I had no idea until last week that Sam Raimi’s
is one of my exploding heart movies.
I always enjoyed Spider-Man
. I contend that it is the most fun superhero movie ever made. But I usually stopped thinking about it past that point. However, something changed this most recent re-watch. I was watching the movie on an airplane and noticed I was having a deeply affecting emotional experience. Now I love Spider-Man
. How did this happen?
This came as a total shock to me, as it may some of you, namely because I am probably the biggest curmudgeon at F This Movie! when it comes to all things superhero. But Spider-Man
has heart and kindness, which, for me, is where it stands apart from many of its contemporaries. Even stranger, until last week, I would have told you Spider-Man 2
was my favorite Spider-Man movie and my favorite superhero movie. Spider-Man 2
is so effortlessly ambitious and perfect that I developed a habit of knocking the original down a peg in comparison. But now I know that despite Spider-Man 2
being the better movie (it’s actually a great allegory about depression if you choose to read it that way), I love the lesser original more than its sequel. Don’t you just love movies? Sometimes you love the one that’s flawed more than the one that’s perfect.
is a movie I love because it nails the sensibility many people in their late teens and early twenties have that something is missing but we don’t know what that something is. As explicitly stated in dialogue, it’s a movie about figuring out what type of person you are going to become as an adult. In Spider-Man
, I can identify with not just Peter, but also Harry and Mary Jane. They all want more and are awkwardly becoming adults. I passively had this reading when I first saw the movie but now it’s all I can think about.
The movie represents a specific time in a young person’s life when he or she is yearning for change and the future. For example, Peter, Mary Jane and Harry all want to move to “the city,” which often represents newness and change in fiction. Anything is possible in the city. It is a state of mind as much as an actual place. Second, Spider-Man
is about what makes you uniquely you. Peter becoming Spider-Man and, to a lesser extent, Mary Jane becoming an actress are the areas where both characters do not feel hindered by their limitations but instead are basking in the enjoyment of what makes them happy. It is where they are controlling their own destinies. I love that throughout the movie both characters begin to lose the weight of the world they seem to be carrying (Peter being a nerd, Mary Jane being from a verbally abusive family) and begin to become more confident and comfortable being themselves. It’s ingratiating to see characters moving forward in a positive direction, doing the best they can do to make themselves and others a little happier. Conversely, Harry shrinks where his friends flourish because he is selling out. Harry’s lack of creativity in terms of his future essentially forces him to trace the footsteps of his father because he doesn’t have any other ideas.
While I was watching the movie it made me think back to who I was at the time the movie was released. This is where my heart started to explode. I was 19 years old and in college, testing things out. I was learning how to define myself. Should I be a frat guy or a regular guy? Should I major in Business or in Journalism? Am I a big drinker? What type of girls do I feel most comfortable around? Who are my friends? etc. I was figuring it all out similar to the characters in the movie. It was a movie that was speaking to me directly in its point of view but I was too close to the situation to realize it at the time. When I watch Spider-Man
now, I realize that the movie felt and thought like me back then. This $140M budgeted summer blockbuster from Sony understood me better than I understood myself. That’s fucking crazy.
is a time capsule for an exciting feeling and juncture in my life. It’s a superhero movie with something worthwhile to say that we can all relate to. It’s about dreams, the potential to alter your own destiny and finding the strength to assert goodness. It takes me back to who I was at 19. Aren’t we all trying to make the idealized version of ourselves proud of who we turned out to be?
Raimi's Spider-Man movies understand that comic book styling/fun can be allegory for serious issues. The gritty superhero trend robs the material of its ability to be more than what it's about by going for those issues directly. The result is a disconnect between serious subject matter and silly costumes. My biggest problem with the Nolan Batman movies is Batman himself. Even with the grounded approach to the suit and tech, it's still kind of ridiculous to see a cop having a normal conversation with a dude wearing a cape and mask.ReplyDelete
Though I don't love those Raimi films, I agree with this. We could do with a little more "Raimi" in our superhero fare these days.Delete
We need more Maleficent. Oh wait, no we don't. Who is that movie for?Delete
Tell me about it! I thought the same thing, but I think it's for children between 7 and 13. My step-daughter is SUPER excited about that movie because it's a character she recognizes but it feels like a "grown up" movie to her, with action and scary stuff. For someone that age, that's as good as it gets. I told her she can see it when she gets a job.Delete
Lol. I'll still see it. I'm surprised that kids would be excited about it - unless it's being marketed differently on the Disney channel or something. Maybe it's not all that different from how people our age went out to see Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.Delete
Seems like it's part Wicked hangover, part gritty reboot mentality. I understand why comic book fans think they want darker superhero movies: so the hobby they feel secretly ashamed of will be "taken seriously" by a mass audience. I don't know why Disney's jumping on the bandwagon, other than because there's a bandwagon to jump on.Delete
Mostly, I'm just mad that Frozen characters are going to be on that dumb Once Upon a Time show.
I haven't taken the opportunity to sit down and watch any of them in quite a while, but from my memory, I have a lot of fondness for the Raimi Spider-Man movies as well, including the first one. I love its fun tone, and you make some good points regarding other reasons to enjoy what it was doing, Adam. I think this calls for a rewatch of my own!ReplyDelete
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies are probably my favorite superhero movies. 1 is fun as hell, 2 is just all around great, and 3 is a reactionary roller coaster. And while I don't hate the Marc Webb films as much as most, I don't think they get why Peter Parker is so relatable as well as these movies do.ReplyDelete
Great column, Adam. I especially love that idea of how a movie can somehow know us better than we know ourselves.ReplyDelete
The Joseph Campbell "hero's journey" gets talked about a lot in movies that feature all kinds of heroes, but I think there's a very important "pre-journey" monomyth that is really coming into its own in movies of the past decade of so: it's the process you describe above, where our about-to-be hero not only discovers his unique talent, but needs to learn to control it and decide how to use it, whether to use it, what to give up in order to be able to use it, etc. It's not enough that Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard - he's got to go to school for YEARS to learn what kind of wizard he is, what his real powers are, etc. Popular thinking now rejects that old social model of simply doing what's expected or following a parents' footsteps as a path to happiness - as you point out, in Spiderman that kind of thinking just warps and frustrates Harry. I think movies that explore this "pre-hero" cycle not only offer perspective for the young people experiencing all that (even if, as you say, they don't realize it at the time), they kind of help the society as a whole make peace with this new idea: that Millennials don't just want to find a way to be "special," they NEED to, but that's okay, since going through that process will (presumably) help them do the great things they want to do some day.
All this may sound like a really complicated and over-reaching response to you saying you love the Raimi Spiderman, but you lay it out so clearly above that I couldn't help but see parallels to this trend I've been noticing in general.
In recent years, I have been feeling like the first Raimi Spider-Man hadn't dated well compared to what we're getting now. I rewatched it after ASM2 and was reminded of just how much of it is really great. The second half is still a big mess in terms of plotting (the Green Goblin just shows up and disappears, shows up and disappears, says "Sleeeeeep"), but the movie really knows how to commit to story and theme. I know not everyone loves the series or the casting or Raimi's choices, but I sure do. His affection for Spider-Man is so clear.ReplyDelete
And not to keep comparing the old series with the new, but for all the talk about the Emma Stone/Andrew Garfield chemistry being one of the best things about the current films (which I agree with), Marc Webb has not created one moment as iconic or memorable as the upside-down kiss. It's incredible.
That upside-down kiss IS really great, and blows everything in the new movies out of the water in terms of memorable moments, I agree. Even the big developement toward the end of TAS2 pales in comparison to the upside-down kiss.Delete
Has anyone else tried the upside down kiss in real life? It is f-ing awesome!Delete
I mean, not hanging from a building up-side down, but yeah - faces fit together well that way!Delete
I still have a lot of affection for Raimi's first Spider-Man - aside from the great character stuff and being fun but still somewhat mature, I feel like it was the first comic book movie to really make good use of CGI to successfully bring the comic book aesthetic in general, and Spider-Man in particular to life.ReplyDelete
I'd like to watch it again with your perspective in mind - great retroview!