Spider-Man Review: Remains One of the Best Origin Films Almost 20 Years Later
Courtesy of Marvel
Changing superhero film culture in 2002, Spider-Man was directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and others in the first movie based on the popular Marvel character. It took many years to get a Spider-Man movie started. At one point, James Cameron almost directed a Spider-Man film. Raimi, known for directing the Evil Dead franchise, took over in 2000. Many people feel the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films do not hold up and are lame and cheesy. The critics are wrong. Spider-Man remains one of the best comic book movie origin stories ever made. It has a great balance of light and dark moments compared to comic book movies today.
Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his performance is still incredible. I feel he’s better as Peter Parker and gets the nerdy, shy persona of Peter Parker correct. He still plays a great Spider-Man and tells a few quips. Critics claim he is not quippy enough, but I felt he said enough quips. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is one of the best performances of a villain in any superhero film. He does a phenomenal job playing both the businessman and uncaring father side of Norman Osborn and the crazy, murderous Green Goblin. Dafoe got into the role and pushed to play the character before ultimately landing the role.
Kirsten Dunst and James Franco also are great as Peter’s friends Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn. Many people criticize Dunst’s performance in the Spider-Man trilogy and how Mary Jane is portrayed, but I feel Dunst gives her best performance as the character in this film. She has an uneasy life with a horrible dad and most of the men in her life treat her horribly and the only person she feels comfortable being herself with is Peter Parker. The chemistry between Dunst and Maguire is strong in this movie. I like how each time they talk to each other, they grow closer. Franco’s Harry Osborn is Peter’s best friend who looks out for him and considers him family, but is also jealous of Peter because his dad Norman Osborn seems to prefer Peter over Harry, and Mary Jane is growing closer to Peter throughout the film.
The film has iconic performances from more than just the lead actors. Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben is still the high standard for Uncle Ben on the big screen. His performance is so incredible that the 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse used his voice from his voice when it came to saying the iconic line “with great power comes great responsibility.” JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson is entertaining and one of the best casting choices in a comic book movie. Raimi does a great job of giving a lot of these characters good screen time and a chance to shine. Superhero films these days focus too much on the heroes and villains and not enough on the supporting characters that help influence the heroes and villains.
The film’s plot is split perfectly even for a two-hour movie. The first half is the origin of Spider-Man. The second half focuses more on the Spider-Man vs Green Goblin aspect. The costumes are great. Many people make fun of the Green Goblin costume, comparing it to a Power Ranger costume, but I think the costume looks great. The action between Spider-Man and Green Goblin is great and entertaining. The final fight is one of the best fights in a comic book movie nearly twenty years later.
Danny Elfman’s film score is epic. Elfman had previous experience with comic book movie scores in Batman and Batman Returns. The opening credits score has always been a personal favorite of mine. The web-swinging after twenty years still looks incredible. I like the unique messaging Raimi uses in certain scenes. For example, in the Thanksgiving scene, Peter Parker is wearing Green Goblin colors, while Norman Osborn is wearing Spider-Man colors. Harry Osborn has a combination of the two.
The only thing I feel did not age well with the film is one minor thing. During the scene when Spider-Man is chasing the burglar, the beginning part when he is climbing walls and starting to swing, it looks a little outdated. Maybe it was the coloring of the wrestling Spider-Man suit, but it looked a little off to me. Everything else looked fine. It doesn’t ruin an otherwise amazing movie.
All in all, Spider-Man is still an incredible superhero film that changed things for superhero movies before Batman Begins and The Avengers changed things. The performances remain iconic. The action is still some of the best in a comic book movie. Most of the special effects still hold up. I am excited to see Willem Dafoe return as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
I recommend checking this movie out if you have not seen it already. If you have not seen it in years, revisit it. What did you think of Spider-Man? Let us know in the comments down below.
Final Grade: A+