Welcome to my series of Spider-Man reviews! I will be discussing all three Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies this week leading up to Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Spider-Man was released in 2002, and it was the highest grossing weekend for a movie at the time. This was probably one of my favorite movies growing up, I watched it over and over and over again. I could quote the movie in a heartbeat, and I still can. This time around, I really wanted to analyze the movie and see if it really is a good film. I am happy to say, that this movie holds up almost perfectly.
Spider-Man is a really fun comic book movie that could stand on its own, before everything has to set up a universe. Tobey Maguire is a really great Peter Parker. That first scene of the movie where the camera pans through the bus, then focuses on Peter trying to catch up is a great introduction. He really captured the lonely nerd aspect of Peter, the nerd was best portrayed in the lab scene where he’s so amazed by all this technology. You really root for Peter because he’s a good kid and he makes good grades in school, but he can’t catch a break from Flash Tompson.
Aunt May and Uncle Ben portrayed by Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson were fantastic additions to the movie. I think they were both used perfectly. Uncle Ben is almost like a cool dad in some ways, he never gets mad because he realizes he’s raising a teenager. Robertson plays the death scene to perfection. I really felt for Peter in that scene. Aunt May is the person who always knows what to do just like she should be, unlike another version of her character that constantly worries about Peter. It’s not heavy handed, but she just feels like a sweet, wise person.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Harry Osborn and his father, Norman Osborn. They have a broken relationship because Harry wants his father to be proud of him, but he doesn’t have the best grades. Norman also clearly likes Harry’s best friend, Peter, much more.
One of the common criticisms of the movie is the Peter Parker and Mary Jane relationship. I think it still works. It might be a little cheesy at some moments, but they really captured what it feels like to have a crush on someone. Kirsten Dunst does a great job in the role with seeming like the popular girl around her friends, and then being very genuine with Peter.
As for the actual filmmaking, the movie still works. Sam Raimi is used to having a low budget and using practical effects. A lot of the movie is shot in camera, feeling very visceral and real. Especially many of the scenes with Spider-Man. The montage with him fighting crime shows how he’s this mysterious figure.
Willem Dafoe is perfectly cast as Green Goblin. One of my favorite scenes is the mirror scene, and they establish this almost split personality that he struggles with. Dafoe did most of the stunt work for the film because of how passionate he was. If you look at his filmography he clearly didn’t need this role, but he put all of his effort into it and it shows on screen. Some people seem to have a problem with the costume as it looks like a power ranger. I don’t have a problem with it because it seems practical. It’s designed for the military, so they would need some type of armor protection. Also, if you think that looks silly, you must not have seen the original costume from the comics with the bright green and purple. I thought that it worked and fit with the fun tone of the movie.
We can’t do a review of Spider-Man without talking about J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He has to be the most perfectly casted person of the whole series. Every scene he’s in is amazing. He just feels like he was ripped right out of the comics.
The movie does has a couple flaws despite it being great. Some of the CGI feels dated, like the scene when he climbs up the building after Uncle Ben dies. Also, while Kirsten Dunst is great, Mary Jane is a damsel in distress in most of the movie. She is really just there for Peter to have a crush on her. She does have some great scenes when she’s just talking with Peter and it feels very authentic, but she gets saved by Spider-Man a lot throughout the movie. For example, the parade scene, the alley way scene, and the final act are all scenes where she just relies on Spider-Man. Even when he asked her to climb down the rope, she just says that she can’t do it. This is one of the only ways the The Amazing Spider-Man improved from this movie with Gwen Stacy.
All in all, this movie is great. It reminds us about the times when studios could just let the writers and directors make a good movie, and they didn’t have to put their hands in it to make the movies set up an entire universe. It’s simply an origin story about one of my favorite comic book characters.
What do you think about Spider-Man? Do you like it? I really encourage you all to comment. I like to hear other people’s thoughts and I’d like to start a discussion down below.
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