Hello interweb, Nate here! So with Spider-man: Homecoming out in theaters (I’m hoping to see it relatively soon), I decided to have my own little Spider-man marathon and watch all the old Spider-man movies from 2002’s Spider-man to The Amazing Spider-man 2. Some are amazing, some suck, but I’m watching all of them anyways! So since I’ve never reviewed any of these movies, I figured why not review each movie as I go? So that leads us to this review of the first Spider-man film ever made as well as the film that helped bring superhero movies to where they are today!
Movie Title: Spider-man
Produced by: Marvel Comics
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Writer: David Koepp
Director: Sam Raimi
Producer: Laura Ziskin and Ian Bryce
Running Time: 2 hrs 1 min
I haven’t seen the Sam Raimi Spider-man trilogy since I was in the single digits so I legitimately forgot just how good this movie was. It’s not the perfect Spider-man movie and it’s a tad cheesier than I would’ve liked, but it’s still a great movie and considering when it was made probably one of the best at the time. Now this film was made back in 2002 when comic book movies where in this awkward area of being ashamed to be comic book movies but were comic book movies anyways. This film actually captures what everybody liked about the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics from the 60’s and placed it in the modern day in a way so that it works really well. There is a bit of camp in this movie and I just really don’t like camp (part of the reason I just could never really get into the Adam West Batman show), but it’s balanced quite well the the story and the serious moments that I could handle it.
So what’s the story? Well, do I even need to go over it? Everybody and their grandmas knows it by now! Dorky Peter Parker, genetically enhanced spider bite, gains spider powers, uncle dies indirectly due to irresponsible actions, learns a lesson in responsibility the hard way, becomes a hero, there’s a guy dressed like a Power Rangers villain flying around terrorizing people, Spidey saves the day! We all know this so I really don’t need to spell it out any more than that. As an origin story, this is one of the best out there and the only reason why it really isn’t the best is because it’s a slightly dated movie with a little bit of cheese in there that I could kinda due without. But overall, it has a good narrative that plays out organically so everybody’s motivations are clear and there’s no glaring plot holes that makes you scratch your head.
I do want to talk about the camp in the movie for a second cause this is really the only thing I’m not a huge fan of. Not the humor, mind you, but just the really cheesy bits that sticks out compare to modern superhero movies. If you’ve seen any MCU movie than you’d know by now that Marvel puts a lot of humor and jokes into their movies but I don’t really consider that “camp” or “cheesy”. Now this was made before the MCU so I do feel like there’s a lot more heart in this movie rather than the average MCU flick that just kinda feels formulaic and needs to be changed up a bit more. Certain lines like “We’ll meet again, Spider-man!”, or “I think I have a superhero stalker”, or even “It’s you whose out, gobby! Out of your mind!” just kinda make me cringe at how cheesy they sound. I guess that’s the biggest difference between cheesy humor and funny humor? I don’t know, it’s really hard to describe. If you’ve seen this movie than you know exactly what I’m talking about, but that’s really my only issue about the film. The one moment above all else that I found so cheesy that I laughed was the scene where Green Goblin is talking to Spider-man on the roof top and during his monologue he leans on the thingamajig right next to him. That image was just way too cheesy and I laughed when I saw it. I post the image to the right of this paragraph so you know what I’m specifically talking about.
Outside the cheesiness, the movie’s awesome! The action isn’t as well done as today but that’s only because the technology we have today didn’t exist back then. Even then, the action isn’t anything to laugh at. The CGI is a bit rubbery but otherwise it’s really fun to watch everything play out. The scene where Green Goblin attacks the Thanksgiving Parade was fun to see a lot of Spider-man bouncing around on the balloons and seeing Green Goblin use his glider at him. And the final fight right after the bridge scene was freakin brutal and you get to see the two get real down and dirty. Parts of Spidey’s mask even gets torn apart from a Pumpkin Bomb (that actually looks nothing like a pumpkin). The one complaint I have about the action is the lack of quips. This is one of the few things The Amazing Spider-man did better then the Sam Raimi films. Spider-man is suppose to be constantly talking during his fights. Constantly joking, constantly insulting his villains, and constantly mocking everyone. This has two purposes: it helps Peter concentrate on the battle and not get scared as easily, and to make his villains so angry that they screw up cause they’re focusing more on him than the fight. There may have been one or two jokes in all of the total action in the movie, but I’d prefer more out of Spider-man.
The coolest part about the movie, in my opinion at least, is that this was made around the time where comic book movies often didn’t follow the source material to a T like they kinda do now (they still make changes nowadays but usually only when it’s necessary for the story). I don’t talk about supporting characters a lot in these reviews but all of them seemed to be pulled straight out of the old Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics. Aunt May, Uncle Ben, and Mary Jane is to be expected; but we also had J Jonah Jameson (nobody will ever be a better JJJ then J. K. Simmons), Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, etc. Some villains even appeared pre-villain transformation, although ironically they actually never became villains in this series since Spider-man 4 never happened. The most obvious one is Dr. Kurt Connors who becomes the Lizard. The second one I noticed might be pushing it a bit, but in a meeting with Norman Osbourne, Osbourne called one of his employers “Max” which reminded me of the villain Electro AKA Max Dillon. This might’ve been unintentional but I noticed it and it got me thinking.
Let’s see: story, humor, action, comic book comparisons…guess all we have left is the characters!
One thing this movie does much better than any modern Marvel movie, in fact I feel almost like Marvel has lost this ability and desperately need to re-learn it, is the fact that the villain of this movie is compelling and has actual depth. Not depth in the same way as the Joker in The Dark Knight has with a provocative philosophy or anything like that, but at least his character and motivations is well thought out rather than just tossed together as something for the hero to fight. The fact that Norman Osbourne and Peter Parker knew each other prior to either of their transformations, while unlikely and rather unrealistic, does give the two some sort of connection. Especially since Norman’s son, Harry, is also good friends with Peter. This means that it creates more emotion at the end when Green Goblin is defeated since this isn’t just a villain death but also the death of Peter’s close friend’s father. We don’t see any of that hero/villain dynamic in modern superhero movies anymore. Kinda-ish with the X-Men with Magneto and Professor X, I guess, but still this is probably the best film to really show off a villain being friends with the hero’s alter-ego while enemies with the hero himself. It’s also really funny how much I’m praising this character because I never liked Green Goblin. I never hated him or anything, but he just never interested me as a character. The only problem I really do have with this character is his costume. I mean, have you seen the concept designs for this guy (posted to the right)? They look freakin awesome! So why does the final product look like a villain straight out of an episode of Power Rangers?
Toby Maguire is the best casting choice for Spider-man, especially at the time. He makes a believable Peter Parker and did a great job at portraying his socially awkward and nerdy self. His feelings for Mary Jane is pretty generic since the only thing we really get is that he likes MJ because she’s pretty, but the love triangle between Peter, MJ, and Harry does lead to some interesting interactions. His relationship to his Uncle Ben in this is really what got me. The last words he ever says to his Uncle is yelling at him and telling him to stop pretending to be his dad. So when he had to confront his Aunt and you see her walk up to Peter and hug him and crying, I actually got emotional over it. Which I find really weird because I’ve seen this movie before and I knew it was coming, but I still got teary eyed from it. Overall, the only complaint I have for Spider-man in this is the lack of quips during the action scenes.
Mary Jane served her role as the love interest but I never liked her character in these movies. In the comics, MJ has always been the confident girl who always wants to have fun. She’s the type of girl that a nerd like Peter Parker really would never end up with but he does anyways because wish-fulfillment fantasies. But here, she’s pretty I guess. There’s not much to her character outside of being generically nice and coming from a not-so-ideal household.
Harry Osbourne is a more compelling character and does well as a good friend to Peter Parker. They develop some friction after Harry begins dating MJ but otherwise he seems like a decent friend if not just a little spoiled. He becomes the Green Goblin in Spider-man 3 but I remember that that movie sucked so I’m not really looking forwards to revisit that. I honestly don’t remember what he did between Spider-man and Spider-man 3. I guess I’ll find out when I see Spider-man 2!
Overall, there’s a few dated aspects to the film and the campiness I could do without. However, everything else about this film is really good with a well-written story and compelling characters with fun action. I give it an 8/10 and I everyone whose even a casual Spider-man fan or superhero fan should see it. That’s right, the rating system it back! But slightly edited. My mindset to my 10 star rating system is below if you want to know exactly what’s running through my head when I rate these movies. This is the rating system I’ll use from this point forwards. I may or may not try and update old reviews with this rating system…
My Rating System
10 – Perfect: nothing is wrong about this movie
9 – Almost perfect: has one or two minor nitpicks that holds it from perfection
8 – Amazing: not a perfect film but still absolutely loved it
7 – Good: has a few problems but overall a great film
6 – Ok: has several major problems but I still like it
5 – Mediocre: neither good nor bad just forgettable
4 – Bad: a few major problems that ruins the movie
3 – Awful: lots of problems that ruins the movie
2 – Terrible: there may be one or two good things about the film but everything else is garbage
1 – The worst: literally nothing went right