Oct 9, 2015

[Movies] Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man was my favorite superhero growing up. I suppose it's easy enough to postulate why - he was a smart person who gain super abilities and thus he was sort of a cool nerd which was something that my awkward younger self sort of aspired to. Not that I really expected to gain powers from a radioactive arachnid or anything, but it would be nice to find a way to stand out. Oh the silly problems of youth.

When the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie first came out, I was pretty skeptical of how it was going to turn out being the avid comic book fan that I am and superhero movies were still on the upswing towards something great. We knew movies could turn out well enough, but we still didn't have enough proof that this was the best thin for such beloved characters.

And while the movie wasn't necessarily faithful to the comic book in every way, it certainly pulled on the heartstrings in the right way and actually had me tearing up a bit at the very end. Tobey Maguire turned out to be a fairly interesting casting decision. He wasn't quite what I had imagined for "my" Spider-Man, but he wasn't too shabby either.

Synopsis: Spider-Man is a 2002 superhero action-drama movie directed by Sam Raimi with a screenplay by David Koepp. It took 25 years for someone to do something with the movie rights for this comic book character and we're generally all the better because of it.

During a school field trip, high school student Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) manages to get bitten by an escaped genetically engineered "super spider. The effects of the spider bite eventually have him feeling week to the point of passing out, but the next day he ways up with a highly improved physique along greater strength, speed, agility and the ability to sense danger. He later discovers that he can also produce organic webbing from his arms and he starts to contemplate how he might be able to take advantage of his new powers in order to help his family and of course himself.

But tragedy strikes Peter's life when a burglar shoots his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Peter realize that he could have done something to prevent it all from happening. He then swears to dedicate his life to being responsible when it comes to his powers and using it for good. The story fast-forwards beyond high school and we find Peter is a freelance photographer working for The Daily Bugle.  He's also the costumed superhero Spider-Man, who has been doing his part in stopping crime around the city. The Bugle continues to paint him as a reckless vigilante in their reports but he continues to persevere.

I wasn't quite sure how to feel about Tobey Maguire playing Peter Parker. Sure, at this point in his career we had seen him in a number dorky, quirky roles and that side of things made sense.But older Peter Parker grows up to be a bit more hip or at least a lot more confident and it wasn't immediately apparent to me that he'd be able make that transition in the side of Peter. I know this reeks of me being an overly picky comic book fan, but then one has to respect the core characterization of the Peter Parker, right? But thankfully it didn't quite turn out as bad as I thought it would. Still wasn't too amazing either.

Kirsten Dunst did make for a rather interesting Mary Jane though. Sure, you can easily dismiss the character as just being a mass of red hair. But she captured a lot of the spirit of the original character and was charming in her own way. Mary Jane has always had an exuberance and love for life and that was really apparent in how she carried her character through all the different roles.

Willem Dafoe was an interesting Norman Osborn. I could have done without James Franco as Harry Hosborn. And Rosemary Harris was a pretty good Aunt May.

As for the whole narrative that drives the movie, it generally follows the superhero movie formula of origin, rise of villain, confrontation. Having the Green Goblin as Spider-Man's first villain made a lot of sense for sure since he's pretty much Spider-Man's main villain - it's the equivalent of Batman needing to face the Joker. I'm not 100% with how precisely they depicted the character and his origin story but it also had a lot of great moments - especially when the mirror. The final fight was pretty intense but I'm not a big fan of panting, angry Tobey Maguire.

Spider-Man was ultimately a pretty good adaption of the comic and Raimi managed to capture a lot of the great things about the comic. You don't need things to be 100% accurate but at least they captured most of the spirit of things.


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