*Originally written March 18th, 2016*
"With great power, comes great responsibility"
Since we just got our first glimpse of Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War and with Spider-Man: Homecoming on the way, I thought I'd go back to the first real time Spidey hit the cinema screen with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. A film I adored in my childhood, so it's a shame to see that, my god, this has not aged well.
Superhero films have come a long way since 2002 and Spider-Man certainly laid the groundwork and formula for what was to come. You know the story, high school loser Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers like web-slinging, enhanced reflexes etc and adapts the alter ego Spider-Man, while coming to terms with his powers and his personal life.
I always find it strange that Sam Raimi directed this trilogy, he just doesn't seem like the guy for the job, but he pulls off some distinct visual style of his, including a Bruce Campbell cameo and it has more of a unique personality than 90% of today's cookie-cutter Marvel films. Not that their bad, it's just they lack their own style.
A lot of the effects are laughably outdated, although I admire the use of a lot of practical effects, but the CGI really stands out, like it seems like a PS1 game sometimes, the Green Goblin turning those guys into skeletons in particular. Then there is some brutally fake looking shots of Spider-Man swinging through the city.
A lot of the action is actually really brutal and kinda shocking for a kids film. The Green Goblin killing innocents is done in a mostly cartoony way, but the one on one stuff with Spider-Man and Green Goblin is really violent. You really feel the punches and cuts we see, it even ends with Spidey's face completely covered in blood.
Where Spider-Man excels most is with its storytelling. Each of the characters has their own arc and feel developed, helped by the great job from everyone. Tobey Maguire is easily the best Spider-Man/Peter Parker we've had, going from socially awkward nerd to superhero. James Franco is.... James Franco, but with subdued anger and daddy issues. Kirsten Dunst is an extremely likable girl next door and a lovely bit of bacon to boot. And Willem Dafoe does such a fun job of hamming up his villain role as the Green Goblin. There's not a lot else to say about J.K. Simmons in his role J. Jonah Jameson, just perfect casting, the man was born to play that role.
I really like Danny Elfman's score too. Both the action heavy stuff and the more quiet and sometimes sinister tracks. While the not film's fault at all, it does hit a lot of the same notes that make modern day superhero films so stale. It's a fairly basic origin story and even has the "Impossible Choice" scene towards the end, which has been done to death.
It is also very campy and often cheesy, like most of Raimi's films, and I don't feel that tone has held up very well to this point. The point where New York "unites" to help Spider-Man fight Green Goblin was more brutal and cringe worthy than it was inspiring.
It didn't hold up as well as I hoped, but Spider-Man is definitely one of the more interesting and better origin stories we've had and has a unique voice, but so much just doesn't hold up. Shame. Still, from what I remember, this still has more charm than the Andrew Garfield reboot.
Spider-Man is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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