10 Best Moments from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy

5. The Birth of The Green Goblin

Spider-Man was released three years prior to Christopher Nolan’s auspicious Batman Begins and six years ahead of the MCU’s debut in 2008 with Iron Man. Its only real superhero contemporaries at the time were the tonally darker X-Men movies and the hard-R rated Blade films. That’s why it’s a big deal to describe the Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy as “a living comic book”.

The Raimi Spider-Man films were the light-hearted entries in the comic book genre compared to its brooding and serious rivals of the time. Even compared to the quippy films of the MCU, the Raimi Trilogy still stands out as more colourful and exaggerated. An element that helps to prove this living comic book status is the character Norman Osborne aka The Green Goblin.

One of the archetypal ‘scientist that accidentally transforms themselves into a monster’ type villains, it would be tempting to describe Norman as a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde figure. But that’s not entirely accurate…

Norman was never meek or restrained before his accident, he was already intense and slightly unhinged. The casting of Willem Dafoe fits this brief: in no way a traditionally handsome leading man on a good day, he manages to physically transform into a maniacal figure, a living cartoon character when possessed by the Goblin.

When the US military seemingly decides to withdraw its funding from Oscorp due to its failure to deliver a promised super soldier vapour, Osborne is both enraged and determined, and decides to test the allegedly unstable vapour on himself. This brash decision, which is arguably motivated by pride and greed, results in the birth of The Green Goblin: after the inhalation of the vapour whilst bathed in neon green light Norman seemingly dies horrifically, seizing and frothing into a cardiac arrest. His loyal assistant Professor Stromm then desperately rushes over to perform CPR and Norman suddenly revives in the guise of Green Goblin, swiftly murdering his fellow scientist.

Not only does this scene pack a thrill and showcases the beloved gaudiness of Raimi’s style, it bears narrative importance and symbolism. Green Goblin is born at the same time as Spider-Man and, as it is Peter’s good nature that is amplified by his transformation, it is the already existing ruthlessness and coldness of Norman Osborne that is exaggerated. Green Goblin’s first words are, after all, a snide “Back to formula?” to Stromm, the same words that caused the withdrawal of military funding. Green Goblin’s evil isn’t just a generic freak accident, he is driven by Norman Osborne’s already frightening grandiosity and narcissism.

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4. Uncle Ben’s Death

This is an odd moment to contemplate in the trilogy. The actual death of Uncle Ben is so sudden and swift there is an element of shell-shock that comes naturally from witnessing it, each of us unsure of what the scene actually consisted of. But there’s no denying that this scene is a definite contender for most important in the trilogy as it simply defines the rest of it.

Despite Peter’s physical transformation after the spider-bite, it is an undisputed fact that it is the untimely death of Peter’s uncle that is the true genesis of the Spider-Man. Even though the iconic “With great power comes great responsibility” line is not uttered by Uncle Ben during his on-screen death, this is the exact moment Peter (and us) finally understand his Uncle’s advice. For the rest of the trilogy, Peter is plagued by the guilt that it was his failure to stop the mugger who shot his uncle when it was in his power to do so. It is this guilt, compounded by Ben’s last wise words, that provides Peter/Spider-Man with a driving force and narrative conflict for much of the Raimi trilogy. It is Peter’s call to action.

Yes, Peter Parker is a likeable and sympathetic character, but being likeable is not necessarily superhero material. Uncle Ben’s death is the reminder to Peter for him to be remarkable, it is why he forsakes his relationship with MJ so as to protect her from Spider-Man’s enemies, risks his life to save civilians from mortal peril, and consequentially wins the adoration of New York as he undeniably fits the shape of a selfless role-model.

3. Peter Parker’s Housefire Rescue

For nearly every superhero film in existence there has to be acknowledgement of the theme of duality at some point. Who is the protagonist really, the vigilante or the secret identity? Where do the heroics come from? It is Spider-Man 2 that gives the definitive answer to these questions.

At this point in Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker has officially resigned from the life of Spider-Man as he can no longer cope with its impact on his normal life: it has left him broke, failing, and alienated from the lives of his loved ones. Yet… even in his voluntary oblivion towards the New York criminal underworld, Peter’s bravery and kind heart cannot remain silent. In an almost direct re-enactment of a scene from the previous movie – in which Peter was actually deceived by the Green Goblin – he runs into a burning New York apartment building in an attempt to rescue a child, despite the fact his spider powers are failing him.

Here, Peter is actually risking his life in his weakened state and his selfless actions impact those around him. In the cutest narrative turn, it is the trapped small child that turns to help Peter from falling to a fiery death after a slip through the floor. Despite Peter’s courage, an innocent person still perishes in the fire, and yet still we are left with the fundamental message of this Raimi trilogy: that it is not the superpowers that make Peter Parker Spider-Man, it is Peter Parker. He is the true hero.

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