Orphaned Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) lives with his aunt and uncle in suburbia, next door to Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) who doesn’t notice him much. At first. When Peter is bitten by an escaped (genetically modified) spider on a high school museum tour, he begins to acquire spider-like powers and his nerdish body becomes a powertool. The novelty turns to good use when Peter discovers he can do great things with his new powers, to protect the weak and help the defenceless of New York. But he keeps his identity secret and M-J still eludes his embrace…and the evil Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) is bent on Spider-Man’s destruction.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Nice surprise: especially for those of us (half dozen souls) unfamiliar with the detail of the 40 year Spider-Man legacy in comics. Like Batman and Superman, Spider-Man is famous of course, and he’s something of an amalgam of those, with a twist. But did you know, for example, that he was just a teenager in love. Unrequited, for most of the time. In fact, he was just as concerned about his dreary love life (lack of) as he was about meting out justice to the baddies of New York. And, a bit like Batman, he is sent off on his secretive course of justice by a single, personal incident. That is after he acquires those special, super-webby spider powers. He swings like Tarzan and bites like a flee, to paraphrase Ali’s famous fightin’ motto (badly), and it’s all done with great flair as director Sam Raimi fuses live action with CGI and FX, high above NY. Oh, but what a difference a day makes. 11/9 interrupted post production and sent the filmmakers back to the drawing board, the set and the editing room, to delete the major set piece of the movie: Spider-Man capturing a baddies’ chopper between the towers of the doomed World Trade Centre. Looking at the very early trailer for Spider-Man, released before 11/9, I think the reworked version has gained immeasurably. All that shrieking, everyday robbery stuff is gone, and the focus is shifted to the characters. Well howdy doody, that’s what cinema is all about. Kirsten Dunst is the perfect girl next door (Mary-Jane is such a GND name), and Tobey Maguire is the ideal teenager-cum-hero whose sense of justice is balanced by his eagerness for love. Aaaaah. It’s still a Saturday afternoon movie, mind you, but it is a satisfying one, with a villain the size of Willem Dafoe - and the film registers ‘low’ on the two vital Hollywood downside scales of schmaltz and platidudinal two dimensionalism. (That threw ya!)
Review by Louise Keller:
It’s everything you want it to be… Spider-man is web-tastic! A comic book magically brought to life on the big screen, Spider-man is a beguiling mix of fantasy and adventure, packaged with flair, imagination and superb techno know-how. The trick of course is to please the die-hard fans as well as the novices by making sure the very essence of the super-hero remains intact. And the choice of director Sam Raimi not only puts a fan at the helm, but also brings great storytelling ability with stylish visuals and action thrills. The casting is spot on and Tobey Maguire charms absolutely with gentle innocence. Maguire’s idealistic naivety is most appealing and some of the film’s funniest moments come as he discovers his newly found powers, experimenting by creating webs and discovering how to throw them. The transformation from puny, myopic nerd to muscly, confident and clear-sighted is handled comic-book style. Spider-Man’s joyous bounding leaps from tall buildings and clearly getting off on it, is where fantasy takes hold. It’s an exhilarating trip with a resounding score by Danny Elfman and stunts that will blow you away. Willem Dafoe’s Jekyll and Hyde villain is strong, evil and complex, like the two sides of the coin. The story reinforces the adage of good versus evil, coupled with nobility of spirit, and the importance of making the right choices. After all, ‘with great power comes responsibility’. The development of the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane is beautifully handled, and there’s a delightful scene when MJ lifts Spider-Man’s mask, as he hangs upside down, and their lips meet. It is a sweet moment and the characters continue to be fresh and spontaneous. Just like the moment when Peter tells MJ what Spider-Man said about her. Peter is obviously just making it up as he goes along, and we are in on the gag. Breathtaking escapism for all ages.
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You can see the original trailer plus the new one
Andrew L. Urban REPORTS on the collision of fantasy and reality.
CAST: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco,
PRODUCER: Ian Bryce, Laura Ziskin
DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
SCRIPT: David Koepp (comic – Stan Lee, Steve Ditko)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess
EDITOR: Arthur Coburn, Bob Murawski
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Neil Spisak
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 6, 2002