Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Happy Birthday, Spider-Man (2002)

It is Spider-Man (2002)'s fifteen birthday! After many years of superhero movie futility, the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man put the genre back on the map. While Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000) was a success, this movie was the one that put the world on notice. It became the first film to make 100 million in its opening weekend, grossed over 820 million worldwide by the end of its run, and is still the largest grossing superhero origin movie. Its financial success paired with winning over critics and fans alike made it one to remember.

The movie's success is centered around its approach of being both silly and serious, which is a faithful representation of the comic the story originated in. Too often superhero movies try too hard to be one or the other, not enough in between. Raimi's Spider-Man dared to make you laugh like a kid clutching old comic book pages but also strike fear into your heart as if every moment that hangs on Peter Parker's life hangs on yours as well. Long before Nolan's Batman or Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, Raimi's Spider-Man dared to land in the middle of those two thematically. While it may feel like a throwback in many ways now, it still holds strong in its own right.

When I need to put a face to Peter Parker, I think of Tobey Maguire's performance. I've gotten into arguments in backwoods Florida comic shops with smelly kids about this (actual thing that happened, my wife thought we may brawl.) I will defend this movie to the death. The VFX work was before its time and mostly holds up. The acting shined both in quality and chemistry. Willem Dafoe's performance as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is downright terrifying. James Franco as Harry Osborn has his moments. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane will forever have a soft spot in my heart. JK Simmons is the definitive J Jonah Jameson. Many of the movie's moments stick out to me: him trying out his abilities on rooftops (go web!), the awkward moments with Mary Jane in the beginning of the film at OsCorp, thanksgiving dinner with a demented Norman Osborn, and more. However, one remains more iconic than the rest: the kiss. Now a parody of itself, the kiss was a seminal moment.

One memory that I come back to often has to do with the time period more than anything. The movie's ad campaign and subsequent release coincided with one of the most turbulent times in United States history: September 11, 2001. Famously, one teaser trailer was pulled by Sony due to its content, which revolved around Spider-Man catching bank robbers flying in a helicopter by slinging them up with web in between the Twin Towers. Part of the movie's success, I believe, came because of the time period of its release. In times of strife, we cling to hope and heroism. What is more heroic than a kid doing what's right without thought of reward in the city that had just felt serious trauma in real life? Had Spider-Man been darker, like the aforementioned Nolan's Batman, I'm not sure it would've spoken to audiences the way they needed it to that summer. A nation in mourning flocked to theaters to escape. They didn't need cynicism, they sought hope.


I'll admit, my reasoning behind acknowledging this movie's birthday is almost completely due to the nostalgia that surrounds it in my heart and mind. Growing up, Spider-Man was my favorite superhero. I devoured the comics. My eyes were glued to the television set for the 90s Spider-Man animated series. In 1999, my parents took me to Islands of Adventure right after it opened
so I could enjoy the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. In the early days of eBay, back when Rosie O'Donnell was its number one fan, my dad ordered me extra silly string cartridges for my Spider-Man web shooter after they discontinued it. Many of my childhood memories revolve around your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This movie is no different. Peter Parker was a dork like me and Tobey's portrayal in the movie showed me shades of myself, especially as I grew older.

A nearly eleven year old BB-K8 could not have hyped a movie more. (Except for maybe Star Wars Episode I the Phantom Menace three years prior.) To see my favorite hero take to the silver screen was a dream come true. My sister and one of our family friends checked me out of the fifth grade to see the first showing that day. Afterwards we went to Toys"R"Us to get me a new Spider-Man toy. I picked out the Spider-Man Sky Rider Playset, which I still have to this day and is totally rad. To a ten year old, this was about as amazing as a day gets. I remember the day the movie was released on DVD and VHS, one of my best friends and I were taken to buy it and spent the day watching it over and over again at her house.

What this movie has, above all else, is heart. You can feel Raimi's passion for the project. His vision was clear and fans can see that. I think that is why it spoke to me then and continues to speak to me now. With Spider-Man heart matters most. Many superhero movies these days seem to miss that
mark. Uncle Ben said it best, "with great power comes great responsibility." Raimi understood the responsibility of launching this iconic hero's story into theaters across the globe and did so with a large amount of success. That is this movie's legacy. It isn't a rehash and it wasn't afraid to have its own identity.

While the sequels never lived up to the first movie, the franchise truly rejuvenated the superhero genre. It continued to grow my love for the web-slinger and that love remains strong to this very day. While I saw the Andrew Garfield version and enjoyed it and am excited for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, this one will always be my Spider-Man. That may not be a hip and trendy opinion, but I've never pretended to be either of those. This is only a love letter to a movie that captured the mind and heart of a young girl and kept her forever in love with one of history's greatest characters.


A post shared by BB-K8 (@kaitgolightly) on

No comments:

Post a Comment