The 2002 Spider-Man scene that depicts Tobey Maguire catching Kirsten Dunst and her food spilled in the cafeteria did not use any CGI.
Director Sam Raimi Spider Man still stands today. Most of the 2002 film looks great, in large part due to the emphasis on practicality over the often questionable CGI of the time. For example, although the Green Goblin costume looks awkward, it has an innate charm as it is a real costume worn by actor Willem Dafoe. This contrasts with the CGI version seen in the latest trailer for Spider-Man: No Path Home. Yet among all the practical elements of Spider Man, the cafeteria scene truly stands the test of time.
Shortly after Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker is bitten by the radioactive spider, he returns to Midtown High. As a result of the spider bite, Peter begins to feel strange changes in his body. As he sits alone in the cafeteria, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) begins to walk towards him. Realizing that she isn’t heading for his table, Peter looks down until his sense of the emerging spider warns him of a potential danger: he realizes that Mary Jane is about to slip. on a spilled drink and take action. He grabs Mary Jane with one hand and then his meal tray with the other. Most impressive is that Peter then catches every element perfectly.
While this is a fun scene on its own, what makes it more impressive is that none of it is CGI: Maguire actually grabbed all the food himself, but that was no feat. simple. Special effects artist John Dykstra noted in the film’s DVD commentary, “That next gag here, where he grabs it all, he did. Pretty good. Take 156.”
To describe it as “pretty good” seems like a gross understatement. Not only did the cast and crew have to make do with filming a scene 156 times, the footage took a 16-hour day. That’s a lot of commitment for a scene that lasts less than a minute, not to mention a shot that was completed in 10 seconds, but it shows the dedication everyone had to the practical effects of the film.
Later in the commentary, Dunst confirmed the practicality, stating, “Pretty impressive. They used sticky glue to stick his hand on the tray.” So, with a tray stuck to his hand, Maguire had to catch the food that was flying in the air perfectly.
While this scene could have been easily created using CGI, or even cut, everyone was committed to making the movie look authentic. Another good reason to revisit the years 2002 Spider Man, and appreciate Raimi’s dedication to practical effects and wall-crawling.
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