Directed By: Sam Raimi

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Roberts, Rosemary Harris, and J.K. Simmons

"In spite of everything you've done for them, eventually they will hate you."
-The Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe)

Superheroes do the impossible.  They are legendary men and women who do what the rest of us can't.  For this, we both love and hate them.  We put them on pedestals as gods among men.  At the same time, we label them as vigilantes and relentlessly hunt them.  There is no greater example of what it means to be a superhero than our friendly neighborhood Spidey.  Spider-Man is one of the most beloved comic book characters of all time.  In 2002, the web-slinging hero made his way to the big screen for the first time and showed us what a superhero movie can really be.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is just your average guy without a care in the world.  Having been orphaned some time ago, he lives with his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) in Queens, New York.  As long as he can remember, he's loved the red-headed girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).  He just has never told her that.  Now a high school senior, Peter still silently loves Mary Jane.  While Peter is at the museum on a class trip along with his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), he's bitten by a genetically altered spider and his DNA is forever changed.  Peter becomes stronger, faster, and more agile.  He has spider-like reflexes.  With his new abilities, Peter intends to win enough money to buy a car to impress Mary Jane.

Peter signs himself up for the King of the Cage wrestling event in the city and has Uncle Ben drop him off there under the pretense that he would be studying at the library.  For surviving three minutes in the ring with Bonesaw McGraw (Randy "Macho Man" Savage), he could win several thousand dollars.  With his newfound abilities, Peter pins McGraw in two minutes for which the wrestling promoter will only pay him a hundred bucks.  When the promoter (Larry Joshua) is robbed moments later, Peter does nothing to stop the culprit (Michael Papajohn).  He clearly missed the part where that was his problem.  When Peter comes back outside, he learns that this same robber shot and killed his Uncle Ben.  From that day forth, he vows to fight crime as the masked vigilante Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Harry's father Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) is having a hard time.  His firm Oscorp works tirelessly to perfect a formula to create super soldiers and has certified the formula ready for human testing.  However, his dissenting colleague Dr. Stromm (Ron Perkins) thinks they need to go back to the drawing board as one test subject given the formula exhibited signs of aggression and insanity.  General Slocum (Stanley Anderson), who has no love for Osborn, sees this as an opportunity to end the military's contract with Oscorp and effectively put Osborn out of business.  The general gives Osborn two weeks to complete a successful human trial or face termination of the contract.  Determined to succeed, Osborn conducts a trial on himself.  There's just one problem.  He goes insane in the process and begins terrorizing New York City as the masked menace known as the Green Goblin.

Spider-Man by nature is a larger than life film.  It's a comic book movie that brings one of the most beloved superheroes of all time to the big screen.  Somehow, Sam Raimi keeps the film grounded in the life of an ordinary guy with some extraordinary adventures and a passionate secret romance.  By doing this, Raimi gives the film a heart.  He makes Spider-Man more than just another comic book adaptation.  He makes it something to which we all can relate and something that we all can love.

It's needless to say, but the special effects are top notch.  Though not done intentionally, Hollywood really waited until it could give us a realistic live action film about the web-slinging hero, and I for one appreciate it.  Imagine if Spider-Man were filmed back in the 80s or 90s.  Would you really want to see how they brought Spidey to life with such limited technology?  I thought not.  Just look at one of those old Superman films and imagine your friendly neighborhood Spidey instead of the alien from Krypton.  Imagine seeing wires in the film as Spider-Man slings through New York and be thankful that Hollywood waited until the new millennium.

The cast is absolutely phenomenal.  Tobey Maguire is perfect as Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man.  He offers the right combination of nerdiness and heroism to make Spidey so likeable and relatable.  As Norman Osborn and his alter ego Green Goblin, Willem Dafoe is delightfully evil.  Whether singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and how the Goblin took the Spider out or making Aunt May finish The Lord's Prayer, he brings one funny menace to the big screen.  James Franco and Kirsten Dunst play their roles to the tee as Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson respectively.  The real standout in the film is J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson.  As rude as this dude is, he delivers the most laughs.

The one thing I've always loved about the Sam Raimi Spider-Man flicks are the cameos, and they're in no short supply in the original.  There are so many people who make quick appearances in the film that the cameos really take on a life of their own in an already larger-than-life film.  You're always wondering who is next.  Whether it's Stan Lee, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, or Xena the Warrior Princess (Lucy Lawless), you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Then you get Sam Raimi's usual suspects — his long time collaborator Bruce Campbell and his brother Ted Raimi.  We even get a little bit of Octavia Spencer long before she became an Oscar-winning actress.

Having led a generation of comic book films, Spider-Man stands as one of the all-time greats among the genre.  Ten years later, it still has all the humor, heart, and web-slinging action that made it so great in the first place.  Sam Raimi has crafted a pop masterpiece.  I would be remiss if I didn't give this landmark blockbuster a sober rating.  They don't make 'em like this anymore!