[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B007I1QUYE][/pullquote] Director Sam Raimi cut his teeth in the film world with the cult horror trilogy Evil Dead. His blend of horror and comedy worked perfectly for the low budget adventures of Ash, but in 2002 his skill was tested with a bigger budget and the start of a potentially huge Marvel comic book franchise. Spider-Man has always been one of Marvel’s most popular comic books, charting the story of photographer turned web-slinging super-hero appealed to a huge audience of all ages. After the success of Batman, X-Men and Blade in the preceding years, a lot of hype surrounded the release of Spider-Man.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), a high-school photographer is bitten by a radioactive spider while on a school trip. He awakes the next morning with incredible abilities and tries to use his new-found powers to earn some money to impress the girl next door, Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst). After an argument about responsibility with his Uncle Ben, Peter is witness to Ben being gunned down by a thief he could’ve stopped. With his new powers and new sense of responsibility, Peter sets out to clean up the city from crime. Meanwhile local scientist Norman Osbourn (Willem Dafoe), father to Peter’s best friend Harry (James Franco), under pressure from the military for results to a special strength-enhancing serum, tests it on himself and turns into the powerful, but insane Green Goblin. After being turned down in a proposition to Spider-Man that they team up, he goes on the rampage, doing all he can to destroy the web-slinger.
Sam Raimi may have seemed like a left-field choice for director having not made any substantially box-office-friendly films previously. Looking back on his casting now with the benefit of hindsight and we see that he was really the only man for the job. His ability to keep the heart of the film intact while never scrimping on the action set-pieces or the thrilling finale proved that he understood Spider-Man and Peter Parker in equal measure.
Maguire is inspired as the boy-hero, who is as uncomfortable in Parker-mode as he is confident in the Spider-suit. The scenes where he learns to crawl for the first time are a joyous affair, with several mistakes and mishaps helping to create a real sense of accomplishment and fist-pumping among the audience. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Dafoe, who really cuts loose in his insane scientist role and rather than having the plot bogged down with plots and macguffins, it is simply a tale of a madman facing off against a hero in a series of escalating confrontations. It’s genius in its simplicity.
Spider-Man is the perfect blend of several genres. Raimi successfully marries a coming-of-age tale of self-discovery, with an action blockbuster and some indie-styled comedy and self-reflection to create a fantastically fun and equally thrilling film.