Cast your mind back ten years. Brazil have just beaten Germany to win their fifth World Cup, The Queen was prepping for her Golden Jubilee and the original Spider-Man was sitting pretty at the top of the UK and Irish box office just above the second of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Sam Raimi’s film had been released two months previously in the USA, but had taken a few weeks to make it across the Atlantic so was still keeping European audiences glued to their seats while Men in Black II played to audiences stateside.
With The Amazing Spider-Man now breaking box office records (here’s our ★★★½ review…), but being criticised for lack of originality and retreading the tried and tested formula, it’s worth considering why people are so peeved at the fact there is a new Spidey in town. In the last decade we’ve seen a similarly styled franchise reboot on Marvel’s X-Men series, three versions of The Incredible Hulk (counting Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal in The Avengers), the critically success and commercial failure of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns and of course Christopher Nolan’s contribution to the Batman legend. But none of these were met with the same backlash as that which has been thrown at Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man.
The reasons behind this are simple; the original Spider-Man trilogy had a massive impact on comic-book movies and their acceptance as both serious blockbuster business and a new part of mainstream culture. While a lot of credit needs to go to Brian Singer’s X-Men for opening some doors in 2000, its final international gross came in well under $300million, whereas Spider-Man romped home with over $800million across the world and, if you’ll excuse the cliché, really did change the rulebook.
Without the success of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man we would never have seen such budgets over $140m being splashed on Batman Begins or Iron-Man, films which successfully laid the groundwork for the two big superhero box office success stories of the last five years – The Dark Knight and The Avengers.
Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a box office analysis but instead a look back at a simpler time before we had to work out the canon positioning of the X-Men: First Class “prequel/reboot”, before there were three Bruce Banners to wrap our heads around and before we were told that Brandon Routh’s portrayal of Superman was sure to make him Hollywood’s next big leading man.
If you’re bored over the next few weeks, dig out Spider-Man (★★★★) and Spider-Man II (★★★★★). If you’re like me then you’ll probably have them on DVD, so they’ll be beside Se7en, Magnolia and The Matrix collecting dust on the shelf.
The two films still hold the same charm that made them so popular a decade ago. Tobey Maguire’s geeky Peter Parker is a very different take on the character when compared to the introverted outcast we see from Andrew Garfield. Willem Dafoe playing The Green Goblin and Alfred Molina as Doc Ock are both superb actors having a great time hamming it up as villians out of control. Before James Franco was everywhere he was just some guy from Freak and Geeks who had been tapped to play to Peter’s brooding best friend Harry; he does so with an insecurity lacking from a lot of his later work. J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson is the greatest newspaperman of all time, no argument. Bruce Campbell’s cameos were a lot of fun and added to countless laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of the first man to successfully merge horror and comedy in The Evil Dead trilogy. Oh and I shouldn’t even have to mention this but… Rosemary Harris’ Aunt May Parker is infinitely better than the whinge-bag on wheels that is Sally Field.
Aunt May: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us…
[the Green Goblin bursts through the window]
Aunt May: [screams] DELIVER US!
Green Goblin: [laughing maniacally] Finish it. FINISH IT!
Aunt May: FROM EVIL!
I make no real mention of Spider-Man III (★★) simply because it’s really not up to the marker set by its predecessors. The old proverb of “too many cooks spoil the broth” has never been truer. It’s still worth your time of course but only after watching the first two films and memorising all of J. Jonah Jameson’s lines.
I won’t even try deny the sentiment that is in play when I’m writing about how much I love the first two films. I sincerely doubt I was the only movie nut who will have seen these films at the same age as Peter Parker (17 in Spider-Man, 19 in Spider-Man II) thinking it was pretty cool that a similarly awkward guy could get all this power. Oh yeah, and that responsibility.
No doubt there will now be a new generation connecting with Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man on this same level who, in ten years time, will be asking Siri 14.0 to write a similarly pained ode to the rebooted trilogy as Jaden Smith becomes the latest kid to wear the red leotard. Shock horror! A gay black actor playing Spider-Man!
To wrap up I’ll ask you to enter full-on nostalgia mode with this great compilation of all the events and characters that Raimi fitted into his original trilogy of films which were released in 2002, 2004 and 2007, all courtesy of youtube user keesvdijkhuizen.