10. 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 movie 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, dialogue and narrative.
Tom Hardy seemed to have a lot of fun leading the project as its chief protagonist Eddie Brock, something that was clearly evident in the final cut, 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 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.
9. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
Venom director Ruben Fleischer took a back seat for the Venom sequel Let There Be Carnage, passing story responsibilities to star Tom Hardy and directorial responsibilities onto Mowgli director Andy Serkis. The result was a tight, focused, well-intentioned superhero film that leant into the madness of the first movie but never lost sight of the rules of comic book heroism and villainy.
At a swift 97 minutes, Venom 2 flew by, its combination of funny Venom/Eddie Brock back-and-forth with some genuinely engaging action sequences and a villain with clearly defined motivations (not to mention strengths and weaknesses) made for an unexpected gem of 2021’s superhero calendar; a film that didn’t necessarily challenge conventions or shape the genre like the films to come on this list, but certainly did a great job of using the tropes and expectations of superhero cinema to create something entertaining and enjoyable.
In making Venom 2 what it is, Tom Hardy, Andy Serkis and Sony showed us that stripping back a comic book adaptation to the basic premise of good versus evil and infusing it with some light-hearted comedy can make for something memorable and fun.
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8. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
Spider-Man: Far from Home was the first canonical MCU film to be set in the aftermath of Iron Man’s death, and as such had an emotional hook more sizeable than franchise counterparts.
Visually, the film also had the advantage of having the eccentric con-man Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) as its latest draw, the visual splendour and expressionist sequences revolving around the character’s most deadly motives making for groundwork that emphasised all that is good within superhero films in the modern day. Under the surface, Mysterio was also an interesting tool for superhero cinema examination, but the groundwork did not make for a sequel more interesting than its predecessor; the heart, comedy and minute personal risk to Parker all-but dismissed in favour of the film’s more lofty topics; Parker’s trials and tribulations as a young boy being less a central concern than in Homecoming, the character losing something as a result.
Far from Home was by no means a poor movie and it did set the groundwork for a more grown up, post-Endgame-trauma version of the character. This movie also provided all of the enjoyment and happiness of Marvel’s mid-level hits, its position on this list therefore less to do with the film’s lack of quality and more to do with the quality of the movies to come.
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7. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 3 is the one film from the Spider-verse that people jump to when imagining a “worst Spider-Man movie”, but the reality is much more complex, as illustrated by its relatively lofty position on this list.
As referenced in earlier entries, Spider-Man 3 set the benchmark for how to not introduce characters just for the sake of building a wider universe, and it undoubtedly has some of the most cringe-inducing moments ever put to screen in any superhero movie. But to relegate this relatively ill-fated conclusive entry from Sam Raimi’s red hot superhero trilogy to the status of “worst Spider-Man film” or “one of the worst superhero films of all time” is to grossly underestimate and, frankly, misunderstand the very nature of Spider-Man 3 as a viable and complex examination of ego, self-expression and grandiosity.
By Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker is no longer a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, he’s an icon of New York and he’s got the girl. His once shy persona and determined attitude is thus replaced with a fundamentally more arrogant one, crowd-pleasing public kisses and photoshoot-ready web-slinging included.
The film’s most fundamentally divisive sequence is, ironically, the best evidence of this, Venom turning Peter Parker “emo” to the chagrin of all who’d anticipated the iconic character’s debut. This scene, in context to the other two films, illustrates two important things to us as viewers: Parker’s view of “cool” is fundamentally a 2000s alt-rocker with a film noir twist, and that for all of his bravery, values and strength of character, Parker may ultimately fall victim to the only villain he can’t catch in one of his webs… himself.
Spider-Man 3 is not without its issues and there’s no doubt that this, like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, ended one version of the character for good. But, Spider-Man 3 remains memorable, its depth evident of a time when filmmakers still (for the most part) ruled the roost. Sure, this Spidey entry is Sam Raimi pulled in all sorts of different directions, but the heart and intention behind each creative decision remains. It may be seen as a failure to many, but it is one built upon a passion that is rarely illustrated within the genre in more modern times.