On a school field trip, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a genetically engineered spider causing him to develop spider-like powers. When the Green Goblin (Willen Dafoe) begin terrorizing New York City, Peter must step up with his newfound powers and stop him.
I grew up with Saturday morning cartoons. Moreover, I grew up with Spider-Man. The Spider-Man television series that aired in the 1990s (along with the X-Men and Batman animated series) was my gateway to superheroes and comic characters as a whole. There was just something about Peter Parker that intrigued me. I can’t say it was the everyday guy thing he had going because at the time, I was a kid and couldn’t relate on that level. The interesting rogues gallery, the cool powers, the exciting stories, it had me hooked. When I heard Spider-Man was going to have his own movie, I was completely on board, especially after how much I enjoyed X-Men. Spider-Man was exactly the superhero movie the genre needed to prove that X-Men was more than just a fluke and that superheroes besides Superman and Batman could have hit films.
If you boil it down, the single most thing that makes this film work is its superb casting. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Willem Dafoe all just glide right into their parts. Maguire captures the more science-y side of Peter, as well as the awkwardness of the character. Dunst was born to play the girl-next-door archetype. Franco has great chemistry with the entire cast and Dafoe absolutely seeths deranged villain. Of course, I can’t talk about the Raimi Spider-Man films without bringing up one of the most perfectly cast parts in any movie ever made. I’m talking more perfect than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, more perfect than Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, and even more perfect than Tony Stark as Iron Man. I am of course talking about JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He steals every scene he’s in. Hell, he steals the entire movie. Simmons gobbles up the part with his quick talking and spot on interpretation of JJJ. Once I saw Simmons in the part, I could not imagine anyone else in the role.
The Green Goblin was a great villain to start with in the first Spider-man film. He is an iconic Spider-Man villain, being the center of many major and popular Spider-Man stories. Also, Norman Osborn has a personal connection to Peter, being the father of Peter’s best friend Harry and serving as a surrogate father of sorts for Peter. With Harry being a prominent supporting character throughout the Sam Raimi films, his hatred of Spider-Man but closeness to Peter makes for an interesting dynamic between Harry and Peter that gets explored throughout the entire series.
Before Marvel Studios perfected their movie formula, there was Spider-Man. Spider-Man shares similarities with films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve been of the belief that there aren’t too many ways to effectively do an origin story so it’s no surprise that it doesn’t differ too much from Iron Man or Wonder Woman. One thing you won’t find though is a CGI slugfest between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin at the end. This was released before CGI took over Hollywood, at least to a large extent, after all. The final showdown is mostly done with practical effects. Better yet, it isn’t a simple fight between the hero and villain. Since Norman Osborn is an important figure in Peter’s life, there was a lot of sentiment during their battle. It wasn’t just a physical battle, it was an emotional battle as well.
Part of Peter’s character that makes him so endearing is his desire to balance his personal life with his hero duties. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t balance out and his hero duties often gets in the way of his personal life. This movie doesn’t delve too deep into the struggle between Peter’s two lives (this is an origin movie after all) but it does show glimpses at how the two conflict and also sow seeds about how this can become a larger issue for Peter down the line.
In the comics, Spider-Man is always cracking jokes and is overall very chatty, particularly during fights with his rogues. However, that aspect of the character isn’t captured very well in this film. During his cage match with Bonesaw (Randy Savage), he made a few quips… but that was it. I wouldn’t call Peter’s demeanor “serious,” but it definitely lacked the playfulness and wit of the comics version.
I thought Spider-Man was GREAT 😀 I can’t express the joy of seeing my favorite superhero finally on the big screen back in 2002. Director Sam Raimi and writer David Koepp skillfully bring the wallcrawler to life and capture many important aspects of the character. An excellent cast complements Koepp’s script and Raimi’s direction. Modern day superhero films can look towards this film as an inspiration on how to successfully translate a character from comics to film.
Spider–Man was the first film to gross $100 million in its opening weekend alone. At the time, no movie had done so, even when adjusted for inflation. (via IMDb)
Cast & Crew
Sam Raimi – Director
David Koepp – Writer
Danny Elfman – Comoser
Tobey Maguire – Spider-Man / Peter Parker
Willem Dafoe – Green Goblin / Norman Osborn
Kirsten Dunst – Mary Jane Watson
James Franco – Harry Osborn
Cliff Robertson – Ben Parker
Rosemary Harris – May Parker
Jk Simmons – J. Jonah Jameson
Joe Manganiello – Flash Thompson
Bull Nunn – Joseph ‘Robbie’ Robertson
Ted Raimi – Hoffman
Elizabeth Banks – Betty Brant
Michael Papajohn – Carjacker
Randy Savage – Bonesaw