Reviewing the Spider-Man movies
March 8, 2022
Similar to others, after seeing “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I have been inspired to watch all of the Spider-Man movies. And so, I’m here to answer the age-old question: “Who’s your favorite Spider-Man?” (Spoiler alert: I picked two because I'm indecisive). Please note that there will be spoilers in each movie’s respective review!
First up, we have the first “Spider-Man” movie. Peter gains powers after getting bitten by a spider and becomes a hero facing the Green Goblin. Tobey Maguire plays a very awkward and dorky Peter Parker, which is perfect for the character. His journey to Spider-Man truly feels like a comic story. As for Peter’s foe, the Green Goblin is probably my favorite Spider-Man villain with his expressions and laugh. The scene with Norman Osborn talking to his Green Goblin reflection? Perfection. Another part of this movie that I loved was the accidental humor, with some of my favorite parts being those transitions. One thing I wished to see more of, however, was MJ as a developed character. I felt like the movie did not do the personality of her character justice, and relayed her to the sidelines. The worst part of this movie though was definitely the scene where Peter’s “pincers” (I’m not really sure what to call them) grew out of his hands. Horrific to say the least. Moving on, the movie is an enjoyable and classic comic book film.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
This has to be my favorite of the Maguire movies with its balanced mix of characterization and action. The story flows well, following Peter as he deals with the negative impact being Spider-Man has on his life and relationships. While dealing with this, he is also attempting to save New York from a nuclear fusion blast, courtesy of the main antagonist, Doc Ock. Doc Ock makes an amazing villain, and it was interesting to see him acting as a mentor for Peter at the beginning of the movie. As with seemingly all Spider-Man villains, you feel bad for him. I also appreciated seeing Peter deal with the fact that being Spider-Man is hard, and seeing the complexities of watching him struggle to balance his personal life with his super-hero life. The best part of this movie is Peter’s progression with Mary Jane. It’s great how Mary Jane didn’t let Peter’s constant flakiness slide, and her speech near the end of the movie was perfect. In conclusion, this movie is really well-written and paced, although I did miss the sick transitions.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
I have mixed feelings about this movie, so let's just get into it. This movie is full of relationship struggles, as Peter’s friendship with Harry grows more complicated, and his issues with Mary Jane pile up. On top of that, he has to deal with two villains: The Sandman and Venom. Spider-Man just can’t catch a break. My least favorite part of this movie has to be Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship; their problems just keep growing throughout the movie without any resolution until literally the last scene. It makes you root against them even though you want to be rooting for them. Peter is also so out-of-character in this movie, with him doing things that would obviously upset Mary Jane. It feels very out of place, especially after the second movie. Another qualm I have is that the plot is overstuffed with villains from Venom to Sandman to Harry. Because each of the villains had to be established, it made them less compelling due to a lack of screentime. The only one who works is Harry, Peter’s best friend because he’s already been established throughout the last two movies. I did love Harry in this movie and kept switching between whether I liked him or not, proving how well-written he is as a conflicting character. The scene where Harry dies made me tear up, and it's heartbreaking that Peter and he went through so much for that to be his ending. Another thing I liked was Aunt May, who really shines in this movie, giving her best advice yet to Peter. The plot with Peter being infected with the symbiote was another notable part of how funny it was. It added such an enjoyable aspect to the movie, and honestly, the overall chaos with all the plotlines was pretty fun. This movie has some aspects I liked but definitely stumbles overall, falling short on characterization and relationships.
Maguire’s Peter/Spider-Man is a true comic book portrayal: watching him feels like entering a comic book. He plays a dorky and awkward Peter Parker perfectly, and his supporting characters like Aunt May and Harry add more depth to his movies. While his third movie may stumble, his movies are still classics.
Photo credit: “Spider-Man”
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Now we move into Andrew Garfield! Garfield’s Spider-Man is full of quips and fun lines, and Peter is shy and reserved. You follow him as he tries to learn more about his father’s past, which eventually leads to a lizard foe. My favorite aspect of this movie is Gwen Stacy, and Gwen and Peter’s relationship, which, in my opinion, is ultimately the core of the movie. I loved having Gwen find out Peter is Spider-Man early on since it gives opportunities for her to be involved and help him. This gives her character more agency and prominence in the movie. I think Garfield plays a great Peter Parker and following him and his grief after Ben’s death is really impactful. Because of this, we get to see his evolution from a grief and revenge motivated character to a hero. I also appreciated seeing May worrying about Peter constantly being gone, since I felt it added depth and realism to their relationship. My one issue with this movie is the scene where Peter's looking up bug bites, and when he pulls the spider string off of his neck. Why do all of these movies have to have such gross scenes? But anyway, “The Amazing Spider-Man” shines through with characterization and character relationships, which is the most integral part of a movie.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The second movie keeps a focus on Gwen and Peter, with Peter worried his Spider-Man identity will affect Gwen’s safety. Peter continues to try to learn more about his father, and Electro and Harry Osborn get introduced. With all of these plot lines, it's already worryingly beginning to follow the same downfall “Spider-Man 3” had. Despite my dislike of Harry’s Green Goblin in this movie, I actually liked Electro. I know a lot of people dislike him as a villain, but, although he may not have been the most realistic villain, I did feel for him. As for Green Goblin in this movie, I do dislike him. He feels unrealistic, like a caricature. I think Harry as a character struggles more with his morality, and with the fact that Peter/Spider-Man is his friend. On the topic of Harry, we may as well talk about the ending of this film. Gwen’s death. I must say it doesn’t help Harry get into my good graces! The scene of her falling is so tense and heartbreaking. Keeping it so accurate to how she dies in the comics is brutal, and seeing her death visualized with sound is just awful. It’s unbelievably sad and unfair, especially after a happy scene resolving Peter and Gwen’s conflict from earlier in the movie. On a very different note, I love the scenes of Garfield with kids; it just feels so like Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I also loved the emotional scene between Aunt May and Peter in this movie, and it's one of the most emotional Aunt May scenes in all Spider-Man movies. Despite the amount of hate this movie gets for the plot, I honestly don’t think it's nearly as bad as people say it is. While the plot is all over the place, the focus of the movie is Peter and Gwen, making the movie work.
In general, I think Garfield’s movies don’t get enough credit for the characterization. While people have plenty of issues with plots, Garfield’s performance of Peter really shines through, and I think Garfield really got ripped off in his time as Spider-Man (honestly the plots aren’t that bad). I really think people overdo it with hatred for his movies, and I’m happy that Garfield and his movies are getting more recognition now.
Photo Credit: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Last, but certainly not least, we have Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. His movies feel more teenage-esque, which I personally love. I confess that I did not have time to rewatch “Homecoming” before this, so I’m just going based on memory here. This movie follows Peter struggling to maintain his high school life while trying to stop The Vulture. I love that the core of the movie is Peter Parker and him just being a high school kid. His friendship with Ned adds a fun tone to the movie, which is something unique to Holland’s movies. Another detail I love in this movie is the final fight scene. Peter stripped down to his homemade Spidey suit, and him saving The Vulture is so well done. Overall, “Homecoming” is such a comfort movie, and I love how it's rooted in high school and Peter figuring things out.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
In this movie, we travel away from New York to Europe! There’s a double-crossing villain and lots of teenage awkwardness. I liked watching Peter grapple with wanting to be a high school kid while literally having saving the world on his shoulders. It felt very realistic and really made me sympathize with him. In general, I love the plotlines highlighting that being Spider-Man is hard. I, again, love all the characters in this movie and their teenager-ness. Ned and Betty are so funny and add a layer of humor to the film. And don’t even get me started on Peter and MJ. I love how awkward they are. I think a huge part of being a teenager is constantly feeling awkward and unsure, and I love seeing that shown on screen. The scene where MJ tells Peter she knows he's Spider-Man is so well done, that in general Peter and MJ worked perfectly in this movie. Happy played an important role in this movie, and watching him and Peter grapple with losing Tony was an interesting emotional facet. Mysterio preying on Peter’s loss and manipulating him was also a unique way to illustrate Peter’s grief through the plot. In general, this movie is so fun with surprising emotional depth.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Okay. “No Way Home.” Where do I even begin? It’s my favorite Marvel movie now, and that's a big claim coming from me. There’s so much to cover here.
The movie opens with Ned, MJ, and Peter dealing with college and his identity being revealed. After all 3 get rejected from MIT, Peter feels guilty and asks Dr. Strange for help, resulting in a spell that gets off-kilter. As a result, people from the Spider-Man multiverse enter Peter’s universe. After learning some will die if they are sent back to their universe, Peter refuses to do so and works to help them. I love, love, love how the characters were done in this movie, especially Peter—him choosing to “cure” the villains is so in character. Of course, the consequences are devastating, and I’m not even going to talk about Aunt May. Well, actually I am, but not about you-know-what.
I love how Aunt May gives Peter advice in this movie, and how we see who raised him to have his set of moral values, especially since she hasn’t been a major character in past movies. Peter’s selflessness that she instilled within him is a major theme in this movie, from the beginning when he tells the college admissions counselor that it's not about him and to the end when he leaves MJ and Ned to their new lives. At the end of the day, it's not Peter’s webs or his Stark suit that makes him a hero. It's his selflessness and unflinching moral code. He’s just a guy who gets bit by a spider, but he takes that and uses it to help people. This is further shown at the end when he makes the ultimate sacrifice because he knows he has to fix what he did wrong.
Now, let's talk about the ending because this one was definitely not happy. I really wanted it to be happy. The ending has a purpose—Peter has to correct what he messed up and has to face the fact that sometimes he can’t save everyone. For a character who’s historically known for struggling with guilt, it's something he struggles to accept. But I still don’t like it; there’s just too much emotional damage. Peter has already had to endure Tony’s death, now Aunt May’s, and everyone forgetting him on top of it?! Considering the fact that the Multiverse of Madness trailer makes it sound like Strange’s spell breaks the universe, I think breaking the universe is lesson enough. It's also frustrating to follow characters through three movies and then just have them gone. But I digress. It's a good ending in terms of emotionality and storytelling, so I’ll give it that.
Throughout this movie we really see Peter leave his teenage innocence and happiness and face the grittiness that comes with heroism. This movie is brutal in that sense—following him as he loses his care-free attitude, and ending with that. It truly is a cinematic masterpiece, highlighting Peter’s character growth, him devoting himself to heroism and the sacrifices that come with it. Ned and MJ add lightness to the movie and stand out as fully-formed characters in their own right. And of course, there’s one small detail I have yet to mention. The villains return! The Spider-Men return! This was genuinely such an amazing idea, and it's so insane to see all of these people brought back to the screen. It's done so well; the focus stays on Tom’s Peter, and all of the characters are done justice. There are emotional moments as well as moments that are full of banter and fun. It's even nice to see the villains get a happy ending. I just love this movie so much. All I have left to say is that it's a masterpiece.
In conclusion, Holland’s Peter has the opportunity to be a teenager and we experience his journey to become a hero together. We grow up with him, and throughout the three movies, you truly see how his character develops. His movies are so well-done because of the balance between high school life and super-hero life, and the unique challenges he faces as a result.
Now that I’ve shared my thoughts and opinions over the movies, it's time for the final question. Who's my favorite Spider-Man? It has to be a tie between Andrew and Tom for me, but I would like to make it clear that I still love Tobey. At the end of the day, each of them brings something unique to the character while capturing Spider-Man’s core essence.
Photo Credit: “Spider-Man No Way Home”