How Sam Raimi Improved The Superhero Movie

It’s hard to remember a time when comic book movies didn’t dominate the big screen. These days, there’s a movie in the franchise every month, and analysts and moviegoers expect it to easily cross the half-billion mark. Top-grossing films top $1 billion, with a few lucky ones topping $2 billion or extremely close. Yes, superhero properties are the order of the day and audiences can’t seem to get enough of them. It wasn’t always like this, and it wasn’t until the dawn of the 21st century that comic book-based movies began their journey to become the juggernauts they are today, largely thanks to a certain Sam Raimi.

More than the Superman movies from the 70s or Batman 90s saga, the Spider Man franchise of the early 2000s redefined what a superhero property could be. Blending humor, spectacle and thematic resonance, Sony’s Webslinger Trilogy kickstarted the modern superhero craze and cemented Spider-Man as the definitive millennial hero. A perfect combination of elements collided to make the Spider-Man trilogy a mainstay of modern blockbuster cinema, but Raimi’s hand pulled the strings, gently guiding them home and transforming the first two entries in its Spidey series into two of the best superhero movies of them all. weather.

The man who would be king (of the genre)

On paper, Raimi was an obvious choice to run a superhero property. His films are famous for their vibrancy and colour, a hectic vibe that infuses everything with an erratic energy. Raimi pays particular attention to movement and flow; something as simple as a character walking from side to side can become an exercise in style. A film by Raimi will be there. It may not take itself seriously but it will never poke fun or undermine the struggles of its characters. He will juggle resonant themes with genuine emotion without ever forgetting the humor that underlies it. Raimi’s films are a careful, controlled chaos, a pitch-perfect take on comic book adaptations, a genre that’s never been famous for adhering to boundaries or continuity.

Still, some have expressed skepticism about Raimi’s potential approach to a comic book movie. After all, the director was famous specifically for his love of horror. Raimi’s career began with the unexpected success of the cult classic evil death, but that was next, Evil Dead 2, which catapulted him to stardom and cemented him as an undisputed horror author. Raimi’s fondness for comics was pervasive in his career. In 1990, he created his own superhero, Darkman, to headline the film of the same name. Raimi’s love of horror and dark humor was a perfect fit for Darkman’s noir world, and the film received positive reviews from critics and was a sleeper success.

dark man was pretty much an audition for Raimi and the perfect example of how the director’s style matched the comic book genre. dark man is gruesome and unrestrained, embracing the more country tones that comic books have always proudly displayed. However, Raimi imbues the film with a distinct sense of tragedy, a veil of sadness that hovers over it even in the broadest scenes. Darkman is a tragic hero who is tortured, physically and mentally scarred, unstoppable and broken. Hosted by the appropriately stoic Liam Neeson, Darkman is a complex creation that would feel right at home next to modern anti-heroes like Walter White.

Raimi has always been ahead of his time. It’s no surprise that his films are often reappraised years after their debut to mixed reviews. movies like Dead or alive and the slapstick camp-fest that is army of darkness have been positively reviewed by modern critics and fans, becoming certified cult classics. Raimi’s style isn’t for everyone; it’s too direct, bold and carefree, and often overwhelming for some. However, while it might not work in a revisionist western, it’s certainly a perfect choice for a comic book adaptation,

Reinventing Spider-Man

Spider-Man on top of a moving train in Spider-Man 2.

Spider-Man is arguably Marvel’s definitive superhero. He shares a place of honor alongside DC’s Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as one of those characters that epitomizes the entire comic book genre. In many ways, Spidey is the ultimate hero: he’s brave but not fearless, always available but fiercely protective of his personal life, charismatic in action but unerring in battle. Spider-Man is goofy yet charming, suave yet relatable, the perfect combination of brains, brawn, and most importantly, heart. More importantly, Spider-Man is a tragic character; with every victory comes an even bigger loss. Spider-Man loses his parents, his uncle, his best friend, his love and, on occasion, even his life. Yet he keeps finding humor in his situation and never gives up.

Raimi understood Spider-Man and created a movie that perfectly captures the essence of the web crawler. Spider Man was the movie fans wanted and deserved back in 2002. Raimi was true to the comics while adding his distinctive flair to the story of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The film was fast and brilliant, not only embracing but celebrating the inherent ridiculousness of a teenager in pantyhose swinging around New York. Each scene was vivid and dynamic, as Spider-Man jumped from side to side while the Green Goblin chased him with manic glee. Spider Man was an animated comic, accompanied by all the “BOOMS!” and “BANG!” expected fans.

Serious and playful, Spider Man legitimized the natural over-the-top nature of the comic book genre. The movie didn’t take a grounded approach or try to make the crawler’s powers more palatable to audiences. Rather, the film doubled down on exaggeration and silliness, making Peter’s webs organic and turning Green Goblin into a scenery-chewing, whisker-twirling villain, with a suitably unbalanced performance from Willem Dafoe, whose diet comprised every bit. of landscape. to chew. However, Raimi never took his characters for granted; where others saw ridicule, Raimi saw beauty and awe, a chance to inspire and dazzle.

What so many other comic book movies that followed failed to realize is that the genre’s natural absurdity doesn’t make it automatically disposable. Raimi provided his characters with clear, deeply human struggles and clever comedy that complemented them rather than insulted them. Future comic book projects abandoned these crucial elements in favor of cheap action and humor settings. But a comic book movie — and any action movie, for that matter — is about more than just explosions and chase sequences, and no director understands that better than Raimi.

Indeed, Raimi’s best movies are a perfect combination of genres and themes, creating a sense of order that never quite disrupts the chaos. Spider Man and especially, Spiderman 2 constantly juggle action and humor while adding elements of coming of age, romance, and even horror. The result is a film duo that never stops, moving from genre to genre with ease and comfort; it may not be seamless, but it’s still entertaining.

Doctor Strange in Raimi’s Multiverse

Doctor Strange stands sideways in pain in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Spiderman 3 ended Raimi’s trilogy in a bitter but satisfying enough way. Talk of a possible fourth entry has lingered for years, even as Andrew Garfield’s rebooted series came and went and the web crawler joined the massive beast that is the MCU, played this time by Tom Holland. Raimi himself has moved on, returning to horror with the underrated drag me to hell and explore the fantasy genre with the shameless cash grab that has been Oz the Great and Mighty. Fans seemed happy with Holland and the MCU’s take on Spider-Man, and it looked like Raimi was effectively done with the comic book genre. And then, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness come.

When Marvel announced that Raimi would be reprising the Doctor Strange sequel, fans went into a frenzy. The director who effectively started the modern wave of superhero craze was finally joining the franchise that, in many ways, grew directly out of his original Spider-Man trilogy. Plus, with its mystical and somewhat macabre vibes, Doctor Strange was the perfect opportunity for Raimi to flex his horror-loving muscles.

And flex he did. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is chaos of the highest order. Far more sinister than anything the MCU has ever done – or will likely do – Multiverse of Madness has all the qualities of a Sam Raimi film without ever becoming one. However, mainly thanks to the MCU’s factory-produced films, Multiverse of MadnessThe Raimi-isms are obvious. The elements of body horror and gore, so typical of other Raimi films, are barely present in Multiverse of Madness, but become shining stars considering how vanilla the rest of the MCU is. It’s clear that Raimi didn’t have complete creative freedom from Marvel’s massive world-building machine, but he was given just enough freedom to imbue the film with his brand of horror. Plus, Raimi’s love of the genre runs through every frame, adding welcome artistry and appreciation to a franchise that has long been looked down upon for representing the bastardy of the film industry.

A legacy for the ages

Sam Raimi with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst during his time on Spider-Man.

Raimi’s cinematic legacy was cemented even before the Spider-Man trilogy. As one of horror’s most celebrated authors and a highly experimental director, Raimi is revered by critics and filmmakers alike. However, his influence on the comic book genre is even more impressive. Along with directors like Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, and Richard Donner, Raimi redefined what a comic book movie could be. It provided a clear and refreshing lens to the genre, proving that a superhero property could carry as much thematic weight as any other film. Raimi humanized a genre that had been inaccessible and unfocused for so long, validating it in the eyes of its harshest critics.

Without Raimi, the legitimization of the comic book genre would have fallen squarely on Nolan’s cynical shoulders. But Nolan’s dark, hyper-realistic approach doesn’t work for all superheroes, nor should it. Raimi proved that the exaggeration of the comic book genre had value; that’s what sets it apart from other films. Raimi’s heroes laugh at each other, and we laugh with them. However, we also suffer with them, mourn, root and celebrate because we care. This is the key to Raimi’s success. He cares about the suit as much as the man wearing it. Raimi’s superpower is empathy for his creations, heroes and monsters. In Raimi’s eyes, everyone is a bit of both, even Spider-Man. The comic book genre would be much better if everyone felt the same way.

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