SpiderMan Review

by Bob Bloom (bobbloom AT iquest DOT net)
May 3rd, 2002

SPIDER-MAN (2002) 3 stars out of 4. Starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. Music by Danny Elfman. Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Screenplay by David Koepp. Directed by Sam Raimi. Approx. 125 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Spider-Man spins a fanciful web of action, angst and humor. This long-awaited screen adaptation of the Marvel super hero does not disappoint.

It careens along at a pace that crams in all the important components of the Spider-Man mythos.

The question on the minds of most fans of the comic hero deals with the performance of Tobey Maguire, whose transformation from the nerdy Peter Parker to the amazing human arachnid is the foundation on which the film rests.
Maguire's acts admirably. As Parker he might seem a bit too laid back, too introspective, but after donning Spidey's red suit he exudes more flash and panache.

The film follows Spider-Man's origin quite faithfully. Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider and soon discovers he has unusual powers, including great strength and agility as well as a keen "spider sense." He also can shoot webbing from his wrists.

At first he plans to use these powers for his own selfish means, but after a tragedy claims his beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), he sees the light and becomes a fearsome crimefighter.

As in the comics, he most dangerous adversary is the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), who also is a genetically altered individual, only his mind was affected by his metamorphosis.

In their civilian guises as Peter Parker and Norman Osborn, the two come close to a father-son relationship, which wounds young Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter's best friend.

Meanwhile Harry's girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), is falling in love with Spider-Man, who, as Peter, has had a crush on her since they were in grade school.

Stan Lee's creation upped the ante on comic book characters, making them more complex and three-dimensional than those who inhabited Metropolis and Gotham City.

Spider-Man is a special effects feast for the eyes, but after a while the computer-generated imaging of Spidey slinging his way through the city and the Goblin zooming around tend to have a sameness about them.

That also applies to the fights between the adversaries. They never rise to the spectacular.

Dafoe offers a dynamic characterization as a man torn between his good and evil selves. His villain is one you can pity more than hate.

Dunst is beautiful as MJ, but spends most of her time being rescued by Spidey.

Franco offers touching support as the friend who sees his father's affection and attention lavished upon others.

Spider-Man, written by David Koepp and directed by Sam Raimi, is loads of fun, but it lacks a feeling of originality. That may be because of the score by Danny Elfman, which is very reminiscent of his music from the first Batman movie.
But these miscues should not stop you from enjoying one whale of a slam-bang cinematic ride.

Spider-Man goes deeper than most comic adaptations and should be applauded for its integrity as well as its entertainment value.

Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, IN. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or at [email protected] Other reviews by Bloom can be found at www.jconline.com by clicking on golafayette. Bloom's reviews also can be found at the Internet Movie Database:

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