Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, I Can Rank Any Series Any Time

Of all the comic book characters, Spider-man was always my favorite.  X-Men was my favorite team, but Spidey was the one I most enjoyed.  So, yeah, we saw the new Spider-Man movie--Homecoming--the night it came out.  It is no spoiler to say that it was terrific.  The most thoroughly fun of all the Spideys, but is it the best?  Swing to the spoiler-filled rankings below:

Caveat: I have a harder time ranking aspects of the third Spider-Man and the two Amazings as I have not watched them recently or repeatedly.  The fact that we don't have DVD/Bluerays of Spiderman movies 3-5 might be a hint.  Which, of course, means that these movies get ranked lower, as they should be.
To be clear, the numbering is:
Spider-Man 1 or Spidey 1 with Tobie Maguire, and then 2 and 3
Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield is 4 and then 5.
Spider-Man Home-Coming is 6.

So, let's start with Villains:

Vulture (6) > Dr. Ock (2)> Green Gobin (1) > Lizard  > Sandman (3)  > Rhino (5) > Goblin (3)  > Venom (3)  > Elektro (5)
While Willem Dafoe was scary and acted great, he is just a bit too cheesy.  I loved Doc Ock since he ended up redeeming himself at the end and because he had that special relationship with his arms.  Plus Alred Molina was terrific.  However, Michael Keaton was just great.  The scene in the car at the Homecoming Dance, just so full of menace, was great.  I will have to re-watch to be sure, as one could re-order the top three.  The Lizard was fine, but once he goes full lizard, not much snappy dialogue or repartee.  I liked the way the Sandman was depicted, and I felt that we didn't get enough Rhino via Paul Giamatti.  Elektro really sucked out Jamie Foxx's personality so not much joy there.  Not a Venom fan although I like Topher Grace. 

Villains do go a long way in helping or hurting a super-hero movie, so they do separate, along with other factors the better Spidey's from the less good, but the top three are close enough that they don't determine which the ordering of the best Spideys.

MJ (1-3) > Gwen 4-5, Liz/Michelle (Incomplete) > Gwen Stacy 3
Sure, there is the miscasting as Kirsten Dunst would have been a better Gwen and Emma Stone would have been a better MJ.  MJ, from the comics, is supposed to be vital, spunky, sarcastic, full of life. The MJ in the first three movies was not those things, but Kirsten Dunst and her character were complex enough, screamed nicely when endangered (often), and had chemistry with Peter Parker.  I liked Emma Stone a great deal in these movies, so I am not confident about ranking her behind Dunst's MJ.  Might have to watch 4-5 to assess better.  In Homecoming, there were actually two girls that mattered--Liz and Michelle.  Liz? She was fine--smart and nice and pretty, but wasn't given a whole lot to do.  Michelle was heaps of fun and got more play than one would have expected until the reveal at the end.    We shall see what they do with Michelle in the next movie.  The Gwen Stacy in the third movie, Bryce Dallas Howard, was largely forgettable even if she is Ron Howard's kid--and another redhead who was not MJ....

Homecoming stands alone.  Jacob Batalon as Ned is the only sidekick in the six movies as far as I can recall.  And he was great!  He made a very meaningful contribution throughout the movie, including being the guy in the chair.  Fantastic.

High School/Teachers
6 > 1 > 3
There really is no competition.  I don't remember the teachers from the third movie.  The first movie ones were ok, but Homecoming had Martin Starr as the coach of the academic decathalon team and Hannibal Burress as the gym teacher.  Martin was more sly in how he played his role--first time in a long time that he has not been the dark, sarcastic negative one.  Just delightful.  Burress was fantastic in his role.  Really lots of added value here that the previous movies completely whiffed.

Bridge (1) > Train (2) > Washington Monument (6)  >  Climax (4)
The action in all the movies is far better than one could have imagined when I started reading Spidey long ago.  Each movie does a great job of realizing his powers and his joy for web-slinging.  The most memorable action scenes were in the first two movies.  Nothing can really top the Bridge scene were Spidey is given a choice of saving a gondola full of kids or MJ, and he does both under tremendous pressure.  And, yes, the role of New Yorkers in that scene puts it over the top.  Just as the New Yorkers in the runaway train in the second movie play a major, moving role.  And the action, the desperation, the effort there was terrific.  Alas, the Ferry scene in the new movie is paled in comparison with the Train scene--bigger stakes--a whole boat, but one that was Spidey's fault, needed a save from Iron-Man, and most critically, didn't involve any New Yorkers in any meaningful way. Instead, the Washington Monument scene was pretty damned memorable because his friends were at risk, Spidey was dealing with all kinds of difficulties, and the tension was terrific.  The climax in the third Spiderman movie with the Lizard was good--that having all the crane operators move their cranes to make it easier for Spidey to get there was a good chill scene.  I don't really remember much from the fifth movie except what happened to Gwen.  And, I am sure there was some good action in the third movie, but the fact that I don't remember it says it all.

Homecoming > Spidey 1 > Amazing 1
There is just so much good stuff in the new movie.  They really had fun with it from the very start with Peter's taping of the events of the Civil War movie onwards.  Oh, and the perfect Captain America videos!!! The best humor in the first movie involved Spidey developing the ability to shoot webs (lots of double meaning in some of those scenes). The third movie had that Peter Parker dancing thing... ok, never mind.  I seem to remember there was good stuff in the first Garfield movie especially by Emma Stone with her Dad.  

Spidey 1-2 >  The Rest
Pretty sure all makers of Spidey decided they could not match the J. Jonah Jameson played by JK Simmons in the first movies, so they didn't bother.  That's right, no JJJ in 4-6.  So very, very good.   They should bring Simmons back for the next Spidey.

Aunt Mays
Marisa Tomei > Rosemary Harris > Sally Field
Ok, Rosemary Harris > Marisa Tomei > Sally Field.
Revised after conversing with College Spew, as I have much bias for Tomei, but she didn't have much to do, and they are probably going Aunt May as an AILF (MILF for Aunts).   Tomei beats Field for the last line of the movie (before the credits).  Rosemary Harris did moving stuff in the first two movies, I don't remember her role in the third.  I love Sally Field, but her Aunt May was not particularly memorable.  I blame the writing.

Stan Lee Appearance
Amazing 1 >  Homecoming > Spidey 1/2 > The Rest
There is no contest--Stan vacuuming the school library while a battle rages around him was definitely the best.  He got some lines in Homecoming and just quick cameos in 1 and 2.  Don't remember him in 3-5.

Betty Brant
Elizabeth Banks (1-3)  > Homecoming.
Banks put a lot into a very small role.  Maybe Angourie Rice in Homecoming will matter later, but not very consequential.

Captain Stacey
Amazing 1 > Spidey 3
Denis Leary was just terrific.  The guy in the third movie?

Best Music
1/2 > 6 > the rest.
I really don't remember the music from the 3-5 movies.  I loved the music in the first two.  The sixth movie had some great songs, but I don't remember the theme music at all.  So, that will require a re-watch/re-listen.

Fave Spidey
Tom Holland > Tobey Maguire > Andrew Garfield
Garfield was not bad at all. I liked him in the role, but his Spidey just wasn't written great.  Tobey really did a terrific job of making us feel for Peter Parker and the struggle to be both Parker and Spider-Man.  But damn, Tom Holland just got so much out of that role, and made one feel for him.  We could understand why he was a whiny kid who wanted to join the big boys, and how he felt when he screwed the pooch.  It is probably recency bias that puts Holland over the top, but there is just so much fun with him that he is tops for now.  A re-watch, of course, is required.  And we shall see what happens when we see more of him.

Best use of Bruce Campbell
This could be the most important category and tiebreaker.  Hard to say whether Bruce as wrestling announcer is better than Bruce as obnoxious usher, but both were better than obnoxious maitre d'.  And no Bruce in any other Spidey movie, which is just an epc fail. 

So, where do they all stand?

1 > 6 (Homecoming) > 2  > 4 (Amazing 1) > 3 > 5 (Amazing 2)
I may ultimately put Homecoming ahead of the first movie, but the first movie has so much in it, so much Spidey stuff packed into it.  The origin story is terrific, but only annoying now because the second series did it again.  Homecoming definitely benefits from skipping that.  I have to say that even as I criticized 3-5, I enjoyed all Spidey movies because I am such a fan, and each had some great stuff.  But the Bridge scene and the stakes involved put the first above Homecoming.  The second movie was very, very good, with lots of Peter struggle including a very funny painful elevator scene and that great train sequence, but it gets a bit long and slow at time.  The first Amazing was a pretty damned good movie and certainly better than the over-managed, too many villians third Spidey.  The less said about Spidey 5, the better.

So, until I see Homecoming again, this is where I put them.  How about you?

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