Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Ending Of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Explained

Back in 2002, long before the days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony brought Spider-Man to the big screen with The Evil Dead's Sam Raimi at the helm and Tobey Maguire starring as the iconic Web-Slinger. Maguire's boyish looks and perfectly awkward performance brought Peter Parker to life in a way which hadn't been achieved in previous live-action versions of the character on TV in the 1970s. Spider-Man balanced a fine line between honoring the sillier aspects of the source material while also placing him firmly in the early 2000s.

All of the dorky hero's abilities were bestowed upon him by that oh-so-fateful bite by a genetically altered arachnid on a school field trip. But Spider-Man did away with the classic Web-Shooters built by Peter in the comics, instead making his web-fluid an organic material he shot out of his wrists... It's a decision that sparked off plenty of puberty jokes, that's for sure.

But the thing the film absolutely nailed was the emotional delivery of that immortal mantra, "With great power, comes great responsibility," from Cliff Robertson's Uncle Ben. And as every comic reader already knows, Pete was unknowingly brushing him off for the last time when he slunk off to go fight in a wrestling match. But Ben's death spurred him on to become a sensational, spectacular, and downright amazing superhero protecting New York. Good job, too, since Willem Dafoe's gleefully sinister Norman Osborn had just taken his first steps to becoming the Green Goblin by testing his own experimental supersoldier formula on himself. That was just asking for trouble, Normie.

Spider-Man and Green Goblin are two sides of the same coin, apparently

The formula pushes Norman's sanity to breaking point, birthing an entirely separate identity for when the Green Goblin takes over. And instead of giving the villain a set of tights and a purple tunic, Sony and Sam Raimi stuck Willem Dafoe in an Oscorp-built combat suit (complete with a weaponized glider) to bring Spidey's archnemesis to life in a believable way. And after a brief skirmish at the World Unity Fair, the Goblin and the Spider became obsessed with each other. 

Thanks to Spidey's impressive abilities, Norman wondered what the two of them could achieve in a costumed partnership. And after Goblin attacked the Daily Bugle in search of Spider-Man, the two had a not-so-friendly chat on a rooftop — with Osborn throwing out a typical speech from the supervillain playbook: "You and I are not so different..." Ah, that old trick. These bad guys need some new material.

Norman was still interested in a Goblin/Spidey team-up, even luring the hero into a burning building to see if he was still interested. Take a hint, Gobby. Their battle didn't last too long, but those razor blade Pumpkin bombs definitely left their mark on the itsy bitsy spider — and allowed the villain to quickly realize who Peter really was after recognizing the bloody cut on his forearm at a painfully awkward Thanksgiving dinner.

Their fight got even more personal when Norman took aim at Aunt May — hospitalizing her in an attack on her home in Queens. You can punch Peter in the face all you like, but leave Aunt May alone! She's a sweetheart. The Goblin sealed his fate there and then, really.

Can Spider-Man come out to play?

To make matters worse, the villain had captured Mary Jane, dangling her over the Queensboro bridge. Ah, damsels in distress — such a tired cliché. It's a typical superhero setup, but at least the emotional stakes are there. The scene clearly riffs on a classic tragic scene in the comics where Goblin hurled Gwen Stacy off the top of a bridge to her death, something which would later get remixed even further in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But we digress!

In typical villain fashion, Green Goblin forces Pete to pick between saving MJ or catching the Roosevelt Island car full of kids from falling to their doom. Naturally, Spidey manages to multitask and do both. But when their battle crashes into the ruins of Roosevelt Island, Norman tries to appeal to Peter's emotional side — begging to help him with the Goblin's alternate personality, which has taken over. Clearly, they've become one and the same — with Mr. Osborn loving the freedom that the green flight suit gave him.

Ultimately, Norman winds up killing himself with his own glider because Peter dodges out of the way. Thanks, Spidey-Sense. But as usual, the Wall-Crawler takes the blame for the unfortunate death as Harry Osborn believes Spider-Man killed his father after walking in on the hero returning the body (without the Goblin suit) to his home. And so, Sam Raimi seeds Harry's own eventual villainous arc for later down the line, when Osborn Jr. dons a Green Goblin suit of his own in Spider-Man 3.