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The Conservative Critic

Was Spider Man 3 actually pretty good?

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Spider-Man 3 was re-released to about 400 theaters for the first time since it first came out in 2007 which brought its domestic box office totals to be on-par with Spider-Man 2. Many fans are rewatching the movie whether in theaters or at home and expressing a change of heart. 

When the film initially released, it was hotly criticized and has long been considered the worst of the franchise. In hindsight it seems that many fans feel that the first two Spider-Man movies featuring Tobey McGuire in the titular role were actually just so good that their standards for the third movie were perhaps too high and the movie on its own has held up rather well. 

Having rewatched the film, the Conservative Critic will now rank all of the live action Spider-Man movies with the benefit of hindsight. 

8. Last place: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) 

Starring Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man was interminably long, extremely depressing and 0% fun. While all of the films feature the interpersonal conflict between Spider-Man and his main girl (MJ or Gwen Stacy) this movie did not do an adequate job of balancing that conflict with super-hero action and plot. Garfield always did an adequate job of playing Peter Parker and Dane DeHaan made for an interesting take on Harry Osborn but Jamie Foxx as Electro was such an embarrassing and insipid villain I am SHOCKED (pun) he reprised the role in a later film. Franchise worst by a long stretch.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) 

Sorry to pick on Andrew Garfield and his Gwen Stacy, Emily (Emma) Stone but the first movie in ‘The Amazing’ installment was the second worst of the franchise. While it was heads above its sequel thanks to a much more interesting plot line, it still just was not particularly interesting. Frankly, Gwen Stacy as a character just simply has nothing on M.J. and she never will and that is OBJECTIVE. It’s not the fault of Stone’s perfectly charming performance. The villain was pretty silly and unserious and while it is a Superhero movie (by nature unserious) audiences do have to be able to suspend disbelief at least a little. The Amazing Spider-Man is not a bad movie. It just isn’t very special. 

6. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) 

While Tom Holland makes an incredible Spider-Man who has by far captured the vulnerability of the character better than any of his peers and the film was 10x the quality of “The Amazing” franchise, Spider-Man: Far From Home had some issues which puts it beneath its peers. First of all, without revealing a spoiler, the villain is not intimidating or scary and seems like someone Spider-Man should have been able to beat pretty easily and also to identify as not a friendly. The film to its credit was one of the early action movies to deal with issues of AI (the Marvel franchise was early to this theme in general with Infinite War and beyond), but there were quite a few holes in the plot from start to finish. Overall, Far From Home was a good movie which was well liked by audiences and this one gave us the first significant time with Holland and Zendaya on screen which was a treat. It just had a few issues which knock it down in the overall rating of very good movies.

5. Spider-Man 3 (2007) 

Right in the middle of the pack is Spider-Man 3 which concluded the original live action franchise starring Tobey McGuire. The film originally was criticized for featuring “emo” Spider-Man (emo was having a big moment in 2007). Tobey McGuire’s character undergoes an “emo” style transformation due to the plot development of the film and ends up with what at the time was characteristic emo swooped hair and black eyeliner as well as a black Spidey-Suit. Additionally giving the film an “emo” vibe was the focus on tragic villains. The central baddie in the story had one of the more nuanced and tragic stories and fans at the time didn’t love that for Spider-Man even though all of his villains had redemptive qualities. Further, not unlike The Amazing Spider-Man 2 some fans felt the balance of action and interpersonal conflict was not where it needed to be. But the film has aged extremely well. Now long distant from the emo era, the aesthetic feels appropriate and culturally significant. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson is great and her chemistry with Tobey McGuire was as spot on as ever. The film was funny, moving and a decent conclusion to one of the most beloved franchises in movie history which at that time had the nation by an absolute chokehold. It should be noted that Bryce Dallas Howard played a very annoying version of Gwen Stacy in this film which may have tainted The Amazing Spider Man for all millennial viewers. 

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Tom Holland’s first standalone Spider-Man film and the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Homecoming, is a treat. Tom Holland has Peter Parker is pitch perfect and he, with the help of his director Jon Watts, created a Peter Parker which was so elegantly aligned with the spirit of “friendly, neighborhood” teen. Holland was 19 when he debuted as Spider-Man in an earlier MCU film and 20 by Homecoming making him the closest actor to the character’s true comic book age (18). Holland had a youthful energy that allowed for the audience to really appreciate the courage it took for him to face big scary villains. Homecoming’s innovative interpretation of characters gave the film a really fresh coat of paint but it managed to do so without disrespecting the film’s core heritage. Marissa Tomei as a hot, cool Aunt May instead of an older lady is genius and fun but her chops as an actor carry the character’s love and heart in a way that protects the Aunt May character and never relegates her to a punchline. The addition of Ned as Peter Parker’s best friend in lieu of Harry Osborn gave a fresh comedic relief and charming allyship for Parker without doing back bends to recreate the moody and menacing Harry character. Michael Keaton gives a stunning performance to which Tom Holland successfully rises as his opposite. Homecoming in any other list would come out number 1 every time but the Spider-Man legacy is one of great power …and therefore great responsibility. 

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004) 

In the top three is Spider-Man 2. Spider-Man 2 is a work of art. The sequel came after the overwhelmingly positive response to Spider-Man which at the time was an uncertain outcome. Spider-Man entered the market in an untested superhero environment. So the sequel was by no means a certainty. By the time of its release, Kirsten Dunst as M.J. had become an icon. Her role in the movie was as important to the fanfare as was the unimpeachable cinematography and storytelling. The movie gave us a powerful action packed thriller which revisited villains from the previous films and had friends turning to foes and back again but it also balanced so perfectly a romantic drama which was explored in high tension between M.J. and Peter but also through Dr. Octopus and his beloved wife. The theme of sacrifice and protecting those you love was so powerfully felt in America at the time as we headed into the War in Iraq. The fact that Spider-Man 2 is in third place is a testament to how well the character and the story of Spider-Man has been represented in film. Because its a nearly perfect movie which contains more than one scene that are one of the best ever in film (the train scene in particular). 

2. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

No Way Home is Holland’s best. Featuring quite a bit of well managed fan service, the film balances nostalgia, a very confusing multiverse plotline and extremely powerful themes of redemption and sacrifice that frankly should not be able to be so well held in a movie about a boy who wears a spider-suit. The movie pays homage to the films which come before it but also has its own life. Zendaya as M.J. and Jacob Batalon as Ned are given a lot of runway to bring life and comedy and fun to the film. Holland delivers his most emotional Peter Parker who is forced to grow up quickly under extreme circumstances. The film is so good it likely would have been the best of all the Spider-Man movies if not for some of the unfortunate sequencing and pacing issues which occur from the climax of the film to the conclusion. There is a major event which sets a very grave tone but is then disrupted by a series of comical interludes which make no sense considering that major event. But overall the film is incredible and fans rightly have a lot of love for what it brought to the franchise. 

  1. Best: Spider-Man (2002) 

The best of all the Spider-Man live action movies is still the first, Spider-Man from 2002 starring Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. To be fair, the film is perfect and is one of the best and most culturally influential films of all time. Without Spider-Man there would be no MCU. The Batman franchise which predates this movie walked so Spider-Man could run, but Spider-Man was the first in an era of film which with new technology could really make people seem “super.” Early in tech advancements, the 2002 Spider-Man artfully blended traditional cinematography with computer assistance to create a stunning and era specific work of art which hasn’t been seen since computers could generate the entire film (as they tend to do now). This movie was so powerful that people think “With great power comes great responsibility” is a quote which originates with this film. And frankly, Winston Churchill, Uncle Ben delivered it better. From the upside down kiss to young James Franco (RIP his career) to pro-wrestling appearances to a Nickleback song to leading the sound track, Spider-Man is an untouchable piece of art that will live in history as one of the greats. 

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