So is SPIDER-MAN, by director Sam Raimi (A SIMPLE PLAN), worthy of its massive
hype? Not really, but it is a solidly entertaining popcorn flick. Starring a
well cast Tobey Maguire (PLEASANTVILLE) as Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man, and
Kirsten Dunst (CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL) as his love interest, Mary Jane Watson, the film
has major box office hit written all over it. Filled with the great special
effects that summer crowds love, the movie is a definite audience pleaser,
especially for the extremely lucrative age 12 to 22 demographics. (In case you
didn't get the memo, the studios have moved the official opening date for summer
up to the first weekend in May. No kids, school officials have not been so
For those of you, like me, who haven't ever cracked open a Spider-Man comic, the
movie shows us that superhero-to-be Peter obtains his special powers of leaping
tall buildings with a single web by getting bitten by a genetically modified
spider. The best and funniest part of the picture comes soon after the spider
noshes on Peter's hand. At first Peter, who lives with his aunt (Rosemary
Harris) and uncle (Cliff Robertson), doesn't know how to control his newfound
powers. He finds the powers helpful in fighting school bullies, but he isn't
quite sure how they work. It is during this playful period that the best laughs
occur and the film is the most fun.
Eventually Peter gets the knack of how to throw a web on command and other such
spidery skills. A tragedy causes him to dedicate his life to battling the
forces of evil in the world. After helping stop normal criminals, he finds his
match in a creature known as Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). This Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde type is known as Norman Osborn on his good days. Norman is a
billionaire defense contractor whose son, Harry, rooms with Peter. Harry is
played blandly by James Franco in the only decidedly bad casting of the movie.
Although mainly a visual treat, the movie has a few choice lines. "Work was
murder," Norman tells Peter's aunt after arriving late for her small dinner
party. Since he just torched a building, his words are dead-on.
"You're no superman, you know," Peter's aunt tells him in a bit of dialog
guaranteed to tickle any audience. Actually, she's wrong. The movie SPIDER-MAN
is pretty much just an updated SUPERMAN for our time with Maguire in the
Superman role and Dunst in the Lois Lane part. This isn't a bad thing.
SUPERMAN was quite entertaining and so is SPIDER-MAN, which is good since
Maguire and Dunst already have signed deals for two sequels.
SPIDER-MAN runs a little long at 1:51. It is rated PG-13 for "stylized violence
and action" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, liked everything about the picture, giving it a full
****. He liked the casting, the acting, the special effects and the story.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes