The Spider-Man movie directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire celebrates its 15th anniversary today.
At the time I believed it was the best comic book movie that I had ever seen from an acting and casting perspective. Raimi hit multiple home runs by casting Toby Maguire as Peter Parker and William Defoe as the demented billionaire Norman Osborn. Though many nerds and blerds alike have since cast shade upon Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, she did her job. But JK Simmons absolutely stole the show by becoming J. Jonah Jameson, like it was made exclusively for him. For as long as people are making Spider-Man movies, they will compare some unfortunate actor’s rendition of to Simmon’s performance, and always take the back seat.
15 years after it’s debut on May 3rd, 2002, the movie maintains its status as a cult classic and it’s not difficult to understand why. Between the visual effects, stunts, cast and remaining true to the core comic book fan, Spider Man was all that.
It’s hard to quantify why a thing becomes a cultural phenomenon. For Spidey, he and I go all the way back to those skits on The Electric Company in the 70s. However, Peter Parker was someone many could relate to as well. Inevitably, the meek are accost by the strong. No other place houses more instances of this than Any High School, USA.
The courage to face one’s bullies sooner rather than later is often lost on even the bravest of high school nerds. How many were ultimately encouraged to confront and stand up to their own personal Flash Thompson, the muscle bound, dense and privileged figure that seems to be the natural enemy of the studious, curious and the humble. Some gained their “Spidey” strength on sheer self confidence, likely encouraged by the story of Parker’s early years.
Peter Parker was, after a few tragedies, raised in a single parent household with his dear old Aunt May, who took him from boy to young man. Though I didn’t live with my Aunt May, what youngster couldn’t relate to the constant worry that she felt for Parker? Little black and brown boys growing up in New York City could also relate to the pain of losing father figures in a tragic, senseless act of violence.
As is often the case in both the comic book and big screen adaptions, Spider-Man stumbles through the social steps we can all empathize and relate to before emerging as a capable hero. A hero that has often been iterated within the Marvel lexicon as, ultimately, the greatest ever. But even then, he’s forced to overcome insurmountable odds. “With great power comes great responsibility” has been the catalyst of many a good deed, and a motto Uncle Ben instilled in young Parker, a lesson her kept with him through the years as Spider Man.
On July 5, Spider-Man: Homecoming will be the first stand alone Spidey film since Marvel negotiated some screen time for one of its most popular character after years of mediocrity in the hands of Sony via Colombia Pictures. After decades of poorly produced renditions in the franchise, Spider Man finally swung back onto the silver screen in Captain America: Civil War as something of a protege to Iron Man aka Tony Stark. Tom Holland’s version of Parker once again is the teenage protagonist we know and love, instead of the billionaire corporate giant he currently is in the comic books.
So 15 years after Tobey Macguire gave us a real Peter Parker and Spider Man, we look forward to seeing how Holland can rejuvenate a franchise which went flat after 2002.
Now if we could only get Mile Morales….