Now there’s a new one out every week, it’s time to consider what the best comic book movie is. It’s so easy to lose sight of the past, as the MCU sets the flavour of the month. Civil War’s what’s hot right now, top of everyone’s list, but as soon as Doctor Strange or a bigger tentpole movie like Infinity War comes along, we’ll forget Civil War and that’ll be what’s hot. We already forgot Winter Soldier, Ultron and Iron Man 3.
We just move past each one as it comes along and look to the next one. We’re getting greedy. And it doesn’t help that DC hopes to replicate this (although so far, not to much success). So, it’s time to look back. Which has been the best over the years? You might have your own ideas, but Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is still the one to beat for me. Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland were okay, but in the way Sean Connery is James Bond, Tobey Maguire is Peter Parker. He nailed the shy dorkiness, and as the character transformed into Spidey, and as he progressed through the trilogy, Maguire hit every beat perfectly.
The writing’s incredible. This much care doesn’t go into the scripts of superhero films these days. Nowadays, a megalomaniac has an evil plan and everyone gets in their costumes and has a big fight. But in Spider-Man, Peter has a personal relationship with his villain, unbeknownst to both until the third act. In Civil War, Crossbones didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner with Steve Rogers.
That’s the genius of Spider-Man. Norman Osbourne dines with Peter and his aunt, and sees his injury. He doesn’t jump up and attack him there. Raimi’s subtler than that. Norman doesn’t want to reveal himself. He leaves, and returns as the Green Goblin, snatches Aunt May. Then it’s personal. And MJ, the girl next door, Peter’s love interest, who his best friend Harry, who happens to be Norman’s son, is trying to bang. This isn’t to the credit of the #Film – it’s all just lifted from the comics – but Raimi and his team handpicked the best.
And the villain’s death isn’t just a happy ending to the story. It affects everyone. Harry both wants Spider-Man dead and trusts Peter, without realising they’re the same person. And after pining after MJ for years, she’ll finally go out with Peter, but he accepts that he needs to be Spider-Man, and as long as he’s Spider-Man, she won’t be safe, so he walks away from her in order to protect her. This is real.
Most superhero films go for big scope, trying to show the whole world, but Spider-Man is more intimate and human. What would happen to a person if they got superpowers? He’s faced with new responsibilities. That’s not just a corny line. There’s an emotional weight to Spider-Man that’s lacking in other comic book movies. Tony Stark mentions Pepper every now and then – she’s the woman he loves! That should be the focal point of his entire being, as is the case with Peter and MJ.
Raimi has a deep appreciation for the source material, and he brought the origin story directly from the comics to the screen (and not the weird way Ang Lee used panel-like transitions in his messy Hulk movie). If you know nothing about Spider-Man going into the film, you come out knowing everything.
A lot of times origin stories don’t stand re-watches. These days, they’re just hurdles. They’re the films you need to get past before you can get to the fun, action-packed ones later on. But Spider-Man’s different, because Raimi approached it like any other film. He wasn’t bogged down, he was just making a film.
A strong case could be made for The Dark Knight. It’s a masterpiece – don’t get me wrong – but I don’t really see The Dark Knight as a comic book movie. It’s a slick crime thriller, like Heat, and its hero just happens to wear a costume. But Spider-Man is a big, colourful comic book movie, through and through.
Spider-Man has it all. Action, romance, tragedy, betrayal, some comedy to lighten things up (which wouldn’t have gone amiss in Batman vs Superman, which had the tone of a Holocaust drama). What more could you want? #Cinema #Fiction