RETRO REVIEW: Spider-Man (2002)

Release Poster - Columbia Pictures
Release Poster – Columbia Pictures

The following is a quick spoiler-filled retro review of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.

Great directors like James Cameron and David Fincher had been interested in making a film about Marvel’s famous wall-crawler, but it was up to the famous horror-director Sam Raimi to show the world just how special this character was, and he really did. Spider-Man is one of the most important superhero films ever made.

Spider-Man tells the story of how a ‘nerdy’ Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maguire) got superpowers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, thus giving him superpowers and the courage to stand up to the bullies of the world. But like the best heroes, his story begins with tragedy as his uncle Ben (played by the excellent Cliff Robertson) is killed by an outlaw Peter could have stopped.

Spider-Man tells the origin story of its titular character pretty well. The Uncle Ben moment is so tough to get through, and you really sympathize with Peter after the events of that fateful night. There are some things that don’t quite work, but I usually don’t think about it too much when I rewatch it.

Like how, I believe, there’s a flashback to the carjacking outlaw that killed Uncle Ben five minutes after we saw the guy. Or how it’s pretty tough to get a sense of time in the film, when Peter, Mary Jane, Flash, and Harry graduate from High School out of nowhere.

Spider-Man is such a fun movie to watch. The action works and there is a lot of humor. My favorite element in the film is the musical score. Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man theme is still one of my favorite pieces of music in a film ever. Really. Then, of course, I have to mention how great this film was cast.

To me, Tobey Maguire is probably still the very best Peter Parker. He’s sympathetic, likable, and as nerdy as you would expect him to be. He played the Peter Parker that I had always been wanting. A guy that’s down on his luck and unable to talk to a girl he has a crush on, but then one moment gives him the ‘power’ to take control of his life.

I really like Kirsten Dunst and James Franco in the film, and Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn is just a delightful antagonist to watch. But my favorite casting decisions are Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben, Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, and, of course, J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.

Spider-Man isn’t perfect, and it isn’t the best film in the Spider-Man franchise. The effects don’t always hold up, and there are some things that seem a little silly today. But I still think this is a true comic book movie classic, and the first great superhero solo film that showed Hollywood that maybe – just maybe – these strange Marvel characters could work on the big screen.

8.7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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