Spider-Man is a 2002 superhero/action film directed by Sam Raimi, which helped usher in the mainstream comic-book movies of modern cinema. Starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, J.K. Simmons, and plenty of other talented stars, Spider-Man features a star-studded cast with significant acting chops. Telling the origin story of the mega-popular comic-book hero Spider-Man, this superhero flick was one of the first to reach truly impressive levels of success.
By offering a more grounded narrative than usual, along with great fight scenes and groundbreaking visual effects (at the time), Spider-Man is a quintessential movie among comic fans. Now that we’ve seen countless Spider-Man sequels, does the 2002 original hold up? Let’s see if Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie is still effective when compared to modern-day action flicks.
How to Stream or Download Spider-Man (2002)
To stream or to download the movie from iTunes or Google Play, click on the Download button at the end of the review. Check out also other Spider-Man titles that we have reviewed such as The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), or Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019).
The Movie Review
Spider-Man tells the iconic origin story of the titular superhero, a high-school student who possesses spider-like superpowers. Living in Queens, New York, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a nerdy high-school senior who clashes with other students at his school. Picked on and teased day after day, Peter has very few friends besides Harry Osborn (James Franco), the son of a rich and powerful scientist named Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe).
Although Harry and Norman live a life of luxury, Peter lives in a low-income neighborhood with his elderly Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Apart from fawning over his crush Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), an innocent and bubbly fellow student and neighbor, Peter lives a mostly uneventful life. One day while attending a field trip for school, Peter is bitten by a genetically modified super-spider, suddenly imbuing him with inhuman powers.
As Peter practices with his new abilities, he finds a knack for a life of vigilante justice. Following a heart-breaking death, Peter swears to avenge the helpless in New York and catch the criminals that the police fail to capture. As he comes to terms with his newfound powers and the recent tragedy, Peter roams the streets in costume and mask under the alias of “Spider-Man” while balancing his normal life at school. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, forced to desperate measures to save his company, undergoes an experiment to give him super-human strength.
This power comes at the price of his sanity, creating a sinister supervillain for Spider-Man to fight named the Green Goblin (he also come back in the 2021 film Spider-Man: No Way Home). Generally speaking, the movie is packed with quality performances, but both Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe do a fantastic job in their roles.
While Spider-Man is an effective and enjoyable superhero flick, it has a handful of problems. Most of the issues come from poor, aged special effects, as well as a juxtaposition of goofy and series tones. While the practical effects remain intense and exciting, a lot of the CGI in Spider-Man is blatantly obvious and takes you out of the experience.
There are still a handful of scenes that are impressive, but a lot of the late-movie action gets to laughably low levels of quality. The story is still believable due to great performances from the entire cast, but the immersion is often spoiled by shoddy special effects. Additionally, the movie often defaults to a silly, family-friendly tone, which clashes with the otherwise realistic characters. Generally speaking, if you’re a fan of Spider-Man as a character and story, you’ll enjoy this film. While it might not be the best Spider-Man movie ever made, without it, we wouldn’t have any of the sequels or spin-offs. For that, Spider-Man is worth watching.
- Grounded characters and narrative
- Emotional storytelling
- Great practical effects and editing
- Special effects have aged poorly
- Awkward writing at times