It was May 2002, I was 15 years old going to the local RAAF base cinemas with a friend, we were going to catch the new Spider-man film on the cheap. May was an interesting month, Star Wars Episode II came out a few weeks later and we all learned how much Anakin hates sand, and how much we all hate Hayden Christensen… but I am getting off track, because this retro review is not about the woeful Episode II, it is about Sam Raimi’s Spider-man. Leading up to the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I thought I’d revisit the first webslinger tale and ask the question…
So, is it still any good?Overall Spider-man is as enjoyable for me today as it was the first time I saw it. I enjoy how it balances drama, camp and action. I enjoyed that this film has a heart and humanises its villains, giving them reasons beyond their control for why they’re being evil. When you make a villain flat out evil with zero redeeming qualities it becomes hard to care about their fate.
Now, some people may feel compelled to attack me on this, but before you do, I know that Spider-man has bad elements, the horrible Green Goblin outfit is as much an eyesore today as it was then, that outfit is Power Ranger‘s level bad, but seriously, I dare you to say that Willem Dafoe was not brilliantly menacing as the Green Goblin. The CGI may not have aged the best, but it isn’t too distracting either, at the time I think everyone was blown away with how polished Spider-man looked and felt.
Other characters do still rub me the wrong way, however. I feel Peter Parker was written flat out dorky, and incorrect altogether. I’ve always been more familiar with the intelligent, smart-ass Peter Parker, and this difference bothers me. In this particular adaptation though, Peter Parker’s level of dorky added a nice bit of whimsy to his romantic yearning for Mary Jane and really made their dynamic enjoyable. I still like that lightheartedness, regardless of my irritation of the character being written wrong. Tobey Maguire does David Koepp’s version of Peter Parker justice.
Danny Elfman’s score in Spider-man needs to be mentioned, it is so memorable and infectious and is something that a lot of modern Marvel and comic films are missing. Elfman has a way with making music themes for heroes that you can memorize and hum, like 1989’s Batman theme, I’d be really happy to see that score revived for future adaptations.
Spider-man was successful for the same reason a lot of Marvel films are successful today. I think it would be fair to say that most comic book films don’t deviate too much from what Spider-man did 15 years ago, they all have a common vibe and structure.
Spider-man ushered in the popularity of the comic book film, and it’s easy to see why. Now sure, there were comic book films prior, such as X-men, Blade, Tank Girl, Batman and Superman, but none of them brought on 15 years of consistent comic book adaptations in both film and TV. They all felt more isolated, and none of them led to diverse franchises like the MCU today. I think we definitely have the success of Spider-man to thank for that trend. Disney doesn’t up and spend billions on Marvel based on isolated successes here and there, they do it when they are consistent box office smashes like Spider-man. And it’s one that stands the test of time.
How do you feel about Sam Raimi’s version of Spider-man? Share your thoughts in the comments.