Henry Bevan binge-watches the Spider-Man movie series…
Inspired by our viewing of Spider-Man: Homecoming, a film this website called “the best Spider-Man movie to date” and “another hit for the carefully crafted MCU”, a mate and I decided we should binge watch the previous five movies. While I’m personally conflicted about my favourite superhero’s latest outing (more on that later), it has made me excited about this trip down film history.
So, be prepared for some tired and probably drunken thoughts on the old wall-crawler. As Hemmingway always said, people should write when they’re drunk; let’s see if he was onto something.
For a film often described as kickstarting the modern superhero trend, it’s amazing how it bears little resemblance to today’s output. There is no snarky self-reflectiveness or even an attempt at grounding Spider-Man’s heroics. Sam Raimi masterfully blends fantasy and reality, creating a sincere film whose main character accepts his new found powers with a goofy grin.
On the surface, Spider-Man is simple. There is no complex plotting or the hero (and by extension the audience) doesn’t need to uncover some nefarious plot. It’s just two guys fighting over the responsibility their powers grant them. But, using great cause-and-effect storytelling, Raimi gives us a thematically rich story touching on love, life and heroism. It’s a detailed portrait of New York, and its supporting characters have lives outside of Spider-Man; he’s just the dude interrupting their lives. The film is decidedly human and Raimi serves the spectacle with a slice of real emotion.
How do you follow a bonafide hit like Spider-Man? Well, if you’re Sam Raimi, you don’t go darker, you just perfect what came before. Spider-Man 2 perfects the formula created for the first film as our down-on-his-luck protagonist, Peter Parker (a great Tobey Maguire) struggles to balance his life as a hero and a normal guy. It also carries over the thematic intelligence of the first film as Peter deals with his lingering guilt about Uncle Ben’s death. Rosemary Harris is particularly devastating when Peter confesses and Bob Murawski edits the scene for a full emotional wallop.
On top of this, the action is superb and the train sequence has never been surpassed in any other superhero film. Alfred Molina brings gravitas to Doc Ock, who is a more sombre villain than the Green Goblin. Through Doc Ock, Raimi suggests that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Intelligence is a gift and it should be used responsibly.
Doc Ock may be a thorn in Peter’s side but he also helps him focus on what he wants: Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Here, their relationship is sweet and sincere as both of them have feelings for each other but cannot bring themselves to admit it. This leads to one of the best superhero endings ever as MJ tells Peter it’s time for someone to save him. Their decision is monumental and that final shot of Mary Jane questioning her decision and her insecure future is one of the best endings for any superhero film. God, I love this movie.
We’re roughly five hours in and we’ve reached the bit I’ve dreaded. Spider-Man 3. From the start, it feels off. Raimi is clearly unhappy and it’s obvious his heart isn’t in it. The main problem with Spider-Man 3 isn’t that there are too many villains (although that is one of the problems) or the emo dancing (although, again, problematic) – it’s that no cares. Tobey Maguire is visibly bored, James Franco obviously feels shortchanged, and the script, which Raimi co-wrote, is half-baked. The filmmakers had clearly made the film they all wanted to make with Spider-Man 2, so didn’t really know what they wanted from number three.
Which is a shame because there is some great material here. Peter’s arc is the most interesting here as he turns from an egotist into a self-sacrificing hero. It’s not something we’d seen from Peter up to and after this point. The film just needed a bit more focus, a bit more passion.
However, for all its faults, it still whacks an emotional wallop. Now, this maybe because I’m very tired but the moment Peter reaches out to Mary Jane when he is on the brink of death grounds the fantasy in something entirely relatable: love. As Peter said right at the start of his journey, this is a story about a girl. Even when this bloated sequel ends, their relationship will make you cry.
SEE ALSO: Ranking the Spider-Man Movie Villains
Click below for the reboots…