I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!
At 17 it’s Sam Raimi’s first Spider Man film.
Raimi takes his inspiration from the Steve Ditko era of Spider Man, rather than the later Stan Lee/John Romita run. That’s mainly because Raimi sees the Ditko Peter Parker/Spider Man to be more interesting than Lee’s ‘not that fucked up really’ Peter Parker/Spider Man.
That’s how it should be because the Ditko Spider Man is the first real superhero in the post-modern era. Other Marvel characters had ‘realism’ over their DC counterparts because they had a limp, or blind, or had a bat heart and a pencil moustache but they were always brilliant doctors, lawyers or just millionaires. Peter Parker was a lonely boy with no mates who only had his sick aunt to help him grow up after his complete and utter selfishness saw his Uncle Ben die. It’s this guilt that drove Spider Man and Raimi’s film captures this though it does tone down Ditko’s Peter Parker who was a pretty alienated and at times, objectionable teenager to more like the Lee/Romita version where you at least feel some sympathy for him.
For two thirds of the film, it’s a perfect superhero film. We get the set up asPeter moves from hated loner to how he gains his powers. We see him explore those powers. We see Peter’s responsibility for his Uncle Ben’s death and his birth as Spider Man. Then the Green Goblin turns up and things get a bit tedious, partly because the Goblin design is so bloody awful and Willem Dafoe stops any pretense of acting and hams it up like a right old dear for the rest of the film. This is a problem with a lot of superhero films that spend two thirds of the film explaining the origin and then lose it when they realise there’s no ending.
Tobey Maguire does a great job of making Parker/Spider Man work, with a great bit of support from Kirsten Dunst but there was a better Spider Man film begging to be made. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long for that at all….
Next time, some assembly will be required…..