An Hour-Long Look At What Made Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Movies Great

Illustration for article titled An Hour-Long Look At What Made Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Movies Great

In our current age of mega-Marvel machinations and decade-long transmedia story arcs, it’s easy to forget what it was like before the Avengers assembled. Way back at the turn of the century, we got a pair of films that in many ways paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know and love today.


Those movies, of course, were Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films. The original was a colorful, optimistic shot in the arm that the otherwise gloomy comic-book movie desperately needed in the early 2000s. The sequel expanded on and more fully realized many of the ideas set forth in the original, while improving fundamentals across the board. (As we all know, Raimi made the first two Spider-Man movies and then stopped making Spider-Man movies. He most certainly did not make a third movie that failed to live up to the first two in almost every way. Nope. That did not happen.)

Raimi’s Spider-Man films were influential, sure, but they were also well-made, perfectly-cast films that captured a comic-book character in a way we arguably hadn’t seen since Christopher Reeve first suited up back in 1978.

I’ve been watching Moviebob’s film-crit series “Really That Good” for a little while now; the lengthy episodes make for fun watching when I’m taking a break for lunch. His newest episode focusing on Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films is as enjoyable as the rest, so I figured I’d share it.

Sometimes I get the suspicion that I enjoy Really That Good is because it congratulates me on liking the geeky blockbusters that I already liked… but then I’ll think about of Bob’s specific criticisms and observations, and in particular the way he places films within their specific cultural context, and I’ll realize that no, there really is a lot to be gained from giving this kind of movie a closer reading.

If this particular entry accomplishes nothing else, it will at the very least stand as a tribute to the timeless masterwork that was J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson.

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So... the first one isn’t.

Really. Go watch it again. It was one of those movies that were in the right place at the right time, and it has a great first act. But once Spidey gets in the costume there’s a lot wrong with it. Green Goblin has zero motivation and goes off on random tangents (his entire evil plot seems to be to befriend Spider-Man), the climax has no reason to exist other than sorta doing the Gwen Stacy death with no actual stakes and the effects don’t hold up.

Spider-Man 2 kicks ass, though.