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 further six Spidey-focused pictures and one major spin-off are some of the most popular and/or 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’re counting down each Spidey-universe feature-length 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).
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8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Marc Webb’s ill-fated The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a film that often escapes the ire of the franchise’s hardcore fans, many of whom are still not over being let down by Spider-Man 3 back in 2007, but the reason for this is less to do with having a dissatisfying conclusion to the lead character’s arc and more because Webb’s two-part reboot was almost entirely forgettable.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was bad. It was the worst film in the history of the franchise. How forgettable it is often lets it off the hook, but the sad, grim reality is that this film was so badly received critically and at the box office that Sony finally caved in to bringing 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 the film, 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 and 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 high 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.
7. 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 on trying 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 or societal commentary.
The Amazing Spider-Man makes for a good, if not wholly irrelevant, watch; one that does just enough to keep you engaged but never once takes a stride towards creating something special.
6. Venom (2018)
2018 Spider-verse building, anti-hero focused, action-comedy Venom looked and felt like a film ripped straight out of the mid 2000s, and for better or worse (depending on your point of view) it died on that hill.
The Ruben Fleischer directed picture was a hugely popular franchise entry – it made $855million worldwide – but it didn’t sit so well with critics who had choice words about its issues regarding tone and the way Sony had seemed to draw inspiration from Spider-Man 3 for dialogue and narrative progression (which is, rest assured, certainly not a compliment).
Tom Hardy seemed to have a lot of fun leading the project as its chief protagonist Eddie Brock, something that was certainly evident in the final cut of the picture, his off-kilter take on both Brock and Venom coming to establish the movie as something wholeheartedly fun, if not a little ridiculous.
Venom was a movie that seemed destined for the big screen in the aftermath of Spider-Man 3 and not in-between Infinity War and Endgame as happened to be the case, but the smart diversion away from all that was pushing the MCU forward did make for a useful alternative that was, at the very least, a memorable entry point into a wider Spider-verse.