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Spider-Man

Reviewed by Alex Strickland

Spider-Man, Spider-Man; does whatever a spider can. And apparently what spiders do is star in totally kick-ass movies.

Unlike my friend Mitch, who was in as much of a fervor about the Spider-Man movie as I was about The Fellowship Of The Ring, I didn’t have any expectations going into the theater. I had seen a few things about the movie on Harry Knowles’ Aint-It-Cool-News, but I hadn’t really followed any of it. I’m not a comic-book fan by trade; I’m only vaguely familiar with the main heroes (Superman, Batman, etc.), and that was back when I was 10.

But, one thing I am is a Sam Raimi fan. The Evil Dead movies are some of my favorites of all time, so when I heard Raimi’s name attached to the project, I got more interested. So, knowing little about Spider-Man, I just went into the theater hoping for a good Sam Raimi flick. However, shortly into the film, I was thinking to myself: “Now why the hell wasn’t I more interested in this from the beginning? This ROCKS!”

I guess one of the main reasons I love this movie so much is that I can completely associate with Peter Parker, pre-Spider-Man days. He’s a geek, people are jerks to him, he’s hopelessly in love with this beautiful girl. . .hell, I am Peter Parker. I connected more with this movie, this hero, than I did with any other comic-book character. I suppose most everyone can sort of associate with X-Men, with the feelings of being an outcast or not wanted by society. Most people feel that way sometimes. But I can’t connect with Superman or Batman. I’m not an alien who’s body is strengthened by the Earth’s yellow Sun, and I’m not an orphaned millionaire vigilante who’s parents were murdered. I mean, I like Superman and Batman, but for me they lack the real world connection that Spider-Man and the recent X-Men movie have brought to comic book adaptations.

So when Peter gets bitten by the genetically-engineered spider (one of several deviations from the comic book source), and suddenly gains all these fantastic abilities, I could accept it more readily because I wanted to accept it. I would love to be able to crawl on walls, web-sling around cities, and have superhuman strength, but I can’t. But, I could sympathize with Peter so much that it was almost as cool as being able to do it myself. It’s a really hopeful thing, I think. Spider-Man lets you vicariously experience all these amazing thrills, which makes it much more enjoyable than the standard comic book fare.

The film is just a great piece of work from everyone involved. Tobey Maguire does a great job as Peter Parker, and the transformation from gawky teen to superhero is believable. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane is also a great bit of casting; she not only pulls off the part amazingly, she’s also quite nice to look at (note: the author has just made an understatement). Willem Dafoe is appropriately evil and sinister when he needs to be, but also remarkably human at times. Yes, he’s the bad guy, but you can sort of sympathize with him. I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that the board members of OsCorp, who kicked him out of his own company, got what they deserved.

The film isn’t perfect, though. Sometimes the Green Goblin looks more cheesy than frightening, but overall, I can’t think of too many flaws, and none of them detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. Rarely, the effects can be slightly fake looking, but the webslinging is really an amazing sight. I guess your appreciation for the movie will probably come from how much you can associate with it. I associated and empathized with Peter, pre-Spider-Man days, so I was very much enthralled with the film.

Some die-hard fans might be angered at some of the deviations from the film’s comic book roots. Now, I can sort of dig that if they had left Gwen Stacy in, it could have had an ending with more emotional impact. Keep Mary-Jane, but have Gwen Stacy on the bridge, and have Spider-Man fail to save her. That lends even more credence to the ending. The only other change that comes to mind is the webshooters. In the comics, Peter made them; in the movie, they’re organic. I agree with Raimi’s change 100%. A high school student creating an adhesive in his spare time that no chemical company has yet created stretches the realm of credibility just a bit. So having the shooters be organic, and come as part of the spider-powers package deal, it makes complete sense.

So as it stands, flaws and all, Spider-Man is by far my favorite “super-hero/comic-book” movie in existence. It’s definitely one I’ll be adding to my DVD collection as soon as it comes out. Oh, and as an aside, I also loved the cameo by Bruce Campbell (from Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead Trilogy’) as the wrestling announcer! But that’s all. No more review for you. I’m done here.

Go, web. Go.

 

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Director
Sam Raimi

Screenplay
David Koepp

Released
May 3, 2002

Cast
Tobey Maquire
Kirsten Dunst
James Franco
Willem Defoe
J. K. Simmons
Cliff Robertson
Rosemary Harris

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray (but only in a combo pack with the other two films in Raimi's trilogy)