Tearing through Spider-Man related media these days, thought I'd keep track of which versions I know about and my thoughts on each. Intentionally light on the spoilers. In chronological order to when I got to them.
I saw this one in theaters when it came out. I'm a fan of striking visual storytelling and wanted to check it out. Was blown out of the water by the visuals! They aren't overcompensating for anything storywise, either, because I've rewatched it several times and the writing is still good and solid too. Remains a favorite.
Also, I shrieked so loudly in the theater at the Doc Ock reveal that my friends made fun of me the whole way home. I don't know how they did it, but they made a character so precisely tailored to my interests that I'm still not over it. Soft robotics, reflective goggles, mad science gloves, Miss-Frizzle-Bill-Nye enthusiasm and intensity? Take notes, character designers. That's how you do sexy. Also much more octopus-themed than any other incarnation I've encountered so far.
Retrospective note: I distinctly remember watching this and going "having the superhero be a loser that nobody likes and has chronic bad luck? Ah, what a funny and clever subversion!" Obviously I had never consumed any Spider-Man media before in my life.
Retrospective note 2: Also, I no idea what a convoluted web of offshoots the Spider-Man comics were, so I thought the alt universe spideys were made up for the movie. Didn't know who who MJ or Gwen were but their introductions were handled well enough that it didn't ruin my enjoyment at all.
My college had a showing of this when it came out; I watched it then. Had no idea it was a Spider-Man related thing and the movie did not bother to tell me. I was just there to see Tom Hardy bite into a live lobster in the middle of a fancy restaurant. Not a "good" movie by any standards, 10/10, I came back to the next day's showing to watch it a second time because I had so much fun.
Got into these late 2021 when the announcement of Alfred Molina's return as Doc Ock got people talking about these again. May I just say: I think all superhero movies should be directed by horror-comedy directors with a good sense of tension and no sense of shame. People who think these movies are too dumb to be good are cowards. (Unless you're a comics fan mad that they changed characterization. That's a valid objection. MJ sweetie I am so sorry.)
Retrospective note: Speaking of characterization, this is the trilogy that introduced me to Peter the chronically unlucky sad-sack. I love that for him but now realize how his response to that doesn't quite jive with the comics: Raimi Peter will sit there awkwardly while someone ruins his life in front of him without saying a word, wheras 616 Peter usually says several choice words and then immediately regrets it. Both are extremely funny.
Now that I know who Willem Dafoe is, I see his damn face everywhere. Really good casting choice, in my opinion; even though most Norman Osbornes don't actually look like him, my mind superimposes his face over theirs anyhow.
Retrospective note: My review of the Green Goblin garb, after seeing other Goblins to compare? Not Ridiculous Enough.
I have so many thoughts on this Doc Ock treatment that they wouldn't even fit on this page. Ask me about them sometime. Watching this movie is just amusing yourself in the gaps between Alfred Molina being onscreen by enjoying Peter's conga line of humiliation. That scene at the planetarium, man. Ouch.
I also love practical effects and the puppetry here is divine. When Ock is onscreen, take time to watch the arms. They think—you can see them looking around, noticing things and making decisions, often before Octavius himself reacts. They respond to his moods or have moods of their own. My favorite moments are when they turn and look at Octavius, regarding him curiously as though he were the stranger. It's all very alien and beautiful. Here's a very neat behind-the-scenes videothat includes interesting information about the puppetry.
Retrospective note: This Octavius actually doesn't have much in common with comics Octavius, other than some immediate elements of his appearance. As far as I can tell, it borrows a lot of his backstory from the 90s cartoon's take, instead. I actually love this change a lot. They did really good things with this character in a way that ties into the central themes of Spider-Man: responsibility, lost loved ones, knowledge and power, and what one does with the crazy cards they're dealt. Molina's tragic Octavius on a single-minded self-destructive time limit works really well for the confines of a two-hour movie vs the original, meant to be a recurring rogue in an open-ended serial.
I basically knew the entire plot before I watched this one which made the bouncing-around order a lot easier to follow. What is there about this movie to say that hasn't already been said?
Retrospective note: I understand why they did the retrograde amnesia plot point now. Movies have to be efficient, but by stripping out every part of Harry's character that's not relevant to his imminent goblinization, we've only had time to see him being a traumatized jerk so far. Trying to make us feel anything for Harry or believe that he was ever actually Peter's best friend without ever showing us that is going to be an uphill battle. I guess a tap on the head seemed less obviously emotionally manipulative than a flashback montage. Poor Harry Osborn, forever branded by adaptations as a convenient sequel hook whose only purpose is to be hurried quickly to his breaking point.