Saying this gets me weird looks at parties but I wholeheartedly stand behind, love, and believe in the original Spider-Man trilogy. Yes, the films directed by Sam Raimi. Yes, the ones with Tobey Maguire. Yes, the one with him strutting down the street and his long bangs and everything. Yes.
I think it goes without saying that when you mention the original Spidey trilogy, people are going to laugh and re-enact that iconic scene that many find cringey (hey, I agree to some degree… but it also kind of earns it–more on that later). I get made fun of or bashed or told I have no taste. And while my taste in men may be questionable (hahaha), I’d like to firmly stand behind my love for the Raimi films.
In defense of the films, here are 6 reasons I still believe in it.
6. It’s self-aware
Look, everyone. These Spidey films knew they were what they were. Not in a meta way but like the treatment of the story and how it unfolded showed that Raimi wanted to embrace that slightly campy, slightly exaggerated vibe. And why not? It’s a superhero film. It’s a film about a guy who gets bitten by a spider and suddenly has enhanced abilities. It’s aware of itself. It knows what it’s doing.
I’m of course not advocating that they’re perfect films. Some transitions still had me squinting and going hmm but it reveled in its humor and in its treatment. It’s a little animated, a little removed from true reality and all because it’s based on a comic book. And it embraced that. And it knew it was embracing it. There were no half-hearted deliveries for how big the personalities were. They were all fully committed to the feel of the movie and knew what they were doing. And it was wonderful and fun.
And look, we know about the iconic scene. We fans know. But it earns its cringiness. Peter isn’t actually cooler, he just feels cooler but he’s still a huge nerd who’s suddenly got this surge of confidence and isn’t afraid to put it out there and bust a move in the streets. Tbh, that’s a big mood sometimes.
The way it’s framed and everything tells us that we’re supposed to kind of uncomfortably nod along to the music as he walks because we’re used to shy, awkward, holding-everything-back-with-puppy-dog-eyes-omg-MJ-please Peter and not him flashing some finger-guns down the sidewalk. The movie KNOWS. It doesn’t apologize for it either. And I love that about it. Embrace that campiness.
5. It paved the way for many superhero films
We were blessed with the MCU back when Iron Man graced our cinema screens in 2008 and launched an entire roster of superheroes we could all look up to. It was a beautiful movement, watching the MCU grow with every hero and having them all come together now and then. Yo, it’s beautiful. Brings tears to my eyes. But Spider-Man back in 2002 didn’t have that. It was such a huge risk–one that paid off.
Spider-Man is one of those films that you just remember you’ve seen before. For some reason, you remember Tobey Maguire’s lovestruck eyes whenever he looks at MJ and how heartbroken he is every time he has to re-orient his priorities. His responsibility (stemming from his great power) or the girl he loves? And you know you’ve heard Kirsten Dunst croon a soft “Peter” every time he does something and she’s suddenly battling herself in terms of her own feelings. And James Franco? Yes, you just seem to know he’s here.
It was the superhero film that made other superhero films possible. Audiences and producers alike saw the acclaim that Raimi’s films got and decided to take a deeper, more critical look into the world of comic books and how they could translate their colorful heroes to the big screen. It stuck to memory so well that any conversation about its Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland resurrections always merits a discussion about the trilogy.
Because of how memorable it was, other films were possible. I love you, Tobey. Thank you for making the other heroes possible (ahem Chris Evans).
4. ICONIC MOMENTS
Stemming from the previous point, you can’t deny that there are moments from these movies that are indefinitely burned into your mind. I mean, aside from that scene. This movie also gave us so many iconic moments that most other superhero movies can’t compete with.
Who can forget the second movie with the Asian woman plucking a violin and paying homage to the Spidey theme? And Peter’s face when she shrieks the word “web”? Or the scene with the train where he’s doing everything he possibly can to save all these people and their sob-inducing reassurance that they’ll keep his identity secret (“he’s just a kid” ALWAYS gets me)? Or THE KISS?
So many couples have these films to thank for their kisses now, too.
3. The overall aesthetic feels like you’re watching a comic book come to life
Like what I said earlier, the fact that these films feel a little exaggerated is because their origin texts are comics. Comics are a little larger than life, a little more brightly-colored, and they have that extra flair to them that, if translated well, creates a fun, engaging piece of work. Because we’re going for the grand in terms of powers and the fantastic, we render them with a little more excitement, with bigger worlds and bigger stakes.
This is, of course, not to say that comics are that far removed from reality. The elements may be a little more blown up but they still remain intact in terms of how believable they are. They’re anchored by their stories. The world of Spider-Man holds its internal logic and doesn’t stray too far from the rules they’ve set.
This isn’t just in terms of the look of the films but also how the plot unfolds. Like many comic books, you end up rooting for the hero and all his charm. We’ll explore this shortly but it mirrors most comic book works with their good vs. evil motifs. It’s a feel-good narrative that we’re all familiar with, one that we find ourselves coming back to time and time again, watching our heroes succeed and flourish.
2. I love Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker
… But not necessarily his Spidey.
This is a common critique of the film and I, to a degree, agree! His Spidey will always have a special place in my heart, yes, but he wasn’t the most charismatic. And while he nails shy, awkward, nerdy Peter, his Spidey needs just a liiiittle bit more. But that definitely doesn’t lessen my love for the trilogy at all.
Peter Parker is the beating heart of this story. Not just because he’s the hero, but because nearly every turn in these stories is hinged upon him choosing someone else over himself every single time. And Tobey nails that quiet agonized look every time he has to let MJ or someone else down again.
Not to say that Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland don’t do a fantastic job. I like them both, too, of course. But Tobey really gets into the conflicted heart of our favorite web-slinging hero. The way he portrays our beloved Peter Parker always makes my heart hurt–and I think that’s the point. It’s not all fun and games. It’s a world of infinite responsibility for others that he constantly and consistently chooses. Remember: It’s not thrust on him, it’s something he continuously chooses. He doesn’t have to, but he believes in his heart that it’s his duty. And I believe that Raimi hit the nail on the head translating this. Peter is selfless.
1. The heart of the story always remained
No matter how crazy the concepts became with the villains and the dark suit and all, these Spidey films kept their cores. Dusting off the excess of any added pizzazz, the premise was always simple: The story of choosing to do good and defeating evil. Peter returned time and again to his values and protected and upheld everything he believed in.
As mentioned earlier, Peter is posed the same choice over and over: Others or his own happiness? And every single conflict always touches back on this. Things may differ in terms of what comes crawling out of the woodwork to challenge him, but we see that same decision-making process and watch the good prevail over and over. And I guess that’s what grants that extra bit of fondness in my heart for these films: They bring hope.
Do you like these films, too? Let us know!