Spider Man

Stars:    Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson
Director:   Sam Raimi
Writer:   David Koepp – based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee

If you are now or ever were a fan of Marvel Comic’s Spider-Man series, then it’s doubtful you’ll be disappointed in this eye-popping film version of the sticky superhero, who, through terrific digital effects swings and springs through New York City high-rises in the ultimate of bungee jumping display.

Tobey Maguire is well cast as a nerdy science wiz of a high-school student named Peter Parker who’s ridiculed by most everyone at school, excluding best friend Harry (James Franco) and his pretty next door neighbor Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst).

One day on a school field trip to a research lab, Peter is accidentally bitten by a genetically altered spider. He’s transformed into a buff and incredibly agile human spider who can finally take on the school bullies while getting the gumption to converse with Mary Jane.

The great fun is watching Peter explore and test his newfound powers of scaling walls, sticking to ceilings and uniquely spinning his web that allows his to vault buildings and fly through the caverns of well-traveled streets.

Peter’s an orphan who lives with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). He toils daily with the complexities of being a teenager. His newfound abilities add to the confusion but uncle Ben tallies it all up to “raging hormones”. Still, it’s his uncle who unwittingly clues him in to the most important lesson he will learn after this mysterious transformation that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Those are the words he needs to guide his direction in life, as if there were ever any doubt that Spider-Man was born to do good and fight for justice. Yet a bigger lesson awaits Peter, that with great responsibility comes great sacrifice.

As this superhero tale unfolds, we find Harry’s rich father, Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe), a nanotechnology specialist on the brink of securing a major weapons contract for the Pentagon by designing super soldiers. All he needs is successful human testing. Despite warnings that test animals where all changed into aggressive psychotics, Osborne decides to use the performance-enhancing drugs on himself. As you might already have guessed, it goes badly and now there’s a fabulously rich and super powerful lunatic on the loose. Osborne becomes Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Green Goblin, bent on evil and the destruction of all that Spider-Man holds dear.

Surprisingly, the budding romance between Peter and Mary Jane is of the sweetest nature and both actors have delightful chemistry together. However, despite a modern day setting, the film churns into anachronistic form by introducing a cigar- chomping newspaper editor (J.K. Simmons) at “The Daily Bugle” that is a rip off of the Perry White character from Superman. Every moment he’s on the screen we’re reminded, unnecessarily, that this is a comic book. Otherwise, for all the leaping and flying, not to mention that great costume Peter has, Spider-Man, the movie, comes across as the real thing … well almost. There’s an unforgivable plot hole early on. It involves Peter’s first public appearance unveiling his superpowers. He engages in a wrestling match to win money and wears a ridiculous homemade “spiderman” outfit. It’s here that the announcer dubs him “Spider-Man” and afterwards, during the payoff, the promoter sees Peter’s face. You wonder why no one comes forward when the professional superhero hits the streets. It may not be forgiveable but you can at least forget about it and enjoy the show.

Lotta says: Summer’s here; so’s the fun. Spider-Man makes the grade!

Reviewed 5/3/02