Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man (2002)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: May 3rd, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Sam Raimi Actors: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Joe Manganiello, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris

 


 

A

man in a bright red and blue suit with considerable strength, the power to sling cobwebs from his wrists, and spider-like agility is a hard sell. Add to that the literally colorful villains and farfetched science-fiction elements, and director Sam Raimi has something of an unmarketable pitch. Fortunately, the iconic webslinger already has a huge fanbase since his creation by Stan Lee in 1962 for Marvel comics – and Raimi is a resourceful filmmaker. Though “Spider-Man” as a motion picture doesn’t take itself overly serious, the artists behind the scenes know how to combine satisfying portions of action, drama, and comedy to make this superhero successfully cinematic.

Uncool misfit scientist/photographer Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is about to graduate from high school. During his final field trip, a radioactive spider bites him during an arachnid demonstration. When he awakens the next morning, he discovers that he has become stronger, his vision has increased, and that he can climb walls, shoot sticky tethers from his hands, and conduct acrobatic stunts with the agility of … a spider.

Aiming to impress his longtime nonreciprocal sweetheart Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), Peter enters a wrestling competition to earn some money. Donning a makeshift red and blue getup (little more than a t-shirt and pants), he dubs himself the “Human Spider” for bouts in the ring. Instead, the announcer (a cameo by Bruce Campbell) introduces him as “Spider-Man.” When he miraculously defeats the current champion, the owner of the arena refuses to pay. Seconds later, the owner is robbed, while Parker does nothing to stop the escaping crook; it’s fitting karma for a dishonest organizer. But little does Peter know, the thief proceeds to hijack a car from Parker’s uncle, killing him during the scuffle. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), who is the father of Parker’s best friend Harry (James Franco), and who also runs a military technology supply company, begins conducting chemical testing on himself. The result is a morbid transformation into a maniacal green-armored murderer. “Risks are part of laboratory science.”

Considering this is the first of what would inevitably become a trilogy, Raimi does a punctilious job of establishing Spider-Man’s universe without running too long or stumbling over pacing issues. The film flows smoothly, even with the infusion of gobs of humor to balance the intense action and prominent romance, though the plot leaves something to be desired. Notwithstanding the even keel to Raimi’s directing, the screenplay has a hard time taking itself seriously or devising worthwhile predicaments. With all the incogitable sci-fi components, it’s not surprising that several of the characters and scenes are unable to convincingly portray an authentic belonging to the world in which they’re immersed.

As for the character designs, Spider-Man is one of the few superheroes who looks good even in obnoxiously bright colors and a skin-tight costume. The same cannot be said abut the antagonist, Green Goblin, who is quite dissimilar from his illustrated depiction. From ridiculous armory to an overdone, raspy laugh, he’s one of the least frightening and most unimpressive villains ever to grace the big screen. A great superhero needs a correspondingly pronounced villain, but the Green Goblin just can’t compete. Here, Spider-Man’s origins prove more entertaining than his destructive dueling with the metallic megalomaniac.

A testament to the special effects wizardry of the day, Spider-Man’s acrobatic stunts through the crowded streets of New York are all done with a CG model. While some of the movements are a bit too flexible and the character is occasionally too immune to bumps and bruises (his costume is curiously indestructible as well), the computer graphics fit in nicely. Explosions, miniatures, and green-screens are used with precision to enhance the adventure; several of the slow-motion shots in which Spidey battles the Goblin inside a burning building are absolutely breathtaking. In the end, the visuals even out the problems with characters and storyline concepts for a first-class comic book adaptation that impresses more often than not.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10


The Spider-Man Franchise


Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)