My favorite superhero film as a kid. And I finally rewatched it for the first time in years with my little sister who had never seen it before. Before we turned it on, she seemed to be looking for an excuse to not watch it claiming that she had already seen it before. In her retort, she mentioned something about some guy I think named Peter Parker that was bitten by a spider in the hospital and got these powers and stuff and fought some bad guys. Me being the good big brother that I am, took her technically not terrible description of the film and threw it in the trash and forced her to watch the movie. Now she's asking for my old comic books so she can read all about Spider-Man. Mission accomplished.
Prior to seeing this, I saw the old Batman and Superman films and while I liked them, they never really stuck with me. This movie made me the comic book nerd that I am today. It's the most feel-good superhero film ever made yet it's very deep too. Despite its campiness, we experience death, revenge, rejection, suffering, and most importantly, responsibility. And it all focuses in on Peter Parker which is what makes this movie stand out from the other superhero films. No other superhero movie has come close in making a character so relatable. He's not the rich and mysterious introverted Batman. He's not the all-powerful alien Superman. He doesn't work for a government agency such as Shield nor is he an Avenger or a member of the Justice League. Nope. He's Peter Parker. A socially rejected nerd struggling to survive life after high school and crushing hard on a girl he grew up with that also happens to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Maybe not everybody can relate to this description but I know lots of nerdy guys that can. Myself included. Minus the being Spider-Man part sadly.
For the most part, the film follows the most well-known Peter Parker Spider-Man origin stories in the comics to a tee... except for the fact that Spidey normally creates his own webbing instead of it being an organic material like it is in the film. We get the iconic lesson "With great power comes great responsibility." from Uncle Ben. We see the Human Spider take on the wrestler for cash, get jibbed, then allow a man to get mugged. Then that same man that Peter let go shoots his Uncle Ben and Peter ends up chasing him down before the mugger ultimately slips and ultimately killing himself in the process. And with the foundation in place, this was where the writers were able to get creative and choose where to pin the focus on the film.
Sam Raimi and company didn't want to make a complex film. They wanted it to be a simple good vs. evil sort of arrangement but they still wanted Peter to experience growths along the way which is why Mary Jane is so vital to the story.
Peter's opening monolog: Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale. If somebody told you I was just an average ordinary guy, not a care in the world somebody lied. But let me assure you, this like any story worth telling is all about a girl. That girl. The girl next door. Mary Jane Watson. The woman I've loved since before I even liked girls.
For all of his life, all Peter had ever wanted was to love Mary Jane and to be loved by her too. He looks out for her from afar and sees her dating so many guys that are just bad for her and says nothing. But when they are together, he treats her like she's his world and makes her feel special. It's a slow progression as he takes a while to build confidence, (which got a major boost thanks to being Spider-Man and getting to kiss her in the most iconic superhero kiss of all time) but once he does, he finally does something he never did since the day he met her: he expressed himself.
Peter: "The great thing about M. J... ...is... ...when you look in her eyes... ...and she's looking back in yours... ...everything feels... ...not quite normal. Because you feel... ...stronger... ...and weaker at the same time. You feel excited... ...and at the same time... ...terrified. The truth is, you don't know what you feel... ...except you know what kind of man you want to be. It's as if you've... ...reached the unreachable... ...and you weren't ready for it."
It's a beautiful and heartwarming moment to see this shy character finally do what we were dying to see him do from the beginning of the film. And when we see it all pay off in the end, Peter learning the importance of responsibility does the unthinkable: he tells Mary Jane that he can't love her and that being her friend "that's all I have to give". An interesting take of the ultimate sacrifice the hero has to make for the greater good.
Not too many films of the genre takes the emotional responsibility of being a superhero this seriously. Which is why Peter leaves us with this intriguing quote: "This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? I'm Spiderman." Peter made the responsible choice understanding that he couldn't have the best of both worlds.
Is this movie perfect? Far from it.
There are many scenes where Spider-Man's spider senses inexplicably doesn't work. My favorite instance of this would be the wrestling match versus Bone Saw. How Bone Saw was able to pick him up and throw him around and also whack him with a chair multiple times I'll never know. But it's still a fun fight nonetheless.
The Green Goblin despite being considered one of the smartest villains Spidey has to face, doesn't appear to have any sort of direction. He talks about teaming up with Spider-Man to be invincible but doesn't appear to have any sort of end goal other than killing those who stand against Oscorp. And when Spidey refuses his "tempting" offer of joining forces, he goes on a personal vendetta against him making the Green Goblin out to be a deranged lunatic with some cool gadgets. Yet his portrayal still is pretty cool and is fitting for the overall theme of the movie making it all about Peter and not Spider-Man. And that ending fight between the two I still think is one of the most badass scenes in cinematic history. "MJ and I, we're gonna have a hell of a time!"
And like all superhero movies, the fact that Mary Jane didn't figure out who Spider-Man's secret identity was is pretty laughable. And it was especially bad when he said: "I was in the neighborhood" once as Peter and next as Spider-Man with the same voice within 5 minutes of each other.
With all of that being said, sometimes campiness and a movie being fun and feel-good is better than movies that are technically better. And because of that, this movie despite its many flaws will always be my favorite superhero film even though I know movies like The Dark Knight, The Age of Believing: The Disney Live Action Classics, and Logan were better made. No other superhero film brings me more nostalgia than this. (The Incredibles is pretty close though). No other superhero film has a film score as iconic, beautiful, and bad ass (which makes sense as it was composed by the great Danny Elfman) than this. No superhero film is as awesome as this movie period. One of My Favorite Movies!
Excellent directing by Sam Raimi, and it was definitely well written by David Koepp. It had a catchy sound-track, and best of all...it was made in the year I was born in (2002)!
It's only glaring problem being the lack of proper screen-time & development for Dafoe's brilliant & complex villain (a problem that would carry on throughout the sequels).