Spider-Man (2002) – Sam Raimi

 

The 101 Action Movies list brings yet another comic book hero to its fold with this fun adaptation of the Marvel comic by director Sam Raimi, perhaps best known until that point for his Evil Dead films (watch for Bruce Campbell’s cameo!).

The Marvel Universe is brought to wonderful life in this film, Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker, the young high school student, that after a bite from a genetically augmented spider transforms from awkward teen outsider, to hero. Tobey brings an innocence and honesty to his portrayal, that perfectly embodies the way I’ve always seen the character in my mind’s eye whenever I read the comics, or watched the cartoon.

The sequence where he’s discovering his powers is one of my favorite bits in the entire film, Parker has a sense of wonder, discovery and excitement about this revelations that reflects the most likely reactions of the viewing audience as well.

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Cliff Robertson plays the doomed Uncle Ben, who imparts those immortal words of wisdom, “with great power comes great responsibility,” before his fate sends Parker into becoming the man he is destined to become.

Parker is in love with Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), but has never been able to work up the courage to say anything, even when his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) begins dating her.

Harry is a rich kid, his father Norman (Willem Dafoe) is hard at work on weapons contracts for the army, including a combat suit, a personal glider, and drugs to augment strength and performance. When the contract falters, Norman tests the drugs on himself, despite warnings of homicidal and pathological side effects resulting, and becomes the Green Goblin. Gobby is intent on having his revenge on those who stole his contract from him, including his own board of directors.

When Spider-Man gets in the way, Goblin looks for a way to remove the webslinger from his path for good.

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Raimi directs the film ably, and it’s a lot of fun, grounding its emotions in reality even while fantastic happenings sprawl across the screen. There are family dynamics on both sides of the coin, Peter is dealing with the loss of Uncle Ben, and trying to keep Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and MJ safe, trying to live up to everything his Uncle believed he could be.

Harry, on the other side, is trying to find any way he can to connect with his father, and can never seem to measure up to his father’s high standards. Something that Parker appears to do with Norman, which causes tension between Peter and Harry.

J.K. Simmons is perfectly cast as J. Jonah Jameson, and Bruce Campbell makes his appearance as does Sam’s brother Ted.

This is a colorful adaptation of the Marvel source material, filled with a sense of fun, something that got lost in the 3rd film, as well as the reboot Amazing.

The only real issues I had with the film was the fact that Green Goblin’s facade was all armor as opposed to the way he’s portrayed in the comics, and the fact that the climax is lifted from  Amazing Spider-Man 121 to 122, without the resounding emotional impact of the comic book’s tragic conclusion.

Still, Raimi was off to a good start creating the web-head’s world as Spider-Man 2 demonstrated as well, before the higher-ups started to meddle and ruin 3.

Who is your favorite Spider-Man?

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