Spider-Man (2002)


May 3, 2002 will officially go down as the day the nerds came back to rule the Earth, as well as the box-office.

This tells the age-old story of science whiz kid Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who is in love with his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson (Kirtsen Dunst) and wants to do something successful with his life. That all changes when he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and then he becomes the web-swinging hero who we all know and love: Spider-Man. Problem is, there’s a certain person named Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe) who stands in the way of him.

I don’t even know why I bothered writing out a little synopsis for this flick because all I probably had to do was just say; “this is the story of Spider-Man”, left it at that, and there would have been no confusion whatsoever. But for all of you younglings that apparently loved The Amazing Spider-Man, well, I got a bomb to drop on you: this is better. Yes, Andrew Garfield is a hottie, I’ll give ya that one.

If any of you peeps out there did read my review that I did for that flick, you could probably tell that I held this series up above everything else and that these flicks actually have a close spot to my heart, as I saw them when I was only about 8 and started getting into my movie watching days. However, now that I watch this film, I do realize that some of this may not work-out as perfectly as I thought when I was just a little tike but it still holds up 10 years later and with great reason: it set the bar the for every other superhero flick that came out after this. May have been a little risky saying that but seriously, think about all of the other superhero films that came out after this and just notice the format that they follow.

Director Sam Raimi deserves a lot of credit for taking this film, when it seemed like nobody else would, and gave it that “fun” element that all of the fan-boys craved from this story. Raimi takes a lot of time to develop his characters, their relationships, and what they mean to this story, but he also doesn’t take it too seriously by allowing there to be plenty of light-hearted moments of comedy, that can sometimes border on camp (the good kind, though), and give us some high-flying action we wanted to see in the first-place. There’s a lot of cool scenes with Spidey, flying throughout the sky and even though they may not look all that real, they still are a lot of fun and it’s great to see what it looks like up there whenever he does fly around on his webs. And even when the action kicks in, you can feel a certain amount of fun energy come right from Raimi’s direction. That’s what makes it pretty obvious that this guy loves the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man and just cannot wait to get the chance to show us on the big-screen. Sometimes the film may go a bit over-board with it’s goofiness, but it’s all in good, old-fashioned, Raimi fun. And that was A-okay with yours truly, folks.

Could have used more tongue, I always say.
Could have used more tongue, I always say.

But back to what I was talking about before in how Raimi allows there to be a story here, because that’s one of the major assets to this flick. I have always thought that Spider-Man has had some of the most likable and endearing characters ever written for a comic, and it’s great to see that come out so well on-screen. Parker is obviously a loveable kid and you’d have to be the freakin’ devil to find anything wrong with him. He isn’t a Saint, but he’s just a lovely kid that you could have over for dinner, and ask him to clean the dishes because you wanna take an early-nap. Nobody has yet to ask me to do that, so the kid’s gotta special! However, what makes this kid so damn special is the little dramatic scenes between him and MJ that get your heart swooning, the scenes with him and Aunt May that show you that the ladies (young or old) think he’s adorable as hell, and it’s the scenes with Uncle Ben that makes you realize that this kid is going to have a lot on his plate as his life goes on. These little snippets of drama that occur here in this flick, make this story all the better to follow through on and pay attention to because you know that these characters are people you love to watch, and you can’t wait to see how they’re relationships develop over time. Mucho kudos to Raimi for giving us a bunch of comic-book characters that feel more three-dimensional than an actual comic-book. Yeah, that was cheesy but I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

Going back to Peter Parker, though, Tobey Maguire was probably the most perfect choice of casting you could ever get and it’s total surprise to me now, why the hell people were so against this in the first place. Obviously Maguire wasn’t a huge name in Hollywood and didn’t even really have a leading role in one until this point, but Raimi saw something in Maguire that made this character work wonders and give us a superhero that is not only loved by all out there, but also one that feels very realistic in the way he acts and how those acts change over time as he grows older. Parker starts out as this nerd who one day dreams of being a huge scientist (much like daddy Parker), but still can’t get past the fact that everybody picks on him and bullies him all for one reason: he’s geeky. But then his life changes once he gets bitten by this radioactive spider and that’s when we start to see a realistic transformation, not only in Peter Parker, but in Maguire’s performance as well.

It didn’t matter which side of this character he was playing, whether he was Spider-Man or not, Maguire owns every layer there is to this character and gives us a hero to root for and feel like is one of us. He’s a nerd, yes, but he’s also a kid that genuinely has good intentions in his life and it’s understandable why he wants to help all of the innocent people he does ends up saving. Maguire handles all of the action elements in this character that makes him somewhat of a bad-ass but also handles a lot of the character elements to him too, that make him seem more like a regular-guy that has to put up with some major responsibilities in his life, all because of one little, radioactive spider. It’s a total shame that Maguire has been trying his damn near hardest to get out of this type-casted role as the lovable geek, but I think with a choice role in Brothers (best part of the movie, in my opinion) and a big role coming-up in The Great Gatsby, he may have finally found a way to break out of that mold and I really do hope that he does because he deserves it. God, I love that kid.

Kirsten Dunst plays the apple of Peter’s eye, MJ, and she does a fairly solid job at a character that could have been one of those annoying, “save me, save me” female characters that these superhero flicks always seem to have. I remember as a kid, I fell in love with her and thought she was the hottest thing to ever grace the screen since Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians (please, don’t ask) and I still think that holds up to this day even if I do think that the romance between her and Peter seems a bit phony. It doesn’t seem very clear why Peter loves her so much in the first place, other than the fact that she’s a hottie that he may actually have somewhat of a chance to be with. Maybe with the rap-sheet that I got, I have no room to be dissing on a guy about what traits about ladies tingle his spider-sense, but this just seemed like Peter wants her only because she’s good-looking and that’s all.

Big pimpin'.
Big pimpin’.

James Franco plays Parker’s nerd-o buddy, Harry Osborne and seems like he’s hamming it up just a bit, but it’s not until later where we see his true colors come out. However, I think that should be saved for another review, my dears. J.K. Simmons was also another perfect choice of casting as J. Jonah Jameson as every-line he says, made me laugh my ass off and even better, he actually looks like J. Jonah from the comics! Perfect choice right then and there!

And the last piece of perfect casting goes to Willem Dafoe for his role as Norman Osborne, aka The Green Goblin. Dafoe is perfect for this villainous role because he just looks like a freak show in the first place, but also plays up a lot of the elements that makes this character tick so much in the first-place. There’s a lot of weird stuff that Dafoe has to go through with this character, but he handles it perfectly even if the big distraction with this villain is that he looks so freakin’ ridiculous. Honestly, with a budget this big, you don’t think they could have come-up with anything better other than a distracting plastic mask that looks like some piece of over-priced junk I’d get at Halloween Adventure for $30! I don’t think I could have come up with anything better than what they got for him here, but there could have been something that looked a little more menacing. Just a little bit more. Machine-guns, maybe?

Consensus: Though it may not hold-up as perfectly as I once imagined it did, Spider-Man is still a fun and entertaining superhero ride from start-to-finish with a light and breezy feel from Raimi that shows his passionate love for Spidey, characters that we actually care about, a story that touches us in a way, and a bunch of performances that are all very, very good, especially Tobey Maguire’s iconic performance as Peter Parker.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Damn Trick 'R Treaters that try too hard.
Damn Trick or Treaters that try too hard.
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34 comments

  1. Nice review Dan. I saw this again recently and I agree, it doesn’t quite stand up as well as I remember but it’s still a lot of fun. I think this is on a par with the new one, although Spidey 2 is still my favourite.

  2. It was such a shame to seefans “jumping ship” the second Andrew Garfield stepped up; it was like poor owl Tobey never existed. When fans reflect on Sam Raimi’s wonders (as you have done) they will learn to appreciate the trilogy for what they truly are. Maybe the third can be rightly slated, which is no doubt the worse, but I look at Rami’s trilogy the same way I do with Tim Burton’s Batman. Although “Forever” did not feature the same pen, I still enjoy it for what it is. And just like Nolan’s trilogy, as dark and modern as they are, I will never let go of what has made my childhood – I don’t get nostalgic watching Batman begins. So on that note, fans will start to see Spider-man get gradually darker the further they go, because let’s face it, that is the way it has gone. It ain’t a bad thing but movie fans may never realise how good they had it until they reflect on what was, and should be appreciated. The Amazing Spider-Man was great, but I thoroughly enjoyed the originals more. They supplied a level of entertainment the re-boot has failed to match. Good review Dan.

    • Exactly my thoughts. The new one was okay, but the original series is where the story really is at it’s peak, and that’s all that mattered to me. Pretty much everybody hates Tobey and loves Andrew. I say screw that guy!

  3. Nice Review Dan, I love this film, superhero films this day isn’t my cup of tea, I mean i don’t like Iron Man, the dark knight, i wish i would like Man of Steel, but i love thor and captain america, hated Green Lantern too, Sam Raimi did great job here, i wish his latest movie would be great 🙂

  4. Even though I love Sam Raimi as a director and Spiderman was one of my favorite superheroes growing up, I could never really get into Raimi’s Spiderman films. I think my biggest issues with the series were the casting of Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. I always thought that Maguire was too nerdy to play the web slinging hero. In my mind Spiderman is smart, and also quite athletic. Plus I never felt a strong chemistry between Maguire and Dunst. Maryjane always felt like a cardboard character to me in these films. I think Raimi perfectly captures the campy atmosphere of Spiderman’s world, especially with the casting of Simmons and Dafoe, however the screenwriters never seem to capture the silly sarcastic nature of Spiderman’s quips from the comics.

    • I see what you mean. He’s too geeky, and not neccessarily the type of guy that could pony-up and save the day. For me, I loved Tobey, I loved Dunst, I loved Dafoe, I loved Franco, but most of all, I loved Simmons. That guy always makes me laugh.

  5. Cool review yo. I totally agree with you on most of your points, when I saw The Amazing Spider-Man last year that film although it had its moments never left me with the feeling of hype and excitement that I got from this film. This film is MY Spider-Man film, sure its gotten a lot cheesier and some of the story and character elements aren’t as fresh as they were back 2002, but under Sam Raimi’s direction the film totally kicks ass and that soundtrack. Damn! Danny Elfman just sets my soul on fire! XD

  6. I think my fave Raimi Spider-man is the second one as I love Alfred Molina as Doc Oc, but this one is VERY good indeed. I do agree this is better than Webb’s, though I do have a soft spot for Garfield as Parker. That kissing scene is very iconic, even to this day with so many superhero movies popping up.

  7. I love the original Spidey movies, though I’m still tempted to say that the new one was better than this one, at least in certain aspects, even if just a little. But still, this one’s a classic, and still holds up as one of the better super hero movies around. Nice review, Dan. 🙂

  8. Nice review, and I definitely prefer this ‘Spider-Man’ over the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’, though it was enjoyable as well from purely a casual fanboy point of view..

    One point though.. you say Raimi’s 2002 ‘Spider-Man’ set the bar for all other super-hero movies to come, and I have to disagree there.. For me, the starting point (no, not looking back to the now-classic Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ films..) was Bryan Singer’s ‘X-Men’ back in 2000. It gave us intelligent(-ish) storytelling while still giving us the big action pieces. And it made you think about how people we consider ‘different’ are treated in society.

    • I will say that it did cross my mind, but it didn’t feel like the revolutionary film like this one was. X-Men was good and showed a re-emergence in superhero movies, but this one seemed to really take the cake in bringing back the nerds to the movies and having people cheer for the heroes with super powers. Then again, it’s very debatable.

  9. Totally agree. In light of where comic book films are now, this one kind of looks like the old Batman films. You know? But it’s still a lot of fun. A solid start to Raimi’s trilogy. Though, I tend to ignore the third one. Horrible!

  10. You know what, I really thought this film was awesome when I first saw it. Now, though, there’s cracks showing. Given we’ve been exposed to more and more impressive comic-book films since 2002, (and some thorough turds too), I guess my expectations of the film have changed in the years since, but Raimi certainly gave the genre the springboard needed. I do feel some of the comic-y moments stick out a lot more than they should, and the semi-comedy moments seem a bit heavy-handed compared to more recent films of this type. Yet there’s a charm to Raimi’s film that went missing in the sequels, and as much as the fanboys will hate me for saying it, I felt it was handled a lot better in the more recent Amazing Spider-Man flick.

    Great review, Dan!!

  11. I loved the original Sam Raimi Spider Man films when they first came out, sadly the third one nags at my memory and diminishes some of the brilliant of those previous, especially the second. I seem to have the controversial view that the new rebooted Spider Man is superior, I was delighted with the fun Andrew Garfield had with the role. Hopefully they can push on and make another fully fleshed trilogy now, without the dodgy third part.

  12. This is definitely the film that showed that superhero movies could be more than just fluff. I felt Spider-Man 2 was even better (and considered it the best superhero movie made until The Avengers came out and took its place.)

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