With Spider-Man, Sony basically booted Sam Raimi and started remaking their own movies. The diabolical genius of the move is that, instead of responding with mass apathy, they’ve gotten us to distract ourselves by playing fantasy casting director and arguing over rankings while they charge us four times for essentially the same thing. God help us, we can’t not argue over quantitative rankings. But to deny the impulse to stick numbers next to things and argue with each other is to deny that which makes us human or something. If you cut us, do we not bleed? I you give us comic books, do we not argue over who could beat up who???
Therefore, I give you my rankings of the Sony Spider-Man movies, which are far superior to your rankings of Sony’s Spider-Man movies. KNIVES OUT!
1. Spider-Man 2
This is the easiest choice of this entire list. Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie is not only head and shoulders above the rest, it’s one of my all-time favorite superhero movies. Almost all of Sam Raimi’s movies have this odd ability to seem borderline sarcastic and intensely earnest at the same time, where characters always seem right on the verge of breaking character… but then they don’t. It’s that weird tightrope dance between parody and schlock that works perfectly with comic book material. Raimi doesn’t try to soften the inherent silliness of the story (like Chris Nolan), he just bathes in it. I realize Sam Raimi’s style is intensely polarizing, but if you don’t like Dr. Octopus’s giant sentient robot arms smashing cars while lighting a cigarette and a superhero movie that ends with an 80s sitcom-style freeze frame, I just don’t know what to tell you. I wholeheartedly love this movie.
Raimi’s first Spider-Man came out in 2002, in a post 9/11 world where everyone had American flags on everything and even your company softball team jersey seemed weird if it didn’t say “United We Stand” on the back. You can see a lot of that in Spider-Man, weird, crowbarred-in elements of New Yorkers standing tall and coming together to fight evil. Nothing wrong with that, except that you can tell it kind of got dropped into the movie at the last minute, and it sort of cuts against the otherwise gee whiz quality of the whole thing. The last third of the movie doesn’t really work, but I could watch Willem Dafoe argue with his own reflection for hours. When it comes to mixing schlock with parody and always being on the verge of breaking character, Willem Dafoe is the perfect Raimi actor.
A lot of people defend Amazing Spider-Man, which was basically a recast version of Spider-Man, by saying they always hated Tobey Maguire. I get it, Tobey Maguire is a dorkus malorkus. But he’s supposed to be. When Tobey Maguire was getting melvined by bullies and having to dry the splashed up gutter water from their sports cars off his taped up glasses, I believed it. Andrew Garfield is a great actor, but he’s also this tall, lanky, handsome outsider type with great eyebrows and a hot chick who loves him almost from the first second of the movie, yet we’re still supposed to feel sorry for him and believe that he’s getting picked on by bullies. Hey, remember when he jumped over a guy’s head and smashed the backboard with a dunk and no one talked about it again for the entire movie?
Garfield also plays Parker with a New Yorky accent which I think we can all agree is intensely dislikable.
3. Spider-Man 3
No, this one wasn’t good. Spider-Man 2 is the lone unqualified “good movie” of the bunch, as far as I’m concerned. I remember precisely two things about Spider-Man 3: Thomas Haden Church playing a villain made of sand, and Tobey Maguire’s emo bangs when he turned evil. But at one point, when emo Spidey knocked down Mary Jane during an argument, the audience in my theater got real quiet and then a black guy said, “Awww, shit,” and the whole theater exploded in laughter. That alone puts it above either Scarfield Spider-Man movie for me.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
This one’s fresh in my mind and on my site, so I don’t think I need to go over every reason why it’s kind of a disaster. Bloated and messy though it may be, it doesn’t do EVERYTHING badly. The fight scenes and special effects look a lot better than in the first one, and Paul Giamatti amping up the hamminess to critical levels is always fun to watch. The acting is capable, the fights are well shot, and the score is less overbearing than in the first one. It’s a bloated, horribly-written mess, but at least it’s not boring.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man (original review)
People like to defend this one for the aforementioned reasons, but there are few things I hate as much as someone trying to convince me that the brooding, sexy outsider is some kind of nerd. It reminds me of Chasing Mavericks, where all the high school bullies are making fun of the main guy because he’s a big wave surfer. Ha! Loogit this friggin loozah, always doing death-defying extreme sports stunts like an ace hole! Then there was the villain, a guy who discovered the regenerative properties of lizard genes and naturally wanted to turn everyone into a lizard for some reason. He’s so much of a step down from Willem Dafoe’s snarling, schizo scientist that I don’t even want to think about it.
Then there was Spider-Man discovering his powers by skateboarding in a warehouse. Jesus Christ that was an awful scene. Like I said in my review, I don’t want to watch Superman rollerblade. Gee, let me see, broody Spider-Man skateboarding in a warehouse like some outtake from Footloose, or Spider-Man fighting “Bonesaw McGraw” played by Macho Man Randy Savage in an amateur pro wrestling cage match announced by Bruce Campbell? I get it, some people hate Tobey Maguire, but Taylor Lautner could’ve played Peter Parker and Raimi’s Spider-Man would still be better. Honestly, if you like this one better than the first Raimi Spider-Man you should probably be institutionalized.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.