Following some highs and lows of the 90s, the early 2000s saw a new age of superhero movies come through and with that new dawn came Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Peter Parker is a brilliant and social awkward teenager who on a field trip is bitten by a genetically modified spider. As Peter begins to experience the changes, both physically and emotionally, his life is struck by tragedy and he must decide the kind of man he wants to be. He chooses to use his newfound powers for good and becomes the Spider-Man to fight crime. Trying to balance being a hero and being a young guy living in New York becomes even harder when The Green Goblin starts to terrorise New York. How will Peter protect the city and the woman he loves from this evil?
Perhaps the best things about this movie is the cast, it is amazing how well this film was cast. Tobey Maguire was a great choice to play Peter Parker and gives a strong performance. Whilst he may have been a bit too old to be a convincing high school student he still embodies a lot of positive traits in particular the sarcasm and the intelligence. Every good superhero needs a great villain and Spider-Man definitely has one. People often talk about Heath Ledger when they talk about great comic book villains, and rightly so. They should also talk about Willem Dafoe and how incredible he is as The Green Goblin. The way he plays with the conflict in Norman Osborn is brilliant, especially the scenes where he is arguing with himself. He brings to life a comic books villain who could have been corny and made him work as a menacing villain. Kirsten Dunst and James Franco were also cast perfectly well as Mary-Jane Watson and Harry Osborn respectively. Both help propel the character of Peter Parker forward through his journey. Another stand out in the already excellent cast was JK Simmons as J Jonah Jameson. He is only in limited scenes but he steals the show to the point that he built himself up as the character that it is the role people remember him for.
Spider-Man has some incredibly well shot action pieces that still hold up today. The scene where he fights the Green Goblin in a burning building is visually fantastic and well choreographed and still holds up as a great fight sequence today. Many of the ‘spidey sense’ sequences looks fantastic too, the hallway school bullies fight for example. Moments throughout this movie still hold up, even with graphics from 2002 that still look fantastic. Like all movies from that time period though there are elements that don’t hold up by todays standards. The lane way fight scene when Spider-Man saves MJ from some scumbags looks terrible in terms of a fight, the CGI does not look realistic and the fight moves are so telegraphed that it is laughable. I think this is something that is forgiven based of the fact it is preceded by the iconic upside down kiss. Over all a movie from 2002 still holds up well in terms of its graphics and choreography.
For a movie that is the origin of a hero the plot moves quickly, educating the audience about the story whilst keeping them engaged. Not many movies have successfully told the origin on a character as efficiently as Spider-Man does. We see him as the dorky teenage and his interactions with Harry and MJ to being bitten by the spider happen really quickly. From Peter getting his powers to becoming Spider-Man happens in a short time period but has some of the biggest impact on character development, with his talk with Uncle Ben becoming iconic in the comic book movie genre. The same can be said of the evolution of Norman Osborn to Green Goblin, which happens in just a few scenes, but the audience still understands his motivation. Sam Raimi effectively uses a montage to show the development of Spider-Man moving the story along so the audience is engaged for the whole length of the movie.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was a movie that helped to redefine the genre in its day and still holds up as one of the best comic book movies of all time. It did not have the realisim of The Dark Knight or the mature nature of the X-Men movies but it built its own style of film that can be enjoyed by comic fans and movies fans. It is easy to understand why Toby Maguire is Spider-Man to so many people and why people love these movies.
If you have not seen Spider-Man, it is 15 years old, make sure you watch it. If you have you should re-watch it as it definitely holds up. If you are a fan of comic book movies this should definitely be on your list.
Spider-Man 2002 scores a 7.5/10
What are your thoughts on Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man? Does it hold up? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.