Film / Spider-Man Trilogy

Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale... if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man

A trilogy of Super Hero films starring Tobey Maguire as the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man running from 2002 to 2007. They include Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3. All were directed by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead fame. Also stars Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn, J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, and Bruce Campbell in various cameos.

  • Spider-Man (2002): Peter Parker is bitten by a spider and finds himself with unique spider-like powers. He learns that with his newfound strength he has a responsibility to help people in trouble as Spider-Man after his Uncle Ben is killed by a mugger he could have stopped. Meanwhile, billionaire businessman Norman Osborn tests a Super Serum formula on himself to keep the project alive, turning him into the insane Green Goblin, who sets his sights on Spider-Man.
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004): Peter struggles with the responsibility of being Spider-Man as the people of New York don't trust him, leading him to consider resigning out of exhaustion and stress making his powers act inconsistently. At the same time, scientist Otto Octavius is gravely injured in an experiment that grafts mechanic arms to his spine, with the media calling him Doctor Octopus.
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007): With his personal and super hero life worked out, Peter is enjoying a high point. Things change as he has to deal with the fallout of the Green Goblin story and his own desire for revenge when a man connected to Uncle Ben's murder, Flint Marko, escapes prison, and is mutated into the powerful Sandman. Adding to this is a rival chasing his heels named Eddie Brock, and a mysterious black goo that attaches itself to Peter, heightening his aggression.

Highly successful in both the critical and box-office record departments, along with the X-Men trilogy these movies paved the way for the Superhero movie boom leading to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Dark Knight Saga.

After the Development Hell on a possible fourth, the franchise received a Continuity Reboot with an all-new creative team with The Amazing Spider-Man Series. Eventually, that setting was rebooted when it was announced that the character would be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following an unprecedented deal between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Has a Characters page in construction.

Tropes used throughout the series include:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Classic moments, images and arcs from 40+ years of Spider-Man stories are squashed down to a simpler thread:
    • Tobey Maguire is visually the original Steve Ditko Spider-Man: small, scrawny and awkward. However, his friendship with Harry Osborn is taken from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and draws from the Romita years.
    • Mary-Jane Watson is more or less a Composite Character of several of Peter's girlfriends (Herself, Liz Allan, Betty Brant and aspects of Gwen Stacy). She is initially Flash Thompson's and Harry Osborn's girlfriend (much like Liz Allan was) and outwardly is a charming and charismatic girl while balancing at home a troubled family background (an aspect of her character that was explored in later years of the Spider-Man comics). Her overall serious and melancholy nature is very much Gwen Stacy rather than the immensely cheerful MJ of the early comics (who more or less lightened up Peter's mood and that of the overall dark tone of the comics).
    • In terms of overall story, the film's focus on Love Dodecahedron for its dramatic tension draws squarely from the soap opera of the Lee-Romita years, rather than the bildungsroman/science-fiction of the original stories, or the more weirder and complicated runs in later Spider-Man arcs. Most notably Peter's personal involvement with his villains, either knowing them before transformation (Dr. Octopus, Eddie Brock, Flint Marko) or being connected to them personally (Norman Osborn) came from this era, whereas in the earlier stories, Peter dnection to any of these villains.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • A mild example. With the exception of Venom, almost all villains are more sympathetic compared to their comic book counterparts, some more, some less.
    • Thanks to a slight and crucial change, Peter's origin also qualifies. In the Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter lets the burglar go out of petty selfishness and indifference. In the movie, Peter's wrestling manager (who did not get robbed in the comic) stiffs him and Peter deliberately lets the burglar escape out of spite and revenge. One can argue that Movie!Spidey is even more petty and jerkish, but painting the wrestling manager as an Asshole Victim arguably explains this action better, since Peter was already quite nice and altruistic before his transformation.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Ironically, Venom was the more sympathetic and ethical villain in the comics while his film counterpart is a self-centered Jerk Ass who lies, cheats and loses his job for more legitimate reasons.
  • Anti-Villain: Almost everyone. Norman, for having a Split Personality/Super-Powered Evil Side, Doc Ock and Harry for being misguided and pulling a Heel–Face Turn/Heroic Sacrifice in the end and Sandman for trying to help his daughter. Only exception is Eddie/Venom, who willingly embraces the symbiote and enjoys the suffering he causes.
  • Big Bad: The Green Goblin in the first film, Doc Ock in the second, and the alien symbiote in the third (with Venom serving as the Final Boss.)
  • Big "NO!": Octavius discovering his new condition, Brock before dying.
  • Black and White Morality: Played with. It's the all-good Spider-Man versus people who for the most part aren't in control of what they're doing (Green Goblin, Doc Ock) or forced into villainy through unfortunate circumstances (The Sandman). The only true out-and-out villain Spider-Man faces off against is Venom.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Pete before getting his powers, and when they start failing.
  • Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: In all three movies Peter Parker is targeted in some manner by a villain who wants to track down Spider-Man.
  • Building Swing: Naturally Spider-Man's means of travelling.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: A tram car in the first, a train in the second.
  • The Cameo: Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell, in all movies.
    • Stan Lee protects a little girl in the havoc created by the Green Goblin in the first film. In the second, he pulls a woman out of the way of falling debris while Spider-Man fights Doc Ock; "Look out!" is his only line. In the third, he has a much more substantial cameo as a man who talks to Peter on the street. "Y'know, I guess it's true what they say: one person really can make a difference. 'Nuff said."
    • Bruce Campbell appears once in every film as someone who actually helps develop Peter's plot in some small way. In the first movie, he plays the ring announcer who introduces Peter as Spider-Man instead of "The Human Spider" as Peter originally wanted. In #2, he plays an usher at the theater who refuses to let Peter in because the doors have already been closed. Finally in #3, he is a french Maître d' at a restaurant who gladly helps Peter with his plans to propose to Mary Jane (though it doesn't exactly work out). It's also deliberately ambiguous as to whether he's supposed to be playing three different characters, or one character who delights in holding down different jobs with different personas.
    • In the licensed games based on the films, Bruce also serves as the Lemony Narrator who walks you through tutorials. Though he doesn't seem very interested in it; at one point, he leaves to grab a sandwich.
  • Camp: Well, it's three movies made by Sam Raimi we're talking about, but it's relatively subdued as it has a fair amount of serious scenes with any real campiness coming through in terms of humor and aesthetic.
  • Chest Insignia: Spider-Man's spider-logo.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Harry and MJ. Peter and MJ too. She's a literal Girl Next Door.
  • Civvie Spandex: Used in the second and third films. Dr. Octopus wears a trenchcoat and a suit. The Sandman, meanwhile, sticks to a pair of khakis and a green striped shirt while in Flint Marko form.
  • Clothes Make the Maniac: The alien symbiote in the third movie, and depending on your definition of "clothes," Doc Ock's tentacles in the second movie.
  • The Coconut Effect: The movies start off highlighting Spidey's use of Spider-Sense in slow-motion, but as the films progress, the Spider-Sense is more often implied that explicitly depicted, usually in the form of whiplash-quick reflexes and/or Off Hand Backhands. Notably, the third movie never highlighted it at all, with Spider-Man's reflexes and Spider-Sense all rendered in real-time.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: With Ben actually saying it this time.
  • Composite Character:
    • Mary Jane has some traces of Gwen Stacy, flat-out stated by Word of God to be the case. Her lively but pained character is based on comics MJ, but her "girl next door" exterior is comics Gwen. Mary Jane also has a strong basis in Liz Allan. Like Allan, MJ in the movies is a classmate and longtime crush of Peter's who is much higher on the social latter and dates Flash Thompson (although MJ did briefly date Flash as well, it didn't last long). The actual similarities MJ has with her comics counterpart are her red hair, her being Peter's neighbor, her coming from an abusive household, her brief relationship with Harry Osborn, her vivaciousness masking her insecurity and pain, and her aspirations to be an actress.
    • On the flip side, Gwen in Spider-Man 3 has the bubbly sweetness of comics Gwen but the flirty, good time loving exterior of comics MJ! She also takes Mary-Jane's original role as the "other potential love interest".
  • Confused Bystander Interview: There are a few examples of this throughout the series.
  • Da Editor: J. Jonah Jameson.
  • Deadly Dodging: Done by Spider-Man in a lot of fights, most notably the Green Goblin's death.
  • Death by Secret Identity: Green Goblin is impaled soon after he discovers Peter's secret. In the second film, a big part of the movie marketing was that Harry would learn Peter's secret, but Harry's death wouldn't come until he made the full transition to baddie in the third movie. Peter also reveals his identity to Doc Ock. In the final movie, this works against Eddie Brock/Venom, but actually leads to the redemption of the Sandman. If this trope is truly in full swing, then all those people on the subway in Spider-Man 2 better look both ways before crossing the street...
  • Distressed Damsel: Mary Jane gets kidnapped by the villain in the climax of all three movies. She's also in distress twice before the climax of the first.
  • Eagleland: Type 1. See Patriotic Fervor below for more description.
  • Evil Is Hammy:
    • Once his Sanity Slippage starts, the Green Goblin chews the scenery in every scene he's in.
    • Eddie Brock after bonding with the Venom symbiote.
    "Ooh, my Spider Sense is tingling, if you get what I talking about. Tiger."
    • Harry Osborn (who is after all played by James Franco) starts hamming it up in the third movie.
  • Female Gaze: Well, of course. We're talking about a muscular young dude who wears a skintight outfit and is unbelievably agile.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first film Harry Osborn says of his father "If I'm lucky I'll be half the man he was". Come the third movie, we find out what exactly is meant by this. There are other foreshadowing moments involving Harry, such as the green bow tie he wears during the wedding scene in 2, and "They're my best friends ... I'd give my life for them".
  • Freak Lab Accident: Origin of all villains save Venom.
  • Girl Next Door: Mary Jane. Supplies the page image.
  • The Glasses Come Off: See Blind Without 'Em.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Green Goblin in the first movie, the tentacle AI with Otto Octavius in the second, and Peter bonded with the symbiote in the third.
  • Happily Married: The Parkers and the Octaviuses.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Peter wants Mary Jane.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Doc Ock and Harry in the second and third movies respectively. Both are also a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Jameson still hates Spider-Man as much as any other continuity.
  • I Have Your Wife: Mary Jane, of course.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens a few times, like to the Green Goblin and Sandman, though obviously the latter doesn't stick.
  • Ivy League: Although Peter Parker attends the fictional Empire State University (modeled after New York University) in the comics, the Raimi films make him a student at Columbia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold/Even A Jerk Has Standards: J. Jonah Jameson, the man who has no problem defaming Spider-Man for the sake of eye-catching headlines, lies to the face of the Green Goblin so as to protect Peter. The novelization looks deeper into his motives: Jameson always protects his sources, and has gone to jail twice for doing so in the past. In the third movie, he's furious that Eddie Brock gave him fake photographs of Spider-Man, commenting that "We haven't printed a retraction in twenty years!" Not only did he fire Brock, but additionally had him shamed on the front page alongside the retraction.
  • Large Ham: All the villains but Sandman. Also, J. Jonah Jameson and Bruce Campbell's cameo appearances.
    • Special mention has to go to Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin. When he is fighting Peter, he is having the time of his life, complete with evil cackles and poor one-liners.
    • Evil Is Hammy: In addition to the villains, Maguire was having FAR too much fun being Emo-Jerkass-Peter in the middle of the third film.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Stern Pinball's 2006 Spider-Man game, which encapsulates all three movies and includes all-new dialog from J.K. Simmons.
    J. Jonah Jameson: "Eight arms? He should be playing this game!"
  • Lost in Imitation: A LOT of things from the movies were taken from the 90's cartoon series and not the comic books. Green Goblin being a split personality of Norman's developed from the Goblin formula and Norman talking to him was from the cartoon. The plot point of the Green Goblin going after people who wronged Norman Osborn was from the cartoon, Mary Jane being a replacement for Gwen on the iconic bridge scene was from the cartoon,Otto Octavius being someone Peter personally knew was from the cartoon, the symbiote augmenting Peter's powers and creating a dark side was from the cartoon, Eddie Brock working at the Daily Bugle as a rival photographer and not as a journalist somewhere else and his prior relationship to Peter was from the cartoon.
    • The most blatant example is probably the part where Peter wears the black suit for the first time. The alien symbiote climbs on his bed while he sleeps and then he wakes up hanging upside down from a web wearing it, while he sees his reflection on the side of a building. The only thing missing is the nightmare sequence (and even that is hinted at).
  • Made of Iron: Spidey is a given; his powers allow him to shrug off huge amounts of punishment. But especially notable is Ock in the second film. He's an out-of-shape scientist who shouldn't be standing after one of the super-strong Spider-Man's punches. Even if Spidey pulls his punches, Ock takes a web-slung bag of coins to the face at one point without a mark to show for it, and also keeps fighting after being slammed through the floor when Spidey catapults himself from the roof.
    • With the amount of blows to the head Spidey takes, and then completely shrugs off, throughout the series, you'd almost think he had a spider's exoskeleton too!
  • Marquee Alter Ego: Spider-Man's mask being destroyed, Venom removing his.
  • Megane: Peter himself before he got his powers and turning back to normal. Doesn't wear glasses in the third movie.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black: While Peter does wear his red-and-blue webs, the colors are darker and more muted than in the comics. In the third film he has a very dark grey version of his regular costume, instead of the pitch black suit with big, bright white spider on the chest and back from the comics.
  • Ms Fan Service: Mary Jane Watson. The "kiss in the rain" scene is very iconic due to Dunst's attire and... reaction with the water.
  • Mythology Gag: The old TV series theme pops up being played by street performers in multiple movies.
  • Never My Fault: Harry and Eddie Brock. It's always Spider-Man's fault that everything bad happened to them, even (or rather especially) when it should be their own fault.
  • Nice Guy / Nice Girl: Ben and May Parker. Never have they been any nicer.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Mary Jane, oddly enough. In an early scene in the first movie, she expresses that she loves creepy, disgusting spiders.
  • No Sympathy: Mary Jane rather infamously gives this to Peter on more than one occasion. In the first movie, when Peter beats up the bullies, she merely walks away in disgust — despite him visibly only doing so in self-defense. And throughout the second, she gives him some What the Hell, Hero? treatment for repeatedly missing her play — sure, she doesn't know that he's Spider-Man (yet, though at the end she does say she thinks she knew, which actually makes her previous behavior even worse); however, not only does she indeed know that he's borderline impoverished and busy fighting an uphill battle trying to juggle work and college (even one of which, realistically, would make it pretty difficult for anyone to be able to go to such a high-class event), but he actually does manage to make it anyway at one point (only to be denied entry due to being too late to be seated) in front of an usher who could easily verify his whereabouts for MJ.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The trailer songs.
  • Once an Episode: Cameos by Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell, an in-movie performance of the 1960s TV show's theme.
  • Parental Substitute: Uncle Ben is this to Peter Parker.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Seeing how the first film came out less than a year after 9/11, note  the films have scenes of Spidey standing in front of giant American Flags and New Yorkers saying things like "You can't mess with us, this is America!". By 3, many critics and audiences felt that the patriotism had become a little excessive.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: J. Jonah Jameson and his assistant Hoffman. Also Peter's landlord and his daughter.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Various elements of the Spider-Man mythology are altered to make a more straightforward narrative. The power-giving spider was genetically altered rather than randomly irradiated, his web slinging was made into part of his mutation rather than being an advanced mechanical device created by a teenager. Spidey's habit of quipping during battle was simplified, usually one or two before and one or two after it's over, since it's difficult to use Talking Is a Free Action. For sheer longevity Mary Jane was the most well known love interest among casual fans, but incorporated the Girl Next Door qualities of Gwen Stacy to simplify their history (In the comics MJ showed Hidden Depths by grieving with Peter after Gwen's death, which is what brings them together).
  • Redemption Equals Death: The second and third movies have Octavius and Harry realize their mistakes and ultimately sacrifice themselves to repair it, Octavius drowns the proto-star and Harry dies protecting Peter from a fatal strike from Venom.
  • Reflective Eyes: The posters themselves use this as a reflection of who the villain of the movie was going to be.
  • Running Gag: Jameson keeps yelling for "HOFFMAN!" who keeps appearing faster and faster as the movies progress, much to Jonah's confusion, eventually culminating in Jameson screaming his name while turning around, only to be face to face with Hoffman before he finished saying his name.
  • Say My Name: The entire trilogy could be summarized through one name: "MARY JAAAAAAAAANE!"
  • Secret Identity: Peter's secret identity as Spider-Man.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Peter opening his shirt like Superman.
    • Doc Ock climbing NY buildings like King Kong.
    • "Symbiote Night Fever".
    • Shouting "Shazam!" and "Up, up and away, web!" in the first movie, which was an ad-lib by Maguire.
    • In the novelization of the first movie, the wheelchaired and bald Oscorp Board Member, Maximillian Fargas, is compared to the "professor character in that mutant movie."
    • Aunt May telling Peter that he's not "Superman."
    • When Jonah and Hoffman are discussing what to call Octavius for the paper headline:
      Jonah: What are we gonna call this guy?
      Hoffman: "Doctor Octopus?"
      Jonah: That's crap.
      Hoffman "Science Squid"?
      Jonah: Crap.
      Hoffman: "Doctor Strange"?
      Jonah: That's pretty good... But it's taken!
    • Peter's landlord and his daughter, the Ditkovich's.
    • Before the Sadistic Choice:
    • One of the surgeons trying to operate on Octopus raises an arm holding a chainsaw a là Ash in Army of Darkness.
      • In the same scene, we get a POV shot from one of the tentacles as it slithers through the air just like the unseen force in the Evil Dead movies.
  • Soft Glass: Shards of glass rarely give more than a few minor scratches. Averted with the death of Rosie Octavius in the second movie.
  • Something Person: Spider-Man and Sandman.
  • Snark Knight: While not making as many jokes as other versions of the character, he does make a few in each movie at his opponents' expense. One of the common criticisms of the trilogy is the lack of combat banter.
  • Spider-Sense: After the first movie it's just implied, but Spider-Man reacts far too quickly to not be in play.
  • Spontaneous Crowd Formation: In the first film, they help Spidey by throwing insults and rocks at the Green Goblin. The second film plays on this, by having the crowd stand up to Doctor Octopus, only for him to easily brush them aside, snatch the defeated Spidey and carry him off.
  • Starving Student: Peter Parker, particularly in the second movie which has him struggling through college without money and his superhero identity compounding his hardships.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The old TV series theme plays in the credits, and is played by street musicians in the first two films.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Norman after taking a serum, goes from mild-Jerkass to full-Jerkass. Harry Osborn and Mary-Jane in the second movie. Peter in the third movie.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: When you watch the trailer after watching the movie, it's impressive how much plot is given. The most egregious example has to be showing Harry pulling off Peter's mask in the second film.
  • Tragic Villain: Each of the major villains:
    • Norman Osborn, before the "Goblin" takes him over completely. He might have been rough and far from a saint but his reaction to finding out he killed people was to be horrified. The way he's been treated seems rather unfair too: A major funder switches their funding to a clearly inferior solution because they personally dislike him and the board of directors fires him from the company he built to get more money.
    • Doc Ock, a patient teacher and loving husband who inadvertently caused the gruesome death of his wife when his experiment went horribly wrong. After crossing to the dark side for much of the movie, he chooses to sacrifice himself to save the city in the end.
    • And Eddie Brock: despite being The Sociopath and a slimeball, his downward spiral into madness that ends up consuming him when he bonds with the Symbiote is just sad. Also Sandman and Harry, who are on the Anti-Villain side of things. Really, the only villains without any tragedy to them are Dennis Carradine, the aforementioned "Goblin" Split Personality, the Artificial Intelligence of Ock's "tentacles", and the alien symbiote.

"Who am I? I'm Spider-Man."