The turn of the century and a time when the Superhero movies really began to take over Hollywood. I remember all the buzz (not sure if that is a pun or not) concerning this movie, made even more so due to the city it is set in after 9/11. Now there have been several attempts at a Spider-Man movie in the past and some scripts had been bounced around for years but nobody really wanted to attempt it. After Fox’s X-Men proved a success, Sony went ahead with their movie and thus, a popular franchise gained new life in today’s movie, Spider-Man (2002).
The plot: On a senior trip to Columbia University, Peter is attempting to take pictures of the lab for the school newspaper but is being bullied by Flash Thompson and his friends. As their tour continues, Peter asks Mary Jane “MJ” Watson, his next door neighbor and the girl he has a crush on, if he can take her picture next to some of the spider cages and she agrees. As he is taking her picture, a genetically altered spider, which had escaped from it’s cage, drops down from it’s web onto Peter’s hand and bites him, scurrying away when he brushes it to the floor. Returning home, where he lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter rushes upstairs to his room, where he ends up passing out on the floor. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn is attempting human performance enhancement treatments as part of a military contract but the general assigned to it says that he will pull their funding and give it to their competitor, who is testing their exo-skeleton in 2 weeks. Feeling pressured after his lead scientist said they should start over, Norman decides to test the procedure on himself but when his heart stops, the lead scientist cancels the procedure and tries to revive him only for Norman to regain consciousness and kill him, then steal the suit and glider from the lab. The next day, Peter finds that his body has undergone some changes and as he is sitting at lunch, he somehow shoots out a strand of web from his wrist, which sticks to a nearby lunch tray that he accidentally throws at Flash. Quickly leaving the cafeteria, Peter goes to his locker to get his books so he can leave when Flash tries to punch him from behind but Peter is able to sense the punch coming and avoid it, as well as the following punches, then knock Flash back with one punch. Leaving school, Peter realizes the spider bite must have changed him and he starts experimenting with what he can do; first by scaling a nearby building, then leaping from roof to roof before finally attempting to swing from one of his webs. When he gets home, he finds a note from his Uncle in the newly painted kitchen, which Peter was supposed to help with, and feels bad for not helping. As he takes the trash out, he hears MJ arguing with her father next door and when she comes outside, she ends up talking with Peter about their plans after graduation before leaving with Flash in his new car. Deciding to try and get a car for himself, Peter sees an ad in the newspaper offering $3000 for lasting 3 minutes in a wrestling match against Bone Saw McGraw and he decides to do it, making a costume for himself. Peter leaves to go to the wrestling ring, telling May and Ben that he is going to the downtown library, but his uncle decides to drive him there. When he gets to the library, Ben tries talking with Peter about what has been going on with him recently but Peter doesn’t want to to talk, yelling at Ben that he isn’t his father, and a hurt Ben drives off saying he will pick Peter up at 10. Peter heads to the wrestling ring to compete, with the announcer calling him the Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter finds himself in a steel cage match but he manages to beat Bone Saw. Backstage, Peter is only given $100, with the promoter saying that he didn’t last the full 3 minutes but Peter leaves, a man enters the room and robs the promoter. As the crook runs for the elevators, Peter stands aside and lets him leave, telling the promoter it wasn’t his problem when he asks why he didn’t try to stop him. Outside, Peter sees a crowds outside where his uncle was supposed to pick him up and he finds Ben lying on the ground, having been shot during a carjacking. Hearing on a nearby cop’s radio that the cops are chasing after him, Peter races off, donning his costume again and chases after the carjacker, managing to swing from his webs to finally catch up to him. Peter causes the car to crash into an old warehouse and he follows after the carjacker, only to realize that it is the same man that robbed the promoter and he let get away. The crook tries to shoot Peter but he breaks his wrist and the crook backs away from him and ends up falling to his death while a guilt ridden Peter returns home and tells Aunt May what happened. Meanwhile, Quest Aerospace is testing their exo-skeleton, with General Slocum in attendance, when a figure in a green suit and riding Oscorp’s glider flies down and destroys the exo-skeleton and then the observation bunker, killing the scientists and Slocum. After graduation, Peter moves into an apartment downtown with Harry and begins stopping crimes and helping save people in trouble. As he is walking around town, he runs into MJ, who is working at a diner and she asks him not to tell Harry, as they are secretly dating. Peter returns to his apartment to find Osborn there, who asks Peter if he knows who Harry’s girlfriend is but Peter tells him he has no idea. Osborn heads to his company and tells the board that Oscorp has now become the chief supplier for the military but the board tells him that they are accepting a buyout from Quest Aerospace and that he is being kicked out of the company. At the Oscorp Unity Festival, Peter is there taking pictures to sell for the Daily Bugle when he spots Harry and MJ on a balcony. Harry spots Peter in the crowd and tries to get MJ to head inside to avoid any discomfort when the Green Goblin attacks the festival, killing the board members of Oscorp before Spider-Man is finally able to fend him off, disabling his glider, then rescues MJ before she falls from the crumbling balcony. The next day, Osborn is reading in the paper about the deaths of the Board members in the paper when he starts hearing a voice in his head, revealing himself to be the Green Goblin and suffering from a sort of split personality due to the performance enhancers. Osborn attacks the Daily Bugle to find out who takes the pictures of Spider-Man for them but J. Jonah Jameson refuses to tell him. When Spider-Man shows up to stop Osborn, Green Goblin uses sleep gas on him and then carries him off and when he regains consciousness, Osborn tries to convince Spider-Man, telling him the city will turn on him eventually. Peter runs into MJ again after she had auditioned for a role and the two talk for a while before she leaves to go meet Harry but as she walks away, Peter notices some guys suddenly following after her. As the 4 men chase after MJ and attempt to rape her, a maskless Spider-Man rescues her then quickly disappears when she approaches him, only to reappear with his mask on but MJ pulls the mask down from his mouth so she can kiss him. The next day, Peter rescues a baby from a burning building when the police show up to try and arrest him but when they hear more screams coming from inside, they allow him to head back inside to rescue whoever is left. Peter heads back inside only to find the screams were actually a trap set by the Green Goblin, who attacks Peter with flying razor discs, cutting his arm but Peter is able to get away. Osborn heads to Harry and Peter’s apartment for Thanksgiving with Harry, Peter, MJ, and Aunt May and as they sit down for dinner, Aunt May notices the cut on Peter’s arm and Osborn realizes that Peter is Spider-Man. Osborn attacks Aunt May’s house, terrorizing her and sending her to the hospital in order to attack Peter’s spirit. Peter goes to the hospital to be with her and MJ stops by for a visit and as they talk, she mentions she might be in love with Spider-Man and as Peter talks to her about how “he described MJ to Spider-Man”, the two get closer but pull away when they see Harry has shown up and saw them. Harry returns to his father’s house, telling him about Peter and MJ and after learning that Peter loves MJ, Osborn realizes a better way to attack Peter. Back at the hospital, Peter is surprised to find Aunt May had been awake when MJ was there and when she mentions how everyone knows that he loves her, he realizes the Goblin might know as well and calls MJ to warn her only to hear the Goblin on the phone. Osborn has taken MJ to the Queensboro Bridge, where he has also taken a cable car full of children hostage and forces Peter to choose who he will save, releasing them both. Peter dives from the bridge and saves MJ, then grabs the cable for the cable car in one hand while webbing himself to the bridge with the other, saving everyone. The captain of a barge starts moving his barge underneath the cable car so Peter can lower it onto the barge and Peter tells MJ to climb down the cable and get on the cable car top safety. Osborn attacks Peter to try and get him to drop the cable car but the people on the bridge begin throwing things at the Goblin to keep him from stopping Spider-Man. Once the cable car is safe, Goblin grabs Spider-Man and drags him away, and the two begin fighting in an abandoned building but as Peter gets the upper hand, Osborn begs him to stop, revealing himself to be the Goblin, but as he talks with Peter, he secretly activates his glider and tries to impale Peter with is but Peter is able to dodge it and Osborn impales himself instead, begging Peter not to tell Harry before he dies. Peter removes the Goblin armor and takes Osborn back to his home but Harry sees him and accuses Spider-Man of killing his father. At the funeral, Peter offers his condolences to Harry, who wants vengeance on Spider-Man. Peter then goes to Uncle Ben’s grave, where MJ approaches him and tells him she loves him and kisses him but Peter tells her he will always be there as a friend and walks away from her but as he leaves, MJ thinks about the kiss and starts to wonder if he is Spider-Man.
Spider-Man (2002) met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Not only does Spider-Man provide a good dose of web-swinging fun, it also has a heart, thanks to the combined charms of director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire.” After 9/11, Sony recalled all of the teaser posters that had Spider-Man’s face and the NYC skyline reflected in his mask, including the Twin Towers, but not all of the posters were recovered and the ones still at large are highly sought after collector’s items. The movie was the first movie to break $100 million in it’s opening weekend on it’s way to earning $821.7 million off of a $139 million budget and spawned two sequels.
This is definitely a fun movie to watch and a good way to kick-off to a series. The acting was good, with Tobey Maguire (Peter) and Willem Dafoe (Osborn) doing great jobs with their characters and had good chemistry working together. I also liked Rosemary Harris as Aunt May and James Franco as Harry but was honestly kind of indifferent to Kirsten Dunst as MJ. The story was pretty good, basically telling the origin of both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, with some changes made to the story lines. Personally, I loved that the included the wrestling scene as I always thought that was an interesting aspect of his developement; showing that Peter really was just a teenager, in spite of his abilities, and would make the same selfish decisions that any teenager would make. One thing that I didn’t particularly care for was that they changed an iconic story line of Gwen Stacy’s death and inserted MJ into it but I do understand that most current fans (back then at least) were more familiar with MJ’s relationship with Peter as opposed to Gwen’s. The special effects were well done and a marked improvement to some of the superhero movies in the 90’s. A good movie and one that never fails to entertain me.
Rating: 4 out of 5