Superhero Month: "Spider-Man" Review
on 2013-06-06 15:00
Superhero Month: "Spider-Man" Review
-- Rating: PG-13 (violence and action)
Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: May 3, 2002
Directed by: Sam Raimi
From toddlers who adore the friendly neighborhood superhero to older fans who remember the first comics, Spider-Man doesn't lack for a fan base. It's no wonder the last decade has seen a successful trilogy of movies followed by an almost-immediate reboot framed as "The Amazing Spider-Man." The web-slinging big-screen fun began in 2002 with Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man."
"Spider-Man" stars Tobey Maguire, a then mid-twenties actor known for dramatic performances in art-house films like "The Cider House Rules" and "Pleasantville." Maguire, who normally played soft-spoken protagonists, was considered a dark-horse choice by many fans. Sure, the young actor might be able to pull off a decent Peter Parker, but could he muscle up to do the web-slinging hero justice? Maguire surprised fans by turning in a thoughtful, fun performance on both counts; his Peter Parker supplied the heart behind the "Spider-Man" origin story, while his crooked grin and wit delivered entertainment in the heat of on-screen battle.
Maguire was joined by a strong cast; iconic actor Willem Dafoe delivers a haunting performance as both Norman Osborne and the Green Goblin. James Franco was the perfect choice to play Osborne's son, Harry, and Kirsten Dunst is both sweet and peppy as the adorable Mary Jane Watson. Other notable cast members include Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, and Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben.
Raimi starts at the beginning with "Spider-Man." Peter, Harry, and Mary Jane are high school students. While viewers see a bit of the awkward Peter Parker in the first few scenes, Raimi doesn't go as far with this concept as director Marc Webb does in 2012's reboot, "The Amazing Spider-Man." In "Spider-Man," the action picks up quickly after Peter's class takes a field trip to the science museum and he's bitten by a spider.
Within a few scenes, Peter discovers his new spider-style talents and embarks on a plan to win a local wrestling match so he can use the prize money to buy a car. Peter wins the match, but the manager refuses to payout the promised award money. When the money is stolen, Peter reciprocates by refusing to do anything to stop the robber; a few minutes later, Peter learns the robber has killed Uncle Ben and the real Spider-Man is born.
After the origin-story sequence, "Spider-Man" takes on the traditional superhero formula. A villain plots unspeakable evil, the hero is put under great stress, the hero tries to foil the villain and makes everything worse, buildings are knocked over, and several great fight scenes are played out. What brings that formula to life in "Spider-Man" and keeps audiences interested is the growing tension between Peter and his friends as well as the complex emotions of Norman Osborne. Defoe does a tremendous job of bringing depth to the Green Goblin; often, it's the depth of the villain that's missing from Spider-Man movies or stories.
Defoe isn't the only one working for the film, though. Dunst and Franco are great in secondary roles, bringing extra life to Maguire's Peter Parker. Viewers will really care about the friendships, which makes it more heartbreaking when Peter makes decisions for the greater good that ultimately get in the way of his relationships with Mary Jane and Harry.
On top of the great acting and a well-written story, "Spider-Man" piles a ton of action and awesome effects. Maguire goes swinging through the cityscape, and viewers are taken along for the ride. The effects guys did a bang-up job on "Spider-Man" since even viewing in HD doesn't diminish the realistic style of the action scenes. Fights between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man are especially epic and feature plenty of crashes amid the ongoing banter the web-slinging hero is known for.
Though "Spider-Man" is rated PG-13 for stylistic violence, many parents have allowed younger children to watch. Not much of the film involves mature themes like sex or drugs, and younger viewers will get a kick out of Spidey's adventures. A few moments occur involving the personality of the Green Goblin that could be considered scary, so parents will need to make their own choice as to whether this movie is appropriate for family night.
"Spider-Man" is possibly the best of all three movies in the series. Raimi does a great job with the origin story, Maguire turns in a believable performance as a Peter Parker who's struggling to do the right thing, and Defoe is epic in the role of the villain. "Spider-Man" is a must-see, and possibly a must-own, flick for any true fan.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5