woeful screenplay written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci of Transformers, Star Trek and The Mummy (2017) fame. In this fifth live-action franchise entry, focus shifts from a sub-par, by-the-books plot surrounding Peter Parker (and particularly his on-and-off-again relationship) to the life of his hard-working Aunt May, the reason apparently being to ensure Sally Field got her share of the run-time, the amount of space given to prominent comic book characters elsewhere in the film sacrificed as a result, the run-time dragging on to a tiresome 2 hours and 22 minutes.
Despite featuring a stellar cast including star Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones and Paul Giamatti, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features some of the most ridiculous cases of over-acting in the entire franchise, every highly paid professional seemingly acknowledging the standard of movie they were in even ahead of it being released. This, mixed with a woeful narrative, worse dialogue and a Spider-Man 3 level problem of filling up the movie with characters for an expected “Spider-verse”, make The Amazing Spider-Man 2 probably the only major failure in the franchise and undoubtedly the worst entry to date.
10. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
A considerable improvement on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the film that preceded it, The Amazing Spider-Man, a picture that made a new-look Spidey franchise feel viable once again; Marc Webb’s inexperienced but grounded take on the web-slinger being refreshing enough to earn the picture a number of favourable reviews and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man a number of fans.
Inevitably, the creative decision to just re-do the Peter Parker Spider-Man origin story we’d seen just 10 years prior (that’s like seeing Iron Man rebooted in 2018…) was not the smartest idea, and even though Webb and company managed to effectively avoid revisiting a lot of the tropes established in Sam Raimi’s franchise, the dye was cast for what would come to be diminishing returns for the series.
A more sarcastic, some would say millennial, take on Peter Parker was the film’s shining beacon, but the studio’s obvious hesitation to try anything entirely new was evident, this 2012 release feeling every bit as much of a part of the preceding decade as its Sam Raimi-directed brethren, only with less charm and (because of the number of films that had been released between Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man) less to offer in terms of visual awe, unique scenarios and social commentary.
The Amazing Spider-Man makes for a good, although mostly irrelevant, watch; one that does just enough to keep you engaged but never once takes a stride towards creating something special.