In 2002, a superhero film changed the landscape of blockbuster entertainment. It didn't spring forth from a vacuum, and you can argue (successfully) that Richard Donner's Superman, Tim Burton's Batman and even Stephen Norrington's Blade made great early strides in bringing superhero stories to the foreground of mainstream entertainment. Spider-Man wasn't the first great superhero movie, but it was the superhero movie that broke the genre out of the confines of "action" movies, and into the realm of the four-quadrant tentpole release. Spider-Man delivered the action and balanced that action with a cast of well-developed characters, an honest love story, and a romanticized portrayal of heroism that spoke to audience members of all ages, capturing the essence of the hero and only screwing up the little details, like Green Goblin's stupid-ass costume. Batman Begins brought the realism, but if Spider-Man hadn't brought the real emotion first, I doubt anyone would have been terribly invested in taking superhero cinema that one significant step further.
I love Spider-Man, and I am happy to defend this flawed but important motion picture against a sudden sea of detractors from a generation that, just ten years prior, embraced Spider-Man and made it one of the most successful movies of all time. Many of the people who deny Spider-Man's greatness prefer Marc Webb's recent reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, which I didn't particularly care for. I find it infinitely more flawed than Raimi's interpretation of the character, even if he does build his own webshooters this time. My response to The Amazing Spider-Man, and interest in setting the record straight about why the original film deserves to be remembered fondly, at the very least, led me and John Pavlich of the website Sofa Dogs to concoct a plan to record commentary tracks for every Spider-Man movie ever made, starting with Sam Raimi's first installment and continuing throughout the next month with Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 and finally The Amazing Spider-Man, which was recently released on home video.
All you have to do is download the commentary here, gear up your own copy of Spider-Man and pause the film on the first black screen after the original Columbia Pictures logo. (You know, the one that looks like Annette Benning.) Then press "Play" simultaneously and listen to both of us reveal the complex history of the original Spider-Man feature film, discuss the film's success and popularity, single out the most interesting and problematic scenes in the film and compare and contrast Sam Raimi's version of the origin story with Marc Webb's. We have our own arguments, but we encourage you to continue the discussion on Twitter with both of us at @WilliamBibbiani and @JohnPavlich.
If your love for the original Spider-Man has waned, this is the commentary track for you. If you don't remember why it was such a big deal in the first place, the same applies. If you prefer The Amazing Spider-Man with all your heart, give it a listen, give us an opportunity to make our case, and then counter it with points of your own. We love movies. We love Spider-Man. We love Spider-Man. And we love to share our ideas about the art form of cinema with our readers. I hope to hear from you.
You can also download Bibbs' and John's commentary tracks for: