Spider-Man: The Tobey Maguire Films or “Topher not Graceful”

(In honor of the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Eric is looking back at the previous Spider-Man films. Today we start with the original Trilogy directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire.)

Another article, another preface.

I have seen the first two films of Sam Raimi’s trilogy several times. I loved them growing up. I saw the first one at the drive-in that was near my parents house. I don’t recall the third movie, but, if other critics are to be believed, I may be repressing the viewing. As we get closer to Into the Spider-Verse, I wanted to take a look back into Spider-Man’s journey through cinema thus far. To catch myself up, I’m going to watch the first two and then start the third.

So…they aren’t as good as I remember, which is to be expected now that the nostalgia goggles are off. The effects are super dated, the acting is pretty meh, and no one looks like a high schooler…at all. That aside, the first two films are a ton of fun. They are campy, the villains are over-the-top and obviously having a ton of fun, and they have more personality than anyone else in the movie. In fact, the real antagonists of these movies are Aunt May and MJ; both of them are just terrible. “Eric, that’s super sexist!” I didn’t write the characters to be awful. I just comment on what I see. As bad as Franco and Maguire are, these two are on another level. Also, I’m not excusing Peter’s roles in either of those relationships; he is kind of a shitty person too. Boy oh boy are those relationships toxic.

Mary Jane is almost openly manipulative of Peter’s feelings throughout the first and second film. It’s supposed to come off as a “will they/won’t they” thing, but, if you sit and think about it like an asshole

(picture: Eric Brockett/asshole)

then you notice that the other people involved are getting all sorts of played. She just leads people on over and over again waiting around for Peter. Of course, he turns her down a fair amount of times too. They for sure should have been a “won’t they”.

Ah, and the rock of Peter’s life, good ole Aunt May is a more word spelled very similarly to aunt; if you see what I’m saying. She guilt trips the hell out of him about Uncle Ben in almost every scene like she’s the Ghost of Dead Uncles Past. The worst of this is in Spider-Man 2 when she takes credit for stopping Doc Oc by saying, “What do you mean ‘we?’” and more so when Peter confesses his involvement, her complete disdain. Aunt May is supposed to serve as a reminder for the good in humanity despite everything the Bugle says, but she is just a giant detriment to Peter’s life.

I’m really anxious to see the third one now!

I-I was warned but I did not listen. I couldn’t even finish it in one sitting. It’s not even that the beginning is bad per se, I was really just bored. It didn’t feel like the other films. I could tell in the other two that Raimi was having fun, but this one seemed phoned-in and dropped on a silver platter to meet some producer’s wet dream for more money (after some research, this statement is correct). This movie feels like two movies wedged into one, and neither had the important driving force put in.

I don’t understand how the characters got more childish. They are supposed to be young adults now, right? They are acting more like they are in high school than they did when they were supposed to be playing kids in high school. I don’t understand Mary Jane’s logic in this movie. She sucks at her job and Spider-Man is good at his, so let’s be mad at Spider-Man? You knew he was a superhero–you knew he was famous?! To her credit, kissing Gwen Stacy was a stupid decision–and who kisses like this?

Image via Sony

Speaking of Gwen, why is she even in this movie? Like, canonically speaking, they are well past the point where she should have been introduced, and she should be dead. Why are we introducing Captain Stacy now? Who thought it was a good idea to cast Topher Grace as Eddie Brock? All of their introductions are so clunky. Eddie just shows up, zooms in on Gwen, points out that it is Gwen and then says he is dating her to her dad. What?!

The best new addition is, by far, the Sandman. His design is cool and the focus on an otherwise minor Spider-Man character is interesting, especially given how they tie him back into Ben’s murder. His transformation scene is absolutely beautiful in a way that this film doesn’t deserve. I can see what Raimi was going for with Sandman too: really pushing Peter to see beyond the black and white and pit his anger and needs for justice against what justice really is when all Sandman wants to do is save his daughter. He is so great in this movie…that I don’t want him in it.

M Night

Nononononono not like that. It’s just that this film is so oversaturated with things that should already have the focus, that introducing new components doesn’t make sense. I really wish that Eddie would have been introduced in the second film, as he would have been a nice addition to Peter’s stressors. Plus, he’s mentioned in the first film. The movie should have focused on the dichotomy between the person Peter wants to be and the person people see him as; a physical shift could have helped emphasis this point.

Harry should have been the main antagonist, as everything has lead up to this point and his misuse in the film is such a regret. I don’t mind the amnesia or the new goblin suit so much as I really wish they would have put more of an emphasis on Peter and Harry’s friendship. This way, when Harry does get his memory back, the final fight is emotionally impactive as well as the ending.

Enough people have spoken about “Cool Peter,” and it’s just not needed in the film at all. Again, the fatal crux to an otherwise campy and fun franchise is too many characters and producer input being valued over creative freedom. I sUrE hOpE sOnY lEaRnS fRoM tHiS fOr ThE rEbOoT.

Spider-Man: C+
Spider-Man 2: B+
spider-Man 3: D+

Image via Sony

Written by Eric Brockett
(Eric is a millennial and thus thinks his opinion on the internet matters. Sometimes he has opinions on films too. He thinks people care. He knows they don’t.)

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