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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spider-Man (2002)

#1 - 2002 Box Office: Gross $403,706,375

Does whatever a spider can
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is an average kid who lives in Queens with his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) next door to his high school crush Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).  He's too shy to talk to Mary Jane, but at least has a best friend in Harry Osborn (James Franco), son of weapons mogul Dr. Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe).  On one school trip to Columbia University, Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider and overnight becomes a little less average.  His eyesight improves, his body becomes toned and muscular and he seems to have gained some new skills from the genetically engineered spider.  He can shoot webbing from his wrists, he has amazing speed, strength & agility and also has a new "spidey" sense (a type of premonition of things to happen).  In order to impress Mary Jane with a new sports car, he enters a wrestling match promising $3000 to the winner.  The owner gyps him on a technicality and in a selfish act of revenge, Peter lets an armed robber escape with all of the owner's money.  In a cruel twist of fate, this same robber kills Uncle Ben in a carjacking, and Peter soon decides to use his powers responsibly in an effort to honor his uncle, becoming Spider-Man. Meanwhile, in a lab experiment gone wrong Dr. Osborn gains a maniacal new personality who will do anything to have his company succeed, going so far as killing the competition and those who disagree with him.  Local newspaper editor J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) dubs this killer the Green Goblin and sells newspapers by milking the public's fear of both the Goblin and Spider-Man.  Will Peter be able to convince the public he's trying to do right?  Will he be able to save his best friend's father from the evil that lives inside him?  Will he be able to get the girl?  Will I ever figure out how to end these synopses without a list of rhetorical questions?

Trivia (mostly courtesy of the IMDb)
  • Spider-Man was the first film to earn $100 million dollars in its first weekend
  • Peter Parker and Norman Osborn each wear their enemy's costume colors during the Thanksgiving dinner scene. Harry Osborn wears all of the colors—a green shirt, red tie and blue coat
  • Zach Hudson, the stunt double for Tobey Maguire, fractured his leg after a stunt went wrong and he slammed in to a brick wall [perhaps this was the inspiration for Julie Taymor's Broadway production]
  • Several Spider-Man costumes were created at a cost of up to $100,000 each. Four were stolen from the set in early April of 2001 and Columbia Pictures posted a $25,000 reward for their return (the costumes were not returned)
  • Tobey Maguire had to have his Spider-Man outfit slightly remodeled as the original design had not made any allowances for when the actor needed a bathroom break
  • One of the chief difficulties that Tobey Maguire experienced in the now-famous upside-down kissing scene was that his sinuses kept filling up with water as it was performed in driving rain
  • The interior of the visit to Columbia University was actually filmed in the main rotunda of the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. The large electron microscope in the center of the set was actually made of plywood, plaster and fiberglass, concealing three 16-foot bronze statues
  • The original teaser trailer depicted bank robbers escaping in a helicopter but getting caught in a spider web suspended between the Twin Towers. After the September 11, the trailer was changed
  • The scenes where New Yorkers throw trash at the Green Goblin from the bridge and Spider-Man perches next to the American flag atop the Chrysler Building were added after September 11 to reflect the city's sense of unity and patriotism
  • The smoke in the lab during Norman Osborn's transformation scene was originally white but was then digitally altered to green. Director Sam Raimi wanted to use real green smoke, but went with the CG effect when prop designers could not create a colored smoke that was non-toxic
  • Bonesaw, the wrestler Spider-Man fights for money, is played by real life wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Early in his career, Savage wrestled under the name The Spider
  • The Moondance Diner where Mary Jane Watson works is the same one that Rent creator Jonathan Larson worked at prior to quitting to pursue a career writing musicals
  • The scene in which Peter Parker catches Mary Jane's lunch on the tray involved no CGI 
  • Bruce Campbell, star of director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, cameos as the wrestling announcer
Remember, with great power comes great responsibility
It's amazing how time can affect how you see a film.  I don't recall, when seeing this back in 2002 (or maybe '03 if I saw it first on DVD) how obvious the CGI effects were.  I have the two sequels on deck for my next two reviews and I feel like the sequels had such advances in technology that I retconned (comic book reference!) the effects back to this original, however on another viewing, it's sad how cheesy some of the scenes looked.  Nonetheless, Raimi does a decent job creating a franchise (even if it's already lined up for a reboot next year) and Maguire does a great job creating a character (even if he did sort of derail in SM3 with Emo-Spidey). Dafoe is, as per usual, fantastic—the scenes he does against himself in the mirror are brilliant!  It's hard to tell (with the editing) if his switch from confused Norman to psycho Norman was as immediate as the film shows, but even if they were done in different takes, the performances were great to watch. The Times Square concert with Macy Gray was ridiculous, but it's pretty easy to ignore that and just enjoy the movie for what it is—the foundation for (if memory serves) an excellent sequel...

Ponch's Rating:


  1. Spider-Man was nine years ago??? Holy crap!

  2. I know... right?! Released my final summer between senior year and my 9th semester.. (was that when I went to Prague?) So long ago... :-/