Wed
May 7 2014 1:00pm

Is Spider-Man a Hero? Revisiting Raimi’s Trilogy

In the midst of the cacophony of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I rewatched Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy to see how it stood up a decade-ish later. Taken as a whole (and with any bad memories of Spider-Man 3 checked at the door), the trilogy is a revolutionary take on a superhero. While the current Amazing universe trades complexity for cartoonishness, Sam Raimi’s trilogy is even darker and more interesting than I remembered, and asks some pretty profound questions about heroism and morality.

I should state that I like my superhero movies dark. Batman Returns is probably my favorite superhero movie ever, mostly because Catwoman kills Max Schreck in the end. I think Dark Knight should have won all the Oscars for everything. Even The Incredibles has a dark edge; most people are really jazzed about the moment when Dash realizes he can run on water, but for me the best part is when Mr. Incredible thinks his family is dead, and he looks at Syndrome with gloriously animated murder in his eyes.

It’s possible I should explore this in a more clinical supportive space than a blog post… but for right now, I’d prefer to talk about how deeply twisted Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is.

Raimi’s Peter is never the morally confident young man choosing the life of a superhero for the good of all. Everything that Peter does is out of a sense of guilt and obligation. He is always conflicted, and spends all three films in a moral grey area that makes him fascinating to watch. In the first film he selfishly allows a criminal to get away, resulting in Uncle Ben’s death—the event that starts Peter on the road to superhero-dom.

But before we even get to Ben’s murder, Raimi dwells on the evil, jubilant expression on Peter’s face when he realizes his new powers have given him freedom from consequence. Even better than that is the look of grudging admiration he gets from the wrestling promoter. Later, he allows Ben’s killer to fall to his death, rather than rescuing him with a web. It is only after he thinks he achieved vengeance that Peter turns to non-violent, Batman-style superhero-ing. Raimi seems to be pushing the idea that living as Spider-Man is Peter’s self-prescribed penance, both for Ben’s death, and for allowing his killer to die rather than capturing him for the cops.

Raimi’s first Spider-Man is kind of a mess. Actually, upon rewatching, it’s a huge mess, rivaling only Tim Burton’s original Batman for superheroic sloppiness. Despite that, Raimi and the writers manage some great thematic heavy lifting that sets the tone of the entire trilogy. In a quiet moment in Ben’s car, Raimi chooses to edit one of Stan Lee’s most famous lines. Rather than saying “With great power, must come great responsibility,” Ben tells Peter that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” A tiny change, yes, but it means everything: Peter isn’t given an option here. He already has the great power, which means he also already has the responsibility. They’re a package deal in this version of the story, rather than a burden, like the One Ring, that one can take up or reject.

Later, most of Spider-Man’s fights with Goblin are framed as arguments rather than battles. (Spidey even tells J.J. to “be quiet while the grown-ups are talking.”) In between all the punching and grenade explosions they have an ongoing discussion about power, strength, weakness, mercy—basically a more action-oriented version of the conversation Ben tried to have. It’s Goblin who forces Peter to think about the dichotomy between good and evil, strength and weakness, even more than Ben does. Peter insists that he’ll die before he’ll go over to the dark side.

Unfortunately, he lives.

In Spider-Man 2, the catalyst for the “Spider-Man No More!” scenes is a meditation on Ben. They’re back in the car, and Ben encourages Peter, reaching his hand out to him. But Peter, resolved to life without great responsibility, turns away from this offering of love. When he later confesses to May, he reaches out to her and is rejected, mirroring the earlier scene. She refuses his attempt at reconciliation, standing and leaving him at the kitchen table. Watching the film again I had to wonder: who benefits from this confession? Is it to give May closure, or is this just Peter refusing to shoulder his grief and guilt alone, and instead reopening May’s wound? When they eventually reconcile, May does the heavy lifting—she tells Peter she's forgiven him, points out that children need heroes to look up to, and even says, “I believe there’s a hero in all of us who keeps us honest... and then, when the time comes, helps us to die with dignity.” Hint, hint, Peter.

When he steals his suit back, Peter seems to be stating that he’s ready to take on his responsibility again, but then he agrees to a relationship with MJ, despite knowing she’ll be in constant danger. He won’t fully deal with Harry’s grief, attempting to pacify his friend with hollow words, never recognizing how torn up his friend is. Finally, he allows Ock to take the fall with the fusion reactor. Peter comes right up to the edge of becoming the self-sacrificing hero the city needs, but then backs away, leaving room for Harry to nurture his hatred, leaving room for MJ to be at risk. Do I as a viewer want Peter to die? No. But by the time Spider-Man 2 ends, I'm noticing a trend of Peter Parker talking (and crying...) about the responsible life he must lead, while never fully committing to it.

I think this is an intentional part of Raimi's examination of heroism, and it brings us to Spider-Man 3, in which Peter Parker lives long enough to become the villain. The most terrifying villain in the trilogy, in fact, because out of the whole ridiculous rogues gallery, Spider-Man is the only one who chooses to kill.

Norman Osborne seemingly only kills (at first) because the super-strength gas drives him mad – he doesn’t remember the first two attacks, and by the time he comes after the World Unity Festival his madness has taken him over. While I know there’s an argument to be made that Norman is a cold-blooded killer, we see him fighting the power of Goblin mask. Even late in the film, when he finally realizes that Peter is Spider-Man, he briefly resurfaces from his insanity, insisting that he doesn’t want to hurt his son’s friend. Finally, as he’s dying, he begs Peter not to tell Harry. His voice has shifted into his higher, non-batshit register, implying that he’s finally sane again.

Octavius (who is also pretty crazy after the fusion accident kills his wife) tries to rebuild the fusion reactor because he still believes it will be for the greater good—he robs a bank, but doesn’t go out of his way to hurt anyone. Even on the train, rather than destroying the car, he tosses passengers out and allows Spider-Man to rescue them. He delivers Spider-Man to Harry alive. Once he realizes that Peter is the one inside the Spidey suit, he listens to him and chooses to take the reactor into the river, sacrificing his own life to save the city.

Venom...well, all right, Venom seems pretty much evil. We only see it kill in self-defense, and we’re never given any indication that it has reason, or even knows why or how it ended up on Earth, but it does take over Peter’s Spidey suit, and later Brock’s body, with no concern for the wishes of its host. But that doesn’t change the fact that even before Venom has taken him over, Peter chooses to keep it in his apartment despite Dr. Conners’ warning, and it really doesn’t change Peter’s choice of the black suit when he goes to face Sandman.

Flint Marko is trying to steal enough money to help his daughter, but goes out of his way, again, not to kill, and even asks Spider-Man to walk away from a fight with him. It is finally revealed that his whole life of crime was instigated by his daughter’s needs—because Spider-Man 3 is infamously overstuffed we never learn more of his backstory, but given the apartment he runs to after his jailbreak, I think we can assume that he’s too poor to afford her treatment. After the films’ serious treatment of Aunt May’s financial problems, it’s unlikely that we’re being asked to vilify a man who is going to terrible lengths to save his child’s life.

Harry is seeking vengeance for his father, but even after he knows Spider-Man’s identity, he holds back. In their one real fight it’s Spider-Man who becomes cruel, decisively defeating New Goblin on the street and then later at Harry’s house. Harry, in contrast, sets his anger aside to help save MJ when Peter asks him to.

Peter (as Peter) chooses to expose Brock’s photo manipulation, even when Brock begs him to let it slide. As slimy as Brock is, it’s also really clear that he’s poor and desperate, just as Peter himself was in the first and second films. Most chillingly, when Peter prepares to face Marko the second time he chooses the black suit. Where earlier we saw Norman fighting his Goblin self, and Octavius fighting Doc Ock, here we see Peter put his red suit aside, and wear the one that he knows will allow him to kill. For all that the third film has become a byword for overstuffed superhero movies, this moment alone makes the film worth watching. Peter thinks he’s about to battle Ben’s real killer, and after all of the real and imagined conversations about vengeance, honor, and duty that pepper the trilogy, after his guilt over the other carjacker’s death, even after rejecting Goblin’s offers, Peter decides to seek vengeance rather than justice. He murders Sandman. As soon as he recognizes that water causes him to disintegrate, he breaks a pipe open. Even as Sandman turns back into Flint Marko, and screams for help, Spidey washes him away.

Then, arguably under greater influence of the symbiot-suit, Peter does some grand mal shit to his closest friends. First he confronts Harry in his home to say that his father despised him. “You were an embarrassment to him.” Not only is he lying, he also dishonoring the last decent thing Norman Osborne ever did. He provokes Harry to lob a grenade at him and deflects it, standing to watch as his friend is crushed under a collapsing wall, and leaves him trapped under the wreckage. Next he uses Gwen Stacey, taking her out on a date for the sole purpose of humiliating MJ at her new job. Only after Gwen has run out in tears and MJ is lying on the floor, asking “Who are you?” does Peter regain control and reject the suit.

After that, the film has to sort through each of the villains and give everyone an ending, while making sure to put MJ in terrible danger one last time. Raimi kills two climactic-battle-birds with one stone by pairing Sandman and Venom (in a scene that feels weirdly reminiscent of Batman Returns) and they plot to take Spider-Man out, but it’s pretty clear that they see this as retaliation for his attacks against them. Harry comes out to help save MJ and earn redemption. Brock chooses to go full Smeagol and die with Venom. So far, so neat. But then we get to the last confrontation with Sandman, where he tells Peter the story of his uncle’s death in a flashback that is either “an interesting storytelling decision” or “rage-inducing” depending on your dedication to the original comics. According to Flint, Ben’s shooting was unintentional. This completely undercuts Peter’s obsessive guilt. It also turns this catalytic event into an accident. Spider-Man has spent the last few years of his life striking out against evil, and yet…in that first real taste of evil, Flint was doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and Ben’s death was an accident. Does this negate Peter’s superhero career? All the sacrifices he made to honor Ben’s life?

Finally, Flint and Harry both, like Doc Ock before them, sacrifice their own lives rather than succumbing to full villainy. Also, and I cannot state this enough: they never intentionally kill anyone. Flint is consistently in the wrong place at the wrong time but has noble intentions. Harry’s just an angry, confused kid who’s all messed up inside. Both times he confronts Spider-Man he gets his ass handed to him, and he dies for his friends, just like he said he would. This guy, though?

Is he a hero, if he’s capable of coldly taking life? Does his rescue of the kids in Spider-Man and the subway passengers in Spider-Man 2 balance out his acts of vigilantism? Who’s the hero? Who’s the villain? Rather than Marc Webb’s current Peter Parker, Raimi’s is consistently morally grey. Rather than the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroes, who never let their snarkiness get in the way of their true hearts of gold, Peter is capable of real evil. Rather than the phoned-in messianism of Man of Steel or Superman Returns, we get complicated films that confront the questions they ask, repeatedly, and never give us an easy answer.


Leah Schnelbach does love Spider-Man, but she refuses to allow that love to stand in the way of questioning hero mythology. It is her burdern. Her sacrifice. Yell at her on Twitter!

26 comments
Dr. Batman
1. Dr. Batman
This is a very interesting look at the original Spiderman trilogy! I have never considered that he is the only villain who intentionally kills in these films, not to mention you made me reconsider whether Spiderman 3 is as horrible as I remember it being. I still shudder at the haircut and the strut down the street (and couldn't Raimi have made Venom say WE, it's just as easy as saying I), but now I'm wishing they had gotten a fourth film to explore the idea that Ben's death was an accident and the ramifications of Peter's actions vs Harry's sacrifice.
Jordan Frandsen
3. jorgecuervos
Great analysis, fun article. Keep stuff like this coming. I would love to be able to look into films this way, but honestly to me, its just a popcorn flick. Character analysis is something I cannot seem to grasp, but love reading other people's. I blame my optimism, I usually just want to see the good in everyone.
Carlos Rodríguez
4. cecalli
Popcorn as it is, anyhow I found the first 3 spiderman movies great, although I didn't like the third too much. I think the sandman was exaggerated at the end of the film, enormous and fighting a tiny spidey, but nevertheless I find his proposition weak. Based on the premise that he fights the wrong side for his daughter's sake, if I were him I wouldn't have said yes to venow, who merely wants to destroy spiderman by the mere fact of being a bad alien who sucks its host worst characteristics (or best superpowers, depending on the host). But the proposition on this post that spiderman is the only one who really wants to kill is great, and this reminds me that evil and good share the space in our heads, and we generally nourish one side more that the other. I think the best treatment on spidey pschology was the first one, although I enjoyed the second one a little bit more.
Sky Thibedeau
5. SkylarkThibedeau
I was looking forward to the Lizard/Vulture saga in Raimi SM4. OSCORP as the villain in the new franchise is just not as compelling as the Raimi take on Spidey.
Dr. Batman
6. Colin R
My opinion of these movies is pretty lukewarm. The first movie is boring; the second moving; the third goofy. I like Andrew Garfield's take on Peter Parker as an angry and rebellious young man than I did Tobey Maguire's mopey nebbish.

My tastes run exactly the opposite of yours though, I find 'dark' superheroes pretty tiresome. Nolan's recent Batman movies are not boring, but they're kind of oppressive. Watching them feels like getting punched in the face by their seriousness. Not to say that there is no room for moodiness in superhero movies--not at all. I kind of liked the moodiness of The Wolverine. But the moodiness there was mined for melodrama, not Meaning.
Stephen Dunscombe
7. cythraul
When did we all decide the first Tim Burton Batman sucked?

I remember when it first came out. People loved it. It made ten times its budget at the box office.

It has a 7.6/10 on IMDB; a 71/100 from critics and an 84/100 from users on Rotten Tomatoes; and a 66/100 from critics and a 7.7/10 from users on Metacritic. These numbers aren't awful.

But in recent years, I'm seeing people talk like it's a truth universally acknowledged that the first Tim Burton Batman sucked. What gives?
Dr. Batman
8. Dr. Batman
@7 I'm in agreement with you there. It's certainly goofy, but that's part of it's charm! Joker's commercial taking over all of Gotham's televisions never fails to make me crack up. The only part I always scratch my head at is when Bruce pulls out the firepoker and yells about getting nuts. C'mon Bats, you're supposed to be a master tactician (Though I suppose he blocks the bullet at least). Still in my book, it's one of the best ever, Joe Chill Joker twist and all.
Emmet O'Brien
9. EmmetAOBrien
Nicely amphasising why I have basically never liked Spiderman in any format; aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangst.
Dr. Batman
10. Nix
While I do like the different look, I'm not sure this changes some of the complicated mess that Spiderman 3 was. I don't hold that against Raimi, however; with a tentpole like this franchise, I think it was too many hands in the pie that made it a mess. Venom is an great character, but his placement in this film alongside Sandman did both a disservice.

The movie could still have had the black suit, and the themes would have remained similar in theme; the struggle of power and what it does to people. Spidey's use of the symbiote could have ended with something much more drastic, like him murdering Sandman and then realizing what it's driven him to. It ends with him rejecting the suit at the church bells, and the last shot is the symbiote fusing with Brock. (/endfanboydream)

That said, when compared to the newest films, I feel like Raimi's trilogy was cast incredibly well. Dafoe was a fantastic Goblin, Dunst was a decent MJ, Franco turned in mostly gold for the first two films, and JJ was literally lifting from the pages. Don't even get me started on Alfred Molina's incredible performance. In fact, the only casting I question was Toby Maguire, and that's mostly in retrospect to how much he seemed to age between the first and third film.
Dr. Batman
11. KAsiki
@7 - I think the new take on Joker did Burtons movie in. The only redeaming quality of that movie was Jack being Jack being Joker. Everything else was just terrible. With Ledgers take on Joker most fans realized that fact when coparing the 2.

Simalarly we have yet to reach that point with the Raimi trilogy vrs this "Amazing" series. I really enjoyed the first 2 Movies of Raimi's. thought they were very good, but can't even watch the now due to how Marvel stepped up the game. In a side by side comparison, The Amazing Spiderman series is probably better over all. And that is ignoring Spideran 3.
j p
12. sps49
Anyone who takes The Incredibles seriously will get my attention.
Jared Cooper
13. jaredwcooper
Heck yes Incredibles! I've been rewatching it a lot lately, and I find more to love with each viewing.

Now, I am a big Spidey nerd. I really dig the first two Raimi movies, but the weird thing about SM3 is how all the mistakes are so obvious, almost amateur. I heard that Raimi, like, personally crippled his movie because of studio disagreements? I have not bothered to read into it.

But it really felt like too many things went wrong in that movie for it to be a case of overambition and repeatedly dropping the ball. Sometimes it seems like the mistakes are intentional.

Because there are great things in SM3. Harry's arc reaches a good point; JJ taking medication for his anger is hilarious; and Pete's still struggling to get by in his apartment. Eddie Brock, Gwen, and Sandman seemed kinda shoehorned in, though, so I agree that 'overstuffing' is part of its problem.

I wanted the same thing with ASM2 that I wanted with SM3 (without trying to spoil the former). Goblins with good motivations/conflict generation to take up more screentime.

Part of me was eager to dismiss Raimi's films and hope that the ASM series would be my ideal S-M movie canon, but really, both of them do a lot of things right.

Also, I really hope JK Simmons plays JJ in ASM3. There's just no one else for the part.
Anthony Pero
14. anthonypero
There are very, very few movies that are 30+ years old that will play well to a 40 and under crowd when compared to similar material put out now. This is a generalization, as some people love classics, but you get the idea.

The dialogue will feel stilted, the performances will seem over-the-top or ham-handed, or melodramatic. The editing and pacing will be distracting. The shot composition and cinemetography will seem... off, in many cases. The way music is utilized will be different...

Its impossible to honestly and objectively compare Burton's Batman with Nolan's. Our own biases will always get in the way. Its like trying to compare Johnny Unitas and Tom Brady. Too much has changed in the way cinematic stories are told.

Trying to compare the original Superman movies to Man of Steel is laugh-worthy.

Now, Raimi vs The Amazing Spiderman? These are good movies to compare.
Dr. Batman
15. Colin R
I don't think aging is the reason the Burton Batman movies are looked down on. The only good part of the Burton Batman movie was Robert Wuhl--the only genuine hero in those movies. I mean the first movie starts with Batman letting a family get mugged, then walking right into a bullet. Sheesh.

And Nicholson's Joker was basically just Nicholson being himself. Like, there's no difference between the hamminess of his performance and that of Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Schumaker films.

Hey, Billy Dee Williams totally got robbed though, right? It's a cinematic crime that we didn't get to see him as Two-Face.
Rafael
16. Ryamano
@ 14 I liked the first two Superman movies from 1978 and 1980 much more than I liked Man of Steel. But I understand what you're trying to say. Superman returns, made in 2006, is basically a 1970s movie made out of its time (the language it uses is so 1970s, because it's a sequel to the second superman movie the director liked so much), so most people felt very strange watching it (I know I did). And I'm a guy that likes old movies (like Spartacus, Clockwork Orange, or anything by Kurosawa).
Anthony Pero
17. anthonypero
I also liked the first two superman movies more than man of steel... but most people my age and younger would disagree. As I said, its a generalized statement. Some people can look past the generational considerations of a film.
Dave Thompson
18. DKT
This has been an interesting look back at Raimi's Spider-man. Thanks, Emily. I'd never considered any of this before.

I love Spider-man because he's always seemed so much of an everyman in superheroes, and that includes the angst. I never felt too much sympathy for Dafoe's Green Goblin - he always seemed a bit monstrous, even before he started experiementing on himself. I'm gonna need to go back and rewatch, I think. (Also, God, trying to suspend disbelief that he was talking through that ridiculous mask just made me laugh a couple of times.)

Doc Ock, on the other hand? Yeah, much sympathy.

(I still really like Burton's Batman - mostly cause I can remember how it managed to feel like something so completely unique. It had flaws, sure. But also a lot of ambition.)
Anthony Pero
19. anthonypero
@colin r

Thats my point though. Within the context of the time period, Nicholson's Joker was considered an amazing acting job and a great example of the perfect heavy for a film of the time. Now, people look at it and just go... meh. That's just not how its done today.

Its sort of like the famous Harrison Ford quote. His last role working for MGM in his role as, perhaps, the last contract studio actor required him to play a bell boy. He was later brought in by the movie's producer, who told him that he had no future in the business. He told Ford a story of Tony Curtis' first role, as a delivery boy, and he said "You just looked at him and knew he was a movie star!". Ford pointed his finger at the producer and said "I thought you were supposed to know he was a delivery boy!"

Harrison Ford, Marlon Brando... these were actors on the leading edge of the method acting movement. There was a period between 1975 and 1995 where the whole thing was in flux. What comes across to us through the lens of time and distance as campy, misdelivered, and poorly paced, was simply how it was done then.

Batman skews closer to a modern film than the camp of the 60s and 70s, but there are still elements of camp in it, as you have pointed out. To some people, that makes it flawed and guilty of poor execution... but that wasn't considered poor execution at the time. It was considered a fantastic film, and Nicholson's portrayal was widely praised. Not so much Keaton's, but that had more to do with him coming from a comedy background. I remember a lot of people reacted to Keaton's casting... well, much like they have to Affleck's. With scorn and derision.
Chris Nelly
20. Aeryl
@18 DKT, Leah wrote this article, not Emily. Dafoe's Osborn definitely comes across as an asshole dad, but not a mass murderer. He genuinely cares for Harry, he doesn't understand why Harry's not more ambitious and ashamed of his wealth, and to Norman, it feels like Harry's rejecting him and all his hard work he did to create this life and opportunity for Harry. As a parent with a kid moving into her teen years, I have sympathy. It's a hard way to feel.
Anthony Pero
21. anthonypero
@20:

I agree with your take, with one addition: Norman created the situation by being an absentee father, and placing work above Harry. While I feel sympathy for him, I can recognize his culpability in creating the situation.

EDIT:

part of the problem is, well, Willam Defoe. That's a hard face to sympathize with. its difficult for an actor like Defoe to step outside of previous roles. His face is synonomys with bat-shit insane evil.
Dr. Batman
22. Colin R
Sure, Batman '89 has all the campiness of Batman '66, but none of the heart. Like, Adam West was in on the joke--he knew that Batman was campy and goofy. But BATMAN himself didn't know--Batman as portrayed by Adam West really was a straight arrow, not a weirdo. His heroism was totally unironic.

I guess my point was that it's not the campiness that makes the Burton films different--I don't know that we're in all that different a place today. Willem Dafoe, Heath Ledger, Tom Hardy, Jeff Bridges, etc., have all indulged in some scenery-chewing in more recent and 'modern' comic book movies. Chewing scenery is invited by the material.

I think the main problem with the Burton films are its artistic choices, not its acting. Like, Jack Nicholson does great in some scenes--the revelation of his transformation for example. But there is no arc or point to his character--he is just as weird and campy BEFORE he becomes the Joker as he is afterward. Ultimately Burton wasn't interested in the actual themes of Batman--his notion was "Batman is just as crazy and weird and dangerous as his villains."

Which ties back into the Spider-Man article here, and I just don't think that's a very interesting angle to take. It's funny as a joke, but not as THE take on the characters. It's like a bunch of people read Watchmen and were like "Yeah we should treat all superheroes stories literally--the only serious way to portray superheroes is as psychopaths." Ugh.
Dr. Batman
23. Trike
All of the reasons listed in this article underscore why I hate Raimi's Spider-man movies: they get the character completely wrong. The new franchise does, too, but gets him wrong in different ways by turning him into a spandex-wearing Harry Potter with their whole "fated to be the chosen one" conspiracy story.

Ironically, Spider-man is one of the easiest characters to get right, but they somehow keep managing to mess it up.
Dr. Batman
24. Robert K. Blechman
Just a historical addendum to discussion of Burton's first Batman movie. Filming was affected by a writer's strike that hit before the final production draft of the script was completed. This limited the kinds of changes Burton could make to dialogue and narrative and may explain scenes like the one where Commissioner Gordon sees that the Joker has blockaded himself in the church tower and only says "Let's go." Others may be able to give examples of the strike's affect on the movie.
Dr. Batman
25. Colin R
I guess I'd also add that right as Raimi's films were coming out, we were passing right into Mark Millar's zenith--the Ultimates were being released at the same time as the first movie. And Millar's take on superheroics isn't that far off from what you describe here; his big idea is that superheroes are basically just assholes who get off on their own power, and that a power trip is also what the audience is getting out of it. I suppose there is a point to that, but Millar just revels in his own cynicism. I'm cynical about a lot of things, but I don't have a taste for cynicism as entertainment.

On a different note: In the Incredibles, the scene when Mr. Fantastic is possessed by murderous rage. But the key thing about that scene is that even when he thought he has lost his family, he can't actually bring himself to kill a villain who betrayed him. That compassion doesn't just separate him from the villain--it directly leads to Mirage helping him to escape twice.

That kernal of idealism is supposed to be inherent to superheroes, and Spider-Man is maybe the most human of superheroes--the one whose humanity and superhumanity were in the most conflict, for whom doing the right thing always came hardest. That is where the payoff comes from.
Emmet O'Brien
26. EmmetAOBrien
DKT@18:
I love Spider-man because he's always seemed so much of an everyman in superheroes, and that includes the angst.

It's the assumption that everyman == angst that I find most offensive about the character. It's a particularly pernicious meme at the best of times, and Spiderman reinforces it in ways that more sympathetic superheros actively oppose.
Dave Thompson
27. DKT
@20 Aeryl (and Leah): Whoops. Sorry. I don't know how I got mixed up and thought Emily had written this.

I didn't have kids when I watched Rami's first Spider-man. I wonder if my opinion of Dafoe would differe now, while one of my kids closes in on ten.

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