Study Guide

Spider-Man Introduction

Spider-Man Introduction


Release Year: 2002

Genre: Action, Romance

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: David Koepp

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco


Celebs: they're just like us.

And the same goes for superheroes…or, at least, for Spider-Man.

He's not an alien like Superman or a crazy-rich tech whiz like the Caped Crusader. He's not whatever Arm-Fall-Off Boy is. And he's certainly not a genius science guru like Iron Man.

Instead, he's a likeable nerd who gets bitten by a spider. He's a good kid who wants to make his aunt and uncle proud. He's a high schooler in love with his next-door neighbor.

In other words, he's normal. And therein lies the noble, dorky charm of Spider-Man…and the film, uncreatively titled Spider-Man.

The plot is local kid making good, but with a twist.

Here's what goes down: Peter Parker gets bitten on the hand by a genetically engineered spider on a school field trip and wakes up with superpowers. He can crawl up walls. He can sense danger before it happens. He can shoot webs out of his wrists. Best field trip ever? Probably.

Before Peter can figure out a way to leverage these skills into fame and fortune (or, at least, a circus career), Peter's hometown of New York City is besieged by the Green Goblin, a powerful, spiteful, thoroughly maniacal supervillain intent on wreaking havoc—and only Peter, as his alter ego Spider-Man, can stop him.

Spider-Man swung into American cinemas on May 3rd, 2002, kicking off the summer blockbuster season. The film was a massive hit, raking in $114,844,116 in its opening weekend. It would go on to gross $403,706,375 domestically and a whopping $821,708,551 worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, it's the 38th most successful film domestically at the box office as of this writing (source). It was also honored with two Oscar noms: one for best sound and one for best visual effects.

Director Sam Raimi would go on to make two more Spider-Man movies, and leading man Tobey Maguire would became a bona fide action star after beating out a who's who of young Hollywood actors for the titular role—a list that was rumored to include front-runner Heath Ledger and eventual co-star James Franco, as well as Jude Law, Chris O'Donnell, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. (source).

And we think that's for the best. After all, can you picture either of the dudes from I Know What You Did Last Summer as Spider-Man? Yeah, us neither.

Spider-Man isn't the gelled hair and smoldering Tiger Beat pin-up type. Behind that mask is a thoroughly average Joe—and that's precisely what we love about him.

What is Spider-Man About and Why Should I Care?

Spider-Man isn't just a comic-book movie—it's the comic-book movie…or, at least, the one that ushered in the 21st-century wave of superhero cinema.

Sure, superhero movies existed before Spider-Man. And a few, like Superman (1978), Batman (1989), and X-Men (2000), were even critical and commercial successes. But the terrible truth is that most were terrible. (We're looking at you, infamous '90s Fantastic Four.)

And probably because these movies pretty much ranged from "meh" to "oh, dear Lord, turn that off," the whole genre was viewed as B-movie schlock.

Then came Marvel Studios' Spider-Man.

Marvel reinvented the comic-book movie, and they did it by giving just as much focus to Peter Parker as they did to Spider-Man. At its core, Spider-Man is a movie about a relatable teenage social outcast…just one that's imbued with superpowers. You come for the web slinging, and you stay because its main character is three-dimensional and engaging.

You bet this was a game changer.

Once the American public decided that watching Peter Parker's trials and tribulations made for awesome cinema, the characterization of superheroes and villains shot through the roof. Case in point? Well, a mere six years after Spidey swung around NYC, Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor for his knockout performance as the dynamic Joker in The Dark Knight.

We're not saying that Spider-Man should get all the credit for ushering in a new era of frankly excellent superhero movies. But it did change the way superhero stories are told and understood.

In the simplest terms, it added heart.

And that heart made it possible for people to say things like, "Hey, you want to see the new Kenneth Branagh film? No, it's not another Shakespeare adaptation. It's called Thor."

Trivia

The cafeteria scene where Peter catches Mary Jane and her lunch uses no CGI, just adhesive on Tobey Maguire's hand—and 156 takes. (Source)

Director Sam Raimi auditioned several spiders for the role of the arachnid that delivers the life-changing bite to Peter. The spider who snagged the role, a brown Steatoda grossa, was then hand-painted with red and blue accents. (Source)

Want to get buff like Tobey Maguire did to play Spidey? All you need to do is eat four-to-six protein-filled meals a day and exercise, lift weights, and practice martial arts six days a week for five months straight. (Source)

Fellow Marvel superhero Wolverine was originally slated to make a cameo in Spider-Man, but Columbia Pictures couldn't get access to Hugh Jackman's costume from 20th Century Fox. (Source)

Spider-Man Resources

WEBSITES

Spider-Man at IMDb
Almost everything you could possibly want to know about the film's production.

Marvel 101: Spider-Man
A deep dive into Spidey's biography from the publishing house that created him.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

"Where to Start Reading Spider-Man Comics"
That title says it all, doesn't it?

Interview with Sam Raimi
The director of the original Spider-Man trilogy gets grilled by an invisible German.

Interview with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Willem Dafoe
Spidey, M.J., and the Green Goblin sit down with Hollywood.com.

Interview with Tobey Maguire
Maguire talks webs and women with Cinema.com prior to the film's release.

"Tobey Maguire, Sam Raimi Talk Spider-Man in Vintage Interviews"
Yup, 2001 is vintage now.

BOOKS OR VIDEO GAMES

Amazing Spider-Man #121
Spider-Man's plot is loosely based on this 1963 issue of the Amazing Spider-Man comic (and its follow-up, #122). The film makes a couple of big changes, but we're not in the spoiler business, so we'll leave it up to you to find 'em.

Spider-Man: The Movie (Video Game)
If you watched Spider-Man and thought, "Slinging webs and slugging bad guys? Sign me and my couch up!" then this critically acclaimed Activision video game directly based on the movie is for you—provided your old Xbox, PlayStation 2, or GameCube still works, of course.

VIDEO

Spider-Man Trailer
In just over 1 minute, the comic-book movie genre was reborn.

Spider-Man Costume Tests
No, standing around in your costume doesn't seem awkward at all.

Green Goblin Animatronic/Makeup Hybrid Test
Marvel ended up going in another direction with the Green Goblin. Maybe because this is terrifying?

Tobey Maguire's Screen Test
We don't know why this looks like a kung fu movie from 1984 either.

Peter's New Powers
Peter has a high-flyin' time testing out his new skillz.

Bone Saw vs. Spider-Man
The Human Spider—er, we mean the Amazing Spider-Man—makes his underground wrestling debut.

The Green Goblin Attacks the Festival
Somebody check on Macy Gray and make sure she's all right.

AUDIO

The Theme From Spider-Man
The perfect soundtrack for putting on bug spray. Or not putting on bug spray…?

IMAGES

The Official Spider-Man Movie Poster
This is just one of several posters that got Spidey fans hyped in 2002.

Spidey and M.J. After the World Unity Festival
Funny, we don't remember Spider-Man pulling that film crew to safety, too…

Concept Art for Spider-Man
You'd think the comic books would be the concept art, but…you'd be wrong.

Concept Art for the Green Goblin
Pretty sure those ears get over-the-air television.

Promo Still of Tobey Maguire and a Spider
Maybe he's moody. Maybe he's about to pass out because he has a spider 10 inches from his face.

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