Raimi’s Spider-Man – A Look Back After “Homecoming”
With the introduction of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the recent box office hit Homecoming, Geek Genie takes a wistful look back at Sam Raimi’s original trilogy of movies in the naughties…starting with Spider-Man.
When a young teenager by the name of Tom Holland appeared in Captain America: Civil War, it was the first time a teenager was depicting a teenage Spider-Man. Toby Maguire, Andrew Garfield and long before him Nicolas Hammond, were all mid to late twenties when they were web spinning so most of fandom were happy that Spider-Man was truly returning to his roots with a physical depiction of Spider-Man more true to the original character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
So how does the Maguire Spider-Man now fit into the cinematic mythos? In terms of continuity, it doesn’t exist as Marvel only recently reached an agreement with Sony to take creative control of Spider-Man and enter him into the MCU.
Spider-Man was a hugely successful film at the box office, raking in over $800m worldwide. That would be a smash hit today, more so in 2002. It was also met with critical success as well and much of that is down to Sam Raimi’s faithful comic book adaptation of Spider-Man and his supporting cast. Toby Maguire’s boyish looks made him a passable teenage high school student and he was ably supported by a quality cast from Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn, James Franco as Harry Osborn and J.K Simmons delivering for fans a J.J.Jameson taken straight from the pages of the comic books.
The plot revolved mainly around the relationship between Peter, Harry and Norman. With Peter and Harry being like brothers, Norman Osborn looks upon Peter as a son he should have had. Both were scientific geniuses and with Peter having lost his parents, Norman was a father figure. But as science brought the two together, science would eventually tear them apart. Peter was bitten by a genetically created spider at a science exhibition and Norman took matters into his own hands when using himself to test the formula that would transform him into Spider-Man’s greatest ever foe, the Green Goblin.
Peter’s personal life has always been a source of great stortelling and character development in the comic books and Raimi and Maguire combined to portray a Peter Parker familiar to comic book fans and endearing to film goers. The origin story was recreated faithfully and the impact of Uncle Ben’s death is the central driving force behind Peter’s desire to become Spider-Man. The slight tweak in the origin story was the argument that Peter has with Uncle Ben. As this was the last interaction between the two, the guilt and horror that Peter feels when Uncle Ben is shot is magnified and provided movie goers with a more overt expression of what drives Peter to become the man, and Spider-Man, that he eventually becomes.
The endearing thing about Raimi’s Spider-Man is that audiences really got to connect with Peter. We witnessed his bullying in high school, his unrequited love for MJ, the life long guilt that he will feel about his Uncle Ben’s death, made worse when his Aunt May finally finds out about Peter’s last moments with Ben in Spider-Man 2 as well as his quest to create his own suit. This truly was a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. It’s omething that Spider-Man – Homecoming maybe missed out on a little. Yes, of course most audience by now are very well versed in the origin of Spider-Man so there is an understandable argument to skip what we already know. But by doing that audiences have been robbed of the first, deep cut that forms the emotional bond with Peter by never seeing him suffer with the loss of Uncle Ben as well as his motivation for being Spider-Man. In Homecoming, whilst a great and thoroughly enjoyable movie, Spider-Man has almost become a Tony Stark creation right down to the AI boosted costume. Peter even says desperately to Tony Stark “I’m nothing without the suit”. Of course, Peter would eventually find that he doesn’t need the suit to be a hero but did he really need Tony Stark to teach him that lesson as well?
From the casting, to the special effects wich were ground breaking at the time and indeed was nominated for Academy Awards, Raimi’s Spider-Man brought fans their favourite wall crawler to the big screen after decades of false dawns. And it didn’t disappoint.
Marvel fans were on the whole positive about Homecoming and to Tom Holland becoming the face of Spider-Man for the next 10 years. But I have a feeling that Toby Maguire will fast become the Christopher Reeves of Spider-Man movies.