Before 2002; comic-book flicks had only been morealess from DC comics with the Christopher Reeve Superman quartology and then what people refer to as the Batman anthology from 1989-1997 with Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer & George Clooney respectively playing the caped crusader.
But after 2000's X-Men; that opened the floodgates for Marvel comic book movies to come to the silver-screen.
Spiderman was a project that been in developmental hell which at one point had James Cameron directing at the helm with Ryan Philipe rumored to play Peter Parker.
I would have been intrigued to see that version but that said what we were given in 2002 with Sam Raimi at the helm and Tobey Maguire as the title character was equally epic. Maguire was the perfect Peter Parker with the shy and reclusive mannerisms that most teenagers like that would react to most life situations where they have difficulty getting out of their comfort zones. On this occasion it just happened to be being bitten by a genetically altered super spider.
I liked the idea that Parker would produce the webbing organically from glands in his arms as opposed to the traditional method in the comics whereby he invented mechanical web-shooters which in one sense would have been good as that would have shown in the movie how creative and intelligent he is, but Raimi wanted to go for organic realism.
Williem De Foe played the duality of Oscorp CEO Norman Osborne & the quintessential arch-nemesis, the Green Goblin down to such a fine art that it can be compared to Jack Nicholson's Joker. He gave such a decent performance that at times you could be forgiven for thinking that he was enjoying it. But that I think is a good thing. If a cast member is enjoying their work then they can invest more of their energy into that performance, of which makes the payoff even better.
I will go out on a limb right now and say I love JK Simmons performance as J Jonah Jameson as he nailed that part with such precision with the way he was gruff with his delivery and to his physical mannerisms showing disdain for the web-head. Simmons' performance has been beloved and accepted by the fans so much that comic artists would incorporate his likeness into the comics and even to animated series such as the MTV Spider-Man series and to his appearance in Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes where Spidey assisted Captain America.
13 years later and people still want to see him reprise his role. And I do too.
Maguire as the Spidey side of his role is where I feel he went flat as one of the key aspects about Spiderman's persona is his humour and tell jokes in the face of danger which just acts a facade to mask his true feelings. That and as we all know; humour is a good stress reliever that takes the edge off the situation. This is what Andrew Garfield did so much better in the 2012 reboot.
Whilst going about nitpicking. I found that this was the only decent performance of Kirsten Dunst in the entire franchise as I just found that she just got more dissatisfying with each movie. She plays the typical damsel in distress well but she offers very little else. And considering how most movie goers prefer a female love interest to be able to take action for herself; it doesn't paint Mary-Jane in a good light when she does the opposite and continues to land herself into situations that requires Spidey's help. Granted, he is a protector that looks out for the little guy, but at the same time it wears thin after a time.
It plays true to the theme of "with great power, comes great responsibility" which as fans will tell you is what was said in the very first comic book appearance of Spiderman in Amazing Fantasy from August 1962. In some odd way you could equate Spider man's story with a coming of age situation where you assume responsibility and maintain that as you make that passage from child to adult.
And there aren't too many responsibilities bigger than being a Champion of the people in New York City.
As a debut to the big screen, this is one of the movies that they had to get right on the first attempt and safe to say that they not only did that but they created a movie that is still being talked about to this day and hopefully for several more years to come.
There are fans that still talk about the 1989 Batman to this day. When you look back at that flick from the quality of the writing, casting, directing, lighting, cinematography and scoring; it's a classic.
Spider-Man 2002 is in that same league of quality that will have you coming back to watch it time and again.