The Best Superhero Movie Of All Time Is Coming Back To Netflix
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 will return to Netflix on April 1.
The title of “best superhero movie of all time” has a lot of competition these days, with Black Panther, The Dark Knight, and Logan all making convincing claims for the title. But in all of our hearts, we know there is only one true greatest comic book movie ever: Spider-Man 2, which is thankfully returning to streaming on Netflix on April 1. The original Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man films most recently departed the platform at the beginning of February, but at least Netflix got the second and best of the lot.
Spider-Man 2 was released in 2004 (and soon on Netflix), just two years after the colossal success of the first Sam Raimi-directed movie. It is a sign of the difference in Hollywood in the last several decades that it took Marvel Studios six years to make a sequel to Doctor Strange, secure in the knowledge that audiences had no choice but to wait for it. Back then, Sony Pictures was so desperate to capitalize on the trials of Peter Parker that it recast lead actor Tobey Maguire with Jake Gyllenhall just to not deal with his back issues.
Now, Marvel Studios potentially recasting an actor (such as is currently happening with Jonathan Majors) is a decision that could potentially affect billions of dollars of box office grosses and innumerable projects for years. Back in the days of Spider-Man 2, Sony could swap Gyllenhaal for Maguire and back again (when his girlfriend’s father, the head of Universal Studios got involved, per The L.A. Times) as casually as it pleased.
With no disrespect to Jake Gyllenhaal, it feels unlikely that he could have filled in so easily for Tobey Maguire. Though Maguire has been rightly acclaimed for dramas like The Cider House Rules and The Great Gatsby (as well as more recently contributing a delightful performance as a cadaver-like gangster in Babylon), it cannot be denied he brings something magical to Spider-Man 2 and soon enough, Netflix. While there have been Peter Parkers since, no one has ever achieved the kind of tremblingly sincere pathos that Maguire brought to the role.
However, a good hero is defined less by their actions than by their villains, and Spider-Man 2 will bring one of the greatest of all time to Netflix in April. Alfred Molina was already a respected actor when he was cast as Doctor Otto Octavius, but achieved cinematic immortality when he became Doc Ock. There has never been as nuanced a performance of comic book villainy on screen as Molina, equal parts hammy monologues, sneering sarcasm, aching pain, and a genuinely intimidating presence.
Much credit for that has to be given to Sam Raimi, whose direction took a massive leap forward with Spider-Man 2. While the filmmaker behind the Evil Dead franchise and The Quick and the Dead was always known for his hyperkinetic visual style, the second installment of his Spider-trilogy took it to a beautifully cartoonish extreme. Unlike the hyper-seriousness of Zack Snyder’s DCEU films and the carefully managed heroics of the MCU, Spider-Man 2 brings an actual sense of liveliness and humor to Netflix.
No other comic book movie has shots like the young woman screaming straight to the camera like she was in a silent film when Doc Ock demolishes her office while kidnapping Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). No other superhero movie would dare to be so wildly over-the-top as to zoom out from a screaming J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, now and forever) into a spinning newspaper, which is itself exploded outward by a web-slinging Spider-Man, who swings through the city, only to be revealed as himself being a reflection in Doc Ock’s sunglasses. Truly Spider-Man 2 is a once-in-a-generation kind of superhero movie.
In large part, that is because Spider-Man 2 had such a massive impact on the industry that every following superhero movie was affected by it in some way. It did away with one-dimensional villains like Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and Jack Nicholson’s Joker. It cemented what the first movie had established and expanded on it in almost every conceivable way. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait long to watch it and be reminded yourself when Spider-Man 2 lands back on Netflix soon.