How Spider-Man Has Evolved On Screen

From Saturday Morning Cartoon to a place in the MCU, this is Spider-Man’s on-screen journey.
By  · Published on July 12th, 2017

2002: Spider-Man

Directed by Sam Raimi, this live-action film was released in the US in May of 2002. The plot of the movie is similar to the original Spider-Man stories. In this film, Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maguire) is a high school senior who gets bitten by a genetically modified spider on a school field trip and attains spider-like abilities and powers in which he uses to fight evil after his Uncle Ben is killed. His best friend is Harry Osborn (played by James Franco) and he is in love with Mary Jane Watson (played by Kirsten Dunst). Their relationship gets more complicated as she begins to return his feelings and he gets deeper into the alternate life he leads as Spider-Man. The film was a success, earning $403 million in theaters domestically, and two sequels followed it. While still appealing to young fans of the superhero, Spider-Man reached a wider audience of adults, children, and everyone in between, and had a slightly more mature story in comparison to the previous on-screen adaptations.

2003: Spider-Man: The New Animated Series

Like the 1999 series, this show aired for 1 season. Spider-Man was voiced by Neil Patrick Harris, and the show was broadcast on MTV. This series resembles the Raimi films in that it takes place after Peter graduated high school and involves Mary Jane and Harry as well.

2004: Spider-Man 2

A sequel to the 2002 film, Spider-Man 2 was directed by Sam Raimi and starred the same cast. Taking place two years after the first film, the movie focuses on Peter’s struggle to keep up with his two lives and his fight against Dr. Octopus. Although the total domestic box office earnings were less than the first film, critical reception of the movie has been very positive, with many labeling it as the best Spider-Man film. Like the first movie, Spider-Man 2 was rated PG-13, for some of its more mature qualities. The PG-13 rating for these films is something that definitely sets it apart from the animated TV series which were more targeted to kids directly and could be widely viewed.

2007: Spider-Man 3

The final installment in the Spider-Man film series, Spider-Man 3 follows Peter Parker as he has seemingly balanced his two lives. He is still in college, he is dating Mary Jane and is planning to propose, and he is, for the most part, keeping up with his life as Spider-Man. It is when his best friend Harry plans to avenge his father’s death that things get out of hand. Then Harry gets amnesia and the whole thing is forgotten. Until it’s not and Harry remembers once again. Not to mention the whole Sandman and Venom thing. Also, a black suit takes over Spider-Man which causes an internal battle between good and evil within Peter. Ultimately, the film wraps up these plot points and puts Peter at peace with himself on to lead his adult life. Spider-Man 3 was met with domestic box office success of over $ 336 million. However, it was also met with not so great reviews from critics. For a while, there were talks of a Spider-Man 4, but that does not seem to be in the works any longer.

2008: The Spectacular Spider-Man

The Spectacular Spider-Man was an animated film series which premiered on the CW channel during the Kids WB portion of the day. Spider-Man was voiced by Josh Keaton, and the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the show is a high school student trying to balance school, work, and his life as Spider-Man. The show aired for two seasons and attracted a wide audience.

2012: The Amazing Spider-Man

Going back to Peter Parker’s high school days, the Amazing Spider-Man film series focuses on much of the same origin story as the Spider-Man series except expanded. Peter is definitely more concerned with his dead parents in this film than in the first series and is more of an outcast at school. He takes on different villains and his love interest is Gwen Stacy rather than Mary Jane in the film. Directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, this film series did not take off quite as successfully as the previous films. However, it was not a complete flop and spawned a sequel. In an article from Den of Geek comparing the two series, they ultimately concluded that had The Amazing Spider-Man premiered before Spider-Man, it still would have been weaker.

2012: Ultimate Spider-Man

Ultimate Spider-Man is an animated TV series which aired on Disney XD from 2012-2017, with Drake Bell as the voice of Spider-Man. The show revolves around Peter Parker trying to grasp and learn his abilities as Spider-Man with the help of Nick Fury from S.H.E.I.L.D and a team of others.

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