Why you should watch the original Spider-man movie trilogy
On this, the eve of Amazing Spider-man 2, since I already did a review of the first Amazing Spider-man, I felt it would be a good idea to talk about Sam Raimi's original Spider-man trilogy. This trilogy, to a lot of comic book fans, is what put superhero movies on the map and showed that great superhero movies could be made, well at least with the first 2. Yes, other movies like the first X-men had already come out by the time Spider-man premiered in 2002, but these Spider-man movies set the bar for big budget and popular superhero movies. So it only feels right to pay tribute to "The Trilogy" of superhero films (some may argue The Dark Knight trilogy, but this came first.)
SPOILERS ahead for the Spider-man movie trilogy.
Each movie in the trilogy follows a similar plot thread, Peter Parker (aka Spider-man) struggles with some aspect of his powers, Mary Jane (Peter' girlfriend) breaks up with him, a person tied to Peter's personal life becomes a supervillain (this happens times 3 in the third movie), Spider-man saves the day. That's the break down as its simplest point, but each movie adds different elements and characters that make each interesting. Now yes, none of these movies are perfect, but I love these movies, and they are amongst my favorite movies ever, (yes, even the third movie.)
Tobey Maguire plays Peter in all 3 movies, and honestly, I think he is great. His portrayal of Peter has the perfect balance of nerdy, serious and likeable. Now yes, he has some silly moments: some scenes with MJ are awkward, some serious scenes come off kind of corny, and several scenes in Spider-man 3 are ridiculously goofy. But for the most part, I feel Maguire did a great job. I also think his portrayal of Spider-man is fantastic. He has a great heroic voice, and this Spider-man, while not as quippy as Garfield's, still has some funny lines, but has some great fights to back it up. As I mentioned in my Amazing Spider-man review, I may prefer Maguire over Garfield, for now.
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. Now, Mary Jane has many moments in the books as whiny and annoying, but plenty as a strong, independent and awesome person and a great love interest for Peter. That is not present in the movies. I don't know if it is all Dunst's fault, even though I'm not a big fan of hers, I can't fully blame her. But, she does have some of the worst lines in this movie. And most of her scenes are just her whining and complaining about something. It really is a shame she didn't get more scenes giving her different personality traits other than nagging, but I've seen plenty of worse performances.
James Franco plays Harry Osborn, Peter's best friend. James Franco, I enjoy as an actor, but his performance as Harry is hit and miss for me. He has great moments, his revelation at the end of Spider-man 2 is fantastic is a standout. Yes, I even liked him as New Goblin in Spider-man 3, I thought the design was just cool. Then you have moments where he is trying to be serious and he feels so bland, almost like he isn't really there in the scene, but for the most part, I really did enjoy his performance.
The supporting cast that features in all 3 movies, or the standouts anyway, add a lot of great parts to the trilogy. Rosemary Harris as Aunt May is near perfect, even if she gets a little preachy. As the series goes on, she gets a little more preachy than relatable, but she does a great job. Cliff Robertson plays a great Uncle Ben, when he dies, it tugs at your heart strings HARD. Though, he is a bit preachy like Aunt May, but I'd like to add that their few scenes together in the first movie are adorable. The villain roster (more in depth later), is fantastic. There are a few minor side characters that do characters from the books justice as well. Dr. Curt Connors is even in these movies, but never becomes Lizard. What a waste.
But, in my opinion, one of the standouts and best parts of this trilogy, is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. This is my definition of a fun character. Not only does Simmons perfectly portray one of Spider-man's most infamous characters, but he sets the bar for any other portrayal of this character. He does a fantastic and hilarious job, and is one of the best comic book character representations in movie history.
In the first movie, Peter, of course, gains his super powers from the radioactive spider. Peter loses his Uncle Ben and learns his lesson of "With great power, comes great responsibility." Meanwhile, he gets closer to former classmate, Mary Jane. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, the father of Peter's best friend, Harry, is in trouble of his company losing funding. So, Norman uses an experimental serum to give himself super powers as well, and becomes The Green Goblin. Norman does many horrible things, including killing all of his funders, endangering countless civilians (even children on a school bus), putting Peter's Aunt May in the hospital, the list goes on. Norman even offers Spider-man a partnership, which is of course declined. So, Spider-man has to save the day and stop the Goblin's terror.
The first movie has to run the gambit of the superhero origin story, that even back in 2002 had been done a lot. Yet even nowadays this movie holds strong compared to other superhero movies. The story is toll, the cast is strong. Spider-man is a great hero, and Green Goblin is a great villain. Willem Dafoe plays a fantastic Norman Osborn. He captures the serious business man, and psychotic villain side of the character fantastically. People complain about the costume, but look at the original design of the character and tell me how it would've looked better. So far it looks better than the Green Goblin in an certain upcoming movie.... But the first Spider-man movie is a great origin story and superhero movie altogether.
In Spider-man 2, Peter is still doing a great job as Spider-man, but is coming into a personal crisis. Being Spider-man is cutting into his personal life and professional life. He struggles with which side he should truly go with, not to mention that suddenly his powers are disappearing on him. Meanwhile, Mary Jane is still trying to be an actor and wants to be with Peter, but "wah wah wah." Meanwhile, Harry now owns Oscorp and is funding a big scientific experiment involving fusion. The man behind this experiment is Dr. Otto Octavius. Otto has invented giant robot tentacle arms to handle the fusion energy, but in order to control them, he has a chip that connects his mind to the arms, which have sentient minds (yes, that change is stupid.) But, the experiment fails, Otto's wife dies, and the fusion energies destroys the chip and the claws take over his mind. We also learn that Harry loathes Spider-man for the death of his father (told ya 'bout the spoilers.) Otto is now the villainous Doctor Octopus or Doc Ock, and wants to recreate the fusion experiment on a bigger scale, by whatever means necessary. Now, Spider-man has to figure out his internal dilemma and save New York from Doc Ock's scientific destruction.
Spider-man 2 is considered to be the best of the trilogy, and it is easy to see why. The whole movie is very well acted, Dunst is even at her best here, but that is not saying much. The story flows very well, and Peter's struggle is very believable. The action is also very impressive. Doc Ock and Spidey have several great fights. Yet, the movie still has the trilogy's brand of silliness. The climax of the subway scene is a real groan inducer, and Mary Jane's "romance" is laughable. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock is friggin' awesome. Molina is a great actor, and he really brings life to this famous villain. He is smart, devious and very threatening. Plus, his look is so cool, it would actually go on to inspire future interpretations of this character. Plus, Molina makes this character feel the most tragic of the trilogy's villains. It's an overall great performance. So yes, Spider-man 2 is the most solid entry of the trilogy, and it is one of my favorite movies ever.
And now, we come to the infamously controversial Spider-man 3. Peter is loving his life as Spider-man. He is together with MJ, wanting to marry her, he is a college graduate, living on his own and just feels he has it all. Meanwhile, after Harry discovers Spider-man's identity at the end of the last movie, he starts taking his father's Goblin serum. One night, Harry attacks Peter as the New Goblin. During the fight, Harry wipes out and is put into the hospital. The doctor says he has lost his short term memory, and Harry loses his memory back to right before he learns Peter's identity, (sigh.) So Harry and Peter are friends again. Meanwhile, a man named Flint Marko escapes from prison. He runs into an experimental sand pit in the middle of the field (of course?), where he is trapped. After some science is muttered, he is mutated into the Sandman. Meanwhile, a small meteor falls in New York, which holds a strange, sentient black goo. The next day, Peter and Aunt May learn that Marko is the man that actually murdered Uncle Ben. Meanwhile, Gwen Stacey is in this movie, but is so terribly represented it doesn't matter. Later that night, the black goo bonds with Peter and gives him a fancy new costume, making him feel more powerful, but his personality is changing as well. Peter then takes down Sandman in a very violent altercation, and starts being his new self. Meanwhile, Harry gets his memory back and tries to take Mary Jane from Peter and practically succeeds, causing Peter to force his new, violent personality on Harry. After that, Peter then realizes that the suit needs to go, so he heads to a church. Meanwhile, Peter's former co-worker that he disgraced, Eddie Brock, again, poorly represented, is at the same church. The black goo, aka symbiote, leaves Peter and bonds to Eddie to form Venom. Venom finds the Sandman and they unite to take down Spider-man. Now it's up to Spider-man to save the day!
Spider-man 3 has so much going on and so many plot threads, this film struggles giving the elements that need explanation enough time to breathe, and this flaw creates plot holes and rushed elements that eventually flop by the time the credits roll. That list goes on. But I feel Spider-man 3 is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it suffers from the story flaws that I mentioned, plus some bad acting to drag down the story, and characters from the comic books poorly represented. On the other hand, there is some good acting, there are some great action scenes, particularly the Black Spidey vs Sandman fight, and Thomas Hayden Church played a great Sandman. While he is nowhere near as evil as the original book version, Church manages to pull off a tragic and human villain.
Then there is Venom. Where do I begin? The only thing the movie got right about this beloved character is the style of Venom, but even then he is puny in comparison to the actually character. Topher Grace is not a bad actor, but his portrayal of Eddie is the polar opposite of the comic book version. It's not even a good version of Eddie because the only depth he is given is that he is a jerky version of Peter, and his Venom at the end is what Peter could become if he gave into the symbiote. But again, is so half-baked, this clever concept flops. Which, is very tragic. So, Spider-man 3 does have a lot of bad in it, but it does have some highlights that are still worth noting and remembering. Plus, it is still better than several other superhero movies, like Iron Man 3.
Overall, The Spider-man movie trilogy as a whole is a great movie trilogy, with its problems yes, but to this day it is still talked about and beloved by comic book fans and movie fans. Granted, a lot of people dislike Spider-man 3 for the reasons I went into and more, but the first 2 movies were so good, it made the third movie feel that much worse. But, all flaws aside, I still love these movies. We live in the age of The Amazing Spider-man movies, but I am absolutely sure, that the Original Spider-man trilogy will always be amongst the best of all superhero movies and will always be remembered.
I give Spider-man, 4 pumpkin bombs out of 5
I give Spider-man 2, 5 fusion reactors out of 5
And I give Spider-man 3, 2.5 emo Peter dances out of 5
Be here for my review of Amazing Spider-man 2 next week, and head on over to Facebook to like the official page for the blog!