Before delving into the film that began the trend of light-hearted superhero films, let us rejoice in a refresher course for the film that would eventually set the trend for every light-hearted and fun superhero film to come.
"Spider-Man," one of the most watched cartoon's and most read comic books of the past 40-50 years at the time of this release, had everyone ready to swing around the city. On May 2nd, 2002, theatres around the world were lined up out the door. Opening weekend drew in over 114 million dollars at the domestic box office alone, which set countless records at the time and finishing with over 820 million at the worldwide box office at the end of it's 15 week run. Sure, everyone was ecstatic at the idea of Spider-Man coming to the big screen, but would Sam Raimi, who had been known only for his great work in the horror genre, be able to do this character justice? "Spider-Man" was not only an iconic character that endless storylines to pick from, but he was a beloved character for all ages, making it a very daunting task, especially from the standpoint of superhero films at the time.
This is one of the best attempts at the character of Spider-Man we have seen, even until this day. Tobey Maguire plays the role with the awkwardness needed, and say what you will about his whiney persona, the mixture of realism with Mary Jane Watson, Peter's high school life, and the Osborn's, all mesh very well together with this fantastical character. Beginning with the character being bullied in high school and having Harry Osborn as his one and only true friend, audiences was easily able to see his vulnerability. Once he is bitten by the spider and transformed, the character of Peter Parker rapidly grows emotionally and physically. Now, I personally feel like him accepting it happens too fast, but that is more of a nitpick than anything. Harry's dad Norman, who is working on weapon prototypes, designs a glider that would eventually take him over as the Green Goblin.
Say what you will about the cheesy "Power Rangers looking" costume that the Green Goblin has in this film, but due to Willem Dafoe's great performance as the main villain, it has a nice contrast from dark to silly. That levity was needed in my opinion, as Sam Raimi does bring horror elements into the film, especially toward the end in the final showdown between Spider-Man and the Goblin. There are many "Evil Dead" tones to this film, straying away from a lot of CGI (even though there are some very noticeable moments of it) and focussing more on grounded fight sequences. This is what brought the character of Spider-Man to our world and made it a little more believable that this character could helm these abilities and have us feel for a guy who could spray web's from his wrists.
Yes, the film changes the comics quite a bit and mixes the cheese with the grit a little too much, causing a few clashes here and there, but this is still one of the most fun renditions of Spider-Man we have seen to date. Does it still hold up today? Absolutely! You can notice the CGI is from early 2000's, but the characters, performances, action, and the amazing sense of adventure that can be had from this film, will never falter. This is a very solid film from start to finish. If you can forgive the obvious changes from the comics, this is a damn fine superhero flick for all ages. "Spider-Man" (2002) is a great example of an origin story told well in a live-action superhero film, and many films (even today) should be striving to achieve what this film was able to do over 14 years ago. It is one of the most viewed comic book films of all time, but if for some reason you have yet to watch it, it is definitely recommended.
Review By: KJ Proulx