In my last post, in which I reviewed the latest outing of Spider-Man in “Spider-Man:Homecoming”, I mentioned that I felt that it was high time for me to look back and review the past five Spider-Man films, starting with the one started them all, Sam Raimi’s 2002 “Spider-Man”.
At the time that I first watched “Spider- Man”, I had been brought up on the old Batman films, and of course, the first “X-Men” film was very fresh in my mind. All of these were pretty dark and gritty (I was not brought up on the old “Superman” films for some reason), and as much as I loved those films, I couldn’t find a particular character that I could identify with. And then, Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker came along and I remember loving all the color, the exhilarating web-swinging through the concrete jungle of New York, and loving the fact that this was the first superhero I could relate to because I was an outcast and a geek just like Peter. This is probably why this film is pretty near and dear to my heart.
Looking back it at years later was very interesting. I felt all the emotions I felt when I first watched the film, appreciated the fact that it aged well for the most part, and took note of the more flawed parts of the film as well.
Raimi’s “Spider-Man” starred Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin, James Franco as Harry Osborne, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker, Rosemary Harris as May Parker, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson and Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant. If you pay attention, apparently Lucy Lawless had a cameo in the film as a punk rock girl talking about Spider-Man, and Octavia Spencer was the girl who registered Peter for his wrestling match.
Until now, I think that casting Maguire as Peter Parker was a stroke of genius as he really made a good Peter Parker. Watching the film so many years later, I don’t even mind the fact that Maguire, Franco and Dunst were obviously older than high school, as they managed to solve the problem in the film by making them high school seniors and showed us their transition to either working or going to college.
Looking back at this film, I can now say that Maguire was a great Peter Parker, and a good Spider-Man, but he lacked the wit and the fast-talking quips that Spider-Man usually doles out when he fights bad guys.
I thought that Dafoe was great as the Green Goblin, even though at times the costume and his antics made him seem a little bit too comical, but I loved the inner conflict that this character had.
This film also had a great score by Danny Elfman, and most of the CGI that they used for this film was great, considering that this was done in 2002.
This was also a film that not only set up a franchise, but it seemed like more of a hit than “X-Men”, and redefined the superhero genre and started the trend of superhero summer blockbusters.
Before I move on, you know the drill. Beyond this point, there will be spoilers!
Watching this film was definitely a blast from the past, and I loved how I felt all the same emotions I felt when I first watched the film, from feeling bad about how Peter was being bullied, to that argument he had with Uncle Ben, to feeling sad when Uncle Ben died, to all the moments that Peter was happy and felt the same exhilaration he felt as we were treated to wonderful breath-taking sequences of Peter web-slinging throughout the city of New York.
Looking back, I realized that there was so much riding on this film, especially as it was supposed to set up an entire franchise, and it did exactly that.
It told a straightforward story about a young man gaining powers, and coming into his own, fueled by a promise that he made to his late uncle, and a promise that he made to himself.
I also find it interesting that saving people wasn’t the first thing that Peter ever did- he used his powers to earn money and exacted revenge on his uncle’s murderer. I also liked how all of this allowed him to realize what he is supposed to be doing with these particular powers.
For Peter, this movie allowed him to discover and explore his abilities, and use them to the extent that he can at the moment.
Of course, the theme of living a dual life is core to the character, and is very much present in the film all the way until the end when he tells Mary Jane that he can only be her friend in order to keep her safe.
Acting wise, I thought that Maguire did great, and that he was a PERFECT Peter Parker better. He got the whole science geek with a heart of gold, but is always an outcast down pat. However, I maintain that he was a better Peter than a Spider-Man.
Aside from Peter, this was also the origin story of his arch enemy, the Green Goblin. I loved the inner conflict that Dafoe brought to his character, making him a great villain, even though at times, he felt very comical when he had the suit on. However, I thought he was a great villain for the movie, and his death was needed to push Harry to go revenge mode against Spider-Man.
The CGI when he is web-slinging throughout New York is just exhilarating, and the CGI done for Maguire was great. For the Green Goblin, I think that today we could make it look better, but nevertheless, I remember being impressed by it as a kid.
Dunst was just alright as Mary Jane, and Franco didn’t do much except for be an emotional brooding teenager.
However, that scene when Mary Jane and Peter kissed has since become a pretty iconic scene that everyone remembers until today.
Simmons, Robertson and Harris were also great in their respective roles.
The narrative of the film was fast paced, and took the time it needed to establish everything in this particular world that they were creating.
Interestingly enough, instead of having Peter being bitten by a radioactive spider, he was bitten by a genetically modified spider, which actually makes a little more sense.
I also realized that part of the reason why this film had more emotional oomph, aside from Uncle Ben dying, was the fact that all of the main characters were building relationships with each other based on secrets and dual identities. Harry is Peter’s best friend but didn’t tell him about dating Mary Jane, Mary Jane not telling Harry that she’s not really in love with him and that she’s working as a waitress, Norman being the Green Goblin, and of course, Peter’s dual role as himself and Spider-Man.
I also love the fact that Peter does grow up in the film, and chooses the more mature choice in being self-less and not reciprocating Mary Jane’s feelings out of his love for her.
Sure this movie has it pitfalls, but all in all, this film was not only a huge success, but it is one superhero story that does stand the test of time.
Did you like the first “Spider-Man” film? How did you like Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker? What did you like and not like about this film? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
P.S. If anyone has any advice on where I should start reading the Spider-Man comics, please let me know!