Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002) – Okay, let me start by saying that fuckin’ hate fuckin’ spiders. They terrify the fuck out of me. Also I curse even more than I already fuckin’ do (which is a lot) when talking about the evil little fuckers. That being said, I’ve always liked Spider-Man. Go figure. It probably has a lot to do with complete and utter lack of resemblance to the demonic little arachnid hellspawn from which he takes his powers and name. It probably has even more to do with the fact that since his creation in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko the character has always been a hell of a lot of fun. Spider-Man is a wise-cracking superhero and that instantly endeared him to the smartass little kid that I was, and the smartass grown man I am now. My senior year of high school is when Spider-Man was finally brought to the big screen by Sam Raimi, who I already worshipped for the Evil Dead trilogy. Then again he had also tried his hands at a superhero story with Darkman and Lord knows I hated that movie, so I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what to expect…

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a nerdy high school outcast hopelessly in love with the girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Mary Jane is dating popular jerk Flash Thompson (a younger Joe Manganiello from True Blood) and barely notices Peter. Peter’s only friend is Harry Osborn (James Franco), a rich kid constantly trying to impress his disapproving industrialist father Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe). Of course, one day Peter is bitten by a genetically modified spider and gains spider powers. He starts blowing  off his responsibilities, much to the consternation of his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), who tells him the immortal lesson “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter ignores him and goes to fight a wrestling match for some extra cash (against Macho Man Randy Savage!) but then tragedy strikes and Peter learns the full import of his Uncle’s words. He decides to fight the wrongs of New York City as the Amazing Spider-Man! Just in time too, because Norman Osborn has also been monkeying with his DNA and has become the villainous Green Goblin…

What Sam Raimi does better than anything else is maintaining that comic book FUN tone for the movie. A decade later I’m still not one hundred percent sold on Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Overall I like him, but he still comes off a bit whiny to me. Whatever, it’s a small gripe. While Kirsten Dunst doesn’t reach the full-on dream girl status of her comic book counterpart, she’s pretty likable in the role. Willem Dafoe is a great over-the-top bad guy, so good for him. I didn’t mention them in the summary but I really like 1940s His Girl Friday energy that Raimi’s film brings to the Daily Bugle staff: J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), Joseph “Robbie” Robertson (Bill Nunn), Betty Brant (Elizabeth Banks), and the original character Hoffman (Ted Raimi). The scenes are rapid-fire and funny and bring a nice comic relief to the film. The action scenes are exciting and kinetic. A Macy Gray cameo dates the film pretty badly and there is some “New Yorkers coming together” stuff that was clearly added as the film came out less than a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks. (A teaser trailer involving a web between the Twin Towers had to be pulled from theaters. Contrary to popular opinion, it was never in the film itself.) All in all Spider-Man is a ton of fun and a great cinematic introduction to Marvel Comics’ most iconic hero… but it mostly sets the stage for something even better…

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