Remembering the "Spider-Man" Trilogy (2002-2007)
Spider-Man is a superhero film from the ancient year of 2002, starring Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man and directed by Sam Raimi. It is the first in a (often mocked) trilogy.
Even though people enjoy mocking the Spider-Man trilogy, the first installment remains the superhero film that redefined the genre and was the most successful film based on a comic book.
For anyone who's ever read one of my articles here, it should be apparent that I am a huge nerd. I grew up watching Babylon 5 and loving superheros. So when this movie came out, I was psyched.
Now don't get me wrong. I've seen the newer Spider-Man movies. I actually really enjoyed "Homecoming." But because this film came first and was a part of my adolescence, it will forever have a special place in my nerdy heart.
I mean, what nerd wouldn't identify with Peter Parker? He was an outcast to the extreme. He wore thick glasses, was bullied by everyone -- even the guy who drove his school bus -- had a crush on a girl who didn't know he was alive, and his only friend was jealous of him.
I identified with Peter immensely, since his life was basically my life. I was a nerd who had unrequited crushes on girls and my only "friend" in high school was jealous of me and despised me.
So needless to say, I was in the audience screaming, "Go, Spidey, go!"
Peter championed nerds everywhere.
The story between Peter and Harry was one thing about the trilogy that I loved. Before all that crap with the Sandman, the trilogy was originally about Peter's love-hate relationship with his best friend, Harry Osborn.
Harry (James Franco) wasn't very smart and was jealous of Peter, especially since his father, Norman Osborn (Willem Defoe), was a scientist and was constantly verbally trashing him for not being smart.
Peter, meanwhile, was jealous of Harry's good looks and his ability to be cool and fit in. Harry didn't exactly have a lot of friends because he was rich and the other kids resented him, but at the same time, he still fit in better than Peter simply because he wasn't a nerd: people may not have liked Harry but they didn't hate him either.
A friendship built on jealousy and resentment is not a friendship at all.
In a -- perhaps subconscious -- effort to spite Peter, Harry makes a move on Mary Jane, knowing that Peter is in love with her. He does this to hurt Peter, though it's my belief that he did it subconsciously, from a place of bitter envy that he may not have been fully aware of.
Peter is the hero, so he tries to look the other way and forgive Harry -- in the beginning, anyway. By the third film, Peter finally erupts and lashes out at Harry in a moment of anger.
Harry eventually discovers that Peter is Spider-Man and thus his father's (indirect) killer. He starts to go mad, hearing his father's voice, seeing visions of his ghost, and finally putting on a costume to fight Peter (in a really cool CGI scene).
I liked the themes of betrayal and revenge, love and forgiveness, and I loved how it came full-circle in the third film, where Peter and Harry teamed up against Venom and Sandman. Though the third film, like the others, had its flaws.
To be clear, I don't feel any of the actors and actresses were at fault. They were all pretty good -- even James Franco, who I would consider mediocre.
Kirsten Dunst, who portrayed Mary Jane, is a natural-born actress, in my opinion. I will never forget her amazing performance in Interview with a Vampire.
Also, Topher Grace is an amazing actor and did very well in Spider-Man 3 as Venom, one of the main antagonists. I always thought the script for the third film failed to make proper use of his talents. He could have been so much more.
And the way Tobey Maguire danced in the third film?
Peter Parker's Evil Dance
Yeeeeah. I bet you tried so hard to forget Tobey Maguire's silly dancing. What were they smoking when they thought of that?
Maybe if they had portioned it to that one scene -- which was bad enough -- but no. They had him shuffling and pirouetting for most of the film.
And every time he did, it was so awful.
I realize these films are based on a comic book, but all this dancing was too cheesy -- even for juvenile comic book material.
Then there was all the ugly-crying.
To be clear:
There is nothing wrong with men crying.
There is nothing wrong with men showing emotions.
There is nothing wrong with men expressing sadness.
In fact, if they expressed themselves in healthy ways more often, maybe there'd be less violence in the world.
And if you're triggered by my lighthearted joke, ask yourself why before you creepily stalk me across the internet. By stalking me across multiple social media accounts in a state of frothing fury just to get back at me for one joke . . . you're proving my point.
Also, men commit the vast majority of violent crime. Facts. Deal with it.
Now people know why I removed the social media links from my profile here.
The amount of ugly-crying in this trilogy was ridiculous. It was like Tobey Maguire didn't know how to show sadness so he just squeezed up his face like a five-year-old and blubbered in a manner that suggested someone stole his candies.
I know I just said the performers were not at fault for the cheesiness of the film, but some of them were. Maquire needed to sit down and study male actors who knew how to be sad in a un-cringeworthy way.
Take, for example, Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire. Brad Pitt knew how to cry in a film without accidentally making it hilarious. Hell, his character -- the weepy vampire, Louis -- did nothing but cry throughout the movie.
Also, actor Bernard Hill, who portrayed King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, did a fantastic job showing the raw pain of a father who's just lost his son. The scene where he cries over his son's grave is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the entire trilogy.
You would never laugh at King Theoden, and yet, Tobey Maguire's ugly-cry ... sigh.
No doubt my laundry list of sins is proving people right who mock these films. Well, I never said they had no reason to mock the original Spider-Man trilogy, just that there were things to love about it as well. I mentioned Peter and Harry's rivalry as one of those things.
A few more:
The CGI was pretty good for its time. I remember loving to watch as digital Spider-Man bounced around the screen. In the image above, he's jumping from balloon to balloon while trying to save Mary Jane.
The people always had Spider-Man's back.
In the first film, a bunch of New Yorker's help Spider-Man stop Goblin by hurling stuff at Goblin's head, which was really hilarious,
"I got somethin' for that ass!" shouts a man, hurling something at Goblin's face.
Later in the sequel, Spider-Man briefly loses his mask. Everyone on the train sees his face, but all of them keep it a secret in order to protect him. Some are shocked that he's so young and are even more determined to protect him because of it.
It was pretty heartwarming how eager the people were to help Spider-Man and to keep him safe. I always loved that.
The Doc Ock fights in Spider-Man 2 were pretty sweet.
Again, the CGI was pretty great. I've never seen CGI pull off realistic animals, but I don't mind when it's used for people, objects, and sweet fight scenes.
The CGI fights in the third film were also pretty awesome. Especially the fights between Peter and Harry in the beginning, then Peter, Venom, Harry, and Sandman at the end -- the ones at the end being especially good.
There was also Peter's teacher, played by Shan Omar Huey. I found his exasperation with the students pretty funny. It's a shame he only had that small role.
"You were talking through that woman's entire presentation. Let's go talk about how we listen."
Also, who could forget the upside-down kiss?
There was also Peter Parker himself.
Obviously, Peter Parker's change into Spider-Man was an allegory for puberty. What teenager doesn't identify with sitting in their room and miserably marveling or happily celebrating their body's changes?
The scenes where Peter gets his powers and scrambles to hide what's happening? Pretty amusing.
Peter was also utterly human and relatable in how he reacted to his developing powers.
He gains super strength and speed, and what's the first thing he does? He fights back when Flash, the school bully, tries to beat him up. Rather than simply defending himself, however, he goes overboard and injures Flash.
Later, Peter does the same thing again when he chases down his uncle's killer and murders him.
The desire for revenge and acting upon it, being fueled by rage, it is very human. It is Peter's flaw and one that we all have experienced at one time or another (hopefully, no one reading this has murdered someone in revenge).
The writers expounded upon this with the final arc, showing how Peter learned forgiveness over revenge, patience over anger, responsibility over recklessness. I used to sneer at the "forgiveness" theme, but now that I'm older and more emotionally mature, I really appreciate it. Because now I understand what true forgiveness is.
It doesn't mean you pardon someone's mistakes or their abuse. It means you let people be human, you let them learn and grow from their mistakes, and even though you may have to cut them from your life, you bear them no ill will.
I mean, these films are flawed.
I just happen to love them in spite of those flaws.
Own the classic trilogy today.
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© 2019 Ash