Rated: PG-13 :: Released: 03 May 2002
Director: Sam Raimi :: Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco
By Doran Murphy
Their appetites whetted, Marvel fans and the average public awaited the next comic book film. That film, of course, was Spider-Man. Being the top Marvel franchises, everyone had already heard of the character. He's among Marvel's oldest, and the most famous single character Marvel has ever produced. This is, in part, due to the fact that Spider-Man has been exposed (now) to three separate generations of people. First off, there was the comic generation, and those that watched the 1967 cartoon. Then Spidey reappeared in 1992 in his own redone cartoon. Most recently, he had a new cartoon on MTV. No matter which way you slice it, Spider-Man is up there with Batman, Superman and the X-Men as the most famous comic book characters of all time.
Much like Uncle Ben's catchphrase ("With great power comes great responsibility."), with great exposure come great expectations. Obviously X-Men had reaffirmed people's beliefs in comic movies after the disasters that were the third and fourth films in both the Superman Batman franchises, seeing as Spider-Man opened to an absolutely obscene amount of money. Avi Arad and Stan Lee (Marvel Comic executives) could now make a giant swimming pool of money. However, the reason Spider-Man was a runaway hit like few others is not just due to the massive exposure. The fact the movie was genuinely great also played a big part in that.
The villain for this movie is the Green Goblin, which is probably the best way to introduce people to Spider-Man. He's not the best villain, but he is one of the most popular and widely known. He's a downright bad guy and not as sympathetic as some of Spider-Man's other villains, especially towards the end of the movie. He brings his fate upon himself; and selfishly so, yet he still retains some sympathy, if mainly for his role as a father figure.
Spider-Man was the quintessential summer blockbuster. Superpowered fight scenes, characters we care about, solid love story, and, most importantly, explosions. Alright, so the last one isn't really the most important, but the explosion quota is met. Anyway, even if it wasn't a Spider-Man film, it would have been really good. Since it is a Spider-Man film, it's awesome. There's just something about seeing your favorite characters brought to the screen correctly that makes a good movie great and an ok movie terrible.
As a comic film, they seem to capture the essence of Spider-Man fairly well. They have the inner turmoil of Peter Parker as he balances a love life, friendships and family, a job, school, and being a costumed vigilante. They also depict the Harry/Mary Jane/Peter love triangle really well, with a couple twists thrown in for good measure. What really impressed me was Green Goblin's madness. In the beginning, the Green Goblin and Norman are two separate entities. Norman is able to converse with the Green Goblin a la Gollum. However, as soon as he discovers Parker's dual identity and who he cares for most in the world, Green Goblin and Norman fuse. He becomes a true villain, and is able to call on either personality as he needs them.
However, one thing that drove me nuts was the CG on Green Goblin, as well as the general crazy overuse of CGI technology. There's a CG'ed scene where all Spider-Man does is turn his head. Would it have been so hard for Tobey Maguire to turn his head? Or one of the most laughable bomb scenes ever, when Goblin throws a bomb into a crowd and the people turn to skeletons. Green Goblin's head also struck me as goofy, especially during the "fire scene". Perhaps they got a little overambitious with the technology here, but that's my only real complaint about the film.
Spider-Man has also caught a tremendous amount of flack for being cheesy. To be honest, I agree. However, what do you honestly expect from a Spider-Man film? Mary Jane being killed? I mean, Spider-Man, by his nature, isn't dark. Oftentimes he's a cheesy character; and by making it a cheesy movie, they really adhered to the source. Plus, I think the cheesiness accusations are a little overblown; and it's certainly not Marvel's cheesiest movie to date.
As it stands, Spider-Man's single greatest flaw is that it's not Spider-Man 2. Movie fans everywhere loved it, and it spawned billions of dollars in sales when it came to Spider-Man merchandise and paraphernalia.
Spider-Man used the comics as a background for the movie, and it really shows. A story that is highly polished (with over 40 years of telling and refining it) shines through. All in all, Spider-Man grabbed the torch handed it by X Men and ran with it. It set Spider-Man 2 up nicely, characterized everyone very well, gave us a glimpse into the life of Spider-Man, and most importantly, entertained us for two hours. Spider-Man is certainly one of the better Marvel films, although it is not their best overall. A worthwhile watch, if you have somehow missed out on seeing this yet.
Comic Geek Score: 9
Movie Fan Score: 8
Averaged Score: 8.5