With everyone’s favorite webslinger swinging back into theaters this July, ComicsVerse is taking a look back at SPIDER-MAN’s greatest adventures. From the big screen to the small screen to a simple comic panel, we will find out how this ol’ Web Head has evolved since he first webbed his way into our imagination. Today we will focus on Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN series, and what’s good and bad about it. Let’s get started!


Between picking the blue pill and the red pill in 1999 and Tarantino creating the masterpiece that is KILL BILL in 2003, filmmakers somehow managed to make a SPIDER-MAN film in between all of that. The action genre was not unfamiliar to the movie craze (superhero films had not taken over just yet) that was unfolding in the late 90s and early 00s; however, the superhero action genre was minimal.

We had BATMAN (BATMAN RETURNS, 1992), HULK (2003 & 2008), X-MEN (2000), DAREDEVIL (2003), and CATWOMAN (2004) as a reference and some would argue that these films are not the best of the best. Some would argue otherwise, saying “superhero films had to start somewhere;” however, between about 2008 (IRON MAN) up until this year we have been spoiled with superhero films. The graphics are magical in these new-aged films, the ride is outstanding, and the acting is beyond incredible.

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The generation (GENERATION Z — the post-Millennial generation) who is currently seeing and watching films like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and IRON MAN 3 — they do not understand what it means to have terrible editing on a film or the absence of a good technical greenscreen.

SAM RAIMI
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

So, for GENERATION Y (also known as Millennials), that is what we had, and we dealt with it. However, when 2002 came around, and Sam Raimi took it into his own hands to make SPIDER-MAN, fans roared with glee. (I know I did.) Not just any glee, but glee with satisfaction, with happiness, and with pride.

MARVEL COMICS SPIDER-MAN (the animated series in 1994 and the 1960s series) could only hold us over for so long; we needed something actually decent in the flesh. Come on, we all know about the poor, poor, live action shows back in the day. News broke that Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Raimi (Directing), James Franco, Willem Dafoe, and so much more were about to make an appearance in SPIDER-MAN. This was just the beginning.

Looking back on the series on how it changed the way superhero movies have progressed — a pro and con list is well overdue. Mind you, this is my personal pro and con list of how I see the series. There are going to be fewer cons than pros because this series is one of my favorites and I have some bias. However, I will try and reach deep down into the soul of Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN and find some cons.

The Legacy

First, before we get into any pros and cons — let’s chat about the legacy of SPIDER-MAN. While this series is often teased and mimicked for being terribly written and directed by some, we have to focus on what Sam Raimi did for superhero films. Now, this does not count the some that will back it at any cost, like myself. There is a good audience that understands what Sam Raimi did for superhero films.

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This series, mainly, started it all for the MCU (despite it not being an MCU property — it is a Sony Pictures Entertainment Property). It started what we know and love about superhero films. It may not have lasted long, but taking a character or series of characters and molding them into your own is what Sam Raimi perfected and initiated. The era of actors becoming one with a character and molding themselves to become who the character was is what SPIDER-MAN ignited.

SAM RAIMI
Death doesn’t stop SPIDER-MAN!

If we did not have the SPIDER-MAN series, it is safe to admit that we would not have had a brilliantly directed and produced superhero craze like the one we have now with AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, and THOR. Those films as mentioned earlier had to start somewhere and borrow what they perceived as “good parts” of these films.

Without this vision from Sam Raimi, we would not have had the ability to be spoiled. In comparison to the new-age superhero films, this one looks bleak, at best. However, back in 2003, this was a hot commodity of a film. Everyone was watching, everyone was talking about it, and everyone loved it.
I feel, to truly appreciate new-age films, you have to understand where they originated from. The SPIDER-MAN series is one of those series that you have to appreciate for what it is.

The Pros

The SPIDER-MAN series in itself is a vintage gem; however, just as any other movie — it does have its pros and cons.

Personality

There is one thing about the SPIDER-MAN series that is paramount to note. That one thing being Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. This is something I have supported many many times. Maguire’s vision and Raimi’s as well was what made Peter something special to watch on-screen.

Maguire possessed every attribute of Peter that we know and love. He was nerdy, charismatic, smart, socially awkward (in certain ways), and lovable. What made you love this fictional version of Peter Parker was Maguire’s dedication to it.

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Now, with that being said, let’s bounce back to the first film. This is where it all started. This is also where we see that personality come to life, which will be followed and executed brilliantly towards the last two films.

Peter Parker

The first film of any series or superhero movie is a backstory, and that is exactly what the first SPIDER-MAN is. We get the backstory of who, what, and why in reference to Peter Parker. How he became Peter Parker, who Peter Parker is and will become, why does everyone shun SPIDER-MAN… all valid questions that are answered throughout. Well, not everyone shuns SPIDER-MAN — but, I will try and convince the ones otherwise that do.

SAM RAIMI
Climbing walls, instead of being worried about a spider bite — typical.

Peter Parker is an outcast; one could consider him to be a loner — he keeps to himself. Parker has a sense of humor; he is a class clown, he’s also brave and admirable in a ton of ways. Parker lives for his loved ones and will try to protect them at any cost. He is often entirely responsible (which can be annoying, rather than loveable, at times). Parker is the golden child, and while he has his faults, he is gifted in school and loves to learn.

Mary Jane Watson

What Maguire does with that role that Peter Parker is supposed to be, and has been in the comics, is execute it flawlessly. Maguire brings the nerdiness, the charisma, and the admirable sense of humor onto the screen. In the same retrospect that we are talking about Maguire’s work; we have to celebrate Kirsten Dunst. Her performance as Mary Jane Watson was breathtaking. While Maguire was bringing Parker to the screen, Dunst was bringing her best Watson.

Mary Jane Watson is the love interest of Peter. In any version of SPIDER-MAN, you will see a new Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy. She is kind, she is responsive, and most of all, she accepts Peter just the way he is (for all of his past).

SAM RAIMI
The gorgeous Dunst, as Mary Jane Watson.

Dunst’s portrayal of Mary Jane is what makes the film what it is. Raimi’s vision for who and what Watson is makes her portrayal of it marvelous. She is that beautiful, kind, and responsive individual. Peter and Mary Jane, throughout the film, portray a beautiful relationship.

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The chemistry they have appears to be real. It comes off as something so real that — as we are watching — we fall in love as well. One of the best and quite often most picturesque scenes is the kissing rain scene, the scene in which Watson is kissing Parker upside down after he saves her from distress. Just watching that, you can detect the chemistry and feel it.

J. K. Simmons

J. K. F****** SIMMONS. For the sake of being reader-friendly, I chose not to swear. However, J. K. Simmons, the best of the all-time was in SPIDER-MAN as J. Jonah Jameson (or JJJ for the sake of being redundant). His role has never been touched, tainted, or messed with in the entirety of the SPIDER-MAN films (including re-dos).

His legacy and pure awesome-ness will also go down as being one of the best characters in SPIDER-MAN. In the video below, you can see those scenes from SPIDER-MAN 1 & 2. Bask in the pure greatness and celebrate it.

Villains

A majority of the time I am watching a new-aged superhero movie, I am wondering why all of the villains seem one-dimensional. There’s no backstory; there’s no moment of, “Okay, but why are they a villain?” The villains from SPIDER-MAN were legendary, some of the best of the best. I mean, young James Franco and Willem Dafoe? Do not even get me started.

GREEN GOBLIN: Norman & Harry Osborn

Respectively, Willem and James played father and son in the film. James portrayed Harry Osborn, and Willem portrayed Norman Osborn. Norman was GREEN GOBLIN in the movie and Harry was Parker’s best friend. While the graphics of the film were not as new-age as IRON MAN by any means, the personality and development of these characters are what made them remarkable.

SAM RAIMI
GREEN GOBLIN and SPIDER-MAN.

These characters were developed over the course of three films; we had a chance to shake hands with Norman and Harry at least once. Most of the films nowadays, take AGE OF ULTRON for example, do not develop villains very well. They are prepared in under an hour in each film and defeated by the end.

In the series of SPIDER-MAN, we had a villain and then a continuation of another villain that was developed over the course of the first film, Harry Osborn. Watchers knew who Harry was and why he wanted to bring vengeance on SPIDER-MAN. We understood his stance, even if it was all wrong, to begin with.

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Films from this era are where we truly got to know these villains. That is what made SPIDER-MAN its own entity of a gem. If you ask anyone who appreciates these films they can describe Harry and Norman to a T. Now, when you ask someone about ULTRON from AGE OF ULTRON, they know bits and pieces. That is just from watching the film and knowing no comic backstory of the villain itself.

Sam Raimi’s Vision

Sam Raimi, the director of the series, had a vision. That vision was what SPIDER-MAN ended up becoming. Raimi’s vision for who Peter Parker was, exceeded the expectations of what fans wanted. Maguire’s version of Peter Parker/SPIDER-MAN will always truly be one of the best.

Maguire fulfilled the shoes of the role so perfectly that no one has been able to take over quite yet. The ability to be nerdy, charismatic, and socially awkward all in one is hard to do. His appearance adds to the execution of the character; he looks like a perfect Peter Parker. Maguire looks nerdy, seems socially awkward, and comes off as exactly who Sam Raimi visioned as Peter.

Thank gosh for Sam Raimi’s vision because without it, we would not have gotten this remarkable film.

The Score

I mean what Marvel movie does not have a killer score? Let’s be honest, if you can name one — you’ve proved me wrong. However, SPIDER-MAN “the soundtrack” is one of the best of the best. This was the era of when soundtracks went with the tone of the film and the scenes that were in the film.

While I adore old school songs I know and love in MCU films, (*cough* GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, despite my love for this film — the soundtrack was used purely for the nostalgia), sometimes I want a good orchestrated score. Come And Get Your Love is fun and playful, but where are the LUKE CAGE type of soundtracks at?

I know I am a hard sell, but if you don’t believe me, check out the score for SPIDER-MAN here!

The Cons

For every pro, there will always be some cons. While I happen to have minimal cons, they are worth being mentioned. This does not discard my love for this series, but everything can be better, am I right? Even the most perfect of all perfect films could be better in certain aspects. Here are a few cons about the SPIDER-MAN series, that I have found throughout my clouded love-bias for it.

The Portrayal Of “Emo SPIDER-MAN”

While I am an avid fan of SPIDER-MAN 3, (as well as everyone else, it was the highest grossing film to date), the portrayal of “emo” SPIDER-MAN faltered in a few ways. More so, the way they made him appear was offputting. We, as watchers, knew he was going through an emo phase — however, it was portrayed as a huge running gag after the film premiered.

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For fans, we knew the “emo” phase happened in the comics, so that vision Sam Raimi has was not entirely all bad. What went wrong was the control that Raimi no longer had. It was minimal, and the concept was poorly screwed with, which could have resulted in the poor execution, but we will never know for sure.

SAM RAIMI
Our old and faithful, “emo SPIDER-MAN.”

Overall, while “emo SPIDER-MAN” was not the best aspect of SPIDER-MAN 3, the film was still good in many ways. Gwen Stacy was not one of them. Emo Peter Parker was not one of them. And, Sandman was on the fence of things. SPIDER-MAN 3 could have done amazing things, but that does not take away from the fact that it did do some amazing things. For a good laugh, Google “Emo SPIDER-MAN,” a ton of stuff pops up.

The Following: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Film

Let’s talk about THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for a second. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is the film that followed the fantastic series of Sam Raimi’s vision. It was the complete opposite of who, what, and why Peter Parker was the way he was. It was an adaptation that goes down as “IRON MAN 2,” which I pretend never happened.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker & SPIDER-MAN

This series changed the way we knew Peter Parker, in my opinion. He was now skateboarding, and he was relatively “cool.” Peter was so attractive, and he was so handsome that he appeared as a “joke” Peter Parker in a lot of ways. You could not take him serious half of the time because it came off that way despite it being intentional or not. Andrew Garfield was the last person I would have wanted to fulfill the shoes of Peter, but it happened.

What we got with Tobey playing Peter was genuine because he came off as such. His acting is the entirety of Peter Parker. Even when he is not Peter or SPIDER-MAN, you still think he is playing the role. Andrew was not believable — and that is what it boils down to. Some would agree that it is truly hard to believe Andrew was an outcast, or nerdy even, or genuinely a brave hero who wanted to save his loved ones.

SAM RAIMI
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

I had a hard time believing his persona of SPIDER-MAN. Of course, subtle changes are good for characters; I am all for visions — however, changing SPIDER-MAN into a “millennial” was a different story. One would have never thought of Peter Parker skateboarding; I mean, some can argue that he might have gotten into it.

On the old school spectrum of things, though, Peter Parker was charismatic, and the girls loved him, but he did not like attention on himself (which is why he was SPIDER-MAN). That is what leads me to believe he was not the skateboarding type. I am sure there’s a person that has this as a pro, but as for me, it was a con.

No SPIDER-MAN 4

The fact that there is no SPIDER-MAN 4, still makes me angry inside. Now, what makes this series so legendary is because it was over before it began.

READ: Looking For A Review Of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #22? Look No Further!

This was an epidemic in the early 90’s and 00’s. FREAKS AND GEEKS, TWIN PEAKS, and any Nickelodeon show in the 90s had this diagnosis. They were canceled before they even really began. SPIDER-MAN had that symptom, unfortunately. The yearn to want another, even now, is still strong — but, fans know it will never happen.

The “Unfinished Business”

WHAT HAPPENED TO PETER PARKER?

The main question on everyone’s mind: Where did he go? What happened to Peter Parker and how did he grow as a person? What happened to SPIDER-MAN and how did he grow as well?

There is so much unfinished business that we never truly finished. To be honest, no other “re-do” has accurately completed the vision of Raimi at all or gotten close to it. They attempted to recreate the image in another way, but never succeeded in doing so.

We are left with an ache in our heart for a million “what if’s” and no answers. My heart still aches for a SPIDER-MAN 4.

Okay, But, Is It Really That Great?

Throughout the years, some have hated SPIDER-MAN, appreciated SPIDER-MAN, adored SPIDER-MAN, meme-d Tobey’s face (such as the picture below), and often praised Tobey, in that same retrospect, for his role in the film. What makes this film memorable is the fact that it is forever meme-d. You do not see THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN being meme-d, which is why it is an easily forgettable film (in a lot of ways). I feel like if you can meme it, it is a darn good movie, no matter what anyone says.

SAM RAIMI
I mean, this picture alone proves it is just that great.

The perfection that is SPIDER-MAN takes (a lot of) time to realize.

It happens well after watching the films at least five times. It is a gradual realization. Sam Raimi’s vision for SPIDER-MAN will go down in the SPIDER-MAN history books for the courage it took. To make something your own, and do a great job at it, takes courage and skill. So far, only Sam Raimi has possessed that ability.

SPIDER-MAN is that great. The reasons may be different for each watcher, but the historical value is known. While there may not be a SPIDER-MAN 4 and we may not see Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker anytime soon, we can reflect on this vision. The vision that started it all is what makes this perfectly imperfect series so beautiful to watch and come back to.

While we are patiently waiting for Tom Holland to show us what he is worth, keep in mind the legend that started it all, Tobey Maguire. Don’t believe me, check out this piece about how awesome SPIDER-MAN 3 is.

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