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Spider-Man (2002) – Movie Review

This review contains spoilers of the first Spider-Man film.

This is not going to be a simple review for a movie that I grew up watching. If there is one thing that I haven’t done yet, it’s full in-depth movie reviews, as I’m not a man who goes deeper into a movie. However, as we are celebrating Spider-Man’s legacy this week, I decided to take a look at the Spider-Man trilogy and do in-depth reviews of the trilogy, tackling on what made the trilogy so special to everyone and to me.

I remember watching the Spider-Man trilogy growing up. I used to own these films on DVD, I had Spider-Man toys, especially the web-shooter toy, and I even dressed up as Spider-Man at some point. Spider-Man was my favorite superhero during my youth and he still remains one of my favorite superheroes ever. I will always have fond memories of these films and I believe these films do the character justice.

Spider-Man focuses on the story of Peter Parker, a Midtown High School student who is bitten by a genetically engineered spider and gains spider powers. Initially, Peter uses these powers for selfish gain, but after the death of his beloved uncle, Ben, he begins to use these powers to help the citizens of New York and becomes the superhero Spider-Man. He also has to face Norman Osborn, who becomes the Green Goblin after experimenting the goblin formula on himself.

After rewatching this film in preparation of this review, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the best superhero films ever made and it does a great job in establishing the character to the big screen. Granted, I may be held by nostalgia, but I genuinely love this film. This film does something that I feel the MCU doesn’t do with the character; humanizing Spider-Man. While the MCU also does a great job with the character, I think the Raimi films, especially the first film, is the best representation of the character on-screen.

One of the most aspects that the movies is getting criticized is that they are cheesy. Sure, they can be a bit cheesy and a bit over the top, but that’s the point. The movies are capturing the spirit of the comic books and the cheesy tone adds more to the film rather than derailing it, but the movie is also not afraid in humanizing its characters and it has a lot of heart. You can tell that the director, Sam Raimi, loves the character of Spider-Man and wanted to do character justice, as well as trying to make an emotionally gripping film and fleshing out the characters.

Right from the opening scene, the movies establishes its characters and the world the movie is setting up, as we meet Peter Parker and we see how much he has a crush on Mary Jane, we see Harry Osborn’s conflicted relationship with his father, Norman, who admires Peter more than his own son, how his origin story plays out as he gets bitten by the spider and gaining superpowers and how it establishes the character arcs of Peter, Harry and MJ.

Uncle Ben’s death remains one of the most iconic scenes in any comic book film and it remains a tearjerker, as it marks the turning point for Peter, who had been using his powers for selfish gain, and we see how Peter develops from being a young man trying to impress the love of his life without a care in the world to someone willing to hold the responsibility to protecting the city and doing the right thing. In contrast, we see Norman Osborn’s descent into villainy, as he turns into the Green Goblin and chooses to exact revenge on the people who want to run him out of business.

The performances from the cast makes the character development feel believable. While he’s not my favorite actor to portray the character, Tobey Maguire is fantastic in the role of Spider-Man. He makes the character of Spider-Man feel believable and he will always be the version I grew up watching. Willem Dafoe is phenomenal as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and he proved to be a perfect choice for the character. I love how the film showcases the inner conflict Norman faces and Dafoe excellently portrays the evil persona of the character. The other cast members do a great job in their roles, such as Kirsten Dunst as MJ Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn and Rosemary Harris as Aunt May.

While I do have some issues with the character of Mary Jane in the Raimi series, Dunst does a great job in her role as Mary Jane and I love her chemistry with Maguire. You can feel that both her and Peter are real people having conversation together and trying to connect. I also love how the film sets up an arc where we see MJ dealing with abuse from her father and wanting to accept herself. Franco does a good enough job as Harry Osborn and the film sets up his jealousy towards Peter that will continue on for the rest of the trilogy. Both Rosemary Harris and Clifford Robertson are magnificent as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, but I won’t go out without mentioning JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, one of the perfect casting choices in any comic book history.

Let’s talk about the filmmaking aspects: Sam Raimi does a splendid job in bringing the character to the big screen and you can tell he had a lot of passion for the character. Raimi understands the character of Spider-Man and that’s what made him a great choice to direct this film, as he sets up the world of Spider-Man and make it real. The screenplay does a great job in bringing the human aspects of Spider-Man and showcasing what it feels like to hold the responsibility of becoming a superhero. The editing keeps the film in a fast pace and the cinematography is still dazzling to look at. Danny Elfman’s score is incredible and his Spider-Man will always be one of my favorite movie theme ever.

One of my favorite scenes of the film comes from the rooftop conversation between Spider-Man and Green Goblin, where the Goblin is trying to persuade Spider-Man to join his side. I love how it builds up tension between the two characters, as the Goblin is telling him that despite everything he’s doing for the city, eventually everyone will hate him, but Spider-Man still chooses to protect the city because he feels he’s doing the right thing. I also love final battle between Spidey and the Goblin, because of its intensity and brutality. This is one of the greatest fight scenes in any comic book film. Spidey gets his ass kicked throughout the fight, which makes the fight even more brutal. The final battle scene also serves a character development to Spidey, as he begins to call Uncle Ben as his father and the Goblin gets killed, which upsets Harry.

However, there are some aspects about the film that hasn’t aged well. Some of the dialogue can be a bit clunky and not well written. The CGI scenes are the most dated aspects of the film, especially during the scene where Peter jumps from the building while testing his powers for the first time. The Green Goblin costume is also something from that hasn’t aged well. While it can come off as scary in some scenes, I think the costume looks silly nowadays and it could have been done better, but it was released in 2002, so who am I to judge a villain’s costume?

Overall, there is a reason why many fans, myself included, keep coming back to this film. My admiration for the original Spider-Man film goes way beyond just nostalgia, as everytime I keep coming back to this film, there is a sense of joy and awe while watching this film. It’s easily one of the best superhero origin films ever released and it manages to do the character justice while keeping true to the spirit to the source material.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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