The Franchise Runner: “Spider-Man” (2002)

Welcome to The Franchise Runner. This written series focuses on those movie franchises that have taken over our hearts and our hard earned dollars. They’ve exploited their popularity, their characters and their premise to go beyond the constraints of one story. As with anything else, this can either be a great epic series like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or drawn out to cash in on fan’s loyalty like The Twilight Saga.

Every franchise (hopefully) will get a look at their rise, fall and eventual rise as time goes on film by film. With bigger franchises with too many films or specific stories such as Star Wars, Batman or Marvel, those will be broken up into sections as to not be exhaustive. Also, James Bond is out of the question as that was covered back in 2012 in the 007 in 23 series (though Spectre was covered in a one-off recently).

Without further ado, let’s begin our run with some web slinging thrown in for good measure.

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Spider-Man was a dream come true for many a kid when it released in 2002. I remember specifically waiting in line for over an hour just to get inside to see it opening weekend.

Spider-Man himself had been a long wait before coming to the big screen. At one point, James Cameron, the master behind The Terminator and Titanic, was attached to it and went as far to write a script treatment for it. Cameron’s vision was more adult-oriented than the vision cooked up by Sam Raimi. Raimi is well known for The Evil Dead franchise and for diving into different genres with the greatest of ease. Him being attached to Spider-Man never sounded too far-fetched. The main casting, however, seems to be a bit questionable just reading it on paper.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson seems like a no brainer as she can rock the “Girl Next Door” look with the best of them. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin can be a powerful and cheese worthy perfromance. Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker  is a bit of a stretch. He’s good and all, but to take on the awkwardness of Pete and the responsibilities of Spider-Man seems to be outside of what he can due. He’s more subdued than anything. Luckily, that was proven wrong in this first outing of the our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

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Spider-Man (Tobey McGuire) decides to test his web shots

Spider-Man starts with Peter Parker doing his typical nerd duties, living in Queens, New York, with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and eyeing Mary Jane Watson from a distance. One day while on a field trip to a science lab to take pictures for the paper, he is bit by a genetically mutated spider, a departure from the old radioactive spider in the comics.

Peter reacts oddly to it all causing Harry Osborn (James Franco) some concern. He heads home only to pass out and wake up in the morning toned and ready to be the man he always wanted to be. Him and Uncle Ben talk later on about him not being as responsible and him having to accept that he has the power to balance it out. He decides to use his new powers to get money for a new car by wrestling in a match at a indie show. He goes up against Bonesaw (“Macho Man” Randy Savage) and is given the name Spider-Man from one of three Bruce Campbell cameos in this trilogy. Unfortunately, Uncle Ben is killed by a random mugger making Peter take this hero business seriously while also trying to make ends meet at the Daily Bugle under the rule of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons).

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn is testing out a new serum for the government to help the military succeed with more power and a glider for some reason. Anyway, he decides to test it himself one night to prove that the serum is completely safe. It isn’t, killing a scientist and going on a rampage that borders between split personality and Willem Dafoe just being Willem Dafoe. Thus, the Green Goblin is born and the two must duke it out in order to make sure the Green Goblin causes no more harm to Peter, his family and friends and even New York.

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Spider-Man (Tobey McGuire) and Mary Jane Watson kiss in the rain

The first film of Spidey’s adventures is an odd one to say the least. It is not that it is a bad film, but it is incredibly dated. Spider-Man hits the right notes of a superhero movie and no one comes off as bored during it.

McGuire is a perfect fit for Peter Parker by capturing the human side of the titular hero, but the Spider-Man part needs a bit of work. Wonder if the sequel will change those view. Dunst is perky and fun as Mary Jane, even if she serves more as a plot device than an actual character. Dafoe as Norman Osborn is golden. He chews the scenery with ease and feels like a genuine threat. Other supporting ruols are great with Robertson as a warm and kindhearted uncle, but the best of all is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah. The man oozes charisma and makes every scene his own.

The direction is solid with Raimi’s quick edits and close-ups capturing the comic book world like he has been practicing for this moment his whole life. Raimi makes shots look grander than they are. The action is fast-paced, energetic and fun to keep the audience’s attention going. The story is paced well and never has a dull moment of bore. Raimi does have a few minor missteps, but that’s mostly on the effects side of things.

The effects are god awful. They do not hold up at all and that’s not a good thing. In the same year where The Two Towers came out, this film has effects that are laughable even by today’s standards. The entire Times Square sequence proves it as it seems like amateur hour at Industrial Light & Magic with interns. Heck, this scene even proves how dated it is out in the open with a Macy Gray performance that honestly goes nowhere. Yet, this is a minor fault in a otherwise good film.

Overall, Spider-Man is a good comic book movie and a fun starting point in a trilogy that would only get better in the next entry: Spider-Man 2 (2004).

This Thursday
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