Today being Thursday, Max over at Impassioned Cinema hosts a particular segment entitled “Trilogy Thursday” in which, along with someone else, he takes a look at a movie trilogy. This week, he once again asked me to contribute…and he couldn’t have picked a better trilogy for me to enjoy writing about. This week we take a look at the film’s of everybody’s favorite webslinger, Spider-Man.
Max: The moment I got excited that a Spider-Man adaptation was coming to the theaters was when Tobey Maguire was announced as Peter Parker. What a perfect fit. I had seen Tobey Maguire in Pleasantville previously and was impressed with his acting. Sure I was familiar with the character, his origins, and the sweet Mary Jane played by Kristen Dunst, but I hadn’t delved into the comics at that point. After this first movie I was hooked. I remember going to the theaters and seeing it two days in a row. Not a feat many films can claim. It was exactly what I wanted in an origin story and stands next to Superman, Batman Begins and Iron Man as one of the finest. I wasn’t too familiar with director Sam Raimi’s work. I would’ve cried foul at a famous horror director having the reigns to a A-List superhero like Spider-man, but Peter Jackson did wonders with Lord of the Rings. After being completely blown away by the film, I started collecting some anthologies of the earlier comics. What I discovered was that Spider-Man the movie was loosely based on the events in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 121-122′. Of course Gwen Stacey didn’t appear in this film franchise until the third film, so some of the events in those issues were radically changed.
If you asked me what I feel about Spider-Man today…I still think it holds up well enough, but comic book movies took a turn towards even more dramatic territory after the success of The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Spider-Man could’ve used a little more dramatic emphasis in places. Spider-Man still holds relevance in superhero origin stories to this day and should still be considered an enjoyable ride.
T: Let’s travel back in time for a minute to when an 18 yr old version of myself walked into the theater to watch Jurassic Park III (July 2001). Sitting down waiting for the trailers to arrive…completely oblivious to the major surprise that was about to come my way. An AWESOME trailer for a movie I had wanted to see come for the longest time. As a super Spider-Man fan, it was surprising to me that (1) I didn’t even know a movie was on the way, and (2) that it looked so awesome. Do you remember that trailer? It got taken down after the unfortunate events on 9/11 because a pivotal reveal scene featured the twin towers of the World Trade Center. (I still love the trailer and it can be viewed HERE).
A few months later, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man hit theaters (I watched it 6 times on the big screen!), and the rest is history! Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Willem Dafoe it was a little silly at times, but ends up being one of my favorite superhero origin movies. The casting really worked in this introduction movie. Maguire embodied “Peter Parker” with talent, Cliff Robertson filled the role of wise Uncle Ben as if he was born for the role, and everyone else truly just fell into place. (Was also glad for the inclusion of the larger-than-life J.K. Simmons portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson, and the first of three separate Spider-Man film cameos from the great Bruce Campbell!)
While the Spider-Man enthusiast in me preferred to see a different villain other than the notorious Green Goblin and a different girlfriend (Gwen Stacy was Parker’s first), I understood why Raimi did what he did in order to maximize the amount of moviegoers and fans that would go see the film. Overall, Spider-Man allowed me to believe that Marvel could have good movies like DC Comics and made me look forward to the sequel.
Max: Some of the things that disappointed me in the first Spider-Man film were fixed in the second outing. I was much more interested in the villain because other than Venom, I believe Doc Ock is a top-tier Spider-Man villain. The relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane picked up steam and this time he gets the girl as opposed to the first movie were he decides he can’t be with her. While that’s a courageous sentiment, I don’t think it worked well for the film. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the second Spider-Man film, but I always remember this iteration the fondest. Looking back a remember an amazing train fight in the movie between Doc Ock and Spider-Man that simply blew me away. Sam Raimi also got to play with his roots a little, going b-movie horror sequence during the creation of Doc Ock. As far as sequels go, Spider-Man 2 holds up to the best of the superhero movies.
T: Considered one of the best superhero film sequels ever, the statement can be argued that Spider-Man 2 may even be better than its predecessor. Ironically, it did the least in the box office out of all 3. This time, the cast is joined by the talent of Alfred Molina as Doctor Otto Octavius. Continuing where the first film left off, we follow our hero as he juggles all of the things he did in the comic books: grades, girls, gangsters, and gunslingers. The friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, now settled into his role as masked vigilante, focuses his efforts in protecting the city and family that he loves.
The game of cat & mouse between he and Mary Jane continues as they seem to grow apart. By the end, this film left a great feel for the characters and their plights. Secrets are revealed as Raimi sets several little things in motion to excite and prepare audiences to accept the next in the series. Overall, a great sequel that I enjoyed.
Max: Where do I begin? Let’s start with what this movie does right. They decided to introduce Gwen Stacey, who is a beloved Spider-Man character. The threw Venom into the mix for the fans. Sandman was there for good measure. I’m surprised we didn’t Rhino show up as well. There’s just too much in this movie to make it an interesting movie. Superhero movies work best when there’s only one villain to really fight against.
For instance, The Avengers only had Loki as a central villain and no name minions for the superheros to throw around. They could’ve easily found six more villains to fight against the team.
There’s a problem with the Spider-Man story in general. By making fans happy with Mary Jane committing to Peter Parker in the second film, the relationship grew stale. Obviously, Mary Jane and Peter Parker belong together, but even the comic book struggles to make their long-standing relationship exciting again. I’m not sure why they needed to include Sandman. Spider-Man had enough to fight against with Green Goblin 2 and Venom. Those are the villains that would’ve made sense. Sandman should’ve been saved for another movie. Hell, fans were looking forward to when Spider-Man would finally fight the Lizard, but that didn’t come until the reboot. This movie did a lot to hurt the memory of a good franchise.
T: “All good things must come to an end”, they say. The often argued good work that Raimi started ended when the credits rolled for Spider-Man 2. Yes, I own Spider-Man 3, but this one was a travesty. With the uncertainty of the continuation of the series, Raimi smashed way too much into the film and it ended up a train wreck. Sandman, Green Goblin 2, Venom…I mean, Venom deserves a movie that pays attention to him alone! By this time, the back and forth of Mary Jane and Peter Parker is now old news and does nothing but frustrate viewers. The inclusion of Gwen Stacy so late in the game only infuriated Spider-Man fans. And…Emo Peter Parker?? SMH.
With some sorry attempt at trying to recreate emotional attachment to a villain (as in Spider-Man 2), Sandman does nothing but play second fiddle to the problems that Peter Parker faces in this film. Sad. And Venom…well, we won’t even begin to talk about all the things wrong that Raimi did here.
I could “accept” several things that Raimi’s trilogy took liberty with in the beginning: No webslingers, no Gwen Stacy, Green Goblin’s demise, no Felicia Hardy, etc…but what he did with Venom, Gwen Stacy, Sandman, Green Goblin 2 (basically, ALL of the characters in Spider-Man 3) really did a dis-service to the characters and minimized them to very little. BIG disappointment there. This is the worst of the entire series I am sad to say.
Max: I’ll be honest here. The franchise doesn’t resonate as fondly for me as it once it did. Whether it was because the third film failed so miserably or the pairing of Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst doesn’t strike me as memorable anymore, I’m not sure. I guess it also doesn’t help that Sony has consistently devalued the franchise by giving away movies of it all the time with their Blu-ray players or PS3 systems. I wish that Spider-Man would be freed from Sony’s corporate greed and incorporated into the Marvel universe where he belongs. As far as the new adaptation goes, I didn’t know much about Andrew Garfield until The Social Network and he was impressive in that.
Also, I enjoyed Gwen Stacey quite a bit when she was in the comic book series and it’s interesting that her character is going to get the spotlight here. It’s almost as if director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) is following the comic book more closely than the original trilogy did. Expectations are low after Spider-Man 3, but that might work in their favor to knock it out of the park with The Amazing Spider-Man.
T: Raimi met a very daunting challenge to present Spider-Man to the world in good form (though a bit over-patriotic at times). He continued what he started, but steered to far away from that come the final installment. All of the things/mistakes he set in motion seemingly limited him from taking the series any further. When Spider-Man 4 was announced I questioned where Raimi planned to go from there, seeing that he had burned so many bridges when it comes to the storylines and characters. I am glad that they scrapped that project and look forward to what Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield have in store with The Amazing Spider-Man. So far, it looks to be a lot truer to what Stan Lee gave to the world when he created Marvel’s most famous and awesome super hero!
Other Films in the Trilogy Thursday Series:
[Note from T: Thanks again to Max of Impassioned Cinema for inviting me to help out with Trilogy Thursday!]
Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!
–T, The Focused Filmographer