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Spider-Man is a 2002 Americanmarker superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character Spider-Man. The first installment in the Spider-Man series, the film, directed by Sam Raimi and written by David Koepp, stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Willem Dafoe.

The film begins with Peter Parker, a high school student, being bitten by a genetically altered spider. After misusing his newly-given abilities, which indirectly causes the death of his Uncle Ben, he becomes the heroic Spider-Man. Peter hopes to win the heart of Mary Jane Watson, the girl he has loved since he was a boy. Meanwhile, he must battle the villainous Green Goblin, the alter ego of the father of his best friend, Harry Osborn.

After being stuck in development hell for nearly 25 years, the film was released on May 3, 2002, by Columbia Pictures, to excellent reviews and a record-breaking opening weekend. With $821.71 million worldwide, it was 2002's third-highest-grossing film and is the 21st-highest-grossing film of all time. Spider-Man was, for its time, the most successful film based on a comic book. The film's success has led to two sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man 3, like Spider-Man, would set a new record for opening-weekend gross.


Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, and Mary Jane Watson visit a genetics laboratory at Columbia University with their high school class. While taking photos in the laboratory, Peter is bitten on the hand by a genetically engineered "super spider." Feeling unwell, he passes out shortly after his arrival home.

The next morning, Peter wakes to find that his vision is now naturally clear and that his previously thin figure has physically metamorphosed to become more muscular. At school later, he emits web strings from his wrists and has quick-enough reflexes to avoid being injured in a fight with bully Flash Thompson. As Peter infers that the spider's bite has given him spider-like abilities, he escapes school for buildings elsewhere, where he develops his new skills, quickly learning to scale walls, to jump long between building rooftops, and to swing via web.

Meanwhile, scientist and owner of Oscorp Norman Osborn, Harry's father, is attempting to preserve his company's military contract, knowing that losing it will bankrupt his business. He experiments on himself with his company's new, but possibly unstable performance-enhancing chemical vapor. The performance-enhancer increases his speed, strength, and stamina. The vapor having also made him insane, he easily murders his assistant, Mendel Stromm. A few days later, Norman kills several scientists (among them General Slocum) who threaten to drive Norman out of business. Thumbing through the local classifieds, Peter sees a wrestling-tournament ad offering $3,000 to any participant who survives in the ring for three minutes. Figuring the purse to be enough for a car that will impress Mary Jane, Peter enters the tournament, unbeknownst to his aunt and uncle. Driving him on tournament day, Uncle Ben expresses concern for Peter, advising, "With great power comes great responsibility." Peter lashes out in frustration and leaves.

For the fight, Peter has chosen the name the Human Spider, but the ring announcer doesn't like it, opting to announce him as "Spider-Man," instead. Peter defeats his opponent, Bonesaw McGraw, but the man in charge only gives him $100 in prize money, using the excuse that he won in two minutes despite the ad's explicit claim of "three" minutes. When Peter turns around to go, a thief comes into the office, but Peter, in revenge for the promoter's deception, does nothing to stop the burglar from escaping with the promoter's gate money. Not long after, Peter finds his uncle on the sidewalk, shot by a carjacker; he holds his uncle's hand as he dies in Peter's arms. Peter tracks down the carjacker, only to find that it's the same thief he earlier allowed to escape. The murderer then threatens to shoot Peter, but he breaks his wrist before he can pull the trigger, then the murderer falls out a window to his death.

Upon graduating from high school, Peter decides to use his abilities to fight injustice. He dons both a new costume and a new persona: Spider-Man. When he arrives in newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson's office with the only clear images of Spider-Man, he is hired as a freelance photographer. Norman, upon finding out that Oscorp's board members plan to sell the company, attacks and murders them at the World Unity Fair, but Spider-Man arrives to drive him off before he can do any more harm. Jameson quickly dubs Norman's persona the "Green Goblin". The Goblin later kidnaps Spider-Man to offer him a place at his side, but Spider-Man refuses, knowing that it is the right thing to do. At the Osborns and Parkers' Thanksgiving dinner, Norman figures out, unbeknownst to Peter, Spider-Man's true identity; that night, the Green Goblin attacks Aunt May.

As Aunt May recovers in the hospital, Mary Jane admits to Peter a crush on Spider-Man, her frequent rescuer. She inquires whether Spider-Man ever asks about her; Peter reflects on his own feelings, at which point Harry enters. Feeling betrayed by both his girlfriend and his best friend, Harry tells his father of whom Peter loves the most, unknowingly revealing to the Green Goblin Spider-Man's biggest weakness. The Goblin then takes Mary Jane and a Roosevelt Island Tramwaymarker car full of kids hostage on the Queensboro Bridgemarker, and Spider-Man arrives, just as Goblin has planned. The Goblin forces him to choose whom to save, dropping both Mary Jane and the tramway car simultaneously, but Spider-Man manages to save them all. The two fight but the Goblin overpowers Spider-Man and throws him into the abandoned Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island.

Goblin boasts of how he will later kill Mary Jane, but the tables turn as an enraged Spider-Man dominates him and forces him to unmask. As Norman contritely begs for forgiveness, his alter-ego slyly, via remote control, positions his glider to impale Spider-Man. The superhero avoids the attack, leading the glider to impale Norman instead. Norman uses his last breath to state merely, "Peter, don't tell Harry." Spider-Man brings a now dead Norman to the latter's apartment. Just as he has laid the body down, Harry arrives, stunned and angered, but the darkness prevents Peter's reveal. Harry turns to pull a gun from a drawer, but Spider-Man is already gone by the time he has turned back.

Upon the conclusion of Norman’s funeral, before leaving, Harry vows to Peter that he will kill Spider-Man as vengeance for his own father's death; Peter is all he has left now, he says. Mary Jane confesses her love to Peter and kisses him, but Peter hides his true feelings, feeling that he must protect her from Spider-Man's enemies' attention. Walking away from a now distraught MJ, he recalls Uncle Ben's famous words, "With great power comes great responsibility," and accepts his new life as Spider-Man.

Cast and characters

"I felt like I was an outsider. I think what happened to me made me develop this street sense of watching people and working out what made them tick, wondering whether I could trust them or not. I went to a lot of schools along the coast in California, made few friends and stayed with aunts, uncles and grandparents while my folks tried to make ends meet. It was tough. We had no money."
— Tobey Maguire on identifying with Peter Parker
  • Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker / Spider-Man: Born in 1984, Parker is an academic but socially inept student who is bitten by a genetically modified spider and gains spider-like abilities. Maguire was cast as Peter in July 2000, having been Sam Raimi's primary choice for the role after he saw The Cider House Rules. The studio was initially hesitant to cast someone who did not seem to fit the ranks of "adrenaline-pumping, tail-kicking titans", but Maguire managed to impress studio executives with his audition. The actor was signed for a deal in the range of $3 to $4 million with higher salary options for two sequels. To prepare, Maguire was trained by a physical trainer, a yoga instructor, a martial arts expert, and a climbing expert, taking several months to improve his physique. Maguire studied spiders and worked with a wire man to simulate the arachnidlike motion, and had a special diet.

The studio had expressed interest in actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Freddie Prinze, Jr, Chris Klein, Wes Bentley, and Heath Ledger. DiCaprio had been considered by James Cameron for the role in 1995, while Raimi joked of Prinze that "[he] won't even be allowed to buy a ticket to see this film." In addition, actors Scott Speedman, Jay Rodan, and James Franco were involved in screen tests for the lead role.

  • Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn / Green Goblin: CEO of Oscorp who tests an unstable strength enhancer on himself and becomes the insane and powerful Green Goblin. Unaware of Spider-Man's true identity, he also sees himself as a father figure for Peter, ignoring his own son, Harry. Dafoe was cast as Osborn in November 2000. Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, and Jim Carrey turned down the role. Dafoe insisted on wearing the uncomfortable costume as he felt that a stuntman would not convey the character's necessary body language. The 580-piece suit took half an hour to put on.

  • Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson: The girl whom Peter Parker has developed a crush since he was six years old. Mary Jane has an abusive father, and aspires to become an actress, but becomes a waitress at a run down diner, a fact she hides from her boyfriend Harry. Before Raimi cast Dunst, he had expressed his interest in casting Alicia Witt. Dunst decided to audition after learning Maguire had been cast, feeling the film would have a more independent feel. Dunst earned the role a month before shooting in an audition in Berlinmarker.

  • James Franco as Harry Osborn: Before being cast as Peter's best friend and flatmate, Franco had screen tested for Spider-Man himself.

  • Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker: The husband to May Parker and uncle of Peter Parker, a fired electrician who is trying to find a new job. He is killed by a carjacker whom Peter failed to stop, and leaves Peter with the message, "With great power comes great responsibility."

  • J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson: The grouchy chief editor of the Daily Bugle who considers Spider-Man a criminal. Nonetheless he has a good side and pays Peter for photos of Spider-Man, and refuses to tell the Green Goblin the identity of the photographer.

  • Joe Manganiello as Flash Thompson: A repugnant high school student who bullies Peter, and is defeated in a fight after Peter inherits his spider-like powers.

  • Michael Papajohn as The Carjacker: The criminal who robs the wrestling manager who stiffs Peter Parker for his ring performance and murders Ben Parker (although the murderer was retconned as Flint Marko (Sandman) in Spider-Man 3). He was killed from falling from a window when confronted by Peter.

  • Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant: As seen in past Spider-Man comics, Betty Brant is the woman who gives Peter Parker money following his photography sessions with Spider-Man.

Bruce Campbell, a long-time colleague of director Sam Raimi, cameoed as the announcer at the wrestling ring Peter takes part in. Raimi himself appeared off-screen, throwing popcorn at Peter as he enters the arena to wrestle Bonesaw McGraw (played by former professional wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage). Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee also had a cameo, in which he asks Peter, "Hey kid, would you like a pair of these glasses? They're the kind they wore in X-Men." The scene was cut, and Lee only briefly appears in the film to grab a young girl from falling debris during the battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in Times Square.



Although Sony Pictures acquired the "Cameron material" from MGM/UA, in April 1999 the studio announced they were not hiring James Cameron himself to direct the film. The studio lined up Roland Emmerich, Tim Burton, Chris Columbus, and David Fincher as potential directors. Fincher did not want to depict the origin story, pitching the film as being based on The Night Gwen Stacy Died storyline, but the studio disagreed. Sam Raimi was attached to direct in January 2000, for a summer 2001 release. He had been a big fan of the comic book during his youth, and his passion for Spider-Man earned him the job.

Cameron's "scriptment" became the basis of David Koepp's first-draft screenplay, often word for word. Cameron's versions of the Marvel villains Electro and Sandman remained the antagonists. Koepp's rewrite substituted the Green Goblin as the primary antagonist and added Doctor Octopus as a secondary villain. Raimi felt the Green Goblin and the surrogate father-son theme between Norman Osborn and Peter Parker would be more interesting. In June, Columbia hired Scott Rosenberg to rewrite of Koepp's material. Remaining a constant in all the rewrites was the "organic webshooter" idea from the Cameron "scriptment". Raimi felt he would stretch the audience's suspension of disbelief too far to have Peter invent mechanical webshooters.

Rosenberg removed Doctor Octopus and created several new action sequences. Raimi felt adding a third origin story would make the film too complex. Sequences removed from the final film had Spider-Man protecting Fargas, the wheelchair-using Oscorp executive from the Goblin, and Spider-Man defusing a hostage situation on a train. As production neared, producer Laura Ziskin hired her husband, award-winning writer Alvin Sargent, to polish the dialogue, primarily between Peter and Mary Jane. Columbia offered David Koepp's name to the WGA as sole screenwriter, despite the fact that it had acquired Cameron's script and hired two subsequent writers. Without reading and comparing any of the material, the Writers Guild approved sole credit to Koepp.


With Spider-Man cast, filming was set to begin the following November in New York Citymarker and on Sony soundstages. The film was set for release a year later, but when the film was postponed to be released on May 3, 2002, filming officially began on January 8, 2001 in Culver Citymarker. Sony's Stage 29 was used for Peter's Forest Hillsmarker home, and Stage 27 was used for the wrestling sequence where Peter takes on Bonesaw McGraw (Randy Savage). Stage 27 was also used for the complex Times Square sequence where Spider-Man and the Goblin battle for the first time, where a three-story set with a breakaway balcony piece was built. The scene also required shooting in Downey, Californiamarker. On March 6, 45-year-old construction worker Tim Holcombe was killed when a forklift modified as a construction crane crashed into a construction basket that he was in. The following court case led to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to fine Sony $58,805.

In Los Angelesmarker, locations included the Natural History Museum (for the Columbia University lab where Peter is bitten and receives his powers), the Pacific Electricity Building (the Daily Bugle offices) and Greystone Mansionmarker (for the interiors of Norman Osborn's home). In April, some of the Spider-Man costumes were stolen, and Sony put up a $25,000 reward, although they were never returned. Production moved to New York Citymarker for two weeks, taking in locations such as the Queensboro Bridgemarker, the exterior of Columbia University's Low Librarymarker, the Flatiron Buildingmarker, the outside of the New York Public Librarymarker, and a rooftop garden in the Rockefeller Centermarker. The crew returned to Los Angeles where production and filming ended in June.


Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in combat.
Spider-man's costume was made up of a single piece with a mask.
The Green Goblin's costume was made up of 580 different pieces.
Although it wound up being faithful to the comics, many designs were made for Spider-Man's costumes: one concept costume designer James Acheson became fond of had a red emblem over a black costume. To create Spider-Man's costume, Maguire was fitted for the skintight suit, being covered with layers of substance to create the suit's shape. It was designed as a single piece, except for the mask. The webbing, which accented the costume, was cut by computer. The mask eye lenses were designed to have a mirror look.

The Green Goblin's costume was created after Willem Dafoe was cast, as Dafoe rejected the initially bulky designs created beforehand. The finished design focused on a more streamlined and athletic feel, and the mask in particular was created to be an extreme cartoon version of his face, focusing on his long cheekbones. Some of the early designs were heavily inspired by black ops. One popular idea among the concept artists was to have the Goblin accompanied by adolescent women in costume and have their own gliders. Raimi hated the idea.


Visual effects supervisor John Dykstra was hired to produce the visual effects for Spider-Man in May 2000. He convinced Raimi to make many of the stunts computer generated, as they would have been physically impossible. Raimi had used more traditional special effects in his previous films and learned a lot about using computers during production. Raimi worked hard to plan all the sequences of Spider-Man swinging from buildings, which he described as, "ballet in the sky." The complexity of such sequences meant the budget rose from an initially planned $70 million to around $100 million. Shots were made more complicated because of the main characters' individual color schemes, so Spider-Man and the Green Goblin had to be shot separately for effects shots: Spider-Man was shot in front of a greenscreen, while the Green Goblin was shot against bluescreen. Shooting them together would have resulted in one character being erased from a shot.

Saki said the biggest difficulty of creating Spider-Man was that as the character was masked, it immediately lost a lot of characterization. Without the context of eyes or mouth, a lot of body language had to be put in so that there would be emotional content. Raimi wanted to convey the essence of Spider-Man as being, "the transition that occurs between him being a young man going through puberty and being a superhero." Dykstra said his crew of animators had never reached such a level of sophistication to give subtle hints of still making Spider-Man feel like a human being. When two studio executives were shown shots of the computer generated character, they believed it was actually Maguire performing stunts. In addition, Dykstra's crew had to composite areas of New York City and replaced every car in shots with digital models. Raimi did not want it to feel entirely like animation, so none of the shots were 100% computer generated.


After the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 11, 2001, Sony recalled teaser posters which showed a close-up of Spider-Man's face with the New York skyline (including, prominently, the World Trade Centermarker towers) reflected in his eyes. The movie's original teaser trailer, released in 2001, featured a mini-movie plot involving a group of bank robbers escaping in a helicopter, which gets caught from behind and propelled backward into what at first appears to be a net, then is shown to be a gigantic spider web spun between the two towers at the World Trade Center. According to Sony the trailer did not contain any actual footage from the film itself and is consequently one of the most popular "Special Shoot" trailers since Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The trailer was pulled after the events of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but can be found on the Internet.

Before Spider-Man's Britishmarker theatrical release in June 2002, the BBFC gave the film a '12' certificate. Due to Spider-Man's popularity with younger children, this prompted much controversy. The BBFC defended their decision, arguing that the film could have been given a '15'. Despite this, North Norfolk and Breckland District Councils, in East Anglia, changed it to a 'PG', and Tameside council, Manchestermarker, denoted it a 'PG-12'. The United States rated it "PG-13". In late August, the BBFC relaxed their policy to '12A', leading Sony to re-release the film.

Critical reception

Critical reaction to the film was well received by critics. Film review site Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 90% overall approval based on 207 reviews, and it scored an 85% Cream of the Crop rating from major news outlets. The casting, mainly Tobey Maguire, is often cited as one of the high points of the film. Eric Harrison, of the Houston Chronicle, was initially skeptical of the casting of Tobey Maguire, but, after seeing the film, he stated, "within seconds, however, it becomes hard to imagine anyone else in the role." USA Today critic Mike Clark believed the casting rivaled that of 1978's Superman. Owen Gleiberman, of Entertainment Weekly, had mixed feelings about the casting, particularly Tobey Maguire. "Maguire, winning as he is, never quite gets the chance to bring the two sides of Spidey — the boy and the man, the romantic and the avenger — together." The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt thought, "the filmmakers' imaginations work in overdrive from the clever design of the cobwebby opening credits and Spider-Man and M.J.'s upside down kiss — after one of his many rescues of her — to a finale that leaves character relationships open ended for future adventures."

Not all of the criticism was good, as LA Weekly's Manohla Dargis wrote, "It isn't that Spider-Man is inherently unsuited for live-action translation; it's just that he's not particularly interesting or, well, animated." Giving it 2.5/4 stars, Roger Ebert felt the film lacked a decent action element; "Consider the scene where Spider-Man is given a cruel choice between saving Mary Jane or a cable car full of school kids. He tries to save both, so that everyone dangles from webbing that seems about to pull loose. The visuals here could have given an impression of the enormous weights and tensions involved, but instead the scene seems more like a bloodless storyboard of the idea." Stylistically, there was heavy criticism of the Green Goblin's costume, which led Richard George of IGN to comment years later, "We're not saying the comic book costume is exactly thrilling, but the Goblin armor (the helmet in particular) from Spider-Man is almost comically bad... Not only is it not frightening, it prohibits expression."

Box office performance

Spider-Man was a major commercial success, becoming the first film to pass the $100 million mark in a single weekend. With the release in the United States and Canada on May 3, 2002 on 7,500 screens at 3,615 theaters, the film earned $39,406,872 on its opening day, averaging $10,901 per theater ($5,524.25 per screen). The film earned a total of $114,844,116 during its opening weekend, averaging $31,769 per theater ($15,313 per screen) and became the fastest theatrical release to reach $100 million at the time, crossing the milestone in three days. The film's three-day record was later surpassed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in 2006. Spider-Man also set an all-time record for the highest earnings in a single day with $43,622,264 on May 4, 2002, a record later surpassed by Shrek 2 in 2004. The film stayed at the top position in its second weekend, dropping only 38% in its second weekend, grossing another $71,417,527, averaging $19,756 per theater ($9,522 per screen) and bringing the ten-day total to $223,040,031. The film dropped to the second position in its third weekend, behind Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but still made $45,036,912, dropping only 37%, averaging $12,458 per theater, and bringing the seventeen-day tally to $285,573,668. It stayed at the second position in its fourth weekend, grossing $35,814,844 over the four-day Memorial Day frame, dropping only 21% while expanding to 3,876 theaters, averaging $9,240 over four days, and bringing the 25-day gross to $333,641,492. In the box office, Spider-Man became the highest grossing film of 2002 with $403,706,375 in the United States and Canada, defeating The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Spider-Man currently ranks eighth in the all-time U.S. and Canada box office. The film also grossed $821,708,551 worldwide, ranks the third highest-grossing film of 2002 behind The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, currently placing it eighteenth in worldwide box office ranks.


The film has won several awards ranging from Teen Choice Awards to the Saturn Awards, and was even nominated for two Academy Awards ("Best Visual Effects" and "Best Sound"). While only Danny Elfman brought home a Saturn Award, Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst were all nominated for their respective positions. It also took home the People's Choice Award for "Favorite Motion Picture."

Video game

A video game based on the movie was released in 2002.

See also


  1. DVD Booklet (2002), p.2–3

External links

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