Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Film
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA

At first glance, it sounds like a plot for a Cold War-era teen-centric horror movie: A young scientist in 1962 gets bit by an irradiated spider, which causes him to transform into an arachnid. Yet, instead of growing extra legs, a cluster of eyes on his head or spinnerets on his butt, the creepy crawley source of many a person’s phobias turned this teenager into a super hero who “does whatever a spider can.”


The story of Spider-Man is as much a part of our pop mythos as those of Superman or Darth Vader. But instead of being a godlike savior from another world or a fallen hero that gave into his dark side, Spider-Man’s is that of a normal person; more than other super heroes, Peter “puny” Parker could have been any of us.


cover art

Spider-Man 3

Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard

(Sony; US theatrical: 4 May 2007 (General release); 2007)

As if being a socially awkward teen with girl problems wasn’t enough, Peter had amazing abilities forced upon him and had to learn the hard way that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Unlike billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, he had to battle bad guys while worrying about paying the bills. While the man behind the bat fights crime to prevent another tragedy like the one that befell him as a child, the boy behind the spider fights because he was partially responsible for the tragedy he suffered, his uncle Ben’s murder—a foolish trangression that drives the character to this day and has resulted in many strained relationships.


Now, 45 years after New York City’s webslinging citizen made his appearance, Spider-Man’s adventures against villainy continues as does his money, girl, friendship, family and job challenges.


It’s fitting, then, that with Spider-Man 3 opening Friday, Spidey’s brief respite from his problems is shattered with a duo of love interests (Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy) and a trio of baddies (Sandman, Venom and a new Goblin). And as he confronts the darkness in his own soul, this time the conflicted webhead might be his own worst enemy.


But before you see the movie, there’s a few things you should know about the spider’s lair. So go ahead, get tangled up in this extensive guide to Spider-Man’s wonderful world-wide web.



 


Spider-Man guide sections

Spider-Man’s rogues gallery
Kiss of the Spider’s women
Spider-Manhattan
Live and swinging
Pop goes the Spider



Sandman (Thomas Haden Church, pictured) in Spider-Man 3.

Sandman (Thomas Haden Church, pictured) in Spider-Man 3



Spider-Man’s rogues gallery


By Ethan Alter


The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)


A super hero is only as cool as his rogues gallery. By that standard alone, Spider-Man is easily one of the coolest super heroes out there. On screen, we’ve already met the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, and in his latest adventure, the web-head battles not just one, but three major heavies.


Don’t worry about the filmmakers using up all the good villains in one movie, though: poor Spidey has plenty more bruisers and brawlers on the horizon, as you’ll see in this handy list that gives you the lowdown on the trio of baddies in Spider-Man 3 as well as suggestions for future opponents, and the actors that should play them.


SPIDER-MAN 3 VILLAINS


Sandman (Thomas Haden Church)

Hiding out from the law at a beachside nuclear testing ground, William Baker (aka Flint Marko) discovers that his radiation-bombarded body has fused with the sand particles, allowing him to change his form from human to sand-monster.


Powers:

Can shape-shift at will, as well as change his size; able to harden the sand in his body to make himself impervious to attacks and dish out major punishment.


Weaknesses:

Water and/or ice.


Threat level:

He’s not particularly dangerous if you’re fighting him in the middle of winter by an ocean, but on a summer day in midtown Manhattan, he’s a formidable opponent.


New Goblin (James Franco)

A bad guy created for the movies, Harry Osborn blames Spider-Man for the death of his father Norman aka the Green Goblin, and takes up his daddy’s mantle.


Powers:

In addition to all of his dad’s equipment, including the goblin glider and pumpkin bombs, Harry’s got some fresh tricks up his sleeve.


Weaknesses:

Daddy issues.


Threat level:

This whiny papa’s boy has too many internal demons to be much of a threat.


Venom (Topher Grace)

Blaming Spider-Man for his downfall, disgraced journalist Eddie Brock willingly bonds himself to a powerful alien symbiote that shares his hatred for Spidey.


Powers:

Venom is basically a more powerful version of Spider-Man—which is exactly what makes him so dangerous.


Weaknesses:

Sonic noises and fire.


Threat level:

Other Spidey villains have more depth, but few can dish out as much punishment as Venom.


FUTURE VILLAINS


Lizard (Played by Dylan Baker—as already seen in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2)

While trying to develop a serum to regenerate his missing arm, scientist Curt Connors winds up transforming himself into a violence-prone human/lizard hybrid.


Powers:

Possesses exceptional strength and agility along with a nifty healing factor, a la Wolverine.


Weaknesses:

Lizards don’t much care for cold. Also, Connors has a soft spot for his estranged wife and young son.


Threat level:

When he’s in the grip of one of his reptile rages, this Lizard can cause some major damage. But Spidey is often able to calm him down by appealing to Connors’ rational, scientific side.


Hobgoblin (Played by David Morse)

Contrary to popular belief, the Hobby isn’t a direct descendent of the Green Goblin. Several people have donned his orange hood over the years, beginning with ruthless business tycoon Roderick Kingsley, who swiped the original Goblin technology after discovering one of Norman Osborn’s secret hideouts.


Powers:

Super-strength and lots of Goblin gadgets.


Weaknesses:

Not the sanest guy on the block.


Threat level:

Although he can put Spidey through his paces, when it comes to Goblins, it’s best not to accept any substitutes.


Carnage (Played by Ashton Kutcher)

During one of Eddie Brock’s numerous jail stays, he bunked with fellow criminal Cletus Kasady, who wound up inheriting a bit of the alien symbiote and transformed himself into a super-powered psycho killer.


Powers:

Possess all of Venom’s abilities and can also create sharp blades along with his version of webbing.


Weaknesses:

Sonics and fire.


Threat level:

Carnage is just as powerful—if not more so—than his “daddy.”


The Vulture (Played by Patrick Stewart)

After learning his business partner had been siphoning away his share of their profits, engineer Adrain Toomes dons his specially created electromagnetic flying harness and embarks on a second career as a winged thief.


Powers:

Can soar through the air with the greatest of ease and can lift up to 700 pounds when wearing the harness.


Weaknesses:

Toomes isn’t exactly a young man; when he’s out of costume, he’s just another cranky old dude.


Threat level:

The Vulture has outsmarted Spider-Man a few times, but in hand-to-hand combat, the wall-crawler has the edge.


Electro (Played by Matt Damon)

A freak encounter with a bolt of lightning leaves electrician Max Dillon with some—wait for it—shocking new abilities.


Powers:

Able to shoot lightning bolts out of his fingers and mentally command all electrical devices.


Weaknesses:

What doesn’t mix well with electricity? Water!


Threat level:

Spider-Man is a great brawler, but Electro’s deadly energy blasts means its tough for him to get in close.


Kraven the Hunter (Played By The Rock)

Already a renowned hunter, former Russian nobleman Sergei Kravinoff became something much more after consuming some special potions prepared for him by a jungle witch doctor.


Powers:

In addition to being experiencing with all manner of hunting weaponry, Kraven also possesses the strength and speed of any wild animal.


Weaknesses:

Too proud for his own good.


Threat level:

How good a hunter is Kraven? So good, he actually captured Spider-Man and buried him alive!


back to top



Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3


 


Kiss of the Spider’s women

By Ethan Alter


The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)

For a nerdy kid from Queens, Peter Parker has certainly landed some major-league hotties during his Spider-Man career. Here’s a glimpse at some of the names in Petey’s personal black book, according to the comics, and the actresses that play them in the movies.


MARY-JANE WATSON

A total party girl when they first met, this knockout red-head (who earns a big paycheck as a model and actress) has since become a more sober and serious person.


Comic status:

Happily married to Peter; not-so-happily-married to Spider-Man


Played by:

Kirsten Dunst


True love?:

Considering all that they’ve been through, Peter and Mary-Jane must really love each other to remain husband and wife.


GWEN STACY

Gwen is beautiful, blonde, intelligent, kind ... all around, she sounds like a perfect girlfriend.


Comic status:

Killed by the Green Goblin.


Played by:

Bryce Dallas Howard.


True love?:

It was, but sadly it wasn’t meant to last.


BETTY BRANT

A good workplace friend who briefly became something more


Comic status:

Betty continues to work at the Daily Bugle as an investigative reporter.


Played by:

Elizabeth Banks


True love?:

More of a brief fling.


LIZ ALLAN

One of Peter’s chief tormenters back in high school, this mean girl eventually developed a big crush on the skinny dork. Later on, she married Harry Osborn and give birth to his son ... and potential future Goblin.


Comic status:

Taking care of Norman Jr.


Played by:

The movies pointedly never included this character, but if they had, Brittany Murphy would have fit the part.


True love?:

Nah, she’s just a high-school crush.


BLACK CAT

This adventure seeking vigilante and cat-burglar prowls the town after-hours in a skintight outfit.


Comic status:

Cat most recently joined the new Heroes for Hire team.


Played by:

Black Cat has yet to grace the silver screen, but when she does, may we suggest Jessica Alba?


True love?:

Petey was head over heels for her, but she was more attracted to Spider-Man than Peter Parker.


back to top




Spider-Manhattan


By Ethan Alter


The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)

Spidey calls the Big Apple home, and it’s as much of a supporting character in the comics as Aunt May. So, next time you visit New York City, why not see it Spider-Man style?


Here’s a guide to some of the Big Apple locations glimpsed in the movie, and how reel life differs from real life. For more locations, visit spider-manweeknyc.com.


 


Moondance Diner (80 6th Ave.) Reel life:

Before she landed her big break as the face of Emma Rose perfume, Mary Jane toiled as a waitress at this greasy spoon diner.


Real life:

Manhattan’s oldest surviving diner (it dates back to the `30s), the Moondance is a great place to grab a burger and shake. Better get there soon though—the diner will most likely be demolished this year to make room for new condos.


Subway directions:

A, C, or E to Canal Street


Flatiron Building (175 5th Ave.) Reel life:

The offices of the Daily Bugle, where Peter ekes out a meager living as a free-lance photographer.


Real life:

Built in 1902, the iconic New York skyscraper houses several businesses, including the St. Martin’s Press publishing company.


Subway directions:

N or the R to 23rd Street


New York Public Library (5th Avenue and 42nd Street) Reel life:

Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben is shot and killed by a robber outside of the library while waiting for his nephew.


Real life:

In addition to its renowned research collections, the main New York Public Library building also features exhibit rooms and special events.


Subway directions:

B, D, F, V to 42nd St.; #4, 5, 6 to Grand Central.


Times Square Reel life:

The Green Goblin chooses the so-called “Crossroads of the World” as the place to launch his first major attack.


Real life:

Arguably New York’s most famous landmark, Times Square has been many things over its long history: a playground for the rich, a seedy den of sin and now, a neon-colored amusement park.


Subway directions:

N, R, Q, W, or #1, 2, 3 to 42nd Street/Times Square


Queensboro Bridge (59th St. and 1st) Reel life:

The first site in Spider-Man’s final battle with the Green Goblin.


Real life:

Connects the borough of Queens to Manhattan; also famous for its cable car, which transports people across the East River to Roosevelt Island, which lies between Manhattan and Queens.


Subway directions:

N, R, W or #4, 5, 6 to 59th Street


Forest Hills (Queens) Reel life:

The New York neighborhood where Peter was born and raised.


Real life:

The former home of the U.S. Open, Forest Hills is now best known for its Forest Hills Gardens section.


Subway directions:

G, R, V to Forest Hills/71 Avenue


Columbia University (2960 Broadway) Reel life:

On a class field trip to Columbia’s genetic research facility, Peter is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider and gains special powers; later he takes classes at the university with Dr. Curt Connors.


Real life:

One of the country’s most prestigious universities.


Subway directions:

#1 to 116th Street


back to top



Spider-Man [Japan]

Spider-Man [Japan]



Live and swinging


By Kelly Federico


The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)

Before there was the CGI action-packed movies, Spider-man crawled onto the big and small screens in several live-action attempts.


 


Spider-Man (1969)

Amateur filmmaker Donald F. Glut’s fan film centered on Spider-Man; Glut also played the title role, supported by Jim Harmon and Bill Obbagy. Spidey, who never appears out of costume, fights a ray gun-wielding mad scientist named Dr. Lightning. Glut’s last super hero film is unofficially the first live-action adaptation of Spider-Man. The movie is available on the DVD I Was a Teenage Movie Maker (a complete collection of his amateur films). Glut went on to write for the shows Land Of The Lost and Transformers.


The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)

A short-lived action show with plenty of creative camera shot “special effects,” starred Nicolas Hammond in the red and blue long underwear. The series had good ratings, but viewers complained about low-budget production values and poor writing, which did not follow the comic’s spirit. CBS gave the show the ax along with Wonder Woman in an effort to not be labeled “the superhero network.” Several episodes were released as full-length films outside the U.S.


Spider-Man (1978)

A Japanese tokusatsu—think Godzilla-like giant-costumes and miniature sets—TV show produced by the Toei Company. Toei had a deal with Marvel that they could do anything with the webslinger for a four-year period. Spidey looked the same, but the storyline had nothing to do with the Marvel character. The show had a huge impact on Anime by popularizing the trend to use mecha (giant robots) to defeat other giants being controlled by a human.


Spidey Super Stories (1974)

Introduced during The Electric Company’s fourth season, these stories were segments on the PBS educational series. Spider-Man—played by Danny Seagren—only communicated with other cast members with cartoonish word balloons and never appeared as his alter-ego, Peter Parker. Stories usually revolved around him foiling mischievous characters’ attempts at petty crimes such as burglary. The segments were spun off into a comic book and the segment’s theme song related, “Spider-Man, where are you coming from? Nobody knows who you are.”


Spider-Man: The Musical (in production)

In addition to his forays on the small and silver screens, Spider-Man will soon swing and sing on the Broadway stage in an upcoming musical. Featuring music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, the stage show will be directed by Tony-winner Julie Taymor (The Lion King).


The Amazing Spiderman TV series intro (1977)


back to top



 


Pop goes the Spider

By Aaron Sagers


The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)

At 45 years old, Spider-Man remains fresh fodder for Gen-X pop-culture. So impress (or annoy) your friends with these recent comedic references to the webhead ...


 


Shrek II (2004)

After he gets stuck in a trap, Fiona beats up the bad guys and kisses Shrek, who is dangling upside down. Released the same year as Spider-Man 2, this is a homage to the original movie’s hot kiss between Spidey and a rain-soaked Mary Jane. Donkey also mentions that his “donkey sense is tingling.”


Family Guy Presents: Stewie Griffin - The Untold Story (2005)

Trying to get into kinky fun with Lois, Peter dons tiny Spider-Man PJs and crawls across a laundry line singing (to the tune of the classic Batman theme), “Na Na Na Na Na Spiderman, Spiderman/Here comes Peter on a clothesline/But his name’s not Peter/It is Spider-Man, Spider-Man/Come on Lois let’s get busy/Maybe right here in the garden/Spider-Man, Spider-Man.”


The OC (2005)

While not technically a comedy, it’s a notable one. In the “The Rainy Day Women” episode, Seth (Adam Brody) dons his Spider-Man mask and climbs up on the roof to the satellite, making sure to tie a rope around his leg first. Since it’s raining, he slips and finds himself dangling upside down. Like Fiona, when Summer (Rachel Bilson) discovers him, she can’t resist playing Mary Jane and planting a smooch on the web-head.


The Simpsons (2006)

During the “Moe’N'a Lisa” episode, bartender Moe’s poetry is approved for a poetry publication by a grouchy publisher a la Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson. J. K. Simmons, who plays the character in the movies, even voices him. It’s no surprise, then, when he demands photos (and poems) about Spidey.


Clerks II (2006)

In geek-god Kevin Smith’s sequel, Dante’s girlfriend, Emma (played by Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), says, “Face it tiger. You just hit the jackpot.” As it happens, this is the first line spoken by Mary Jane in Amazing Spider-Man #42 (1966).


back to top


Media
Spider-Man 3 - Trailer
Related Articles
18 Feb 2014
Darkman, the darkest hero (an amalgam or classic horror monsters) versus the criminal underworld... in broad daylight.
29 Oct 2013
In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.
10 Jun 2013
The twister that removes Oz from Kansas, with its speediness and slapstick, is quite possibly the Raimi-est act of severe weather ever brought to screen.
15 May 2013
With its grotesque caricatures, genre-kidding plot turns, and frequent violations of physics, Crimewave is the kind of goof that repulses mainstream audiences and delights movie-crazy geeks.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.