Never has a film been more squarely aimed at the nerds and outsiders of the world (OK, maybe Revenge of the Nerds), the guys with the smarts but not the brawn, good looks, athletic bodies and hot girlfriends. Fortunately, this description neatly encapsulates the majority of the superhero genre’s existing fanbase.
Tobey Maguire is Peter Parker, the afore-mentioned science nerd with a prolonged crush on Kirsten Dunst’s girl-next-door MJ, but lacking the confidence, wealth, strength and social standing required to do anything about it. After being bitten by a radioactive spider during a class field trip, he acquires some of the spider’s abilities, including wall crawling, mild precognition, shooting webs from his wrists, a vastly improved body and the ability to dangle from the ceiling into your mouth while you sleep. In real life, spider’s shoot the webs from an aperture closer to their posterior. This would have made for a much stranger film, I feel. Unfortunately, Parker’s transformation occurs around the same time as Parker’s lazy rich kid best friend Harry’s businessman father trials a new super serum on himself, with predictably disastrous results, transforming him into a suped-up madman, terrorising the city in the form of fan favourite villain the Green Goblin.
This is noticeably a genre finding its feet, being one of the earlier modern comic book films (better than Joel Schumacher’s Batman travesties and Daredevil, not as good as X-Men), as it spends more time dealing with the inevitable origin story and too much soppy character drama, something improved upon by the sequel, as with no back story to cover the action gets to kick off straight away. Yes, back stories can be done well, see Batman Begins and Iron Man, but they were both able to learn from Spidey’s mistakes.
Spiderman 2 features a much more memorable and iconic villain in the form of Alfred Molina’s Dr. Otto Octavius who, after another botched experiment (this time involving fusion), he receives four prehensile multi-functional metal arms grafted to his spine, thereby becoming ‘Doc Oc’. As before, Maguire is justifiably bland as Parker, allowing the audience to project themselves onto him, and Dunst is still perfect as the dream girl, now tantalisingly within reach. Director Sam Raimi revels in some nice little in jokes (the chainsaw), casting regular Bruce Campbell as a ring announcer in part 1, a snooty usher in 2 and a helpful French waiter in 3 (not appearing on the list), as well as his brother Ted Raimi in a tiny role. J. K. Simmons is absolutely spot-on casting as J. Jonah Jameson Jr., editor of the Daily Bugle, making the films worth watching for his too few scenes alone.
Fun fact: Alfred Molina has the most incarnations of himself in Lego form, for his roles in Spiderman 2, Prince of Persia and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ok, not that fun.
Spiderman Choose life 5/10
Spiderman 2 Choose film 7/10