By Chris Campo
Spider-Man is without a doubt one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. After 5 films and 2 franchises, people still went nuts when it was announced he would finally join the Avengers in this summer's Captain America: Civil War. Why? Because Spider-Man has always been a fan favorite for comic fans and movie fans. Anticipating his appearance in Civil War, I feel it's time to talk about all 5 Spider-Man films. Sam Rami's 2002 film based on the character is one of the first comic book films people really attached to... and for good reason.
Spider-Man follows the story of Peter Parker (Toby Maguire), a nerdy, yet brilliant, high school student. After a spider bite on a school feild trip, Peter learns he has aquired the powers of a spider. After the death of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), Peter suits up in red and blue as Spider-Man to use his powers for good. Soon, however, he must face the evil Norman Osborn (Willem Defoe), who's flying around as the villainous Green Goblin, as well as facing the challenges of growing up along side his best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), and long time crush, Mary Jane-Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
Spider-Man is one of my all-time favorite films. It was when I was young and it still is. Its not the best Spider-Man film, it certainly has its flaws, but it's probably my personal favorite. I adore it. It not only has a special place in my heart, but also a special place in comic book film history. The effects are revolutionary, the style is quirky and the characters are relatable. It's damn near impossible not to love this movie. This film is just so well made and the love I have for the character, the cast and the crew is incredibly tangible.
Toby Maguire, in my opinion, is the best Peter Parker so far. While I think Andrew Garfield embraces Spider-Man better, Toby is pitch perfect as Peter. He's relatable and believably geeky. All the performances are great, though. Willem Dafoe is utterly brilliant as the evil genius Norman Osborn. He's chillingly creepy and a really, really good villian, and while the design of his costume is rather bad, Green Goblin is probably my favorite villain from all the films. I wish I could say that either the lead protagonist or the lead antagonist were the standouts of the film, but easily the best performance in this movie is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He steals every scene he's in and he's extremely funny. It's probably the single best casting for a character in a comic book film.
The action in this film is beautiful, too. Director Sam Rami uses such a variety of ways to film action, making every action set piece memorable in a different way. Nothing is as impressive as the train scene in Spider-Man 2, but it's still breathtaking, in particular the final fight, which I'll keep spoiler free. It's this final fight that's so well done, though, starting with a suspenseful sequence on a bridge, followed by an absolutely brutal final confrontation between Spidey and the Green Goblin. It's so unlike the CGI fests we get today in literally every single comic book film. It's a simple fight that's ten times more personal and satisfying than a huge battle or insane set peices.
This film also has a ton of heart. Whether it's heartbreaking or heartwarming, the film knows how to make me emotional each time I see it. The death of Uncle ben is earth shattering, and devastating for both Peter and the audience. Also, the film is quite charming, with many scenes making you smile and laugh. It truly feels like a journey and despite it being about a man with the powers of a spider, it feels human and real. I get goosebumps and emotional during the film's final scene probably every time I watch it.
It would be a disservice to the film to not mention the music. Wow. Some of my favorite music ever composed for film, Danny Elfman's score is just as iconic to me as the Star Wars or Jurassic Park theme. It's hard to imagine these films without it, and I doubt the film would be half as impactful. It's beautiful music, for a Spider-Man film or not. Out of all the Spider-Man scores out there, the music in this film is certainly my favourite.
I won't let the nostalgia get to me, "Spider-Man" has its issues. For one, as I already mentioned, the Green Goblin suit is just goofy. Maybe it would've passed in the 90's, but this film is 3 years after the 90's. Also, there's some scenes that are just odd, like when the Green Goblin throws a grenade that turns people into skeletons, or when Peter hides from Norman and Aunt May by sticking to the ceiling. Its a cute scene, but it just seems like they would obviously see him. Also, I know it was true to the comic, but Mary Jane is an awful character. She's a weak, cliché female role who is also a damsel in distress, which is a signature of her character, but doesn't quite work. Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man fixed everything about Spider-Man's love interest.
To sum up, Spider-Man is one of my all time favorite films. It's charming, action packed, beautiful and fun. It's really easy to see why Spider-Man is a fan favorite character based on this movie alone. The film itself may not be perfect, but it's perfect enough for me.
4 1/2 Stars