I am going to try and paint you a word picture. It’s a Monday night, and you’ve just taken a test that you didn’t think you did so hot on. Trying to get your mind off of it, you look to what was recently added to Netflix.
Among the parade of original content and movies you don’t want to see, you suddenly come across “Spider-Man 3,” the worst movie of the original Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” trilogy.
You don’t want to watch that hot mess, but this gives you hope. You start to think that if “Spider-Man 3” is on Netflix, the other two would be on there. But you’re wrong; through some logistical nightmare, the only bad Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie is on there.
You’re in luck, though, because you just so happen to have the entire trilogy on Blu-Ray, and a Blu-Ray player.
This was the exact situation I found myself in the other night, so instead of writing anything about the jumbled mess that is “Spider-Man 3,” I decided to take a trip back to my childhood and take an objective look at the 2002 smash hit “Spider-Man.”
I have to preface some of what I’m about to say, because I am absolutely biased. I absolutely love this movie.
I grew up religiously watching two movies, “Star Wars” and “Spider-Man.” Way before cars had built-in DVD players, I can remember my dad setting up his laptop in the back seat on long road trips, with “Spider-Man” playing.
It was the best. I used to re-enact the scene where Peter finds out he can crawl up walls on the floor in my kitchen constantly.
“Spider-Man” truly was one of my first obsessions, and watching it again has solidified exactly why that was.
For anyone who doesn’t know, “Spider-Man” is the story of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) a high school student in New York who is bitten by a radioactive spider and is given superhuman abilities, like climbing up walls, a “spider sense” and the ability to shoot webs out of his wrists.
In this retelling of his origin story, Peter faces off against the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) in an attempt to save New York City and his love interest and my first crush Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
With the basic plot points out of the way, I can move on to more gushing.
For starters, even though film-going audiences seem to hate the endless parade of origin stories that Hollywood keeps spitting out, I cannot get enough of them, and I think that started with how I feel about this movie.
The way that everyone is introduced to the audience shows us exactly what everyone’s relationship is with each other, and Raimi doesn’t just through exorbitant amounts of exposition at us, he treats the audience like an adult and shows the audience what is happening rather than telling us.
The action scenes in “Spider-Man” are just so much fun. The expert editing, cinematography and choreography lend themselves to make the audience feel every punch.
There is no point in “Spider-Man” where the “good guys” and the “bad guys” just fight for the sake of fighting.
Each encounter between Spider-Man and the Goblin has an emotional tie to the rest of the story, and because of this, the stakes of each fight just keep getting raised and raised until they come to a head in one of the most iconic final battles in movie history.
Even though “Spider-Man” is an action movie, there is a surprising number of quiet scenes that allow the audience to become emotionally invested in the story.
Over the course of the movie, Peter and Mary-Jane spend a lot of time together, and through Peter’s narration and Maguire’s endearing performance, we as the audience can completely understand how deeply he cares for her.
The ending where (spoiler-alert) Peter turns down Mary-Jane and asks that they just remain friends is so much more heartbreaking because we know exactly how Peter feels in the moment, and no matter how much he wants to be with her, he knows that he must distance himself from her to protect her from people who would use her as a pawn against Spider-Man, as the Goblin did earlier in the movie.
For 2002, the visual effects and CGI hold up surprisingly well. I attribute this to the blend of practical and computer generated effects that permeate the movie.
In a single action sequence, the shots could intercut between different forms of effect shots in a way that our brain fills in the gaps and starts to believe what is on the screen. While some of the CGI shots stand out as being somewhat dated by today’s standards, they are so few and far between that I didn’t find myself being taken out of the moment of the scene by their unbelieveablility.
Overall, “Spider-Man” is in a movie that more people should see. In the day and age of interconnected universes and dark reimaginings, it’s nice to take a step back and revisit a time when superhero movies were one-off films that were just amazing on their own. For me the first “Spider-Man” will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the first movies that got me interested in the craft as a whole, and for that I will be eternally grateful.