Release Date: May 3, 2002
Genre(s): Action, Superhero, Drama
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer(s): David Koepp
Running Time: 121 minutes
Adaptation of: The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (Comic)
Synopsis: After being bitten by a genetically-altered spider, high school geek Peter Parker is imbued with incredible powers—he can shoot webbing from his wrists, climb walls, and sense danger among other abilities. Peter must cope with this great new power while juggling his responsibilities as the vigilante hero of New York City and the secret admirer of his long-time love, Mary Jane.
I absolutely love Spider-Man—he’s my favorite Marvel hero. So naturally when the film came out in 2002, I was extremely excited. Finally, Spidey was getting the film treatment; something long overdue! The movie came out, I saw it, enjoyed it, and watched it at least five times in the theater. I never thought it was perfect—things have always bugged me about it—but it was good for what it was. And in my opinion, Raimi’s trilogy never got any better(sorry Spider-Man 2 lovers). Now ten years later, it’s time I give my final opinion on 2002′s Spider-Man.
First off, Tobey Maguire is a terrible Peter Parker. Why does he play him as autistic?! Watch it again, Peter is fucking Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man. He’s incredibly socially awkward, and a borderline stalker. Like when Mary Jane informs him that she is just now noticing he has blue eyes after knowing him for most of her life(more on that bitch later), he just stares at her and gives her his best creeper face. Even in the scene where he is designing his costume, an image of her getting dressed through her window pops up(see above); what the fuck, Pete? Also, we are told throughout the film that Peter is a genius, yet he never demonstrates his intelligence. This is where the fucking web shooters would’ve been a good idea, having him create them and displaying his apparent intellect. Nope, instead we see him holding the Science Award and getting his picture taken with the Chess Club—big fucking deal, that wouldn’t impress Peter’s idol, Reed Richards. And where are the wisecracks? That’s what Spider-Man is known for! We get a few half-assed quips and are sent on our way. I don’t know about you, but Spidey actually makes me laugh in the comics. Maguire just leaves me straight-faced and creeped out. If I didn’t know any better, I’d be expecting Parker to go all One Hour Photo at any minute.
And then there’s Mary Jane. In the comics, Mary Jane Watson is a smoking hot redhead who exudes charm and sexual magnetism. She was also Peter’s second serious girlfriend, but I’ll keep my thoughts on Gwen Stacy being left out of the film to myself for now. So, instead of a super hot redhead, we’re treated to the buffet of jacked-up teeth and weird facial structure that is Kirsten Dunst, with a red dye job. She’s not very attractive or likeable—she acts like a stuck-up bitch throughout most of the film until she gets a dose of reality. While I’m sure that’s a realistic portrayal of how some of “hot girls” adjust after high school, it doesn’t make for a very good love interest in a superhero film. I mean c’mon—she goes from dating the king of the jocks to fucking the rich boy(who is also Peter’s best friend)—how shallow and materialistic is this whore?! I can only assume they cast Dunst in the role solely because she has a great rack. It’s too bad Raimi didn’t cast his first choice, the sexy Alicia Witt—she would’ve been perfect. I just hope Kirsten didn’t shred Sam’s dick too bad with her shark teeth when she graced him with a “thank you” blowjob for giving her the part.
Shitty casting decisions aside, the story is pretty true to the Spider-Man mythos. We see Peter get bitten, wrestle, and even start working at the Daily Bugle, which are all essential to Peter and his beginnings. The main plot is a fair balance between Spidey’s origin and the Green Goblin story arc “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, just without Gwen or her controversial death. The film is well paced and engaging, and the action is entertaining. With the exception of Maguire and Dunst, the cast is phenomenal. Willem Dafoe is spot-on in the role of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and James Franco looks like he could actually be Dafoe’s son. They both do a fantastic job, but the best casting in the film is J.K. Simmons as Daily Bugle Editor-in-Chief, J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons owns the role, and completely steals the show with his smartass remarks and general assholery(he’s basically picking up Petey’s slack in the laughs department). Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris round out the main cast as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, respectively, and both portrayal their characters exactly how I imagined them from the pages of the comics. Bruce Campbell’s bit part is a nice, hilarious addition, and props to the late Randy Savage for the best line delivery in the film: “Bonesaw is readyyyyyy!”.
Spider-Man is a good film—despite it’s numerous plot holes(how did he make the suit that well? You’re telling me none of the students noticed him dragging a fucking web behind him?!)—but suffers from a bad leading cast. That’s a major problem when your entire film rides on the fact that the audience needs to actually like and care for the hero and the damsel in distress. I’m sure plenty of you reading this are going to give me shit for my comments, and that’s totally fine—everyone is entitled to their opinion, myself included. I make a career out of analyzing films(among other things), so I’ve learned to put my nostalgia aside and I know not everyone can do that easily. I like this movie, and I think it would’ve been perfect if Raimi would’ve done three simple things: 1) cast a better Peter Parker, 2) cast someone as Gwen Stacy instead of MJ, and 3) killed Gwen at the end. If those simple changes would’ve been made, we would possibly have the greatest superhero origin film ever on hands here. But, unfortunately for Spider-Man, that honor is currently held by Batman Begins(sorry Iron Man, you’re awesome but not as epic or engaging). What his film ends being is a somewhat fun and serviceable superhero film, that narrowly misses it mark. I blame Tobey.