Howdy ladies and gentlemen from the far regions of the internet and welcome to my Month of Superhero Film Reviews! Today on June 1st we begin 30 days of superhero film madness where I’ll be reviewing of some of the best and worst comic book adapted films. Okay let’s start this thing in style with one of my favourite superhero films of all time, Spider-Man from 2002!
So let’s go back to 2002 when the first live-action Spider-Man film came out from director Sam Raimi, most famous for the Evil Dead film series. This was an ambitious project at the time and had been attempted before but had numerous issues in development before it was eventually crafted and released. Luckily the film was a large success at the box office and critically too, coming just after Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000, Spider-Man was the film that really made superhero films big. Indeed X-Men paved the way for the genre, but I believe Spider-Man came along and cemented it.
As for the story we have Peter Parker, a smart teenager with a knack for science and photography who one day gets bitten by a genetically mutated spider and superpowers. At one point he let’s a bad guy escape and this person kills his uncle. Feeling responsible for the death of his uncle, Peter becomes the superhero Spider-Man and defends the city of New York from evil. And along the way Spidey comes across the Green Goblin, a formidable foe who has powers of his own and will make things difficult for Spider-Man and his alter-ego.
Spider-Man as a film does so many things right, But most importantly it was and still is a film that gets me giddy every time. I love so many aspects of this film from the story to the cast to the quotable dialogue and epic action sequences and soundtrack. All of it is amazing. This film is so hard to talk about purely because I’m just such a massive fan of it. Not only because of the nostalgia factor but also because this was one of the first comic book films to really open my eyes up to the genre and make me interested in future live-action adaptations.
The story is a simple yet effective one. It is about good versus evil, but there is also a love story there and both elements are handled with care. I also like the way the film was directed, you can tell that its Sam Raimi’s film because there are elements of horror to be found in way some of the characters and scenes are handled.
When it comes to the cast their all pretty good for the most part. Firstly let’s talk about Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. At first people were unsure about Maguire in the role and to this day some still don’t like him in the role, but for me I liked his portrayal of the character. Granted there are some Peter Parker/Spider-Man elements I don’t get to see in the film otherwise Maguire puts his heart into the role and really does give us a charismatic performance. Then we have Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, now Dunst is often noted as the weak element in this film series and its only now as an adult I can see why. Honestly back when I was a teen I thought Dunst was hotness in this film and she still looks great in this film. As the character of Mary Jane Watson she doesn’t really embody the elements of the character from the comics, however for the story that was told in the film Dunst was alright and had some nice chemistry with Maguire.
As for Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin he was good in that cool yet cheesy way. Dafoe really goes hardcore with the role and seems to be just as crazy as he is in other villain-based roles. He makes for a good Norman Osborn and has some great delivery with his dialogue especially with the dual identity. Now we have James Franco as Harry Osborn, I really liked Franco in this role. Franco gave a nice version of the character that still had his father issues and slight jealously of Peter’s intellect due to his father’s acknowledgement of Peter’s smarts. I liked the screen time that Franco and Dafoe had, their relationship definitely felt legit.
Then we have Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker. Robertson made for a great Uncle Ben, even though we didn’t get to see him for that long I felt like he had all the right mannerisms of Uncle Ben from the comics so when he died the impact was definitely there. As for Rosemary Harris as May Parker she was lovely, while her take on Aunt May was different, it was still nice to see her concern for Peter and know of his admiration for MJ. And lastly J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, he was awesome. If this trilogy got anything right it was the casting of Simmons as Jameson. Simmons is great as the publisher of the Daily Bugle who moans about Spider-Man continuously and is generally a bit of jerk to every one.
As for presentation it is still pretty badass. Visually the film is great, the CGI is good, the action and fighting scenes are nicely shot, well choreographed and really show of what kind of abilities Spidey has. But the best element of this department is the web-slinging. This was my favourite aspect of the character in the comics and it came to life in an incredible fashion in the film. I get an adrenaline rush from watching these scenes and its exhilarating watching Spidey swing in such an elegant and stylish manner. As for the soundtrack by Danny Elfman it is fantastic. Loads of people have cited the 1989 Batman soundtrack as Elfman’s best work and while I don’t deny its awesomeness I do think Spider-Man‘s soundtrack is incredible too. There are some beautiful themes crafted here which are soft, beautiful, heroic, eerie and creepy too. Elfman really did create some amazing tunes that would continue to be used throughout the trilogy.
Now of course the film isn’t without its problems. It is 2013 and comic book films have changed a great deal in the last 11 years. Firstly some of the CGI definitely looks dated and this film also has a lot of that early wire work in action scenes that really looks odd and unrealistic at times. Also this film is undeniably cheesy, whether it be the dialogue, story, action or the sort of really comic book-esque vibe, it is there and because of the more sophisticated superhero films of the last few years a lot of this stuff is can be off-putting.
As for how it compares to the comics well it’s a bit half and half. This film seemed to combine the original story from the Amazing and Ultimate comics and mesh them together giving us something familiar yet new for its time. Most of the key elements were intact in this adaptation like:
- Peter Parker the nerd
- The death of Uncle Ben
- The robber that got away
- Spider-Man wrestling
- The Spidey suit
- The personality of Norman Osborn
But then there were things that weren’t completely translated well or just not at all like:
- Having a genetically mutated spider rather than a radioactive one
- Peter’s level smartness is never fully explored
- Peter’s organic webbing as opposed to the mechanical web-shooters
- Spider-Man’s trademark humour being nerfed in the film
- The portrayal of Mary Jane Watson being more like Gwen Stacy instead of the comic book version
- The ugly Green Goblin costume and how stupid it looks when compared to the comics
In conclusion Spider-Man is starting to show its age these days, but it is still a great superhero film in my eyes. While this may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect live-action version of Spider-Man for me this film did a lot of things right and as an adaptation it was a wonderful effort. This film has probably been lost to time especially due to the appearance of The Amazing Spider-Man but I believe this film is still relevant and if there’s anyone who’s yet to watch it, I would recommend it highly.
Rating: 8.5/10 (This is some good stuff, trust me.)
Well that’s the first review down, only 29 more to go lol. So have you seen Spider-Man and if so what are your thoughts on it? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts people! Swing by tomorrow and I’ll have a new film review for ya, laters!