Peter Parker gains his powers, which he can’t deal with. He saves Mary Jane three times, because that is her sole reason for existence. The villain of the week is The Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), father of Peter Parker’s terrible best friend, Harry (James Franco). Spider-Man makes money by selling pictures of himself to editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) because he did that in the comics.
Comic books are important! Really, really important. There’s nothing funny or absurd about comics. They are serious, Damn it! None of that ’66 Batman stuff. No, comics are serious business. “With great power comes great responsibility” is deeply important, not the trite phrase you might use to teach morality to a three-year-old that it sounds like.
When Nolan decided comics needed to be overly serious, he backed that by adding complexity and moral ambiguity. Raimi thinks he’s making Citizen Kane; he’s making Bozo the Clown.
To go with the SENCERITY, Raimi and team have tossed out Spider-Man’s most defining comic book characteristic: being funny. He’s a quip machine, but not this time. He’s moody. The movie is a solid two hours of teenage angst. It’s daddy-issues and puppy love and growing up as a cartoon, and Raimi has decided that is never funny.
The Green Goblin armor might look acceptable in a comic (it might…) but is all Power Rangers in live action. The CGI is passable but not cutting edge for 2002, which it needed to be. There’s some joy to be had in Dafoe’s and J.K. Simmons’s over-the-top performances, but I found the rest a failure in ’02 and approaching unwatchable now.
What made comic book fans squee was Spider-Man’s adherence to the old comics. Its world is not ours, nor the bleakness that Nolan would bring in, but the ‘60s Marvel comics world, pretending to be in the 00s. It’s nostalgia world, which sets off all those nostalgia bells, and makes those of a certain age think far more fondly of the film than it deserves.