It's the story of high school senior Peter Parker (Maguire), a nerd who's bitten by a genetically engineered spider and develops super spider powers, then comes to realise that, ahem, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." He is of course obsessed with the cute redhead next door (Dunst) and frustrated with his dubious best friend (Franco), who's also in love with her and whose father (Dafoe) is starting to act rather strangely. Then just when Pete's getting the hang of all this saving the city stuff, a villain called Green Goblin appears to challenge him.
Raimi and Koepp cleverly blend elements of at least three major superheroes--Superman's crimestopping, Batman's human side (and complex/tortured nemeses), and the Hulk's dual personality. The result is a lively and exciting action movie with rather decent characters for a change--interesting people we enjoy getting to know, flaws and all, as they grow and change, and not always for the good.
OK, so the story's darker aspects are glossed over a bit. This is after all an adventure film, and the astonishing action sequences are huge fun to watch. There's never any doubt that this is a CGI affair (we can see all the joins), and the script's few attempts at romance are so outrageously clunky that it's painful to watch the terrific Maguire and Dunst try valiantly to get the dialog out of their sincere mouths.
But there is so much to enjoy about this film that we can cope with these hiccups. It's a big, colourful, surprising and often very funny movie, brilliantly structured to keep us gasping and cheering as Spidey swings down Manhattan's streets. A franchise is born.
dir Sam Raimi|
scr David Koepp
with Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, JK Simmons, Joe Manganiello, Gerry Becker, Bill Nunn, Jack Betts, Macy Gray
release US 3.May.02; UK 4.Jun.02
Columbia 02/US 2h01
Spider-skills. Maguire and Dunst
Sean Patrick Smith, Clearfield PA: "With its inspired casting, slam-bang action and, frankly, slow first hour, Spider-Man reminds me of 1978's Superman. So many parallels can be drawn (especially in character development, romantic story line, and style similarities between directors Sam Raimi and Superman's Richard Donner) that I will leave it to you to pick up on them all. And like Superman, Spider-Man is terrific! Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as the reluctant hero and Kirsten Dunst is just pretty enough to be the cute girl next door (she has not-so-white teeth though). Great start to the summer movie season!" (4.May.02)
Kathy Mulcahey, Los Angeles: "I can't even remember the last time there was a line to get into a movie. We had some fun line-mates, though, so the time passed very quickly. Plus, we enjoyed the movie! I agree with you that it is engaging. And Tobey Maguire fits the bill much better than Christopher Reeve of a truly unlikely superhero (they never could totally hide the Superman underneath his clothes). And Willem Dafoe was spooky - what a great job! I particularly appreciated the fact that the CGI (especially flying through the city) really kept the feel of the comic strip. I think this is the first of the summer blockbusters." (5.May.02)
Ryan Motteshead, Los Angeles: "How do you spend $120m on a movie and have it turn out looking like an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? How do you spend $120m and have the special effects look like a PlayStation game? How do you spend a $120m on a movie whose only purpose it to set up a sequel?" (7.May.02)
Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Saw this one last week - and all I can say, after all that has been said, is go see it - and I am awaiting the sequel. It really was an enjoyable film." (12.Apr.02)
James Dickson, net: "This is a one of the most brilliant films I have seen. Sam Raimi was the best possible choice for director he has stayed true to the comics and has brought everyone's favourite web spinner to the silver screen perfectly. Maguire was very well cast, pulling off the frequently troubled Peter Parker and his heroic alter ego outstandingly well. Next Willem Dafoe -- for a man who doesn't do many big budget movies he fitted in very well, as I'm sure most will agree his scene in the mirror was clever, spooky and ingenius. So how about the smaller people, like J.K. Simmons -- casting director we praise you for putting Simmons in this role. Every scene this man was in was amusing and showed just how grouchy that buzz-cut bloke can be. Well all in all this was a great film, the highlight of my year, I only have one bad thing to say, where were Spidey's traditional one liners! This is a problem I hope they sort out for the next film." (8.Oct.03)
Max, USA: "I like this film." (3.Nov.03)