Spider-Man (2002) is your older brother’s Spider-Man movie, and it’s funny how it well it still holds up compared to the several other interpretations in the 17 years since.
Make no mistake, this Spider-Man is cheesy and lame in points and is definitely the B-movie Spidey compared to the work of Homecoming and the other MCU adaptations, but there’s good reason to that.
Sam fucking Raimi. Even now it’s baffling how Raimi got the job doing three Spider-Man movies, but you have to admit he did a great job and brought his style and energy to the flicks. Oz the Great and Powerful this ain’t. (Remember Oz the Great and Powerful? Fuck, most directors have to have a dud somewhere)
Spider-Man feels so economical, which lends to Raimi’s style. Evil Dead II still feels like a perfectly paced film to me, and the first act of Spider-Man feels like effortless storytelling that echos that. Almost immediately we’re at the lab where Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and not long after we have our Green Goblin origins too. There’s no fat and no buffer to getting to Spider-Man it just feels like a slog in Amazing Spider-Man, and it feels wise to remove it entirely from the Tom Holland Spider-Man.
Raimi’s Spider-Man is far from perfect. Born in the age of comic book movies finally getting some traction alongside X-Men, we were still in a time where they were trying to find their stride. The costumes were not quite right, the CG is unfortunately not refined or advanced enough yet, and the tone isn’t quite cemented. It’s not the Marvel we know today, but that’s growing pains.
This flick is undeniably brilliant with its casting. Tobey Maguire might not be the ideal Spider-Man, and he may be too old to play Peter (in fact all the younger cast suffer from Dawson’s Creek Syndrome), but as Parker he works wonderfully as the lame nerd the world wants to walk all over. This trilogy understands the true dilemma of Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and it understands how Peter’s life will never have a happy ending, because Spider-Man needs to give the world one in sacrifice.
The supporting cast is what shines brightest. Whether it’s the small cameos from Bruce Campbell and “Macho Man” Randy Savage to the screen perfect J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson to Willem Defoe being unforgettable as Green Goblin/Norman Osborn to Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris being the best Uncle Ben and Aunt May, every person in this movie works for their character. Several of those above roles have been recast or altered or used in other interpretations, but for this film and in our minds, some of them are irreplaceable.
Spider-Man captures Spidey on the big screen truly accurate for the first time. It suffers the problems of coming out in 2002 technologically, but Raimi’s indie-film sensibilities shine through where they can to patch the gaps. The director translates the classic comic book tone and feel of Spidey the best he can while staying true to being Sam Raimi given a budget.
Given the evolution and progression of comic book movies, this wouldn’t hold a candle to any flicks if it were released today, but respect your elders. This movie paved the path for what followed. Truly iconic (but surpassed by its sequel, but we’ll one day get to that), Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man feels tragically forgotten or derided by people in the present day. Which is a shame.
Because this film is still spectacular.