It was exactly ten years and two months ago that Spider-Man first crawled his way onto screens nationwide. Four years, ten months, two weeks and one day (plus or minus a few days) have passed since he scurried into the dark recesses of those same screens. Today the reboot infests theaters everywhere and a lot of us ol’ school Spidey fans are still grumbling over whether such a quick reboot was warranted. I never minded the idea of The Amazing Spider-Man, and not just because of my healthy fascination with Emma Stone. I made peace with the inevitability of reboots and remakes long ago, but that doesn’t mean I forget about their forefathers.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a walking cliche; the nerdy high school kid hated by most who’s helplessly in love with the hottest girl in school, Mary Jane “MJ” Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Everyone sees Pete as a loser except for MJ who doesn’t see him at all, his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) who raise him, and his best friend Harry (James Franco) who’s an outsider himself. Peter’s lame world is literally turned upside down and sideways when he’s bitten by a genetically engineered super-spider during on a field trip. He recovers to find he’s acquired spider-like powers, but with great power comes great responsibility, and a personal tragedy inspires him to fight crime on the mean streets of NYC. Not a moment too soon since Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Harry’s dad and an outcast himself, has undergone a more twisted, destructive transformation.
I remember going to Spider-Man worrying the hyper-colored look of the trailers was going to make the whole experience too fake because, of course, we ALL know what a man in a blue and red costume should look like as he slings web and swings from one skyscraper to the next. Thankfully, director and avid comic book fan, Sam Raimi, along with visual effects designer John Dykstra brought life to the concept and taught audiences exactly how Spider-Man moves. The combination of point-of-Spidey-view angles in combination with the pedestrian gawking view puts viewers in the middle of action; a trademark of Raimi’s direction.
Another trademark of Raimi’s is his inclusion of his brother Ted Raimi and longtime friend Bruce Campbell. Other brief appearances viewers should be on the lookout for include the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the always entertaining Elizabeth “Banksable” Banks, the now Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer, and let us not forget Stan “The Man” Lee because without him, there’d be no Spider-Man.
Maguire is everything you could want in Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He conveyed Peter’s wide-eyed innocence, his child-like excitement when discovering his powers, and his emotional turmoil over being the webslinger. Maguire’s performance reels you in to the story, but Dafoe is dastardly as Norman Osborn. I find it impressive Dafoe performed the majority of his stunts, but his verbal tête-à-tête with his Green Goblin alter ego I could watch on repeat for days. I would not have pictured Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, but she has great chemistry with Maguire and that va-voom factor MJ has to have.
There’s so much greatness in Spider-Man, but the script, penned by David Koepp, did something that, at the time, I had long wished for in superhero films. The movie laid the groundwork for future installments! Too many times superhero films try to tell origin stories for hero and multiple villains and somewhere it falls apart. With Spider-Man, tendrils of future story arcs slip into the story, the most notable being the evolution of Harry Osbron, which makes the franchise’s sequels that much stronger.
When Spider-Man swung into theaters and into my life, it was a pretty awesome day. According to the internets, it took a lot of hand-changing between producers and studios over the better part of twenty-five years before Spider-Man became the box office phenomenon of 2002. Audiences owe a debt of gratitude to Sam Raimi; his directorial finesse breathed life into a beloved character which evolved into an enduring film franchise.