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Spider-Man - A Retrospective

Spider-Man, Spider-Man.
Man, you're old.
Today, we'll be tackling Spider-Man. The old one from your childhood. The one with Tobey Maguire himself. That dude.
Let's start with the overall plot. The movie opens with Peter Parker, our heroic Spider-Guy. Pete isn't such a popular fella. He's running along trying to catch up with the bus, yelling out. The people don't really care. MJ (Mary Jane), Peter's unassuming crush, demands the bus slow down. They ignore him of course. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider, wrestles a guy, watches his uncle die. Blah blah blah green goblin fight. End.
So. Spider-Man. Let's see . . . How about we start with the characters?
Spider-Man is a boring character in this one. Let's not cut corners here. The narrating is annoying and overdramatic. Especially when the film itself is pretty dang mediocre. Especially when we've dealt with the origin story so many times, the whole thing feels drawn out. I'm reminded of how many people believed that Batman Begins was held back by the obligatory backstory.
His character development is essentially non-existent. He starts out a nooby geek, gets powers, thinks he doesn't have a responsibility (ugh), gets his uncle inadvertently murdered, realizes his responsibilities. In theory, this sounds great, but it's marred by the movies really, really odd pacing, along with the sheer predictability of it.
The Green Goblin deeply disappointed me in this. No matter how many times I watch It, I can't get over how good he could've been. It seems as if they were going for a Joker-esque character, but the high pitched laugh and the bright, multi-toned, Superman-style cinematography kills off any chance of him actually seeming scary. Again, in theory, I feel his story could've been great.
MJ is just the standard love interest, nothing interesting.
Compare the scene from Spider-Man 2 wherein Harry approaches the mirror and discovers his fathers legacy. It's incredibly disturbing. The dark monotone shot and the eerie music contribute to this. The closest we get to that in Spider-Man was near the end as Spidey and Goblin have their battle. It kind of falls apart when you see the awkward fake blood and spandex Tobey is covered in. And again, the Green Goblin just isn't very scary. The big build up just kills off the climax.
It feels like the film was trying very hard to make up for its faults by flashing CGI in our faces all the time, but It just doesn't work. Not with the technology they had available at the time.
The whole time, I got the feeling that they were trying to make the story into a Batman type movie. From the awkward narrating to the poor attempts to build up the villain. That's not to say it couldn't have worked. Spider-Man 2 incorporated several Dark Knight staples and transformed them to create one of the greatest superhero films of all time.
Spider-Man tried to do that, but the writers just didn't seem to know how to do that. They kept trying to make it feel dramatic while simultaneously trying to keep the story simple for the kids to follow along, with clearly defined arcs, characters, and plots.
Frankly, I would've preferred if they had just gone all the way and made it into either a straight up family-friendly Superman type film, as at the very least, there wouldn't be any undue dramatization. But on the plus side, this experience gave the crew a proper understanding of how to properly merge those sides of the spectrum.
Spider-Man 2 is a little bit different. If you bothered to take a look at Rotten Tomatoes, you'll have noticed a significant difference.
A quick recap, for the Wikipedia-illiterate.
Parker doesn't know how to balance his school, home, and superhero lives. He loses his job, has financial and lady troubles, and is in a generally bad situation. Meanwhile, respected scientist Otto Octavius decides to create a miniature sun. He goes insane because of the super advanced AI in his artificial arms after he inadvertently kills his wife cuz MINIATURE SUNS ARE BAD.
Blah blah, Peter admits he inadvertently killed Ben, he quits being Spider-Man after a Doc Ock attack. Blah blah, he starts to get better at everything because of no more superhero stuff, realizes he can't stand by while people are in trouble, big climax with Ock sacrificing himself, MJ leaves her wedding for Parker, end.
I'm gonna be frank. I love this movie.
Peter feels a lot more real in this one, and emotional climaxes hit harder because of it. We've all been at that hopeless point where you know that everything's collapsing around you and you know something has to be sacrificed. When Peter admits what he did to May, it feels so bloody real. The spandex multicolor feels irrelevant because it feels a lot more natural. No longer does the movie try to feel more dramatic then it is. It blends the Batman style dramatics with the Superman family-friendly moral questions perfectly.
MJ feels more like a placeholder than anything else for a lot of the music, as she's finished her character arc. She's just someone for Peter to fail. The ending is wonderfully executed though, even if it feels meaningless.
Harry's arc is handled wonderfully. As he walks to the mirror, his insanity becomes exemplified perfectly. In this one, I was honestly freaked out by the idea of the Green Goblin. Having seen Harry and Peter's friendship, it feels a bit scarier knowing the two are best buds.
The whole film is the perfect execution of what the first film aspired to be. A wonderful blend of family-friendly action, complex and engaging plot, along with some great character arcs to boot.
The third film...
I think we'll save that one for the next post.


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