Franchise Fun: Spider-Man

Hey guys! Welcome to this new “series” I’m starting entitled Franchise Fun. In it I’ll be taking a look at various franchises and, you guessed it, having fun with them. Seeing as Spider-Man has recently been accepted into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe I figured it would be fitting to start with the Wall Crawler. Enjoy everyone and feel free to give feedback – agree with me? disagree? Let me know! 


The #5 entry on this list is a surprise to no one. This often ridiculed 3rd installment features an an unmanageable amount of new characters, an unprecedented amount of melodrama, and James Franco delivering his worst performance of the series. Although I agree that Spider-Man 3 is the weakest film of the franchise I do believe the hate it has received is excessive. Even amongst the disappointing mishandling of the symbiote sub-plot the film still boasts electric action sequences as well as another committed performance from Tobey Maguire. Raimi does his best, throwing in flourish after flourish, but this is a cast of a director’s reach exceeding his grasp.


Director Marc Webb took over as the Spider-Man franchise rebooted, bringing Andrew Garfield into the role of Peter Parker as well as twisting the tone into something more in-line with the comic book source – to great results. Andrew Garfield quickly proved that he was born for the role (and it’s a shame he’s being replaced), playing Peter with the smarmy youthful quippy demeanor we’re all used to. Also into the picture came Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, making for a comic book romance with three times the chemistry of Raimi’s lovers. For everything Webb did right (the tone, the look, the vibrancy) he and his crew seemed to have forgotten one thing: Peter Parker was never a hipster. Parker dresses well, looks trendy, and is the prototypical “loveable loner boy” popular in films these days. It’s a far cry from Maguire’s faithful performance as the social outcast.


Often cited as the series’ high point, Spider-Man 2 acted as the natural continuation to Raimi’s original film – only this time darker and full of more humanity. Sam Raimi did a spectacular job showing how “realistic” comic book films could be, injecting a very human and compelling struggle into his protagonist. Alfred Molina stepped into the role of Otto Octavius brilliantly, making it his own and chewing the scenery around him like every good super villain should. As good as Spider-Man 2 is (very good), it ultimately falls short due to poorly handled melodrama and untimely comedic relief. The slight tone shift from the original into more dramatic territory, forsaking the goofball cheesiness that pervaded it for “realism,” was enough to keep it at #3 on this list. It does, however, showcase the best action set piece in the series (the train fight) and Doc Ock’s “hospital scene” evokes the Raimi of the 1980s – gruesome.


Put your pitch forks away! While far from a perfect film I’m convinced The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been completely misunderstood. This is the pinnacle of comic book exuberance and vibrancy meeting human drama. For my money every member of the cast, including Jamie Foxx, brings their A-game and delivers. Although certainly flawed Marc Webb dares to bring back the glamor, color, and absurd spectacle of the comic book films of old. In fact, it is reminiscent of Batman & Robin at times. The difference? Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield, and the rest of the crew have a firm and complete grasp on who Spider-Man/Peter Parker is as well as this universe in which he exists. Jamie Foxx as Electro is an absolute powerhouse, cracking off one-liners as if it were 1997. Similarly brilliant is Dane DeHaan and I pray he stays in the role of Harry Osborn now that changes are being made. Garfield and Stone are better than ever, and they have to be, because this is really their story and their film. Even Hans Zimmer is trying something new, and his whacky musical score is one of the film’s highlights, adding even more spectacle and radiance to the eye-popping action scenes. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a near perfect balance of comic book goodness, handling a wonderful juxtaposition of over-the-top ridiculousness and human pathos superbly.


For my money the first installment is still the greatest. Thirteen years later and it still holds up marvelously, although it’s hardly the “super serious superhero” movie everyone once claimed, but that works to its advantage. Sam Raimi directs this with a lot of energy, and these top two entries share a lot in common. Both films embrace their absurdity, but, unlike lesser entries in the comic book genre, don’t allow it to shackle their dramatic and emotional limitations. Spider-Man 2, while full of gravitas, forsakes too many of its comic book ties in favor of cheap melodrama whereas Spider-Man has no such delusions. There’s a cheesiness in the air of this film, from several of Parker’s lines to everything out of Willem Dafoe’s mouth. It’s all dialed up to 11 but at the center there’s still this boy figuring out how to cope with what’s going on around him and to him. Ironically, for all of its cheesiness, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco are at their best in this entry. This movie is just endless fun and holds a lot of nostalgic value for me, but I also believe it’s one of the better comic book films of all-time.


Andrew Garfield
Although Tobey Maguire had the “nerd/outcast” bit down pat, and he was the first to put on the tights, it’s hard to deny that Garfield is superior in almost all facets. He was Spider-Man.


Emma Stone
Yeah, sorry Kirsten, but this one isn’t even close. Sure, some of Dunst’s failures as Mary Jane are due to poor dialogue writing but all in all Stone is the superior actress.


Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn/Green Goblin)
Dane DeHaan, given the screen time, could nab this title but as of now Dafoe takes it. Typically comic book villains fall into one of two categories: “camp” or “menace.” Well, Willem Dafoe brings both. He chews any and all scenery while still standing as by far the most intimidating and menacing villain in the franchise.


Topher Grace (Eddie Brock/Venom)
It’s bad enough that Spider-Man 3 features a complete bastardization of one of the greatest comic book villains of all-time. What’s even worse is that Topher Grace is absolutely horrible, both as Eddie Brock and Venom.


So that’s it for this first entry into my Franchise Fun series. Thanks for reading! Feel free to drop a comment below letting me know if you think I should continue on with this series. Any tips are welcome.


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