Recently while at home sick I decided to revisit this trilogy which I own completely on DVD but have not watched for maybe 3 or 4 years now. While I have had fond memories of it growing up as each of the films came out starting with Spider-man 1 in 2002 and finishing with Spider-man 3 in 2007 I must say I never really looked at the trilogy as a whole until now. This is not going to be a comparison article with the new franchise, it’s just an appreciation of one that I grew up with as I was 12 when the first one came out. Being at that age I didn’t appreciate the story so much back then but being 22 now and looking at the series I have to say that especially the first two films in the franchise were quite well done, both for their time and still today.
At first notice when I started Spider-man 1 was the music in the film which I think is totally great. The music was done by Danny Elfman some would probably be familiar with his work on things like Tim Burton’s Batman or the Simpsons. But to be honest I thought the Spider-man theme fit quite well and was a good starting point for the opening sequences for film 2 and 3. You can listen to theme below.
Okay, so as for the films. I found the whole series of them to have this type of classic sort of fairytale like feel if you know what I mean, like as if you could watch them years later and the story is always the same to you. I can’t really describe it, but to me it felt like viewing some type of classic movie that could have been in black and white although this series is not old at all. It’s hard to describe but that’s how I felt. It’s like it could be a once upon a time story of Peter Parker, his struggles of being Spider-man and trying to find love with Mary Jane Watson. However I did notice that stylistically between Spider-man 1 and 3 there is a large change between the tone of series maybe because of film technology and more computer graphics but it seems far away from each other. I guess it can be seen more when you watch all three of the trailers but it’s just more a feel to it, like the difference between how the Green Goblin was presented compared to say the Sandman in number 3.
Where it all began, Spider-man 1
These Spider-man films to me are about making life choices or the right choices in life to reach some type of goal such as protecting the ones we love, or standing up for what is right, or for helping those in need. While at the same time characters are developed based upon the choices that they made throughout the series such as Peter’s choice to be Spider-man, Mary Jane’s choice to become an actress, or Peter’s choice at the end of the first film to not be with Mary Jane. Harry Osborn’s choice to follow his father in business and later with the Goblin. It was the character choices to me what the films were about and how these choices or situations where you could not choose (such as the Spider bite, leading to Spider-man) that made up what type of person someone would become. Peter Parker did not choose to become Spider-man but what to do, to become someone like Spider-man. Peter himself echoed by his choices, such as letting the villain go that killed uncle Ben, ending with his remembrance of the “with great power comes great responsibility quote”. In my mind and I could be wrong let me know, the power he is talking about is not just his Spider-man power’s but really Peter Parker’s or anyone’s power to choose their own path. After all a choice is some power, even without Spider-man powers he could have stopped that villain, but he chose not to. “We are who we choose to be” – the Green Goblin.
The first film ends basically with the completion of Spider-man’s tragic origin story and the dreams of moving to the city, where character’s will pursue their dreams. I don’t know if Peter wants to be a scientist or a photographer, or Spider-man but he does all three for the next two films. While Mary Jane continues with her acting and Harry mourns his father and tries to follow in his path.
Spider Man 2: Continuing the Spider-man saga
When watching this film I thought it was a definite step up from the previous Spider-man 1 especially stylistically. The Villain Doctor Octavius had much more humanity added to him than the cold Norman Osborn, while the visual effects made this villain also better to watch than some of the Goblin scenes. The cast and crew did a good job with this film and it looked to be masterful when I viewed it last week.
What I find from Raimi’s Spider-man films different from that of other comic book style films is that a lot of the emphasis is placed on character development and the more human side and struggles with being this Spider-man hero. Again I feel number 2 is the continuance of choices made in number 1. Peter isn’t happy with his life, his love (Mary Jane Watson) is going to marry someone else and you can tell this is tearing him up inside. He loses focus, his grades are going down and finally he struggles to maintain his Spider-man persona. It’s more of a film about self discovery for Peter Parker, he has to find his motivation which became lost along the way. Most of this based around getting Mary Jane back, but also he seems effected by the Aunt May situation, her debt and his inability to help her (at least financially). I think now that I’m writing, even though he had all the power of being Spider-man he does have a lot of life and personal struggles.
Harry Osborn is doing well, running his father’s business until he’s ruined by Octavius. The movie at the end sets up perfectly for the final film with the discovery of the fate of Harry’s father and it looks like he is to be the third villain. To me this is more interesting that what did happen with the third film. Having these two friends become enemies could have been done really well for the final part of the trilogy, they could have really built some type of rivalry; instead Harry got amnesia.
Spider-man 2’s action sequences also stand out in memory especially the train sequence where Spider-man does everything to stop the train gaining the respect of the people he saved and also most likely the viewing audience. You can see and feel the burden and strength of his power in that scene, all of his energy expelled at his own expense to save a few simple citizens. An admirable effort for the hero not often seen all the time in films like this.
Overall I can’t choose which I like more out of 1 and 2, while number 2 I really enjoyed, I love all the quotes from number 1 a lot more and they are what I remember. But number 2 furthered number 1 so I have to say they are both great films. If you haven’t seen them you should especially if you’re a Spider-man fan.
This leads me to Spider-man 3, while I like this film in parts some of it messes up the style that the franchise set up for itself from number 1 and 2. For me there are bits of Spider-man 3 that don’t make sense to me as fitting into the universe of the first two films and I’ll go into why.
Spider-Man 3: the final film, why I think it was a bit messy
Okay, so before I criticise this one a bit I have to say that as a franchise as whole, viewing it all together I love it. I like everything about it and growing up with these movies which started when I was 12 and finished when I was 17. They were the big movies of the time, so they’ll always be my Spider-man films, probably forever.
So where do I think Spider-man 3 went wrong? The main reason I believe it is, is because of the Sandman. The reason this is, is because I don’t think realistically he fits into the universe the first 2 films created. You see Spider-man was created because he was bitten by this genetically engineered spider, so he got his power. Osborn was enhanced through the scientific research making him stronger and faster also aided by mechanical gadgets. Doctor Octavius engineered his arms from metal and found a way to mould them to his body. All the villains were basically enhanced by some type of scientific thing making them super human. However this Sandman; he was disintegrated, and he can switch between some type of sand form? So he doesn’t even need to be in human form? Oh wait…he can turn super giant to??
If the sandman was there and he was this type of thing, why didn’t Jameson at the Daily Bugle go mad? Why didn’t this bother him? Why were all the people gathered and watching the Sandman at the end and why weren’t they scared? I just thought he didn’t fit and was a bit unrealistic for the franchise and the actor always had the same stern expression on his face. Even though he had his daughter to think about I didn’t relate to him as much.
The way I see it is this. Even though he is a comic book villain in Spider-man comics, he may not fit in this type of movie. It’s like if Christopher Nolan put in poison Ivy in a batman movie, wait she controls plants? How does she exist there? Or even Clayface? They may work in cartoon or comics, but if the universe in the film isn’t set up for it I think it loses it’s value strait away.
I think without the villain of the Sandman they could have had a lot more room to do what I think this franchise was good at. Which was character development and the human side. But then again I also think the franchise is about choices and they made the choice to put the Sandman in.
However in saying this there are a lot of things that make this movie good as well. But these things are not found in the villains like in one or two which is a shame because in a comic book type of movie it is the villains that make the movie great. While in 1 or 2 Octavius and Osborn had their great quotes and conversation I thought this was lacking in number 3. Here’s an excerpt from spider-man 2, Peter Parker’s words or reason trying to make Octavius choose the right path and away from his madness.
Peter Parker: These things have turned you into something you’re not.
Peter Parker: Don’t listen to them!
Doctor Octavius: It was my dream.
Peter Parker: Sometimes, to do what’s right, we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.
Doctor Octavius: You’re right.
[the tentacles hiss and snap]
Dr Octavius: He’s right.
In Spider-man 3 we had a similar chance for reason with venom in the final fight, his reply and the only thing I remember him saying is, “oh, I like being bad”. I don’t know but psychologically I think acknowledging that you are doing bad is weird. Doesn’t that make you wonder why they do it? I know revenge, but really for losing your job, that much revenge was needed? So venom dies I guess in the film because he’s beyond redemption, while the Sandman gets free because he apologised nicely, while Harry Osborn who redeemed himself dies. I don’t know I just thought with these villains as they are it was just a mess.
Okay so enough with the villains in number 3. As for the rest of the characters I thought that Peter Parker was interesting. Here was this kid who in number 1 wasn’t really anybody who now was some type of superstar in number 3. This meant that his character was now developing quite the ego, almost Iron Man like with fans everywhere. I guess it had quite the effect when he found that Mary Jane didn’t like this Peter Parker version especially after the kiss incident with Gwen Stacey. The venom influence on Peter Parker I actually think was good while many have problems with his madness stage I thought it was one of the better parts of the film. It represented a darkness brewing inside him maybe from all his personal issues which I thought were dealt with in number 2 but seemed to be still present. Until he removed venom in the church and threw that persona away. The development of Peter Parker’s character as whole throughout the trilogy I think is good. But also because of the way he ended I think this franchise leaves being Spider-man as a sort of tragic curse on Peter Parker. While on one hand he is this god like super hero, it’s really his relationships or losing those he’s closest to that are his biggest threat. Uncle Ben who he didn’t save, and also Harry Osborn who he failed to save. If there was a number 4 I wonder where his character would have went.
As for the rest of number 3 I thought that the best performance of the film went to Kirsten Dunst for the Mary Jane character. From film one to three she seemed to be the most hard done by character. All she wanted to do was move to the city and become an actress living out her dream as she saw it. Throughout the trilogy she pursued this only to end up losing on her dream, probably the one person in the film also that stuck to her one choice. I do think she did well in number 3 and her song in the store where she worked is the memorable part of the movie to me. Here it is. 10 points to the person who can figure out the classic film icon that sung it first. This is also a reason why I think this trilogy of Spider-man film’s feel like classic old style films in parts.
This song and other jazz elements set up the final films tone which I think made this trilogy feel like a complete three movie set piece. The style and themes were set well in the character driven scenes. To me it’s just a shame the final villains weren’t developed in the same way otherwise the franchise could have been spectacular.
There are so many things I’d like to continue to write about this trilogy, but then this article would go forever if I mentioned everything I like or don’t like as much. However I do appreciate it as a whole and considering the time it came out I think it did wonder’s for the comic book movie genre. The films still being great viewing experiences and a classic to be enjoyed for me at least to this day.
Be sure to add all three films to your collection on DVD or Blu-ray if you can. It’s well worth having