A lot has happened in cinema and the wider world since the year 2000. In fact, those who are proficient at their movie trivia may even know that the marketing material for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man included imagery of the World Trade Centre buildings. While it’s certainly not a pleasant piece of trivia to reflect on, is it perhaps a stark reminder that this film was created at a time before America’s next cultural shift – yep, it was really that long ago. With that said, how this film has aged over the years since then is the primary subject of interest here. Why? Well because, as I said, a lot has changed in the world since then. Right now superheroes populate almost every facet of the entertainment world; from film and television, to video games and beyond. There’s such an abundance of the genre that it feels appropriate to look back at Raimi’s vision, at a time long before record-shattering Cinematic Universes and countless sub-franchises – to the Spider-Man that started it all – to see if time itself has deteriorated this iconic hero or strengthened his symbol further.
What immediately became clear to me upon revisiting this story was all the cheese; no, not the dairy product formed through a coagulation process, but rather the back and forth dialogue that sounds like it could only ever be heard in a movie and not said out loud in real life. That corny dialogue could arguably be attributed to it being a product of its time, but any self-respecting Sam Raimi admirer knows that isn’t true. That kind of dialogue and delivery is in his DNA. And just like the dairy product itself, with proper aging, Sam Raimi makes the cheese taste better than ever. In fact, almost every facet of this film ages with grace. Almost.
Watching Raimi’s Spider-Man through the warped lens of a movie-goer who has been fed formula driven superhero narratives for over a decade produces something akin to whiplash. It felt strange and fascinating to see so many real tears being shed by a lead protagonist; Peter Parker cries a lot in this film, and something about that feels raw and oddly rare. Additionally, there’s a lot of scares in this film too, again, something I had forgotten was so abundant and again, feels oddly rare in almost every superhero flick nowadays. These narrative choices, alongside the stylized editing, an unforgettable musical theme, practical driven effects, and the fearless confidence Sam Raimi had to get silly certainly makes this film feel like its own thing. The actors in these films aren’t afraid to pull funny faces or truly exaggerate their character. They go for it, just as this director does.
Is this film flawed in areas? Yes. Does it break narrative logic at times? Yes. But it does something very few superhero flicks can do these days, it gets to be its whole self without sticking to any formula. It gets to be a little weird, a little scary, very emotional, and structurally all over the place.