Retro-Review: Spider-Man (2002)
With “Spider-Man: Homecoming” coming to theatres this summer and bringing the beloved wall-crawler to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I thought it might be time to revisit the wonder that was Sam Rami’s “Spider-Man.” Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Willem Dafoe, this film is arguable the forerunner of the modern superhero genre and, in fact, one of the best.
So much of this film simply succeeds. It is a coming-of-age love story where Peter Parker truly is shown as the dweeb with a heart of gold, trying to win the love of Mary Jane. By now, most people know the story of how a young teen must balance great power and great responsibility, and this film hits all the major notes with a flourish of optimism for the future—though perhaps at the cost of the hero’s personal desires. The film has become iconic in its own right not only for the reimagining of classic scenes and characters, but in creating several moments of its own.
I cannot sing the praises of this movie without mentioning what is perhaps the single best translation of a character from one medium to another. J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson is simply acting perfection. He steals every scene he is in and is able to create a compelling and complex person in what equates to maybe about 10 minutes of total screen time. I seriously challenge you to try to find a better execution of actor being utterly ideal for a character.
The movie does have some faults, one being how poorly the CGI has aged, which you really can’t blame it for. There are a few scenes throughout where Spider-Man is entirely digitized, and very few of them do so believably. But hey, it was 2002. One thing that you can hold against the film is hollowness of Mary Jane as a character. Granted, the original comic character was supposed to be shallow, but most of the film treats her like an object. Thankfully, there are a few moments that shine through and Dunst also gets to give MJ a lot of character development in the sequel.
“Spider-Man” is the quintessential superhero movie of the 2000s, not to be usurped until Marvel took the reins of its own franchises. Whether you are revisiting it or watching for the first time, you’ll be smiling throughout.
Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming
After more than a decade in the hands of Sony and two versions of the web-slinger, Spider-Man is in the hands of Marvel Studios and their groundbreaking cinematic universe. Rather than trying to rehash an origin story or create some sort of gritty, philosophical quandary, the new film puts Peter early in high school where his biggest problems are crushes in the classroom and muggers on the streets of Queens, New York.
Tom Holland does an excellent job capturing both sides of the title hero, both as the inexperience but well-intentioned Spider-Man and the brilliant, flaky, and awkward Parker. The entire cast, to be frank, works well together, with the added benefit of bringing some diversity to the screen in order to create a more realistic New York. The casting choices aren’t addressed in the film, either, which really makes it feel that the film is really just trying to represent a more modern America.
I think the film suffers a touch from being too predictable. “Homecoming” is light and fun for the most part, but anyone who saw the trailer has a pretty good idea of the film save for one or two major twists. This does give the film a bit of a disposable feeling, but I don’t know if that is a bad thing. Not every movie, or even every Marvel movie, can have the world’s fate on the line. If you take the film on its own terms, it is an enjoyable romp through the life of a hero who isn’t quite ready for the catastrophes of the Avengers with a touch of love and high school blues. And that is okay.
4/5 Stars, good for a casual night and to munch some popcorn to.