Spider-Man was the beginning of a new era for movies. Superhero movies were kind of considered a joke and WB’s Batman & Robin didn’t do the genre any favors. X-Men was the first successful Marvel film to be released and did pave the way for Spider-Man to be filmed but after Spider-Man there was a resurgence in superhero films that still continues today. Spider-Man also set the expectations for strong written superhero flicks.
Spider-Man does have it’s fair amount of cheese. It’s a summer blockbuster first and foremost, so there are some corny moments. For example, Peter runs down the stairs and walks across the wall while Uncle Ben & Aunt May aren’t looking. There’s another where Peter uses his spidey sense to rescue Mary Jane from falling at school and making sure her lunch tray is perfect. There aren’t too many moments like that in the film but it’s become a trope in blockbusters that’s it’s easy to forgive. The film also does tend to have some contrived scenes to push the plot forward. Everything either seems to convenient or inconvenient but it’s all minor stuff. Luckily Raimi does more right than wrong with his adaptation of Spider-man.
Now for comic purists, there are quite a few liberties taken. Peter Parker doesn’t become Spider-Man till his senior year in high school. He doesn’t have his web cartridges either, instead he has organic webbing. In addition Gwen Stacy & her impact on Peter’s life are cut out. Some of her elements are merged into Mary Jane. And the changes are for better. It’s more realistic for a college kid to be a superhero than a 14-15 year old. The organic webbing makes more sense than the cartridges. Peter gets all the abilities of a spider but webbing? And making & refilling cartridges just sounds like a financial problem. Cutting out Gwen Stacy was a smart move because in a cinematic universe there’s really no way to do her or Mary Jane justice. It’s better we get to spend more time with Mary Jane who could be argued as Peter’s true love.
Even with its changes, Spider-Man captures the spirit of the Spider-Man comic. The fun & tragedy are all here. Peter is still the flawed individual in the comics. He tries to use his powers for the wrong reason but slowly learns the significance of theme. The fateful catalyst with Uncle Ben is there and it’s a very sad scene. The late Cliff Robertson & Tobey Maguire work so well together even with their little screen time together. It’s hard not to shed a tear in Robertson’s last scene as Uncle Ben. Peter is constantly going through changes in the movie. Spider-Man isn’t a typical action superhero flick, it’s a coming of age love story. As the story progresses Peter understands what’s important and what true responsibility is. Tobey Maguire gets a bad reputation for the wretched Spider-Man 3. It’s better off ignoring that and being open minded. Tobey captures all the mannerisms of Peter perfectly. He can play the perfect awkward nerd. We don’t really get much insight on his intellect but it’s hard too with all the stuff going on but with Maguire’s performance we get the idea he’s a smart kid. He also captures the confidence the suit gives him. You can tell it’s Peter under the suit but it makes him more confident. In a way the suit is a factor of him growing. There are also certain situations where he’s unmasked and no one notices him but it could been seen as a metaphor on how Peter was ignored his whole life until he became Spider-Man. Maguire’s performance sometimes tends to suffer from his random blank faces or him crying too much but it’s not atrocious. Like with Raimi’s direcitng, he does more right than wrong. As for Kirsten Dunst, she might not the be the ideal choice to play Mary Jane but she holds her own. She & Maguire have some great chemistry and are believable as friends. She does embody Mary Jane well enough for us to see why she’s someone Peter would fight for but she also has the vulnerability to show she’s just not perfect, just like Peter.
Every superhero film requires a main villain and putting Spider-Man’s arch nemesis, Green Goblin in was a no a brainer. Norman Osborn is portrayed as more of a tragic villain who let’s his failures & insanity destroy him. He represents what Peter could have become without the right guidance but also shows how important it is for the world to have a hero like Spider-Man. The costume due to producer persistence to make it kid friendly looks absolutely awful. It looks like a really bad Power Rangers villain costume. If not for Raimi’s horror expertise & Dafoe’s incredible performance the villain would have come off as a dud. Luckily Dafoe gives some of his best work and brings the right amount of crazy. A recurring thing in movies with crazy bad guys is everyone tries to be like the joker. Especially the 90s Batman series. Dafoe brings his own twist to the character and Raimi has some unique terrifying tricks with the character. The Raimi/Dafoe combo is why the Goblin works so well. Dafoe is one of the highlights of the series. Raimi does a good job with his supporting cast as well. In the comics, Harry Osborn looks like a younger version of Norman with the same goofy haircut. Of course the haircut can’t translate to the screen but it doesn’t stop James Franco from looking like a young Willem Dafoe. Franco playsthe troubled rich kid pretty well. It’s like an alternate version of Franco’s character on Freaks & Geeks and Rosemary Harris brings the heart of Aunt May. Lastly JK Simmons is absolute perfection as J.Jonah. He brings the character to absolute life and looks just like him. JK Simmons has some great moments. That’s how every Spider-Man reader envisioned JJ to be.
Sam Raimi does a good job with the direction of the film, he captures the spirit of the hero perfectly. There’s a good amount of humor and enough drama to keep it from being a straight up comedy. The love story is well developed and the drifting of two friends. A lot of themes & stories are dealt in the film without dragging too long. Raimi does insert some blockbuster cheese in there, the cgi looks a bit outdated and unrealistic but it was pretty good for the time it came out. With so many movies and comic book movies being set in New York, Raimi’s film brings the city to life as well. New York City feels like a supporting character to Spider-Man and that’s how it is in the comics and Raimi really knows how to make action scenes fun. Each action sequence is fun & intense. It doesn’t come off repetitive and is spaced out perfectly. To really top things off is Danny Elfman’s magnificent score. Danny Elfman has created such fantastic scores in the past and is one of the best parts of Tim Burton films. His Batman theme is considered the main Batman theme to this very day. Spider-Man’s theme doesn’t have the same legacy as his Batman theme but it’s a really astonishing score. It adds a huge layer to the film. It’s gripping & emotional and full of adrenaline rush. It fits Spider-Man perfectly. It would have been nice for him to do a little homage to the Joe Perry theme from the 1994 especially since Aerosmith did a cover of the original Spider-Man theme on the soundtrack. He could have asked Perry for a little collaboration but it’s a minor complaint. The score really takes you into the world of Spider-man.
Would I Recommend?
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was a game changing superhero film. It was the start of merging dramas & with action. It started a trend to bring the successful formula of comics to the big screen. It was no longer about a generic villain and action and Spider-Man was a great starting point. Spider-Man is a character every child & adult could relate too. He’s just a normal guy with normal desires sprung into extraordinary circumstances. He tries to use his powers for the fortune & the girl but he realizes there’s a reason he has these powers. It’s not by dumb luck, it’s because he has the heart of a hero and was raised by a noble people. Spider-Man is a touching love story of what it means to be an adult and to be responsible. As an adult we have to make sacrifices to be more responsible and that’s what Peter Parker learns through out the film. He grows from high school teen to adult. Spider-Man might be plagued by its cheese, hammy dialogue at times but it’s a fun film with a lot of heart. Yes to this very day I would recommend.