For the past 10 years, the MCU has been a meticulously crafted vehicle in Hollywood. It virtually has little to no competition. In other words, it’s the Thanos of cinema right now. Each new iteration seems to knock things straight out of the park with barely a blemish in their performance. If I were eight years old, I would be living in a dream world of cinematic crossovers that are ostensibly unbounded. The MCU is slaughtering the mainstream game right now.
Avengers: Infinity War is Marvel’s biggest event yet (I say event because that’s how big this is) and as of yet, it is the ultimate destination for the franchise. All of the box office smash hits, all the crossovers, the standalone titles, the sequels, the introductions of each new character have all been forthrightly leading up to this.
Casting the appeal of the MCU aside, it’s somewhat melancholic to sit and pensively wonder just how times were so much simpler in the noughties. One may think of Nolan’s The Dark Knight breaking boundaries of common ground and pushing the envelope — overshadowing other superhero films’ greatness in that decade. But one Marvel film automatically springs to mind that reached transcendent heights for its time, even before TDK, and doesn’t at all hold an anachronistic place in today’s overcrowded multiplex. That film is Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
Times Were Simpler Back in 2004
Just like today’s MCU, Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy was such a monumental success and it was quite clearly on its own accord with no competition (sorry DC). Preceding it was really only Tim Burton’s Batman that grabbed audiences (let’s forget about Joel Schumacher for a second). And Richard Donner’s Superman was quite iconic, but undeniably dated, especially in terms of its sophistication with special effects. Raimi’s Spider-Man came at a time in 2002 when there wasn’t half as much acceptance with geek culture.
Nobody had ever seen anything of that cinematic quality. It seemed to have opened up a doorway to what could be. Also, it seems as though a superhero flick is released every three months or so nowadays; back then, this sub-genre was much more sparse and not as prevalent.
Spider-Man 2 was an absolute beast. An estimated budget of over $200 million back when $200 million was $200 million. It acted as a pioneer for what was to come of the superhero comic book breed a decade later. Some might say that the trilogy was ahead of its time. As well as that, tropes were harder to come by. Raimi’s Spider-Man felt fresh, novel, and original.
A More Human Story
Having Spider-Man 2 in an era where superhero epics didn’t saturate cinema, Raimi had the poise to zoom in on the character like a microscope. An isolated focus on who Peter Parker was, how he became the heroic wall-crawler and his lovable tenderness were all key elements brought to the forefront.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” Who would’ve guessed that that line would become so exemplary for the superheroes of today. It wasn’t necessarily about saving the world like much of the current adventures are so predicated on — although Manhattan is no quaint place to supervise. Instead, it was just about this nerdy wonted young man who had a lot on his plate.
In 2018, bigger seems to arguably equal more fandom and attention. But in 2004, in terms of narrative, smaller felt so much bigger. At its core, the Spider-Man trilogy is a fable for every struggling, stressed, aimless youth trying to work out what their place in the world is. I’ll get back to this point later on.
World Building Didn’t Bog it Down
With Spider-Man 2‘s more humble and compact tale, it had the freedom of going anywhere. Not having it webbed up with other titles allowed it to be a purer film. Spider-Man 2 never piggybacked on the coat-tails of another film’s success (apart from its predecessor).
The route planning of the MCU must be quite meddlesome. Thank Stan Lee they have things just right so far. I’ll try not to jinx it. Today’s 10-year-old pups are certainly in the epicenter of this exponential superhero/Star Wars storm and that’s insanely delightful. But what about the 10 year olds of 2004?
Spider-Man 2 was a massive release and there was something special about how it grabbed us. Perhaps the release of the film coming post-9/11 was an appealing one to the American subconscious.
The trilogy exudes a certain sense of patriotism. Including the New Yorker on the Brooklyn bridge in Spider-Man shouting at Dafoe’s Green Goblin, ‘You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.’ Or Joey Diaz’s cameo on the train, telling Doc Ock, ‘swallow You wanna get to him you gotta go through me.’
‘And me.’ ‘And me.’ And me.’
It showcased the great communal pride that the American’s had following the events of 2001 and their utmost intolerance for evil. That’s a powerful force. Sam Raimi didn’t have to attend to other parts of the mythical lore and advanced his vision on the web slinger. He had almost complete unabridged control with the project, appealing to the hearts of the audience confidently and with making the most uncontaminated film possible.
A Truly Underrated Coming of Age Film (Trilogy)
The primary reason why Spider-Man 2 is such an outstanding film is because of its allegory to millennial/adolescent life. Peter Parker embodies every conscientious hobbledehoy juggling an overwhelming number of responsibilities. He struggles in practically every respect.
He undertakes a pizza delivery boy job and get’s fired, all because of his Spider-Man persona interrupting his work. Which has a direct knock on effect on his plight with paying rent. Fruitlessly trying to impress J. Jonah Jameson in an effort to establish one foot in the door as a photographer at the Daily Bugle. Family issues also inflict headaches with poor little aunt May being in danger of losing her home. Dr. Connors incessantly being on his back for his clumsy lethargy and being late for class in university.
One aspect of interest is certainly his social life. Harry Osborne still holds this personal vendetta towards Peter for his pally relationship with “The Spider-Man.” He also has serious intimate problems with Mary Jane Watson. Her and aunt May are perhaps the watchful eyes of the film. Someone as sticky as Spider Man himself isn’t able to hold onto Mary Jane for very long. She slips through his finger tips as she falls head over heels for the more masculine and accomplished astronaut. Oh, and by the way, on top of all that, he’s Spider-Man.
He experiences strange intermittent glitches with his powers. This is really quite a thought-provoking element to Spider-Man 2. Is it some sort of stress induced malfunctioning? I can’t help but find the whole plot point highly analogues to a teenager experiencing oft-embarrassing forms of erectile dysfunction. He physically cannot shoot his webbing and falls on his backside with such a lack of eloquence. At which point, he inevitably hangs up the cape — if you will — and rejects his vigilantist calling. He practically gives up, rejects who he really is and longs for a quotidian way of being, and that certainly works for a while. The load is too overbearing to carry.
All this is justly akin to the average awkward youth. It mirrors the inundated feelings that the world is aggressively in opposition to you and things are moving too fast. Speaking of moving too fast, the train scene is, still to this day, a goosebump inducing action sequence. It not only displays the impressive special effects but I also believe that it’s an accurate metaphor for Parker’s universal predicament. He’s utterly trying his best at preventing his life from becoming a literal and figurative train wreck.
The theologian would probably say that the imagery in the scene is emblematic of a certain someone who died on a cross to essentially save us all. With his arms out stretched, screaming in pain, the roars of Tobey Maguire here are so wretched a desperate. You can almost hear the mental agony as he bellows in a cathartic yelp.
In short, he’s not only in physical torture but also psychological anguish with the current strains of his own life. This segment perfectly encapsulates how selfless and altruistic Peter Parker truly is and I say his real name because he is unmasked in more ways that one here.
The people appreciate him and that’s a long overdue reward. Although his identity is revealed, they still grant him anonymity for his heroic actions. They trust and respect him, and he recognizes that. A hilarious goof afterwards is when one guy has the audacity to say, ‘He’s just a kid.’ I guess the 29-year-old Tobey Maguire is the oldest looking kid I’ve ever seen.
Onwards And Upwards
The MCU is immensely inspired by Spider-Man 2 and we should all tip our hats and commemorate its influence. Although I believe Tom Holland is the quintessential Spidey, Tobey Maguire is still my Spider-Man. It’s fun to joke about some of his meme-friendly facial expressions but it’s a testament to him absolutely committing and pouring every ounce of his heart and soul into the role.
Every action star nowadays is a hunky Adonis but Maguire captured the everyday and relatable quality of the character. In contrast to Andrew Garfield’s portrayal, he is able to give that ungainly performance. Garfield’s version was a little too cocksure and punk-rock for my liking and it bordered on knocking on goth’s door. Maguire may be a bit mopey for the lighthearted essence of Spider-Man but his Peter Parker is just so true to the difficult endeavors of this special young man.
Let’s hope Avengers Infinity War will do the whole journey justice. In accordance with its track record, I’m sure it undeniably will.
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