A look back at Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy
Sam Raimi created the Spiderman movie universe as we know it today, and although The Amazing Spiderman is an entire reboot, the man deserves a round of applause (in most cases). Let’s take a look at all three Spiderman films by Raimi, and assess them as a whole.
I’ve come up with a new grading system for my movie ratings, and will apply it here.
1. CASTING: Tobey Maguire IS Spiderman/Peter Parker. I’m not knocking Andrew Garfield at all, but I don’t think you could pick a more fitting actor than Maguire. The second he was cast in the roll, I said, “This is going to be epic.” and he proved that thought.
Kirsten Dunst on the other hand was not in my opinion Mary Jane Watson. She is a great actress don’t get me wrong, and she is attractive, but MJ was the girl I grew up with in the comics. She was drawn to be a very sexy model and was womanly in every aspect of her look. Dunst did not make my childhood fantasies come real, as I didn’t see her that way. Still, she did a fine job acting, I just wish they would have thought about this casting.
Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborne/Green Goblin. As the Goblin, I thought he was perfect when it came to voice and him playing the part (I really like the test mask they did and wish they would have used that instead of the power ranger we got, but I got used to it). He didn’t have much screen time as a sane Norman Osborne, so that one is hard to judge.
James Franco as Harry Osborne / The New Goblin. No, no and no. Look, he’s a great actor and I have immense respect for his talent, but as Harry? No. His Goblin portrayal didn’t even fit the comic part.
Alfred Molina as Doctor Otto “Octopus” Octavius was perfect. Other than Elton John looking the part, Molina was a great selection.
Thomas Hayden Church as Flint Marko aka Sandman. Perfect Casting. I was excited about this as much as about Tobey/Spidey.
Other roles: J Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Betty Brant, Bone Saw McGraw, Uncle Ben, Aunt May, Curt Connors, Gwenn Stacey and Captain Stacey were all excellent choices in my mind. Flash Thompson not so much. He didn’t do a bad job, I just didn’t think he looked the part, and wasn’t as dumb as he seemed in comics.
2. The PLOTs:
Spiderman 1’s plot was an origin story. They did everything they could to fit in what needed to be, and it worked well. Spiderman 2’s plot in my opinion was the best of the three. It was original and felt like Peter really had challenges ahead of him, and really spoke of originality. Spiderman 3 started out great and then somehow joined my previous night’s dinner in the crap filled sewers. They had potential, but jammed way too much in there. It was rushed, and because of this, they strayed too far from the comics.
3. VISUAL EFFECTS:
All three movies really shine here. I have no complaints at all about any of these.
4: CONTINUITY WITH THE COMICS:
Every fan wants their favorite stories to be interpreted correctly. Where most of the following complaints are outweighed by everything else, there are some problems I had. Green Goblin looked like a power ranger, and the New Goblin was downright awful looking. Uncle Ben’s killer being revealed in the third one as the Sandman was terrible. Organic web shooters? I hated it, but realized why they did it and learned to accept it. Genetically altered spider instead of radioactive? Not a bad change. Venom speaking normally instead of in the third person, and having too much of Topher face time was a disappointment. Not to mention that they killed him too quickly and he should have gotten another movie. Oh, and Sandman does NOT fly!!!! The end of the first movie with Goblin on the bridge was a great tribute to the comics, but brings in my next point… MJ should not have been the first girlfriend. What about Betty Brant? She was in the movie. What about Gwenn Stacey who didn’t show up til the third and should have been on the bridge in the first? What about Felicia Hardy? Too much skipped over to have a whiney Peter Parker sulk in his spandex by the middle of the third movie. The Venom symbiote would have been easily done with Jameson’s son returning from space, but for some reason they didn’t do that. When Peter became violent with the Black suit though, they got that right.
5. DIRECTION AND USE OF CHARACTERS:
Direction wise, Sam Raimi did a great job overall. He made some vital errors in the third one, but I blame that on Sony for rushing what he wanted to do, and insisting that he make Venom a main character instead of setup for the next movie. Also, Peter Parker’s little mood swing and dance scene was ridiculous. Look, I love ridiculous humor, but Spidey is already sarcastic. Why make him annoying? Some of it was a bit over the top, but acceptable, and I’d have liked Betty Brant played by Elizabeth Banks to have a bigger role. Despite costume changes, I think he captured the essence of the characters. EXCEPT for Venom not speaking in the third person. Did I mention that already? Yes I did. It bothered me too. Other than that, he updated the stories to fit well in current society at the time.
All of the acting was done well. My only two problems were with James Franco and Tobey Maguire. Franco seemed a little too dry in his portrayal of Harry. His emotions were often unbelievable. And speaking of emotions, Tobey played a little too much of a cry baby. Sure both of these can be blamed on the director, but the actors are at fault as well.
From Danny Elfman’s musical compositions to the selection of songs in the movies, there could not have been better soundtracks.
8. HOW THE AUDIENCE CAN RELATE:
Look, the bottom line is that in order to have a great movie, the audience needs to relate to it in some way. They need to like the characters or hate them and understand to some extent what is going on at an emotional level. The death of Uncle Ben, Peter’s Financial troubles, juggling school work and a job, having a boss that is ungrateful and being bullied are all things that the audience could sympathize with. You really do feel bad for Peter Parker at times throughout these movies. Then there is that award winning upside down kiss in the rain. It’s probably the best movie kiss in history, and melts all the ladies’ hearts. At an even other level, in Spiderman 3, Peter is an emotional wreck with the black suit. That is when the audience feels like screaming, “Stop being a sissy!” It is almost laughable, yet on all fronts, the emotion was present, and people could relate.
9. EASTER EGGS:
For any of you who might not know, an Easter egg in a movie is a hidden item, reference or inside joke between the director and the fans. The Spidey movies have plenty of them. Let’s begin with Bruce Campbell. He is a longtime friend of Sam Raimi’s, and the star of his Evil dead series. He has had plenty of other work with the director as well and is considered the king of B movies. “The Chin” as his fans call him, can be seen as the referee, the guard at the door to MJ’s play, and the French Maitre d in Spiderman 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
Stan Lee, who created most of the Marvel Comics universe, cameos as a guy who saves a girl from falling debris in Spiderman one. He also had a cameo that was cut involving him selling a pair of sunglasses to a kid and saying, “It’s like the one they used in the X-men movies.” In the third movie, Stan the Man is reading a newspaper and turns to Peter to say, “You know, I guess one man really can make a difference… Nuff Said.”
Other actors make cameos, but Lucy Lawless, who played Xena, in Sam Raimi’s series, appears as a punkrocker. And the guy who has his pizza webbed away by Spiderman is also the guy who cowrote evil dead 2 with Raimi.
These easter eggs are mostly more for the Raimi fans, but they are there nonetheless and amusing.
10. OVERALL THOUGHTS
At first, when I saw Spiderman 1 I was a little disappointed. I’m not sure why. I think the changes like the webshooters and green goblin’s look bothered me and I initially couldn’t overlook that. Or maybe it was the company I had. At a second watching, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. SPIDERMAN WAS REAL! Sure, I may have said a lot of negative things about Spiderman 3, but I enjoyed it more than most people. The second film for me was the best.
I wish that Raimi would have been able to redeem himself in a fourth entry, but Sony chose to reboot instead. I am eager to see The Amazing Spiderman, and post a review soon. So what are my ratings for the existing trilogy? I give Spiderman 8 points out of 10. For Spiderman 2 I’ll give it a 9 out of 10, and Spiderman 3 gets my rating of 4 out of 10. Overall, I believe Sam Raimi gave us a 7 out of 10 trilogy. It was worthy of redemption instead of reboot, but hopefully since we aren’t getting that, the new take keeps bringing in new baddies and fan pleasing things. Sorry, Tobey. No Spiderman 4 for you…