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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Remembering Sam Raimi's original Spider-man trilogy

I saw THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN two nights ago and enjoyed it.

Because of that, and also because of this video below, I am prompted to revisit the original Spider-man trilogy by Sam Raimi.

Back in the days when comic books were more affordable, I used to collect them. So I DID grow up with my share of Spider-man, X-men, Superman and Batman. I loved Spider-man most, as a child my mom got me a Spider-man pajamas (as in pajamas that look like a Spider-man costume, NOT pajamas with Spider-man on it), maybe that made me love Spider-man because in my childish fantasies, I could be Spider-man, or maybe the pajamas was bought after I became a Spidey fan. I can't exactly remember. But Spider-man was like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, I knew him since I was a child, and I cannot even remember when had I ever NOT knew who he was.

If you are one of the few who knew me in person for a very long time, or had read this blog for a very long time, you might know that I used to go the U.S. a lot and hung out at the bookshops. I could spend THAT long in a bookshop because half of the time I was reading comics (especially the Spider-man ones).

So, when the first Spider-man film by Sam Raimi came out ten years ago in 2002, I was absolutely joyous. At the age of 18, I had finished high school. And on the verge of adulthood, I got to watch a childhood hero come alive on the big screen, how unbelievable! How.... (sorry) amazing!

I saw it for the very first time with dad, my sister and my pal Alex during its opening week. I was unsure how the Spider-man film would be like, just a few years earlier, the Batman franchise was destroyed by BATMAN AND ROBIN. But two years earlier in 2001, the first X-MEN by Bryan Singer came out and showed that comic book adaptations could be respectful towards its source materials, feeling like an actual, serious film.

Would SPIDER-MAN be another BATMAN AND ROBIN? Or would it continue the X-MEN trend? I was nervous.

My fears were unfounded by the time the film ended. I liked it a lot, it was a worthy Spider-man film, its origins story heartwarming and exhilarating, the nerdy underdog protagonist played endearingly by Tobey Maguire growing into a hero was both familiar and exciting, to see Spider-man on the big screen for the first time was magical and memorable.

I also thought that it was the most romantic superhero film I have ever seen then. The upside down kissing scene had become an iconic moment in American cinema. I remembered this monologue more than any of the action scenes in the film. Yes, these scenes are cheesy to many, but I cared about them more than the action scenes. (I have to admit, even back then, I didn't really care that much about the action scenes because, er, Green Goblin was rather underwhelming.)

I was also shocked that the film ended with the hero choosing to give up on the girl (he loved for his entire life) for the greater good. I haven't seen anything like that in a superhero film before, I thought such a thing could only happen in... CASABLANCA.

Ten years ago after the first Spider-man came out, Spidey craze swept the world, I would see the film for the second time with my mother, who enjoyed it too.

SPIDER-MAN 2 came out in 2004. It was a vast improvement over the first film. The action scenes were better, Doctor Octopus was both tragic and menacing as the main antagonist (Alfred Molina's performance was great).

That train scene was really epic.

The struggle of maintaining a dual identity was examined with further detail. Being a superhero gradually took its toll on Peter Parker's personal life, he was losing his powers because of girl problems, he decided to quit being Spider-man (superheroes generally do that in second films of their trilogies, look at Superman in SUPERMAN 2 that came out many decades earlier, look at Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT that came out years later)

By then, I realized that the Spider-man films were essentially love stories, his forever romance with Mary Jane was just as important, or even more important, than saving the world from the big bad. Spider-man 2 is still one of my favourite superhero films, I walked out of the cinema, feeling both giddy, and also as if I were levitating.

That was 2004, just a few months before I headed off to Perth for my university studies. I was a simple movie lover, unsure whether I would really make films in the future.

Some of these questions were answered by the time I returned from Perth in 2007, when SPIDER-MAN 3 came out.

I was at the press screening.

There's really not much I want to remember about Spider-man 3. It's not that I want to dismiss the film, I was disappointed with it, but I didn't hate it as much as most people did.

I guess maybe because the whole emo Peter Parker thing cracked me up.

I was constantly reduced to "I can't believe this is happening!" giggly fits. I also thought it was funny when my little sister was constantly gushing over James Franco ("Oh, Harry!")

Compared to the first two SPIDER-MAN films, SPIDER-MAN 3 was indeed a lesser experience, the first two made me crave for more sequels, the third film left me worried about another one.

Nonetheless, the superhero genre wouldn't be what it is today without the SPIDER-MAN trilogy by Sam Raimi. The critical and commercial acclaim of these Spider-man films paved the way for many others, opening up numerous possibilities. AVENGERS, which had just became the top-grossing film of all time (not directed by James Cameron), the individual films that led to AVENGERS, the X-MEN films, Nolan's Batman films with its seminal THE DARK KNIGHT... and now, the new Spider-man reboot.

Perhaps each generation needs its own definitive Spider-man, and this generation has Marc Webb's THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with a Spider-man who goes around with a smartphone. I like the film enough to look forward to a sequel, Andrew Garfield is a great Spider-man (he had truly elevated the material with his performance), Emma Stone, who is great in everything, is great as Gwen Stacy. The CGI of today had improved, the action scenes had more fluidity, Spider-man actually fought like a spider. There are many things I liked in the new film.

But ten years ago, when I saw my first Spider-man film, it was quite a special feeling.