Spider-Man (2002)

Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris,  J.K. Simmons

With the slew of superhero films being released now, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the ‘oldies’.
(Yeah, how old do you feel now eh? That’s right. Nearly ten years since this movie came out. That’s essentially fifty years)
Being one of, if not my favourite superhero at the time, I saw Spider-man pretty much the day it came out. And then again a few days later. And then I had cake. It was a good week.

The Plot:
Average guy Peter Parker (Maguire) is a regular geeky kid who has been in love with the girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (Dunst), for pretty much as long as he can remember. One day, on a school trip, he is bitten by a radioactive spider which eventually turns him into BATMAN DAREDEVIL SPIDERMAN! Unfortunately for him, this coincides with the birth of super villain, the Green Goblin (Dafoe), who happens to have a connection with Peters’ best friend, Harry (Franco).

As I’ve said, I have watched this film multiple times, and it is a testament to how entertaining it is that I can watch it again. As the superhero film can often be categorized into a sub genre of action film, Spider-Man does not disappoint in terms of action. It is well paced, building up speed throughout. It lulls slightly in the second act in order to develop characters enough for us to care what happens to them in the pretty explosive final act. Dafoe does particularly well as the Green Goblin in this act, delivering a harrowing performance that improves as the film progresses and he falls deeper into insanity.

The action is fluid, like Spider-Man himself and, despite the slightly aged CGI effects, it still looks terrific. The combination of fast combat and swinging through the city is still enough to get adrenaline flowing, no matter how many times you see it. And, although it doesn’t adhere very strictly to the Spider-Man mythos, it does a good job of giving the audience an overall view of the Spidey universe.

Tobey Maguire does interesting work with Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He’s not quite the character we all envisioned as the hero himself, but he manages to make him his own. He is well suited in the dorky teenage role, and manages to deliver Spidey’s little quips well enough. He is believable enough that you can just about emphasise with his character.

This is particularly true when he is played against Harris and Robertson, his Aunt May and Uncle Ben respectively. Though their roles aren’t major, they play them exceptionally well. Robertson, in his final scenes with Maguire (a total of about three), delivers an absolute knockout performance, which serves as the heart of the whole film, nay, the trilogy to come.

Strange, really, when so much of the focus appears to be on the relationship between Peter and MJ. The simple matter is, the chemistry between these two actors simply isn’t there, and it causes the relationship to fall flat onscreen. It is just too hard to picture these two people getting on in real life, and any of their emotional scenes together feel rather forced. One scene in which Peter ‘inadvertently’ tells MJ how he feels is particularly painful to watch.

There is of course the Spidey kiss in the rain, which has become iconic at this stage. However, this is more due to the positioning, the aesthetic of the kiss (eurgh) rather than any actual emotion behind it.

Luckily, the film has more than emotion to keep it going. The action, as mentioned, is there in full swing (…sorry), but there is also a good degree of comedy, much of it being delivered by J.K. Simmons. As Spidey’s tyrannical news editor boss, J. Jonah Jameson was never really portrayed as the comic relief. But it is relief indeed, and an inspired move on Raimi’s part to portray him as such.

As mentioned, the film adheres somewhat loosely to the Spidey comics. Small and trivial facts, such as MJ being the love of Spideys’ life from the very beginning, might niggle a little bit at the minds of dedicated fans. However, this is only a small grievance, as there is so much the film has going for it. It’s a quirky and action packed story, with a good dose of emotion, though not in the places you might expect. It has some flaws, but overall, Spider-Man is an excellent film, one worthy to open the gates of the superhero movie genre in years to follow.

Awful Rating: 7.5/10

“Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • The first thing I remember thinking when I was watching the film was “I have to remember to tell everyone how amazing the opening credits are!” To be fair, they were pretty cool!
  • I saw a still from the set of the Spider-Man movie before it was released in which he was holding a baby. All I remember thinking was, “This is going to suck so much”. I think it was because he looked too colourful in the picture. However, it might also be because I had seen the 1977 Spider-Man movie shortly before, as seen below:

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