johnlink ranks SPIDER-MAN (2002)

After zipping through a whole bunch of X-Men movies last month, most pertently the original trilogy, I decided to hit up the original SPIDER-MAN flicks. The popular opinion of the two series is similar. Solid first two entries, much maligned third chapter. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen these, so it will be cool to check them out again.


I watched SPIDER-MAN (2002) on 6.8.14. It was probably my fifth viewing of the film and first in more than a half dozen years.

It has been a dozen years since Sam Raimi brought Spider Man to the big screen. We’ve now had five web-crawling flicks in that time, with a second actor donning the suit. It is, however, important to remember just how well received this first film was with an unexpectedly witty Tobey Maguire playing the part.

This film is an origin story. We see Peter Parker get bit, learn he has skills, and hone those skills. He goes from being the kid bullied on the bus to being a masked super hero tasked with saving New York City. And NYC does feature prominently in the movie. While certainly not a Woody Allen film in terms of theme, this is a movie which dealt with violence on a mass scale less than a year after the tragedy of 9/11. SPIDER-MAN handles this with grace, using the unity the city felt at the time as a rallying point for love of their new hero (not that the movie deals with 9/11 directly).

Sam Raimi, along with writer David Koepp, approach the film with humor and whimsy. There are moments of seriousness, but they are fleeting. This is a movie which has Willem Dafoe hamming it up as the villainous Green Goblin, JK Simmons re-setting the standard for quick-mouthed bad bosses with his J Jonah Jameson, and the Macho Man Randy Savage playing a wrestler named Bonesaw. There are also remnants of Raimi’s previous horror-comedy chops. We see skulls and Dafoe smashing glasses for now reason and people being turned into skeletons and some jokey sound effects and Bruce Campbell. But those things add to the charm, somehow. More specific to what works for the movie is the matted editing in some of the montage scenes and the use of jump scares, through editing, in a genre which usually doesn’t deal in jump scares.

There are a couple of really solid scenes. Dafoe talking to himself as he discovers he is the Green Goblin is the height of where the acting gets in this movie. Peter talking about MJ’s good qualities when they are in the hospital by channeling Spider Man  is another really well executed scene in writing and in the acting.

This is a movie which does feel dated. The special effects are surprisingly obvious, though that is mitigated by the fact that Raimi uses a ton of practical effects. There is a level of cheesiness in some of the dialogue and character bits which is hard to ignore, though the love put into the project counteracts much of that (though it has a hard time with James Franco’s moodiness as Dafoe’s son).


There is an absolute level of living out boyish fantasy vicariously through Spidey. Peter is in love with a girl who has a bad boyfriend and an abusive father. She’s pure though, not wanting to even kiss any boys on screen and expressing a need to be saved. Kirsten Dunst does a great job in this role, something which goes forgotten. Anyway, Peter gets bit and has a chance to fix all the ills in his life. The girl needs saving three different times, and he even gets an upside-down kiss for his efforts after one of them. All the while he gets to leap tall buildings, swing freely through the city, and avenge the death of someone close to him. It’s all total 16-year-old kid fantasy stuff. But because the movie celebrates this rather than treating it with cynicism, the movie is able to work very well even when selling us lines like “it’s you who’s out Gobey… out of your mind!”.

While this is not a perfect movie and it isn’t one that has aged as some of its other comic book cousins, this is still a solid action fantasy. While the idea of Maguire getting all Spidey’d up five times (if Raimi had gotten his way and made more) might certainly be overkill by now, there is no doubt that Maguire does a nice job of setting the standard in this first movie. It’s still a heck of a lot of fun.




FINAL SCORE: 6.5 out of 10




~ by johnlink00 on June 9, 2014.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks SPIDER-MAN (2002)”

  1. I’ll say that it’s definitely a corny, but still a childhood favorite of mine no matter what. Good review John.

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