- Directed by Sam Raimi
- April 29, 2002 (Mann Village Theater) / May 3, 2002 (US)
Young Peter Parker, dealing with the death of his uncle, finds himself with spider like powers and the target of the insane Green Goblin.
Spider-Man is the first specifically theatrical film featuring everyone’s favorite wall crawler (though episodes of previous live action shows have been converted to movies) though this is not the first live action version of the character. I will not call this film perfect, but it is very close to being perfect. As a whole it managed to have a feel similar to the Christopher Reeve Superman film. Like that classic it could be fun and exciting but also serious and downbeat. Much like a good comic book.
Tobey Maguire was fantastic as Peter Parker/Spider-Man though I think he looked a little old for the part. I did not buy him as a high school kid probably because he was around 27 when he made this movie. I think the story could have been moved to a college setting and still retained the same story but his performance as the character was just amazing.
His Peter is hopeful and positive though not perfect. His desire to get back at the person that screwed him over for the money causes the death of his Uncle Ben. That death and his uncle’s final bit of wisdom of “With great power comes great responsibility,” something said in reference to his ass-kicking of school bully Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello), remains with him and sets the character on his heroic path.
There was no better choice for Mary Jane Watson, the love of Peter Parker’s life, than Kirsten Dunst. She was MJ. The way she said “tiger,” her look, her smile came way too easy to her to not be natural. She made MJ charming and vulnerable, and a bit wounded by life.
MJ comes from a less than a happy home and at the start here looks to be repeating the behaviors which landed her mother there. First is with Flash Thompson and then she begins her relationship with Peter’s friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) who has a list of problems of his own that are not good for a relationship let alone an individual.
And speaking of perfect casting, who better to play J Jonah Jamison then JK Simmons. The man has an Ed Asner like voice but more importantly with only some small bits of makeup he looks as if he was the physical inspiration for the character. He makes Jameson loud and blustery yet as demonstrated in the scene when the Green Goblin comes looking for Spider-Man a decent guy-at least as decent as J Jonah Jamison could get. The man ultimately wants to sell newspapers.
If you want crazy and dangerous you hire Willem Dafoe. The man is a brilliant actor and gives just amazing performances. Here he went from nice rich guy to insane murderous man seamlessly. Norman before he becomes Green Goblin is a different character than when he becomes Green Goblin yet Dafoe made it feel natural. While clearly there are issues between he and his son, Norman can be a good guy as demonstrated with Peter but his naivete leaves him vulnerable as shown by the Oscorp Board of Directors selling the company behind his back.
And a special mention goes to Rosemary Harris who played Aunt May. Not only did she look the part, but her Aunt May was as warm and motherly as you would expect the character to be. She was the voice of Peter’s better aspects.
The CGI in this film has aged a little bit. It is like better than most computer animation from a CGI movie but you can spot when they switch from a real person to a computer effect. That is pretty much a given. Much like with computer animation, computer special effects do not age well as the technology advances.
This film is two origin stories in one. It is the origin of the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) as well as the origin of Spider-Man. The two stories run more or less parallel with only a little bit more attention being given to Spider-Man than the Green Goblin until their paths meet and the narrative merges into one story. They do not skimp on either. Sam Raimi is obviously a comics fan, and it shows here.
The action is great. Spider-Man swings and flips through the air and his encounters with Green Goblin are just great. The only real fighting is at the end though. I’m not gonna call an ambush in a burning building a fight. Also in this film Sam Raimi gets a few shots that remind me of commonly used poses in the older comics.
Our hero goes through a struggle and at the end he understands what he needs to do. He understands what he needs to not only do right by himself but to honor the memory of his Uncle Ben. The stakes are high here for Peter. The world may not be in danger, but his world is. And his world is not only Aunt May but his longtime crush of MJ.
Raimi does a great job of building the relationship between the two. The actors have genuine chemistry and you believe that Tobey Maguire as Peter has had feelings for Kirsten Dunst’s MJ for a long time. They are the emotional heart of this film. What really sells it though is the now very famous kissing scene.
What they get wrong here though or do not touch at all actually is banter. Peter Parker/Spider-Man is famous for his banter with villains, and it does not really happen here. And that is perhaps the biggest weakness in this film. You will not really be impacted by it because the story and everything else more than covers up for that missing bit.
Spider-Man is a fantastic film. It is easily one of the best adaptions of the character. This is most definitely a must see.