Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’

This 2002 film launched “Spider-Man” and helped create the current Marvel Cinematic Universe

JD Smith Nelson, Staff Writer

Early 2002 was a rough time for American spirit. Hot off the heels of the Sept. 11 tragedy, morale was low. Naturally, Americans looked anywhere they could for hope, and one movie was intentionally tooled to be hopeful material. That movie was Sam Raimi’s masterpiece “Spider-Man”, which released in May of that year.
The film stars Tobey Maguire as the titular hero, Kirsten Dunst as the girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn and Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin. Other actors include Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Uncle Ben and Aunt May as well as JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.
This film launched Spider-Man’s tale into the public conscious. It follows both Peter and Norman as they become their alter egos. The pacing is brisk-but-natural yet filled with character depth and heart. Sam Raimi created the ultimate homage to those ‘60s Marvel comics of yesteryear.
This ‘60s comic tone could be a put off for some viewers; however it is what helped comic book movies move on from their steel and black colored tones of “X-Men” and “Blade.” It is highly likely that without this movie, the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it would not exist.
All of this is to say it isn’t too thick a layer of cheese to wade through to get at the heart of this superhero origin, and what an origin it is. It all starts when Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider. He suffers a great loss due to his own inaction and learns the invaluable lesson that with great power there must also come great responsibility.
Through stopping crime, Spider-Man becomes a known figure throughout New York City and gains the attention of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Peter gains a job at the Bugle selling photos of himself. All the while Norman spirals and becomes the famed super-criminal known as the Green Goblin. Their brawls are fierce, and the action set pieces that surround them are enthralling.
The running thread connecting a lot of the time jumps is the budding will-they-won’t-they relationship between Peter and Mary Jane. She always seems to be going out with some other (less supportive) person, but the budding chemistry is set up.
This gives the story much of its personal life stakes, which is the true hook of a Spider-Man story. There is no Spider-Man without the dramatic personal life of Peter Parker.
This film, in fact this entire trilogy, understands that more than any other adaptation of the webhead has. Peter’s struggles are just as engaging as Spider-Man’s, which is certainly saying something when facing the sadistic, crazed Green Goblin.
Norman is as vicious and cruel as any villain comes. He goes to extreme lengths to get revenge on the board of directors that jettisoned him from his own corporation, as well as eliminate Spider-Man. Willem Dafoe’s performance is one of the film’s greatest strengths.
Equally entertaining is the performance of Spider-Man’s other greatest foe: J. Jonah Jameson. JK Simmons as Jonah is the best comic book character casting to this day. He is an absolute riot on screen and his scenes are to be treasured.
For all these reasons and more, Sam Raimi’s 2002 classic is a must watch for any fan of the wallcrawler. It is thrilling, heartwarming and inspiring. Given that the Green Goblin will be making an appearance in this year’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” now is a better time than ever to give this a watch. Leading up to the release of the film, two other Spider-Man reviews will be published in the upcoming issues of The Clarion. So stay in the web, folks!