Spider-Man (2002) Review

“Despite some parts feeling rather slow, Spider-Man managed to capture the reason we fell in love with the character in the first place.”

When I was a kid my favourite superhero was Spider-Man. I had all of the action figures, all of the posters, and I even had one of those gloves that shot silly string from your wrist. Of course as I grew up I realized that Superman was the better hero, and Spider-Man fell by the wayside. That being said Spider-Man still holds a special place in my heart, and that special place also has room for the original Spider-Man movies directed by Sam Raimi. Deciding to re-watch these films has proven to be a pretty nostalgic experience for me. I don’t remember specific moments of me watching Spider-Man when I was a kid, but re-watching the film proved that I had most of it memorized. Everybody knows what Spider-Man is all about, so I’m not even going to waste time explaining the plot of the film to you.

What stands out most about 2002’s Spider-Man is the casting, and the performances that come with it. You can say whatever you want about Tobey Maguire, but you can’t argue that he absolutely killed it as Peter Parker. Some say that his Spider-Man wasn’t the best, but most would agree that his performance as Peter Parker was iconic to say the least. Maguire is able to bring the character of Peter Parker to life with his timid nature, and almost effortless genius. He is also able to convey very serious emotion (despite having what some may call an ugly cry) and connect us to that character. You can tell that everyone involved in this film, Maguire included, wanted to give us the most authentic Spider-Man experience possible. There was no updating it, no making it cooler, it was just the Spider-Man that we all know and love. The same can be said about other actors in the film as well. You have Kirsten Dunst who plays a very good  Mary Jane Watson, and James Franco who does a great job as Peter’s best friend Harry Osborne. And I couldn’t go without mentioning Willem Dafoe’s amazing performance as Norman Osborne (a.k.a The Green Goblin). Dafoe’s ability to seemingly lose his sanity at a moments notice is fucking perfect for Norman Osborne, especially when he has to convey that there are essentially two sides to his character. Dafoe’s ability to act against himself is amazing, and it elevates this movie to a whole new level. And of course, the stand-out in the cast, mister J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson himself. I’m not sure if there has been a better casting choice in the history of movies. The way that J.K. Simmons brings the character of J. Jonah Jameson to life without changing a thing is absolutely fucking amazing. I also really loved the cameos in the film from people like Bruce Campbell and Macho Man Randy Savage. And part of what makes all of these characters work so well (apart from the casting and performances) is the film’s willingness to embrace just how campy comics used to be. When you look at original iterations of Spider-Man (or any superhero for that matter) the stories told are cheesy as hell. Instead of turning their back on that completely they embraced that aspect in some instances. We didn’t get a really depressed Peter Parker who goes around at night hating his life, but instead we got an optimistic Peter Parker who is having fun with his powers. We got these nice montages of Spider-Man doing his thing and just saving people. No drama, no conflict, just really hokey “Spider-Man saved my daughter. God bless you Spider-Man” scenes that perfectly capture what the character is all about. Some of this showed in the character design as well, which aimed to be modern but also payed homage to the original characters. These things show that so much care went into making this movie, and because you can feel that while watching the movie it makes it that much more special.

Spider-Man is directed by Sam Raimi who most will know as the director of the Evil Dead franchise. Now this may not seem like the right fit on paper, but what Raimi brought to Spider-Man is amazing to say the least. I already mentioned how much care went into this movie so I won’t repeat myself, but something else that stuck out to me was the film’s horror elements. Spider-Man is far from a scary movie, but the way that some scenes were shot and edited really showed Raimi’s understanding of how to make a horror film. These moments are few and far between but when they do show up they take what was a fun time and give it some danger. We are immediately thrust into the situation during these moments and we understand the gravity of each and every one. And movies like Army of Darkness also honed Raimi’s skills for directing campy content which is shown in scenes such as the one where the Green Goblin turns people into literal skeletons with one of his Goblin Bombs. You also have Danny Elfman providing the amazing score to Spider-Man which proves to be both perfectly fitting, and iconic. The score for Spider-Man captures exactly what the character and the movie are about: there is a sense of heroism, and yet a sense of fun. And speaking of the music, the movie ends with a sweet ballad from Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger which instantly takes you back to the time of Spider-Man’s release in 2002. Now as for the CGI in Spider-Man I will say that it holds up surprisingly well. For a movie that is 15 years old, a lot of the effects in Spider-Man look almost on-par with some of the stuff today. Now that isn’t to say that it’s all good (trust me, it isn’t), but that is an impressive accomplishment to say the least. I guess the last thing to talk about would be the story in Spider-Man, but there isn’t a whole lot to say. Everyone knows the story of Spider-Man, but at the time it was less in the public mind. I think Spider-Man (the movie) did a good job of introducing the character of Spider-Man in a way that was interesting and engaging for the audience. I will say that the movie did feel really slow at a few points, but never was I bored.

Overall Spider-Man proves that it’s still just as good after all of these years. The care that went into the casting, the performances, the writing, the directing, really every aspect of this film is amazing. Despite some parts feeling rather slow, Spider-Man managed to capture the reason we fell in love with the character in the first place.

I give Spider-Man a B

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