|Star:||Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kristen Dunst|
|Cert / Year:||12 - PG13 / 2002|
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a high school student who is bitten by a genetically engineered spider while on a school trip. This bite has unexpected side effects and slowly he has to come to terms with the fact that he now has fantastic strength, the ability to climb buildings, leap huge distances, anticipate danger and shoot strands of spider web. Will this help him get the Mary Jane Watson (Kristen Dunst) the girl he has fancied every since school? Maybe not but it may just about help him save the city from the wildly insane military experiment gone wrong that is the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe).
For many years Marvel comics were the poor relation when it came to film conversions trailing behind DC's Superman and Batman. With X-Men this all changed. At last it would appear that they had hit upon the correct formula. Has this run of form continued with Spiderman, or are we back in the camp old days of the television series? Thankfully we are not. This film is as good as if not better than X-Men. Close even to the fantastic cartoon series.
Ok so lets get this straight I am not a comic fan so I have no idea how close the original concept this is. Nor do I have a clue how this relates to the Spiderman story's continuity. But this is a film review so hopefully none of this matters. To those die hard fans I can only suggest that you give this a go then mutter about what faults you discover in the Internet chat rooms. As far as this reviewer is concerned this definitely is Spiderman, and all the elements I recognise are there right from the spider bite to Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle. It is Spiderman (or at least the birth of Spiderman) and it is great fun.
A lot of credit for this has to go to Tobey Maguire who fits the role of Peter Parker brilliantly. Unlike Christopher Reeves who always looked like Superman he really does change depending on which role he is playing. This is a fine performance that carries most of the movie. Of course you need a bad guy and Willem Dafoe is an experienced actor that is well up for the task. He certainly spent time building up his body for the role, and he schizophrenic performance is superb. Other plaudits must go the Rosemary Harris who plays Aunt May and the excellent J.K. Simmons who play J. Jonah Jameson (he gets all the big laughs). On the other hand Kristen Dunst is mealy adequate, although this is more to do with a lousy part than a lack of skill.
Helming the show is Sam Raimi, and while this is not his best work (the bigger the budget the less of the traditional Raimi skill we see. Mores the pity) it is still top quality stuff. However compare this to Darkman and you will see maybe a better if lower budget comic conversion by the same man. The action scenes are especially outstanding. He manages to gloss of the problem of obvious CGI by giving the scenes a comic book feel, and the overall effect is very cool. Yes this is a big effects movie and they are excellent thanks to the work of veteran effects supervisor John Dykstra. Add to this the rarest of things in a modern film, a story and this begin to come together. However this turns out to be both a blessing and a problem.
Yes in places the story does get bogged down in sentimental slush. Better editing would have shortened some of these love scenes and got on with the action. These sections do rather unsettle the pace and add some embarrassing and unnecessary dialogue. Still they never manage to sink the boat, so not all is lost (I would like to see a shorter directors cut). The only other fault is that this film is obviously the first film in a expected franchise. Therefore more time is spent building the back story than in the main battle between Spiderman and the Green Goblin. This also means that the ending is left wide open for a sequel.
This is a good film, lots of excitement and spectacle, good acting, effects, and fine direction. The action is top draw but the in between scenes do let it down a little. I would recommend watching it if only because it will surely lead to a bigger and better sequel. Raimi fans will be interested to spot the Raimi regulars (Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and the Oldsmobile car), and comic fans should not be offended. This year has been better than last in so far as the summer blockbusters have lived up to the name. Watch out Batman there is a new super hero in town and he has certainly opened with a winner.