A Series Review: Raimi’s Spider-Man, The Definitive Comic Book Movie Trilogy

Before the MCU became the global box office behemoth it is today, there was the Spider-Man trilogy directed by Sam Raimi from 2002 to 2007. This trilogy still holds up to this day as a shining example of what comic-book movies can be. It also showed us that comic-book movies can be profitable blockbusters. This Spider-Man crawled so that the MCU could run.

Spider-Man

(Source: Polygon)

With this first entry, Raimi introduces the world of Spider-Man. It becomes imperative that the first 15 minutes is able to tell everything about the film’s fast-paced nature. With it’s breakneck speed, short dialogues and a proper exposition to the backstory, audiences are then able to connect with Peter Parker without experiencing a drag later in the story. Within one hour into the movie, the first act sees Peter become Spider-Man, which allows time for other parts of the story to flesh out.

Unlike the recent movies which either try to make themselves look dark or distance themselves from comic books to be different, Raimi’s Spider-Man does not shy away from its comic book origins. Its zany directing style and its cheesy yet heartful dialogue feels as though the movie is taken straight out of a Spider-Man comic from the 60s. Its unashamedly cheesy style might turn some people off, especially with the antagonist being Green Goblin. But, it fits perfectly within the world of Spider-Man. Even though it slightly deviates from the source material, Spider-Man’s spirit is still entirely there.

Peter Parker, and the supporting cast around him, does a good job with connecting to the audience. By portraying Peter as a relatable nerd who struggles with problems, it’s much easier to connect to him than with other superheroes. His relationships with MJ, Harry and Aunt May are established satisfactorily, and would grow to service the story of later entries in the trilogy. Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker gives us a believable character who chooses to turn his power into his great responsibility.

Overall, Spider-Man delightfully embraces its comic book tone, different from Nolan’s Batman trilogy that deviates from the cartoony versions of the Silver Age. It became so successful that it is credited with making superhero movies profitable again, as well as the MCU’s climb to becoming the blockbuster factory it is today.


Spider-Man 2

(Source: Games Radar)

Spider-Man 2 manages to do the impossible, which was to top the genius of Spider-Man 1. It ends up being considered the best Spider Man movie till this very day. From the cinematography making each shot resemble a water-painting; the screenplay that makes the film look like a serious drama wrapped in a superhero genre; the tight directing; Spider-Man 2 captures the essence of a comic book and translates it to a perfect two-hour movie. 

In this second act, Peter chooses to reject his alter ego for a peaceful life. Even though he can choose otherwise, he chooses not to neglect his superpower. This movie makes the audiences connect with Spider-Man on a deeper level: It wasn’t the physical threat of Doctor Octopus (aka his greatest enemy). Rather, it was the problems that Spider-Man brings into Peter’s life. It is the emotional conflict that should be important in the movie that makes people want to invest in the story.

Peter’s relationship with his closest family is deeply affected by this conflict. Specifically, with Harry who thinks that Spider-Man killed his father, and with his love MJ who he voluntarily chooses to not be with. Giving consequences to his good deeds makes his moral ideology more complex than a simple good vs bad. It’s about a man learning to be good even in bad times. This then brings us back to the famous line, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.

Aside from the narration, though practical effects were used more than CGI in 2004, it is still impressive today. The CGI manages to blend with reality more than the other way around. Despite being a $200 million budget film, it does not shy away from quiet character moments where we grow to understand the plot. Be it action or quiet, drama scenes, it all feels tight-paced and flows perfectly. There is no room for boredom in this movie.

Overall, this is an excellent entry that defines Spider-Man as the greatest among many other superhero films.

Spider-Man 3

(Source: Film Affinity)

Although many consider it as the black sheep of the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 in hindsight is actually a decent contender. It simply has flaws that makes it the weakest. Being stuffed with three antagonists means that Spider-Man 3’s pace will be considerably rushed; it has to accommodate so many story arcs at once.  Nonetheless, the third entry in terms of filmmaking is still, if not better, than the first two in terms of action.

Indeed, especially with the amnesiac arc, the first half feels as though the story was too dense. Unlike the previous movies, it’s harder for audiences to understand or connect with the plot. It is mostly due to the addition of the third villain, Venom, that many anticipated elements (such as Harry’s arc) had to be given rather rushed conclusions. In the second half, however, all story arcs do at least have decent endings.

(Source: ComicVine)

Nevertheless, the story, like the previous two, focuses on Peter’s morality as a hero. This time he abuses his power while ignoring responsibility. After seeing our hero’s tough life in the sequel, seeing him slowly turn to his demons is rather heartbreaking and controversial at the time. But in favor of the movie, testing Peter’s morality is a brave choice for character development.

Overall, Spider-Man 3 acts as a reasonable closure for the story of our favorite hero. It entails a man gaining his powers, struggling with it and abusing it before finally maturing to it.

Conclusion

(Source: Protogeek)

Sadly, Spider-Man 3 is the final movie from Raimi, and there will never be a proper conclusion to the saga. Nevertheless, its impact has shaped the comic book genre that we see today. Marvel can thank its success to this trilogy, in spite of its flaws.

Written by Edward Wong.