A Brief History of Spider-Man in Film

Today, superheroes are everywhere. From massive story arks on the big screen to casual slot machines, superheroes have become an integral part of today’s popular culture. It all started with Superman, DC’s caped savior from Krypton, who found his way out of the comic books and onto the big screen in 1951’s Superman and the Mole Men. From then on, the flow of super-powered heroes out of the comic books has never seemed to stop, giving birth to everything from movies and TV shows to video games, Wild Jack slots, and many others. The Wild Jack has even reached out to a handful of more obscure characters, too – like Hellboy.

Marvel’s superhero universe is perhaps the most popular today, with the attempts from DC causing little more than disappointment on the fans’ side (although we must admit that Batman had some of the most brutal action scenes of his career on the silver screen). The last decade or so has brought several origin stories and “assembly” movies to the big screen, making it relatively clear who the most popular superheroes are in the Marvel universe (hint: he doesn’t wear a cape). Yet the Marvel superhero with the most time on the silver screen is not part of the Avengers – or at least he won’t be until Avengers: Infinity War– Spider-Man.

Big screen Spidey

Spider-Man has made his big screen debut back in 1977 when the pilot episode of The Amazing Spider-Man series was released in cinemas outside the US by Columbia Pictures. Nicholas Hammond, the man behind the camera (and under the suit) made three big-screen appearances (all consisting of re-edited US television episodes) until the poor performance of Superman III pushed superhero movies out of the spotlight for Hollywood.

After several years of pushing the rights from one company to another, the right to release Spider-Man films ended up at Columbia Pictures again (a subsidiary of Sony), that finally released Spider-Man in 2002. Thus, the Tobey Maguire era started, consisting of a trilogy of big-screen stories directed by Sam Raimi. These are praised at first but fall out of the grace of the audiences later – the trilogy was meant to expand beyond the third part and to spawn a Venom spinoff that was never made.

Five years later, the Andrew Garfield era began, taking Peter Parker back to the high school. This time, the films didn’t do so well – the series was cancelled after two lacklustre films, nixing a third The Amazing Spider-Man film, as well as spin-offs focusing on Venom and the Sinister Six.

In 2016, as a result of a licensing agreement between Sony (the current owner of the Spider-Man character) and Marvel, Spidey returned home in Captain America: Civil War. His role was small, yet meaningful – he joins the fight on the side of Tony Stark against Captain America. With this appearance, the Tom Holland era begins. The young actor is set to reprise his role as the web-slinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming this summer, with at least two more solo movies and appearances in the next two Avengers movies.

About the author

Tom Smith