It is almost impossible for any piece of film journalism focusing on the superhero/comic book genre to not acknowledge the elephant in the room that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its domination of that niche. Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009 after the massive success of Iron Man in 2008, and has since taken this Golden Egg of a creative property and used it to monopolise the international box office. Love these films or hate them, you can’t deny their success and popularity: they are fun, family-friendly movies boasting incredible visual effects and top acting talent in the parts of intensely likeable characters. It is. however, curious that much of the hype surrounding recent MCU movies has come courtesy of the inclusion of characters from a franchise that has so far eluded the complete tyrannical hold of Disney: Sony and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Yes, Disney’s MCU is the accepted Gold Standard of the comic book adaptation, but it cannot be denied that its current supremacy has been earned by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Back in 2002, Spider-Man earned the reputation of a “living comic book”, unmatched by its comic book rivals at the time. Whilst Sam Raimi did lean towards campiness and exaggeration in his trilogy, the film was made with such a deftness of touch that it avoided guilty-pleasure status and instead earned plenty of critical praise and box office dollars, becoming a cultural touchstone in the process.
In examining the career of Sam Raimi you can see how much his background helped this trilogy to succeed. Starting literally from the bottom, making Super 8 home-movies with friends from high school and then being thrust into prominence when his feature-length directorial debut The Evil Dead (1981) became a sleeper hit, Raimi has progressed from independent to blockbuster over the course of his career. His beloved horror output echoes the appeal and traits seen in his Spider-Man trilogy, illustrating his flair for melding comedy and drama, the use of light-hearted beats to underline moments of terror and suspense, and his use of insane moments of extravagance to make his movies truly unforgettable.
In this Movie List from The Film Magazine we are looking back at Sam Raimi’s influential work on the original live-action Spider-Man trilogy to celebrate the unforgettable quality these films offered, choosing ten moments that best represent why this trilogy has reached immortal status. These are the 10 Best Moments from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy, chosen in terms of artistry, their significance to the trilogy, and their influence on the superhero genre as a whole.
Follow @thefilmagazine on Twitter.
10. Emo Peter Parker
There is a lot of hate heaped onto the front doorstep of the third movie of the Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy. And, as fans will attest, it is largely unwarranted. Even though many of Spider-Man 3′s flaws were mostly due to interference from Sony as opposed to Raimi’s actual vision, some fans still attempt to illustrate everything wrong with this film through pointing directly at the “Emo Peter” sequence. But that’s missing the point…
The sight of venom-corrupted Peter Parker strutting down the street shooting finger guns and rolling his hips is one of the most memorable scenes in the whole trilogy. The impact of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire on the Spider-Man mythos (and even Marvel itself) is forever immortalised by “Bully Maguire” memes, for better or for worse.
Not only is there a hidden depth and nuance to this unfairly scorned scene – it working to illustrate the inherent quality of Peter’s goodness (as an emo haircut and a “Travolta, Saturday Night Fever” walk is his idea of a “bad boy persona”) – it’s a showcase of Raimi’s inventiveness and sense of humour, which has garnered him the adoration of fans over the years. Let’s be honest, many of the haters are those who first watched this scene as a self-conscious teenager whose enormous second hand embarrassment was a projection of their own insecurities. Relevant advice to such individuals is: grow up, sit back and have a laugh. A bit of cringe never hurt anyone.
Recommended for you: Every MCU Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked
9. Peter Fights Flash
The original Spider-Man Trilogy’s continuing moreish quality is in large part due to Tobey Maguire’s depiction of Peter Parker: he seemingly held no fear in depicting Peter as a hapless and nerdy loser, and this hasn’t quite been matched in successive adaptations.
Peter’s character is largely shaped by the relentless bullying he has undoubtedly suffered all through High School; acts that have destroyed his confidence and halted him from expressing himself. Combined with his natural goodness and teenage angst, Peter is cinema’s most sympathetic superhero, making the journey of the discovery of his powers all that more satisfying.
Peter’s fight with Flash is a near masterclass in comedy timing with Peter’s out of control web slinging throwing school dinner all over nasty school bully Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello). Peter dodging Flash’s slow motion punches with huge bewilderment pasted all over his face is an iconic moment of superhero pop culture. And yet it’s a moment that provides more than simple laughs, it also offers awe and spectacle the likes of which we have since come to expect from the superhero genre.
Peter backflips over six feet into the air and promptly horse kicks Flash across the corridor. Raimi’s choice to use comedy as to a tool to distract and therefore maximise the impact of Peter’s powers is masterful, plus it’s really satisfying to see meek and mild Peter Parker knock out the obnoxious school bully as the first step on his journey to herodom.