Looking Back: Spider-man (2002) Colin D Miller April 16, 2014 Editor's Choice, Features 8561 Things have changed with the recent release of The Amazing Spider-man and this week’s sequel. We’re now living in a world where Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are considered retro. Now if that doesn’t make your average 30 year old feel ancient I don’t know what will. When Sam Raimi’s first Spider-man film hit our screens back in 2002, it turned out to be quite a big deal. The Star Wars prequels were failing deliver on high expectations and with the Lord of the Rings films set for Christmas release, there was a big empty spot on the blockbuster calender in the middle of Summer. Aside from Bryan Singer’s efforts on the first two X-Men films, superheroes were still on shaky ground when it came to box office takings. Warner Bros had both Batman and Superman films stuck in development limbo and Marvels Avengers series was nothing but a sparkle of a potential idea in someone’s mind. There was also a lot of gossip hitting the tabloids about how certain scenes had to be removed due to the tragic terrorist attacks that happened on 11th September 2001. In fact, shortly before the 11th September, a teaser trailer was released that prominently featured the world trade center and was promptly pulled after tragedy hit New York. And after spending 20 odd years in development hell, things did not look promising for Spider-man… And then this trailer came out. For the role of Peter Parker, many actor were rumoured to be in the running. With names as random as Leonardo DiCaprio, Freddie Prinze Jr and Heath Ledger cropping up, it was with some surprise that Tobey Maguire landed the role. The love interest Mary Jane was eventually played by Kirsten Dunst and James Franco made a name for himself playing Harry Osborne, the son of the primary antagonist Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborne. Amazingly, Dafoe was only offered the role after the likes of Jim Carrey, John Malkovich and Nicholas Cage turned down the role! And in my opinion, Dafoe almost walks away with the film. Sure the Green Goblin’s outfit may have had whiffs of The Power Rangers about it, but when the mask was off Dafoe was completely mesmerising to watch and in my opinion, one of the best comic book villains we had seen on screen since Jack Nicholson’s take on the Joker. Sleazy, conflicted and then confident, the scene where he talks to his alter ego in the mirror is a revelation and typical of Sam Raimi (see Evil Dead 2’s Good Ash and Bad Ash scene for more). Looking back, the casting of Tobey Maguire is probably the most criticised element of Raimi’s films, with some claiming him not to represent the funny and witty side of Peter Parker. Personally, I felt the casting was spot on and out of the names listed, I felt he was certainly the most promising actor for the role. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Kirsten Dunst I had a slight apprehension about. Whilst I felt she was a terrific actress and had an engaging screen presence, I just didn’t see her as Mary Jane. But as soon as she appeared on screen and uttered the word “tiger” to Peter Parker, I was sold (and in love). Her performance of Mary Jane is particularly touching as Dunst manages to portray her as a confident and popular school girl, and yet during a number of scenes with Peter Parker she reveals that underneath all that she is quite a delicate soul and unsure of herself and her position in life. On scoring duties there was Danny Elfman, who did a nice job in creating memorable themes for each of the characters even if they did sound a bit “Batman”. As far as the plot goes, Spider-man was a capable origins story with a good standard of pacing. Wasting no time in getting the proceedings going, Peter Parker is bitten and climbing up walls, all within the first 30 minutes. At the time there was a bit on controversy with regards to the decision to have Peter Parker’s web slingers not being constructed by Parker, with many online forums spitting verbal venom towards Sam Raimi for this decision. Interestingly enough, when James Cameron was on board to direct, it was his idea that web slingers should be organic and not mechanical and it was a decision that carried over to when Raimi took over. Spider-man also had it’s fair share of memorable scenes – the wrestling match with Bone Saw (not to mention Bruce Campbell’s cameo), the Green Goblin’s attack on the New York Fair and arguably the best kiss ever filmed in a superhero movie. Essentially, Spider-man was a coming of age story that had many underlying themes – fatherhood, betrayal and sacrifice. It’s all textbook comic book stuff and under Raimi’s direction and David Koepp’s script it’s balanced pretty much perfectly.