Sunday, April 14, 2024


Part of Sony's plan to rerelease each of the Spider-Man movies over a series of weeks, Spider-Man returns to theaters for the first time in over two decades. The highest grossing film of 2002 was an immediate hit with both critics and audiences spawning two sequels also starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. The origin story sticks close to the character's comic history with the nerdy Peter being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining new abilities he will need to learn to use responsibly. 

For a villain, the film offers us Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) as the mad scientist industrialist whose attempt to salvage a disappearing military contract leads him into taking a risk with an experimental serum and eventually becoming the Green Goblin. We're also given James Franco as Norman's son and Peter's best friend Harry along with Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson as Peter's Aunt May and Uncle Ben.

Director Sam Raimi packs the film with some fun smaller supporting performances including longtime friend Bruce Campbell along with "Macho Man" Randy Savage in the wrestling sequences which would give our hero his name on an evening which would change his life forever, and Elizabeth Banks, Bill Nunn, and, most notably, J.K. Simmons as staples of The Daily Bugle.

The film wastes no time in getting Peter out of high school after the spider-bite, but we do get a few sequences of Peter before becoming Spider-Man helping to lay the foundation of who Peter is. The choice to turn Mary Jane from the bombshell party girl into the girl next door (who Peter still sees as a dream girl) is one that doesn't necessarily pay off here (although the casting works slightly better in the sequel). While Dunst is fine in the role we're given on-screen, it's a far cry from the original character (something other adaptations of the character also struggle with).

Dafoe is fun, if over-the-top as the schizoid Osborne. I do like the early sequences showing the man he was prior to taking the formula and the Goblin personality slowly taking over. However, I've never been a fan of the Green Goblin suit design for the film (being too Iron Man for my tastes). And in stealing the end of completely separate comic run for the ending of this film also prevented the series from introducing and exploring Gwen Stacy, at least until the character rebooted a decade later.

The effects hold up pretty well, especially in showcasing the chaotic nature of the hero's web swinging around New York City, although some of the sequences (such as the collapsing balcony in the parade attack and the hospital ruins in the climactic battle) feel very much like they were shot on a movie set. The ridges on the Spidey suit don't bother me as much today as they did originally, although I do think it would be more effective without them, and I can't deny Spider-Man looks great swinging around the city.

Memorable moments from the film include Peter testing out his powers (SHAZAM! did a pretty good job capturing the same kind of energy 17 years later in a similar sequence), the reveal after Uncle Ben's death when Peter looks into the eyes of his killer, the first sequence of Spider-Man in full costume swinging across the city, the bridge sequence, and of course the upside down kiss in the rainy alley between MJ and Spider-Man (which turned out to be such a hit it would be referenced in the sequel).

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Spider-Man
  • IMDb: link

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