7 things that still hold up about the original ‘Spider-Man’ (and 3 things that don’t)
Happy birthday, Spider-Man.
Wednesday marks the 15th anniversary of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s original Spider-Man movie – the one that helped kickstart this entire wave of comic book movies we’re currently in.
To celebrate, I revisited that first Spider-Man for the first time in years, to see how it’d hold up in the year 2017.
Looking back now, it’s hard not to compare it to the roughly 8,000 other superhero movies that have come come since. Uncle Ben’s death scene, for example, felt a lot fresher when we saw it for the first time in 2002, before The Amazing Spider-Man did it all over again in 2012.
But on the whole, it’s still surprisingly solid. Here are seven things that still hold up about the original Spider-Man …
1. The action
Spidey’s powers lend themselves well to blockbuster action movies, and Sam Raimi and his crew take full advantage. It’s fun watching him swing around the city and flip and leap around enemies.
2. The tone
Spider-Man does a better job than most of finding that balance between “playful comic book romp” and “bittersweet coming-of-age story.” The DC universe could probably take a few pointers.
3. J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Why does this guy, by himself, seem like he walked straight out of a parody about 1950s news rooms? I don’t know, and I don’t care. He’s hilarious.
4. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn a.k.a. Green Goblin
Even if the rest of Spider-Man was terrible, it’d be worth the price of admission just for that one scene where Norman Osborn is talking to Green Goblin in the mirror.
(I couldn’t find a good clip of it, so instead you’re getting his big death scene above.)
5. Danny Elfman’s score
It gets a little overbearing at times, but it’s dramatic, playful, and — above all — memorable. That’s more than you can say for a lot of superhero movie scores we’ve heard since then (ahem, Marvel).
6. New Yorkers coming together
Spider-Man came out less than a year after 9/11, which means we Americans were all primed for a big, patriotic rallying moment. Watching this scene now, it’s really cheesy … but, not gonna lie, it totally worked on me all over again.
7. Tobey Maguire as a total nerd
Tobey Maguire is pretty great casting for this version of Spider-Man, who’s less about playful quips and more about wide-eyed wonder. There’s an innocence and a youthfulness to him, despite the fact that he was deep into his 20s by the time Spider-Man started shooting.
Spider-Man wasn’t perfect in 2002, but honestly, time had sanded off a lot of the rougher edges for me. Turns out, though, that there are a few things that don’t really hold up that well, like …
1. Tobey Maguire as a total nerd
There was a time when geeks and nerds were basically understood to be the same thing, and Spider-Man is a product of that time. It’s not necessarily bad that this Peter Parker is more of a nerd than a geek, but the latter might’ve felt more modern. (Just look at Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker for reference.)
2. Mary Jane as, like, a character
I’d forgotten that Mary Jane basically exists in this movie to bounce from one dude to another – first Flash Thompson, then Harry Osborn, Spider-Man, and finally Peter Parker. She barely even has a personality, beyond “nice” and “hot.”
To be sure, it’s not like superhero love interests have gotten markedly better since then. (Never forget that we made five-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams squawk “I’m not a lady, I’m a journalist!” in Batman v Superman.) That doesn’t change the fact that Mary Jane deserved better.
That kiss scene is still really romantic, though.
3. Chad Kroeger’s “Hero”
Honestly, it’s not even that bad. It’s just so 2002.