Friday, December 18, 2009

Favourite Film of the Decade #5 - The Spider-Man Series

You read that right holmes. I'm counting the Spider-Man trilogy as one movie and there is absolutely sweet dick all you can do about it.

Now for a little history about me and this Spider-Man fellow. My first Spider-Man memory harkens back to when I was 3 or 4 and my parents bought me one of those black velvet posters with Spider-Man seemingly coming right out of the picture at you. Unfortunately, once it go dark out, the poster terrified the fuck out of me. Spider-Man looked like a masked creature intent on killing me in my sleep. Only one problem though, I loved Spidey so much that I couldn't bear to ask my parents to take it down. I decided to live with the fear since it was so awesome having a Spider-Man poster.

Throughout my childhood Spidey remained my favourite comic. Peter Parker was a great guy, though it could be argued that he is a tad nerdy, and once he put on that costume he transforms into the wise cracking, heroic webhead that is virtually impossible not to love.

During my high school years I stopped buying comic books (and my little brother who go into comics was only buying Punisher, Wolverine and Groo), but still watched The Amazing Spider-Man every lunch hour whether I've seen it or not. I could be a nerd without any of my friends finding out. Ha!

Extreme poverty kept me away from comics for the most part until my late twenties when I got a decent job and some disposable income. I must have bought more comics that year than most people do in their lives. Picked up Kraven's Last Hunt and various other Spidey titles, but the single issues weren't all that hot, Byrne was rebooting the series with Spider-Man Chapter One which was a little interesting but I found more than enough Vertigo titles to keep me occupied. But once Straczynski took the reigns I think I've pretty much bought every Spider-Man title since (and after the rocky One More Day and Brand New Day Spider-Man's better than it's been in ages).

Now let's move on to my love for Sam Raimi. I saw Evil Dead when I was around 13 and getting a little bored with horror. I had seen so many horror flicks and at around this time I no longer had to hold a pillow over my face at the scary scenes, in fact, I hadn't been that scared by a film in a long time. Evil Dead kicked my mind's ass. Not only that, it got me interested in the filmmaking behind it as well. Sure I'd read Fangoria for a while, so I knew the basics of film, but I became obsessed with the "style" of Evil Dead. From that point onward, Sam Raimi became my favourite director. And since he's kept evolving and can usually be counted on to bring "the goods" he's never even been close to being knocked off his throne (The Gift and For Love of the Game did have me scared).

So when my friend visited me at work with the news that Mr. Raimi would be directing the new Spider-Man movie I immediately thought how cruel this "friend" was being. How dare someone play games with my heart that way. It turns out they had also brought an article from the paper to back up their claim, so until May 3rd 2002 I lived my life highly anticipating this film that should only exist in legend. And I wasn't disappointed.


Ecstasy. After months of anticipation the morning of May 3rd came along and I finally got to see the most perfect combination since chocolate and peanut butter, Sam Raimi and Spider-Man. Unlike many of the gloomy superhero movies that came before it, this film was filled with colour, spectacle and a pure sense of joy. Sure, I missed the constant wisecracking I got from ole Webhead in the comics, but that was nitpicking when considering everything that worked in the film. Dafoe as Norman Osbourne/The Green Goblin was amazing and Tobey Maguire did a fantastic job as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I've heard some complain about Maguire being too nerdy, and not being the "Spider-Man they know". I'm from the school that there are different variations on this great character, and that's the way I like it. The Spider-Man in the comics now is much different than the one created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. And the Ultimate Spider-Man is different from that. Raimi's Spider-Man is just another variation of the awesomeness that is Spidey. My favourite film in the series.


Here's the Spidey that even the critics got behind. Where some complained about the first one for being too "comic booky" and that they were disappointed with the characters wearing masks too much (much like my complaint that the sky is "always" blue in The Unforgiven. C'mon Eastwood, use some creativity!). Raimi once again casts the film perfectly, having Alfred Molina playing Otto Octavius/Doc Ock. He brings a lot of humanity to the villain as opposed to a lot of the stunt casting we had gotten so used to from the Batman series. Imagine that, actually casting great actors as villains rather than whoever's hot at the moment. No one has really commented on Raimi's casting when it comes to the villains in the series, but he really is to be commended. The film is just as exciting and dramatic as the first, with the perfect amount of melodrama. Just fantastic.


Alright, alright, alright. This film is definitely flawed, but it's not the abomination so many claim it to be. Let's get the flaws out of the way first: Venom is not used well, Harry Osbourne's story is wrapped up in an extremely disappointing way and the end fight is more confusing than exciting. The pros: everything else. Thomas Hayden Church plays an awesome Flint Marko/Sandman and the story was very involving. I know I'm part of the minority, but I loved when Peter Parker was infected with evil, and since he's the nicest guy in the world, the worst he could become is a douchebag. The scenes when Maguire plays Parker for comedy are hilarious and I was pleasantly surprised that Raimi managed to put a musical number in a superhero film. Great stuff. Unfortunately whereas part one and two seem like something as fantastic as Kraven's Last Hunt part three does resemble the Venom saga, that is just a good story with characters coming in and out of the story at random. It's a fine comic book film and a nice addition to the series, even if it's not the best (not the best!? The nerve!!).

These films made a nerd very, very happy*.

*and me too


  1. Great review. One thing you didn't comment on that I thought you would was Harry Osborne turning good. One of the all time great hammy performances that I'm sure put a lot of people off. I also really loved your "College: 1995" carton. I wonder who it is that was speculating on Spider-man's anatomy...

  2. ...and that second to last frame, where you're glaring sternly at the group is hilarious. Thanks for cracking me up at work.

  3. Glad I could be of service. If memory serves me correct it was Ian, Josh and the gang in the "Rat" Lounge

  4. I am impressed that you have the Sam Raimi Spider-Man series on this list. It takes guts to include that series on a best of list. I loved the first two films, but I despised the third one.

    My uncle gave me a bunch of Spider-Man comics from the mid-1980s back when I was a kid (in the early 1990s) - and they were AWESOME. To this day, I still love those comics. Spider-Man wore the black costume in most of those comics - but not the alien symbiote, it was the harmless costume the Black Cat made for him. And Spider-Man also had a lot of great one-liners back then.

    As for your reviews, I thought they were great. The 1980s comic book Spider-Man (which I am most familiar with) is a pretty suave dude - it seemed like women were always fighting over him. So it is unfortunate that I wasn't around to see the evolution of the Peter Parker character from supernerd to cool dude. As you point out, the Peter Parker character in the first Spider-Man movie isn't the character I'm familiar with - but I'm not complaining. I think it was appropriate that the Sam Raimi movie used a nerdy Peter Parker. I give the movie a 5/5.

    And a great review of Spider-Man 2. I also give that movie 5/5.

    I saw Spider-Man 3 in theatre, and when I walked out, I was extremely angry. I hated the battle with Venom, I hated that Venom usually showed his human face when he spoke, I hated that the Sandman turned out to be a "good guy" in bad circumstances, and I hated that the movie tried to cram two villains into the same movie, among many other complaints. I'm not sure what I would rate the movie today - I would have to watch it again.

    A friend of mine, who is a big fan of Spider-Man 3, pointed out that the way Spider-Man 3 ended, it was pretty much like the final ending of the series. Back then, I was expecting Spider-Man 4 and 5 to be made, so that made me REALLY hate Spider-Man 3 - because I didn't think it would be possible for parts 4 or 5 to be any good. BUT since there won't be a part 4 or 5, I think that if I watched Spider-Man 3 today, I wouldn't be so critical. In fact, I might even end up liking it!

    I'm not sure if the Spider-Man reboot exists in the same universe as the Avengers movie - but I hope it does. And I am expecting to enjoy the Spider-Man reboot even more than the first two Raimi Spider-Man movies. For instance, it seems Mary Jane isn't in the movie, but Gwen Stacey and Flash Thompson are, much to my delight. I think it's a great idea to wait until a sequel to introduce Mary Jane - and the HOBGOBLIN! Although, I hope they won't make the mistake of having Spider-Man battle two villains in the same movie - unless it's something like Superman fighting a superpowered villain (like Metallo), and dealing with the evil schemes of Lex Luthor (but Superman won't be able to prove Luthor is criminally responsible).