Sam Raimi Reflects on Marvel’s First Mega-Hit, How It Helped New Yorkers Heal After 9/11

SPIDER-MAN, Tobey Maguire, Kirstin Dunst, 2002, (c) Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in 2002 Spider Man. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

The first one Spider Man The film opened 20 years ago on May 3, 2002, at a time when superhero movies were far from the box office juggernauts they are in 2022.

For every instant comic-based classic like the one from 1978 Superman and 1989 Batman in previous decades there have been myriad misfires like Flash Gordon (1980), howard the duck (1986), The shadow (1994), The ghost (1996) and Steel (1997), not to mention several much-maligned sequels to Man of Steel and Caped Crusader.

“For a long time, there were films that failed” Sam Raimi told us while promoting Marvel’s latest surefire hit, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Raimi, still plagued by his cult horror classic evil Dead trilogy at the time, unsuccessfully attempted to secure the rights to Batman and Shadow. Instead, he toured in the 1990s with Liam Neeson. dark manan $18 million superhero-monster-movie mashup that was well-received but achieved only modest ticket sales.

In the year 2000, however, everything changed. Just days into the century, Raimi was hired to direct Spider Man after Sony initially considered filmmakers such as Burton, David Fincher, Chris Columbus, Michael Bay and M. Night Shyamalan. When Fox’s Marvel set x-men opened to stellar reviews and big box office receipts in July, the plan for contemporary comic book franchises has been established.

Tobey Maguire, director Sam Raimi, Kirstin Dunst on the set of SPIDER-MAN, 2002 (c) Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Tobey Maguire, director Sam Raimi, Kirsten Dunst on the set of Spider Man. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

The Spidey cutscene entered theaters starring Tobey Maguire as all-boy hero Peter Parker in May 2002 to much hype – and immediately delivered. Telling the iconic comic book origin story and starring Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson and Willem Dafoe as the villainous Green Goblin, Spider Man wowed critics, wowed fans, and grossed $403 million at the US box office (and $821 million worldwide). The film’s domestic gross was not only the highest of the year, it beat major franchises star wars (attack of the clones), Harry Potter (Chamber of Secrets) and the Lord of the Rings (The two towers) each by $100 million.

The first superhero mega-hit of the millennium is born.

Today Raimi thanks Sony and Marvel executives Amy Pascal, John Calley, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach for Spider Manis success. “They knew it was going to be a good movie,” he says. “They had the foresight to see that it was really good film material.”

The blockbuster also came at a particularly difficult time in American history.

Spider Man went into production on January 8, 2001 and ended in June, three months before the tragic and heartbreaking events of September 11.

In the first movie trailerreleased that summer ahead of movies like Jurassic Park 3 and american pie 2, a team of bank robbers escape from a heist in a helicopter, only to be arrested mid-air and trapped in a giant web. A dramatic pan reveals that the web has been woven amidst the two massive towers of the World Trade Center. Likewise, the film’s first poster featured footage of Spider-Man peering between New York’s skyscrapers, with the World Trade Center reflected in his mask eyes.

Sony dropped the footage after terrorists attacked the United States and destroyed the towers, killing thousands. (The trailer footage was never intended to be in the film.) Raimi and his team had to digitally remove other shots of the Twin Towers from the film, however.

New York was still reeling from the devastating effects of 9/11 when Spider Man opened eight months later.

One scene in particular proved cathartic for Big Apple audiences rooting for their favorite Queens-born hero. After Peter narrowly saves Mary Jane and a tram full of kids as they all swing from the Queensboro Bridge – while New York-accented extras hurl objects at Green Goblin with rallying cries like “You mess with Spidey, you mess with New York” and “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us” – the web-slinger receives hearty cheers from the locals watching.

Crowds inside New York City movie theaters also cheered.

Spidey had bounced back to save the day, and New York could also come back stronger than ever.

Raimi modestly acknowledges that the scene may have helped the town heal.

“In its own way, the way escapist entertainment can take us away from our troubles, I thought Spider-Man did his best to keep New Yorkers away from the horror of 9/11. [with] brief entertainment,” he says.

Raimi followed Spider Man with the even better received Spiderman 2 (2004), which some still consider the greatest comic book film, and the decidedly more mixed Spiderman 3 (2007).

The director hoped to make a fourth film, but that never came to fruition.

“I took a break, I made a horror movie called drag me to helland then I was going to enter Spiderman 4,” he says. “But we couldn’t get the script together in time to make it great, so Sony Pictures and I decided to let them pursue the reboot and I’d walk away.” (Sony has eventually restarted the series, first with Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2then with Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Far from home and last summer No coming homewhich brought together the three Spider-Men.)

Part of Raimi is still hoping the story will be told. In fact, he won’t say much about the plot they were talking about for a part 4 in case that happens.

“We were still working on the script, and that was the problem, we were still trying to figure out the right path for him to take, but that was the next step in his evolution. I don’t want to say too much in case Marvel or Sony want to move forward with a release, but that was the next chapter after the story of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and the other characters.

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of MadnessRaimi’s first superhero movie since Spiderman 3opens Friday.

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