Wednesday, May 11, 2022


“With great power…”


This month marks the 20th anniversary of Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN. 


Based on the massively popular Marvel Comics superhero that was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, SPIDER-MAN was a box office smash, cultural hit, and kickstarted the superhero film genre into the era we are in today. The character’s swing on the big screen for the first time was a long one. After years of a TV presence in live-action and animated form, development on a feature film began in the 1980’s, with directors such as Tobe Hooper and James Cameron attached at various points. The project would stall many times due to licensing and financial issues, but was eventually picked up by Columbia Pictures in 1999. 


Action directors such as Roland Emmerich (INDEPENDENCE DAY), Michael Bay (ARMAGEDDON), and Tony Scott (TOP GUN), were considered, before the job would go to Sam Raimi…who had a reputation as a horror director after cultural hits such as THE EVIL DEAD (1981), and the kinda-sorta superhero film DARKMAN (1990). For the vital role of Peter Parker, the boy who would become Spider-Man, actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, and Heath Ledger were considered. The role would go to Tobey Maguire, who was Raimi’s first choice after seeing him in the 1999 drama THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. The rest of the cast would be filled out with James Franco, Kristen Dunst, J.K. Simmons, Cliff Robertson, and Rosemary Harris. The role of the Big Bad in the story, the Green Goblin, would go to Willem Dafoe. 


Filming began in November of 2000 in New York City and Sony Pictures soundstages, with a release date set for a year later. That release date was later postponed to May of 2002 after an extended post-production schedule. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, some sequences and scenes were re-filmed, and early teasers and posters were later recalled which had images of the World Trade Center towers. Danny Elfman composed the score. 


Upon release, SPIDER-MAN became the first film to pass the $100 million mark in a single weekend, on its way to becoming the highest grossing superhero film of all time; a mark that it would hold until THE DARK KNIGHT arrived in 2008. SPIDER-MAN would finish as the third highest-grossing film of the year, behind THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS and HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS. The film was praised by critics, and was nominated for two Oscars; Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. The film would spawn two sequels, released in 2004 and 2007. 




After 20 years of superhero films, most of which dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it’s easy to overlook the impact that SPIDER-MAN had back in 2002. The superhero genre was a joke in cinematic circles for more than a decade before X-MEN arrived in 2000 and 2002 and got it going for real again, and then SPIDER-MAN kicked it into high gear; a gear that is still spinning strong today. Last year, Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter Parker and Spidey was invited and welcomed into the MCU, and it offered a long overdue closure for the character; ending a 20-year arc that fans had been waiting for. Spider-Man is arguably the most popular superhero of all time, and back then Sam Raimi seemed to know that he had the burden of doing the character justice, and justice he did. In the grand picture, SPIDER-MAN has its place, and on its own, it is a fun, super-adventure…and does everything that it is supposed to. 


“…comes great responsibility.”




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