Another Spider-Man movie. How many of these have we had so far? Well, I guess Batman and Superman have had more, but Spider-Man is hot on their heels. The latest installment is Spider-Man: Far From Home, which stars Tom Holland as the title character, Zendaya as Mary Jane (only called MJ this time around) and Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, with Samuel L. Jackson and Colbie Smulders rounding out the cast as Skrulls Talos and Soren. Oh, and Marisa Tomei plays a very young Aunt May and Jon Favreau is Happy Hogan.
The film is supposed to pick up right where Avengers: Endgame left off, with everyone trying to recover from the last denouement.
Time to see the trailer (Spoilers ahead):
Nothing against Tom Holland, but I miss Tobey Maguire. That’s probably just me being nostalgic, though. Other than that, the newest Spidey is off to a great start. Well, mostly–Samuel L. Jackson is ticked.
Spider-Man is, of course, one of the late, great Stan Lee’s many brain children. Originally intended to be a one-off character, Spidey first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1962 as part of the last issue of its Amazing Fantasy series. Much to everyone’s surprise, though, Spider-Man was a huge hit, which meant that he had to have his own series. The first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man hit the comic book racks in March of 1963.
Comics buffs such as SuperHero Stuff like to talk about Spider-Man being a sort of anti-superhero. He’s awkward, he’s fallible, he gets sick, he knows he can’t be everywhere at once, and he has regrets. In other words, Peter Parker is an average guy. Who can climb walls and shoot webs from his wrists.
It was only a matter of time before Spider-Man made his way to the screen, and his debut came in 1969 with Donald F. Glut’s fan film. Yes, they were making these before YouTube. Since it was bootleg, the film didn’t get any traction, but it still survives for us to gawk at. No, really. The special effects are pretty memorable.
Spidey’s next venture was a 1977 TV movie starring Nicholas Hammond (Watch the pilot here). In this case, Peter Parker is a college student and working as a freelance photojournalist. He’s also a researcher in a lab, which is where he gets bitten by that radioactive spider. We can all guess what happens next.
The series was a low-budget wonder, and it showed–the fight scenes looked way too choreographed, and the whole thing just didn’t flow, although the stories weren’t terrible. At least they improved on Glut’s wall-walking action figure by having Hammond crawl across a floor in front of a tilted camera. Hammond played the part in thirteen episodes before hanging up his skintight suit.
The Japanese got in on the webslinging action as well, with their own TV series, which premiered in 1978. It’s like Spider-Man meets Evel Knieval meets the Power Rangers meets Godzilla meets Voltron and seriously bad. Here’s the opener:
The series ran for a year and gave Spidey all kinds of nifty gadgets, like a flying car and a wristband comlink.
The biggest obstacle to putting the Webslinger on the screen is special effects. It’s a little tough to make a live-action Spidey fly through the air like an arachnoid Tarzan without it looking totally fake, and for obvious reasons animation doesn’t have that problem. The first Spider-Man cartoon show aired from 1967 until 1970, and gave the world that song. Here’s a sample episode:
Another iteration aired on Saturday mornings in 1981, running concurrently with Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, followed by others in 1994, 1999, 2003, 2008, 2012, and 2017, with no end in sight (Hear all of their theme songs here). Whew.
Can’t keep a good webslinger off the silver screen, though, and Spider-Man went big budget for the first time in 2002 with the release of the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man. It’s an excellent film that does everything right, but the thing I remember the most about this movie is that the timing was fortuitous. It came out mere months after 9/11.
The word “hero” was being bandied about a lot then. It was in songs, it was in all the magazines, people were saying it. It was a way of honoring the emergency workers who did their best to get people out of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as Flight 93. Heroes were on Americans’ minds. We were grateful for the ones we had, and we knew we needed more of them.
When Spider-Man premiered, it was one of those things that we needed. Here was this nerdy guy who was thrust into a situation he didn’t ask for and couldn’t control, and he had no choice but to rise to the occasion. Americans love a good underdog story, and the inclusion of Nickleback singing “Hero” during the ending credits was the exclamation point on a very apt sentence. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not a fan of Nickleback. “Hero” is the only song of theirs I tolerate.
But I digress.
The 2002 film was, of course, followed by two sequels. The second was great, but the third was depressing, which put the kibosh on any further Raimi-Spidey collabs.
That pretty much brings us to today, when Hollywood is crazy for superheroes. Sony, who still owns the rights to the character, first tried rebooting the franchise with Andrew Garfield. Unfortuntely, his movies basically flopped, so now Tom Holland has taken it over, and I have to admit that I like him as Spider-Man. Holland is a gymnast, which means he’s appropriately limber and light on his feet. It’ll be interesting to see what further adventures are in store for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Whew, that’s a lot of Spiders. Hope you enjoyed this rambling, less-than-comprehensive retrospective, and thanks for reading, all. My post for the Olivia de Havilland Blogathon will arrive on the morrow…