The first picture in the director’s web-slinger trilogy set the benchmark for modern superhero films twenty years ago, but none of its sequels have ever come close, notes Kambole Campbell.

There were already successful superhero series in motion before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was released in 2002, such as the X-Men and Blade series. But as James Hunt of the Cinematic Universe podcast points out, Raimi’s films shaped what comic-book movies are now, for all the good and bad that entails. Spider-Man benefited from Raimi’s particular visual style: It expressed nostalgia for comic books, something the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies have tried and failed to mimic, having so often submerged in computer-generated imagery (CGI) and an interchangeable house style. Its aesthetic and use of techniques like montage and superimposition are distinctively cartoonish. A dynamic collage of pictures – the silver screen’s response to comic books’ visual language – depicts Peter Parker’s initial development of the Spider-Man outfit. In essence, Raimi’s mastery of numerous genres and tones contributes to the film’s rich tapestry that when combined, should not make sense, but nevertheless do. As Hunt worded: “Raimi was the one director who really understood that Spider-Man is simultaneously a romance, a comedy, a horror, a sci-fi, and an action franchise, and he shot it like it was all of those things with a coherence we’ve not seen since.”

Plans for a fourth Spider-Man film were shelved due to studio disagreements. However, in today’s world of comic-book movies, the trilogy remains unique, evoking aspects that have since been lost.