||May 3, 2002|
|| United States|
|All Movie Guide profile|
Spider-Man is a 2002 superhero film based on
the fictional Marvel
Comics character Spider-Man. The film was
written by David Koepp, and directed by Sam
Raimi. It stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten
Dunst and Willem Dafoe.
The film begins with Peter Parker, a high school student, being bitten by a
genetically altered spider. After misusing his newly given abilities, which
indirectly cause the death of his Uncle Ben, he becomes
the heroic Spider-Man. Peter hopes to win the heart of Mary Jane Watson, the
girl he has loved since he was a boy, and battles the villainous Green
Goblin, who is the father of Peter's best friend, Harry Osborn.
After being stuck in development hell for
nearly 25 years, the film was released on May 3, 2002 to good reviews from critics,
and went on to break box office records, and became the highest grossing film of
2002. The success of the film led to two
sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man
3, featuring the same cast and crew. To date, it is the highest grossing
film adaptation of a comic book.
Peter Parker, his best
friend Harry Osborn, and secret
crush Mary Jane Watson visit
a genetics laboratory with their high school class. While taking photos in the
laboratory, Peter is bitten on the hand by a genetically
engineered "super spider", and arrives home and passes out with the bite
wound considerably swollen. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, Harry's
father, attempts to preserve his company's military contract from a rival firm,
personally experimenting with his company's new but unstable
performance-enhancing chemical vapor to increase his speed, strength, and
stamina. Afterward, he goes into an uncontrollable rage and kills his assistant.
The next morning, Peter finds that his previously impaired vision has improved
to 20/20 and that his body has metamorphosized into a
more muscular physique. When Peter goes to school, he finds himself producing
webbing and having the quick reflexes to avoid being injured in a fight with Flash
Thompson. Peter escapes from the school and realizes that he has acquired
spider-like abilities from the spider bite. Peter quickly learns to scale walls,
long jump across building rooftops and swing via webs from his wrists.
Lying to his aunt and uncle about where he is going, Peter decides to enter a wrestling
tournament to get money to buy a car and impress Mary Jane. During an argument, Uncle Ben advises Peter,
"With great power comes great responsibility." Peter lashes out at his uncle and
leaves for the tournament. Peter wins, but is cheated out of the contest money;
in retaliation he allows a thief to escape with the promoter's gate money.
Afterward, Peter finds his uncle has been carjacked and killed. Peter tracks
down the carjacker only to find out it was the same thief he allowed to escape
earlier. During the struggle, the carjacker falls out of a window and dies. Upon
graduating, Peter decides to use his abilities to fight injustice, and dons a
new costume and the persona of Spider-Man. Peter is hired as a freelance photographer when he
arrives in newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson's
office with the only clear images of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man fights with the Green Goblin
Norman, upon finding out that Oscorp's board members plan to sell the
company, attacks them at the World Unity Fair. Jameson quickly dubs Norman as
the Green Goblin. The Goblin
offers Spider-Man a place at his side as he sees how the authorities mistrust
him, but Spider-Man refuses, knowing that it is the right thing to do. The
Goblin commits arson to engage him with a final
offer, which Spider-Man refuses, and the Goblin becomes set on killing him. At
the Osborn and Parkers' Thanksgiving dinner, Norman
notices Peter's wound from the masked confrontation and leaves shortly
thereafter. Feeling betrayed by Peter, and having found a personal annoyance
with Aunt May, he attacks her. Whilst she recovers in the hospital, Mary Jane
admits she has a crush on Spider-Man, who rescued her on numerous occasions, and
asks Peter whether he ever asked about her. Peter reflects on his own feelings,
during which Harry Osborn enters. Feeling betrayed by his girlfriend, Harry
becomes fully loyal to his father, and tells him whom Peter loves the most.
The Goblin strikes, holding Mary Jane and a tram car full of children hostage
on top the Queensboro Bridge. The
Goblin tells Spider-Man to choose who he wants to save, and when Spider-Man
refuses to choose, the Goblin drops his hostages. Spider-Man manages to save
both Mary Jane and the tram car, whilst the Goblin is pelted at by civilians,
showing loyalty to Spider-Man and proving him wrong by telling the Goblin that
if "you mess with him, you mess with New York." The Goblin then grabs Spider-Man
and throws him into an abandoned building and begins to beat him. The tables
turn as the Goblin boasts of how he will later kill Mary Jane, and an enraged
Spider-Man forces him into being unmasked. Norman begs for forgiveness, but his
Goblin persona attempts to remote-control his glider to impale Spider-Man. The
superhero evades the attack, causing the glider to impale Norman instead, and he
dies asking Peter not to reveal his secret to Harry. At Norman’s funeral, Harry
swears vengeance toward Spider-Man, who he believes is responsible for killing
his father, and asserts that Peter is all he has left. Mary Jane confesses to
Peter that she’s in love with him, but Peter, feeling that he must protect her,
hides his true feelings. As Peter leaves the funeral, he recalls Uncle Ben's
words, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Cast and characters
Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson
- Tobey Maguire as
Parker / Spider-Man: An academic but socially inept high
school student who is bitten by a genetically
modified spider and gains the spider-like abilities to become the superhero
Spider-Man. Peter graduates but has trouble managing both a job and duties as
a superhero, and finds himself mistrusted by the authorities.
- Willem Dafoe as Norman
Osborn / Green Goblin: The CEO of Oscorp and a scientist who tests an
unstable strength enhancer on himself, going insane and becoming the Green
Goblin. Osborn develops a split-personality and sees himself as unique, above
all others, and offers Spider-Man a place at his side. Unaware of the
superhero's true identity, he also sees himself as a father figure for Peter,
after he learns that he read his nanotechnology papers and wishes to make his
own way in the world.
- Kirsten Dunst as
Mary Jane Watson:
A high school student and Peter's neighbor, the girl for whom Peter Parker has
developed a crush since he was six years old. Mary Jane has abusive parents
and aspires to become an actress, but becomes a waitress at a run down diner,
a fact she hides from her boyfriend Harry. Due to Peter's crush, she is
rescued numerous times by Spider-Man, and in turn she develops feelings for
- James Franco as Harry
Osborn: A high school student who is the son of Norman Osborn and
Peter Parker's best friend, sharing a flat. He becomes somewhat embittered
over his father showing more interest in the brilliant Peter and his job than
his own son. Due to Peter's slow romantic attempts, Harry becomes Mary Jane's
boyfriend without telling his friend, but Norman resents this, after his own
bad relationship with his wife.
- Cliff Robertson as
Ben Parker: The
husband to May Parker and uncle of Peter Parker, a fired electrician who is trying
to find a new job. He is killed by a carjacker whom Peter failed to stop, and
leaves Peter with the message, "With great power comes great responsibility."
- Rosemary Harris as
Parker: The wife to Ben Parker and the aunt of Peter Parker. May is a
devout Christian who is highly
aware of Peter's love for Mary Jane.
- J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson:
The grouchy chief editor of the Daily Bugle who considers Spider-Man a
criminal. Nonetheless he has a good side and pays Peter for photos of
Spider-Man, and refuses to tell the Green Goblin the identity of the
- Michael Papajohn as the
Carjacker: A criminal who robs the wrestling manager who stiffs Peter
Parker for his ring performance.
- Joe Manganiello as
Flash Thompson: A
repugnant high school student who bullies Peter, and is defeated in a fight
after Peter inherits his spider-like powers.
- Randy Savage as
Bonesaw McGraw: The wrestler whom Parker beats in a cage match for $3000.
Bruce Campbell, a
long-time colleague of director Sam Raimi, cameoed as the
announcer at the wrestling ring Peter takes part in. Raimi himself appeared
off-screen, throwing popcorn at Peter as he enters
Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee also had a cameo, in
which he asks Peter, "Hey kid, would like a pair of these glasses? They're the
kind they wore in X-Men." The scene was
cut, and Lee only briefly appears in the film to grab a young girl from falling
debris during Spider-Man and the Green Goblin's battle in Times
In April 1999, Sony Pictures announced
that director James Cameron, previously
contracted to film Spider-Man at other studios, would not be attached to
write or direct. The studio hired screenwriter David Koepp, who would
reportedly draw elements from Cameron's original script treatment for the
film. Sam Raimi
was attached to direct in January 2000,
for a summer 2001 release. He
had been a big fan of the comic book during his youth,and picked Green Goblin and Doctor
Octopus as the villains of the film,
feeling the Green Goblin would make for an interesting conflict being the father
of Peter Parker's best friend, Harry Osborn.
Raimi did not want to create a highly stylized feel to the film's depiction of New
York City, meeting up with production designer Neil Spisak to discuss a
focus on tall and classical architecture.
Raimi also kept an element of Cameron's treatment, in which Spider-Man has
organic webshooters instead of mechanical ones, feeling such an invention would
be unlikely on Peter's part.
In June, the studio hired screenwriter Scott Rosenberg to
rewrite Koepp's script, of which there had been two drafts, and
he removed Doc Ock from the storyline. A year later Raimi said he wouldn't be
using his draft, and Alvin Sargent was hired,
but eventually Koepp received sole credit.
|"I felt like I was an outsider. I think what
happened to me made me develop this street sense of watching people and
working out what made them tick, wondering whether I could trust them or
not. I went to a lot of schools along the coast in California, made few
friends and stayed with aunts, uncles and grandparents while my folks
tried to make ends meet. It was tough. We had no money."|
|— Tobey Maguire on identifying with Peter
For the role of Peter Parker, the studio expressed interest in actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Freddie Prinze Jr.
In addition, actors Scott Speedman, Jay Rodan,
and James Franco were involved
in screen tests for the lead role. In
July 2000, Tobey Maguire was cast as
Parker. Maguire was Raimi's primary choice after he saw The Cider House
and Maquire was interested as he identified with the character,
but the studio was initially hesitant to cast someone who did not seem to fit
the ranks of "adrenaline-pumping, tail-kicking titans". Maguire, who wore a
webbed vestment for the screen test, impressed studio executives with his
recently aerobicized physique. The actor was signed for a deal in the range of
$3 to $4 million with higher salary options for two sequels.
To prepare, Maguire was trained by a physical trainer, a yoga instructor, a
martial arts expert and a climbing expert, taking several months to improve his
Maguire studied spiders and worked with a wire man to simulate the arachnidlike
motion, and had a special diet.
Before Raimi cast Kirsten Dunst in the role
of Peter Parker's love interest Mary Jane Watson, he
had expressed his interest in casting Alicia Witt.
Dunst decided to audition after learning Maguire had been cast, feeling the film
would have a more independent feel. She
got the role at age 18. The role of Norman Osborn, also known as the villain
Green Goblin, drew the interest of actor Nicolas Cage, who spoke to
the filmmakers about being cast, despite having a busy schedule. The
studio had offered actor John Malkovich the
Malkovich turned down the offer, saying that Spider-Man was not his genre
and also cited scheduling difficulties for the role.
Ultimately, Willem Dafoe was cast as
Norman Osborn in November 2000.
The role of Norman's son, Harry Osborn, was filled by James Franco, who had
originally screen tested for Spider-Man.
With Spider-Man cast, filming was set to begin the following November
in New York City and on Sony soundstages. The film was set
for release a year later,
but when the film was postponed to be released on May 3, 2002,
the shoot began on January 8, 2001
City. Sony's Stage 29 was used for Peter's Forest Hills home, and
Stage 27 was used for the wrestling sequence where Peter takes on Bonesaw McGraw
Savage). Stage 27 was also used for the complex Times Square sequence where
Spider-Man and the Goblin battle for the first time, where a three-story set
with a breakaway balcony piece was built. The scene also required shooting in Downey,
On March 6,
45-year-old construction worker Tim Holcombe was killed when a forklift modified
as a construction crane crashed into a construction basket that he was in. The
following court case led to the California Division of Occupational Safety and
Health to fine Sony $58,805.
In Los Angeles,
locations included the Natural History Museum (for the Columbia University
lab where Peter is bitten and receives his powers), the Pacific Electricity
Building (the Daily Bugle offices) and the
Greystone Mansion for the interiors of Norman Osborn's home. In April, some of
the Spider-Man costumes were stolen, and Sony put up a $25,000 reward, although
they were never returned.
Production moved to New York City for two
weeks, taking in locations such as the Queensboro Bridge, the
exterior of Columbia University's Law Library and a rooftop garden in the Rockefeller
The crew returned to L.A. where production was finished in June.
To create the costume, Maguire was fitted for the skintight suit, being
covered with layers of substance to create the suit's shape. It
was designed as a single piece, except for the mask. The webbing, which accented
the costume, was cut by computer. The mask eye lenses were designed to have a
mirror look. The Green Goblin's costume was created after Willem Dafoe was cast,
as Dafoe rejected the initially bulky designs created beforehand. The finished
design focused on a more streamlined and athletic feel,
and the mask in particular was created to be an extreme cartoon version of his
face, focusing on his long cheekbones.
Visual effects supervisor John Dykstra was hired to
produce the visual effects for Spider-Man in May 2000. He
convinced Raimi to make many of the stunts computer generated,
as they would have been physically impossible. Raimi had used more traditional
special effects in his previous films and learned a lot about using computers
Raimi worked hard to plan all the sequences of Spider-Man swinging from
buildings, which he described as, "ballet in the sky." The
complexity of such sequences meant the budget rose from an initially planned $70
million to around $100 million.
Dykstra said the biggest difficulty of creating Spider-Man was that as the
character was masked, it immediately lost a lot of characterization. Without the
context of eyes or mouth, a lot of body language had to be put in so that there
would be emotional content. Raimi wanted to convey the essence of being
Spider-Man, being, "the transition that occurs between him being a young man
going through puberty and being a superhero." Dykstra said his crew of animators
had never reached such a level of sophistication to give subtle hints of still
making Spider-Man feel like a human being. In
addition, Dykstra's crew had to composite areas of New York City and replaced
every car in shots with digital models. Raimi did not want it to feel entirely
like animation, so none of the shots were 100% computer generated.
After the terrorist
attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, Sony recalled teaser posters
which showed a close-up of Spider-Man's face with the New York skyline
(including, prominently, the World Trade Center
towers) reflected in his eyes. The movie's original trailer, released in 2001,
featured a group of bank robbers on their getaway in a helicopter, which
Spider-Man catches in a giant spider-web between the two towers of the World
Trade Center. The trailer was pulled after the events of September 11,
2001 attacks and can be found on the internet.
Before Spider-Man's British theatrical
release in June 2002, the BBFC gave the film a '12'
certificate. Due to Spider-Man's popularity with younger children, this prompted
much controversy. The BBFC defended their decision, arguing that the film could
have been given a '15'. Despite this, North Norfolk and Breckland District
Councils, in East Anglia, changed it to a 'PG', and Tameside council, Manchester,
denoted it a 'PG-12'. In
late August, the BBFC relaxed their policy to '12A', leading Sony to re-release
Critical reaction to the film was mostly positive. Film review site Rotten Tomatoes
calculated a 90% overall approval based on 200 reviews, and it scored an 87%
Cream of the Crop rating from major news outlets.
The casting, mainly Tobey Maguire, is often cited as one of the high points of
the film. Eric Harrison, of the Houston Chronicle,
was initially skeptical of the casting of Tobey Maguire, but, after seeing the
film, he stated, "within seconds, however, it becomes hard to imagine anyone
else in the role."
Today critic Mike Clark believed the casting rivaled that of 1978's
Owen Gleiberman, of Entertainment
Weekly, had mixed feelings about the casting, particularly Tobey
Maguire. "Maguire, winning as he is, never quite gets the chance to bring the
two sides of Spidey -- the boy and the man, the romantic and the avenger --
Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt thought, "the filmmakers' imaginations work in
overdrive from the clever design of the cobwebby opening credits and Spider-Man
and M.J.'s upside down kiss -- after one of his many rescues of her -- to a
finale that leaves character relationships open ended for future
Not all of the criticism was good, as LA Weekly's Manohla Dargis
wrote, "It isn't that Spider-Man is inherently unsuited for live-action
translation; it's just that he's not particularly interesting or, well,
Giving it 2.5/4 stars, Roger Ebert felt the film
lacked a decent action element; "Consider the scene where Spider-Man is given a
cruel choice between saving Mary Jane or a cable car full of school kids. He
tries to save both, so that everyone dangles from webbing that seems about to
pull loose. The visuals here could have given an impression of the enormous
weights and tensions involved, but instead the scene seems more like a bloodless
storyboard of the idea."
Stylistically, there was heavy criticism of the Green Goblin's costume,
which led Richard George of IGN to comment years later,
"We're not saying the comic book costume is exactly thrilling, but the Goblin
armor (the helmet in particular) from Spider-Man is almost comically
bad... Not only is it not frightening, it prohibits expression."
Box office performance
Spider-Man was commercially released in the United States on May 3, 2002
in 3,615 theaters. The film earned $114,844,116 during its opening weekend and
became the fastest theatrical release to reach $100 million, crossing the
milestone in three days.
The film's three-day record was later surpassed by Pirates
of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in 2006.
Spider-Man also set an all-time record for the highest earnings in a
single day with $43,622,264 on May 4, 2002, a record later surpassed by Shrek 2 in
the U.S. box office, Spider-Man became the highest grossing film of 2002
with $403,706,375, defeating The
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star
Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Spider-Man currently ranks #7 in the all-time U.S. box office. The film
also grossed $821,708,551 worldwide, currently placing it #14 in worldwide box
The film has won several awards ranging from Teen Choice Awards to
the Saturn Awards, and was even
nominated for two Academy Awards ("Best
Visual Effects" and "Best Sound").
While only Danny Elfman brought home a Saturn Award, Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst
were all nominated for their respective positions. It also took home the People's Choice
Award for "Favorite Motion Picture."