MarvelBlog Retro Review: Spider-Man (2002)
Marvel Blog’s very own David Mumpower has been doing retro reviews of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, the film that kicked off everything for Marvel Studios. But before there was Iron Man and the MCU, there was Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man in 2002.
With rumors swinging around the city like Spider-Man himself that Tobey Maguire could be returning as a parallel version of Spidey in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, we thought it was time to expand the scope of our retro reviews! While we don’t know if Maguire is actually returning yet, I nevertheless resolved to go back to the source and re-watch Spider-Man (2002), and let me tell you, Marvel Blog True Believers: does this movie ever hold up!
Still a Great Movie
Almost 20 years later, Spider-Man’s first big-screen outing is still one of the most entertaining and quirky superhero movies ever made. Returning to this film again, especially with a better appreciation of the art of practical effects, gave me a better appreciation for Maguire’s take on the web-slinger.
While Tom Holland might be the best Spider-Man, Maguire is the best Parker, probably because of the actor’s “perpetual look of startled bewilderment” and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the best shots (one scene took 156 takes)!
With all that talent, one thing that you can’t escape about Spider-Man is what a great movie it is, and fans can credit a lot of its staying power to director Sam Raimi‘s handling of Peter Parker’s origin story.
If it wasn’t for Raimi’s old B-movie sensibilities, Spider-Man‘s characteristic comic book geography in which Peter Parker can climb, flip, and thwip through an urban jungle as rambunctious teenage-adult wouldn’t exist.
However, every actor in Spider-Man delivers a great performance, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as frenemy Harry Osborn, and Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Uncle Ben and Aunt May respectively.
Willem Defoe Steals the Show
However, one actor needs to be specifically shout-out for an incredible performance: Willem Dafoe!
Apparently, Dafoe asked to perform his own stunts so that the character’s movements would feel more authentic to audiences watching the film, dropping the animatronic mask created by Amalgamated Dynamics that would have completely covered his face.
As Norman Osborn, the vengeful capitalist who becomes the Green Goblin, Dafoe delivered an absolutely show-stopping performance as both versions of the character, especially in the scenes in which he is essentially arguing with himself!
Double Vision, eat your heart out!
Osborn’s transformation into the Green Goblin is one of the most macabre character arcs in the history of the superhero genre, thanks to Raimi’s unique style and willingness to put little old ladies in difficult situations (just watch any of the Evil Dead movies).
Green Goblin’s Last Stand
The final battle between Green Goblin and Spidey is one of the most comic book-y confrontations in cinema outside of The Matrix.
In fact, it’s based on a comic book, The Amazing Spider-Man #122, also known as “The Goblin’s Last Stand!”, by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., Art Simek, Gil Kane, and Dave Hunt.
Unlike the comic, which focuses on Parker and Gwen Stacey, MJ took over the duties of damsel in distress in the film, and thus, avoided being fridged in the process (a refreshing change).
Return of the Evil Dead!
There’s more than one reason to look back at 2002’s Spider-Man as we look forward to upcoming MCU movies.
For one thing, the creative team has a lot of members in common with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: there’s director Raimi, composer Danny Elfman, and actor Bruce Campbell, all of whom are bringing their considerable talents to bear on the Doctor Strange sequel.
With Raimi returning to the superhero genre, we can expect him to bring his characteristic style to Doctor Strange 2, and that is a perfect match for Marvel Studios.
In an interview, Dafoe described 2002’s Spider-Man as:
There’s a couple of scenes that still make me laugh, because they’re so double-edged, and they go back and forth between being really heavy and really kind of silly. And the movie is filled with that.
After the success of WandaVision, I hope Marvel continues to draw from the well of dark-comedy and horror.
When was the last time you watched the 2002 version of Spider-Man? Which one of the characters is your favorite? Do you think we’ll be seeing more of Maguire’s Spidey when No Way Home arrives in theaters this December? We’re waiting to hear from you, Marvel Blog True Believers! Let us know what you think in the comment section.