Why did Marvel Studios want to work with Sony to bring Spider-Man to the big screen (again)? Because imagine a DC Films Universe without Superman or Batman. Spider-Man is Marvel’s flagship character and, to someone like Kevin Feige, having the webslinger in the universe was better than not having him in there at all (plus, it sure doesn’t hurt movies like ‘Civil War’ and ‘Infinity War’ to have the character swinging into the collective action).
Spider-Man is the crown jewel in the Marvel Comics Universe and Marvel Comics is still regretting selling the screen rights to Sony. But what’s done is done and Spider-Man in the movies is basically Sony’s deal forever (though with Marvel Studios’ help… at least for the foreseeable future).
Adjusted for inflation, the original Sam Raimi-helmed ‘Spider-Man’ movies would all have grossed over $1 billion each (and $1.2 billion for “Spider-Man 3” which would make it the highest-grossing film of 2016 and many other recent years). Which is why Sony was so disappointed with “The Amazing Spider-Man” series; even with inflation, none of those movies could outgross any of the Raimi films.
Which brings us to “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Marvel and Sony’s collaboration to bring Spider-Man back to the big screen for yet another trilogy. Will it work? ‘Homecoming’ is already tracking to a $100+ million opening which could mean $700-$800 million or higher if the film connects, but the larger idea is ‘Homecoming’ restores the character’s brand, and ensures a healthy franchise.
With all that in mind, it felt as good a time as any to look at all the major characters across all the big screen incarnations and rank them, to compare and contrast all the best (and worst) parts of each Spider-Man movie. Yes, there’s a 1969 version of the movie and yes, sorry, we’re ignoring it. We’re hoping Stan Lee and you might agree, but everyone has their idea of what constitutes a spectacular Spider-Man and his supporting characters. Do weigh in and let us know what you think. Excelsior!
OK, maybe Stan Lee doesn’t count, so we won’t rank him. He’s not a character in the Spider-Man films… or is he? Lee’s made a cameo in most of the Marvel movie regardless of the studio (30-something cameos and counting), but Lee appearances feel integral to Spider-Man in a way other cameos don’t. The character is the one the comic book maestro has the most affection for and the “with great power comes great responsibility” line has become the hallmark of nearly every superhero’s raison d’être in some shape of form. But in Spider-Man movies, the hammy Lee is at his most unctuous, like a pig in shit happy if everyone knows it. Lee is in the DNA of the webslinger and ,as a born and bred New Yorker, perhaps no one understands the Queens origins of Spider-Man quite like Lee.
45. Donald Menken – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
If you were to rank the villains in ‘ASM 2,’ Donald Menken would rank 5th. Yes, there are that many full-blown villains in one film. The problem with Menken is that he’s just such an obvious villain. While Colm Feore is a fine actor, he is just the old white corporate a-hole that is relevant to the C-plot in the film. Feore does nothing to elevate Menken out of that stereotypical role. Worst of all, Menken is just a plot device.
44. Mary Parker – “The Amazing Spider-Man” & ‘2’
The worst part about Embeth Davidtz’s performance as Mary Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is that she’s completely forgettable as the mother of Peter Parker. This is the woman that gave birth to Spider-Man, yet she’s reduced to hardly any lines and a completely ridiculous backstory that ends with her dying in a horrific plane crash. At least Raimi had the common sense not to touch on Peter’s parents in the first trilogy. They’re better left as a mystery.
43. Captain Stacy – “Spider-Man 3”
Honestly, did James Cromwell actually show up in “Spider-Man 3,” or maybe that was just a cardboard cut-out, because the performance is wooden. As Gwen Stacy’s father, Captain Stacy, Cromwell clearly phones it in, perhaps because he just wasn’t given much to work with, but he takes a fairly prominent character in the film and does nothing with it. It doesn’t help that Denis Leary takes the same role in the reboot films and creates a pretty dimensional character out of a small part.
42. Dr. Rajit Ratha – “The Amazing Spider-Man”
Dr. Rajit Ratha is a pure exposition machine and nothing more. In his only scene of note, Ratha does his best to intimidate Dr. Curt Connors, but he comes off as a little jet-lagged, seemingly half-asleep. Actor Irrfan Khan (who has dogged subsequently dogged the series and film) tries to bring out a silent, but menacing, quality and it doesn’t land. Instead, he’s a mumbling character that spouts exposition, gets attacked, and then quickly disappears from the film.
41. Dr. Ashley Kafka – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a film that is filled with over-the-top characters. Perhaps, the most ridiculous one of them all is none other than Dr. Ashley Kafka. For some odd reason, Marc Webb and Sony pulled every evil scientist cliché out for this character. He has a horribly stereotypical German accent. His hair is wild and messy. He also wears really silly glasses that scream Bond villain. Dr. Kafka is just a horrible character, in a really lackluster film. At least Marton Csokas, who plays Kafka, looks like he’s having a ton of fun.