Just in time for the Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone reboot, here’s a new look at Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film from the prolific Mark Batalla.

 

Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man comes out this summer and there’s no better time than now to take a look back at Sam Raimi’s contribution to the Spidey mythos.

After Blade and X-Men, Spider-Man was the first serious attempt by Marvel at creating a movie that corresponded with the look and feel of the source material. Don’t get me wrong, Blade and X-Men were cool, but they were a far cry from how they were depicted in the comics. Raimi’s films actually mashed together elements from the mainstream Spider-Man comics and its alternate reality counterpart, Ultimate Spider-Man. In the mainstream comics, Peter never really knew anything about his parents and Norman Osborn wears a Green Goblin costume. In the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, Peter has organic webbing as part of his power set, Mary Jane is his next-door neighbor, and she is his first love interest.

What’s interesting is the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man film does the inverse. Like in the mainstream comics, Peter is a genius, he creates web shooters to make up for the lack of that superpower, the Lizard is his first supervillain, and Gwen Stacy is his first love interest. Like in the Ultimate universe, Uncle Ben and Aunt May are relatively younger and Peter’s spider powers have closer connections to a secret government project.

For the most part, Spider-Man succeeds at recreating the feel of comics. The Spider-Man costume looks great, despite being a garish red and blue costume. The webswinging sequences feel visceral and should definitely be experienced with a large theater screen. The Green Goblin costume was redesigned, but in a way to make it more plausible as a military uniform. The actors LOOK the way they’re supposed to. As for the way the acted, that’s something else entirely.

Now, my biggest complaint is Tobey Maguire’s bland portrayal of Spider-Man because in every version of the character, Spider-Man cracks wise every chance that he gets. He’s the complete opposite of Peter Parker. And it’s a testament to the character that the audience can read a wide range of emotions via Spidey’s dialogue and body language. With Maguire, you get Peter Parker 24/7. And it’s even worse when he has the mask on, because he is as stiff as the walls that he climbs.

Is It Better Or Worse Than I Remember?

Worse. I never realized how hammy the line delivery was throughout this movie. Most notable is Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin persona. I suppose there’s no way to recite a supervillain monologue without sounding like a complete ass. And take that scene when Green Goblin kidnaps Aunt May. Dafoe and Rosemary Harris are just screaming their heads off for no real reason. J. Jonah Jameson and Bonesaw McGraw are the only characters that I can appreciate being over-the-top because they’re supposed to be like that.

Like much of the CG work done during the 2000’s, those used in this movie don’t look that great after ten years. Right off the bat, the models during the opening credits looks amateurish compared to what can be rendered these days. The CG Spider-Man’s movement is jerky at times. You especially notice this because in fight scenes, the thugs are live actors. It meshes better during fights with the CG Green Goblin model.

And there’s something about the editing and transitions that keeps the flow and tone of the movie disjointed. Take for example that montage of spinning newspapers with the superimposed image of Peter Parker putting on the costume. On one hand, it’s fits the quirky tone of many Raimi films, but it’s a film technique that seems out of place in a modern movie. I may just be too used to the grittier edge that Christopher Nolan brought to the superhero genre, but I know Spider-Man 2 had a different feel to it and that’s why I enjoyed that film the most out of the trilogy.

A decade is a reasonable amount of time to reboot a film, although the problem is that Spider-Man 3 came out in 2007. It took me some time to get warmed to the idea, but I’m actually glad that Sony is going for a fresh start this year. The way CGI Spidey moves in the Amazing Spider-Man trailers is way more organic than the animations used in 2002. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone certainly can’t be any more wooden than Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because in hindsight, Sam Raimi may not have been the best choice to helm the franchise.

Free-Floating Thoughts

Danny Elfman really nailed it with his score. The only music more iconic to Spider-Man is the opening theme from the 1967 cartoon.

Here we go. Pasty white guy theater. At least Tobey Maguire and Willem Defoe were really that skinny. Chris Evans had to use CGI tricks for his pre-transformation scenes in Captain America.

Oh Yeah! The late great Macho Man Randy Savage as Bonesaw McGraw. I’m not sure of the exact reason for the name change. In the comics, Spider-Man fought Crusher Hogan and I’m guessing most people will immediately think of Hulk Hogan. For the record, Savage > Hogan.

How exactly did Peter acquire the new Spider-Man costume? Does he have awesome tailoring skills that match his drawing ability? Did he hire someone to make it?

J.K. Simmons as the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson absolutely steals every scene with his rapid fire insults.

Can anyone else tell the difference between Karen Duffy, Parker Posey, and Elizabeth Banks?

As was the case with Leonor Varela in Blade II and Kelly Hu in The Scorpion King, I also still own the Maxim issue with Kirsten Dunst that came out right around the same time as this movie. Can you blame me? After seeing that scene of Dunst drenched in the rain, I needed to own a magazine spread of her.

Speaking of the rain soaked alley, in the ten years since this movie came out, I’ve seen Spider-Man XXX: A Porn Parody. And boy, I will never look at that upside down kiss scene the same way again.

Did the Green Goblin glider stab him in the nuts? Since this is a Sam Raimi film, I’m going to say yes.

And end with Spidey next to the American flag. USA! USA! USA!


Mark Batalla
www.pixeldripgallery.com

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