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Spider-Man (2002) Retrospective – Review

With all the buzz regarding the new Spider-Man movie and Tom Holland bringing to life the third attempt of the web-slinger in just 15 years, it’s fun to look back at what was attempted not that long ago. So if you wanted to see how Marvel’s rendition of the wall-crawling hero measures up to Sony’s earlier attempts, never fear, I’ve saved you from having to watch over 4 hours of Peter Parker crying over his dead Uncle Ben, again.

A lot of critics say that while Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) paved the way for the superhero genre, it was certainly Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man that set the gold standard. I have incredibly fond memories of watching this back in the cinema when it was released, playing the video-game and begging my parents to buy me the toys (despite being a little too old for action figures) – so I was curious to see how the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man had aged a decade and a half later.

The first thing I noticed, Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker cries a lot. Maybe it’s just tired-of-origin-story syndrome after the DCEU opened Batman V Superman (2016 – see our review here) with repeating the murder of Batfleck’s parents in slow-motion, but in this film we certainly see Spider-Man sobbing at least half the time his mask is off. Tobey Maguire can certainly pull off the weedy little-nerd role without a hitch and deserves full credit for his incredible transformation into a beefy nerd, post-radioactive-spider-bite. But when it comes down to actually being the infamous hero in red and blue, he doesn’t quite have the quips or comedic timing to be as smart-mouthed as Spidey should be. The movie tends to bog itself down with the weight of loss and sometimes has a real negative impact on its pacing.

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But the film picks right back up whenever his most famous villain, the Green Goblin, portrayed by the ever-incredible Willem Dafoe is on screen. Every scene that Dafoe is in, he completely steals with his sneaky and genuinely scary presence. Hitting the halfway point I had to seriously ask myself whether this was a Spider-Man movie or a Green Goblin movie, cause he gets a lot of screen-time and sends shivers down your spine when he smiles at you. This is worth discussing with the constant villain-issue that the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to have, in a long line of under-developed and uninteresting bad-guys that are just there for the good guys to punch. In Raimi’s Spider-Man, the villain is just as unforgettable as a man in spandex swinging round New York.

Ultimately the dialogue is 80% expository and this movie is remarkably formulaic, but it’s one of the first major origin stories of the comic book universe, so you can’t really fault it for doing what it set out to do. But the famous screams of Kirsten Dunst as the ever-in-danger Mary-Jane and the incredible shots of Spider-Man (even their well-engineered CG-Spider-Man) really do bring the story to life, straight from the comic book panels; The Goblin screams out “We’ll meet again Spider-Man!” as his glider catapults him into the distant sky – just like a cartoon villain from Pokémon – and Dafoe actually pulls it off! There are so many moments of unbelievable corniness, but they still go down sweetly in this classic.

Honourable mentions: Bruce Campbell’s cameo as a wrestling announcer who technically names our superhero, and J.K. Simmons will always be the best J. Jonah Jameson ever.

Budget: $139 million

Box Office: $821.7 million

Fun Fact:

The scene in which Peter Parker catches Mary Jane’s lunch on the tray involved no CGI. With the help of a sticky substance to keep the tray planted on his hand, eventually, after 156 takes, he performed the stunt exactly as seen.

Read on for part 2 of Kurt’s retrospective review of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).

Kurt McCowen

Kurt McCowen

Educational video editor by day, Superhero film binger by night.

Deserted Island Movie Collection: Everything produced by the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Best Movie Snack: Takeaway Chinese food
Kurt McCowen

Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002)
7.8

Story

7/10

    Characters

    6/10

      Performances

      9/10

        Direction

        8/10

          Entertainment Value

          9/10

            Directed By

            • Sam Raimi

            Starring

            • Tobey Maguire
            • Kirsten Dunst
            • Willem Dafoe
            • James Franco

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