With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Review by Ross Anthony

"This story, like any story worth telling, is about a girl," Tobey Maguire (as Peter Parker) voices over opening scenes. But "Spider-Man" (the movie) is also the story of an Spider-Manawkward teenage geek learning to become a superhero. And if that's not enough for you, it's also the story of a superhero battling a single supervillian. No small agenda for your theater-going buck.

And while the film has it's own awkward geeky moments (some of which are quite acute), simply put, this is the most exciting, thrilling feature I've seen all year.

Looking suspiciously like college seniors, Peter and friends enjoy a high school field trip during which Peter takes a spider bite from an experimental species. He wakes the next day to discover many new changes in his body. Director Sam Raimi does an excellent job of Spider-Manportraying the adolescent excitement and exploration of these new powers and Peter's reaction to them. While Peter finds new-sprung ways to use his physical body, Raimi utilizes the strength of Tobey's boyish eyes to communicate the transitions within. The film's mightiest drama spins its strongest web during this act.

Abrupt fast-forward to H.S. graduation, an unexpected ungraceful transition after which the conflict switches from man vs. himself to man vs. Green Goblin. Here, the momentum of the film wanes whenever the Titans exchange words; though undoubtedly the genesis of this production, their comic book dialogue feels a step down from the edgier aspects of the Spider-Manwhole. Fortunately, their thunderous, creative, brilliantly produced bouts leave the stronger mark. Also admirable, J.K. Simmon's splendid cartoon portrayal of J.J. Jameson provides a brief, but potent dose of spider-biting humor.

While older viewers will find the climax wanting of uniqueness (relative to today's entertainment perspective) and the resolution cheesier than moldy mozzarella, these underwhelming moments will be eclipsed by the solar brilliance of a strong first act and the absolutely, inescapably gorgeous, skyscraper-trapeze motion of the amazing Spider-Man. The camera, like some winged insect, buzzes around and in front of the red/blue man swinging from ledge to rooftop, then rocks wide as he swoops dizzyingly into the streets to save a small boy, damsel or infant from certain death. The equally dexterous score, like thick genetically restructured blood, beats behind screen, pumping yet another dimension of majesty into the experience, capping it all off as something you simply cannot miss.

"These are the years when you change into the person you are going to be for the rest of your life."

Quotes from the actors:

Maguire on preparing for the role, "I spent a lot of time on the trampoline, doing flips, and practicing kicks and punches, as well as lifting weights."

Dunst, "I've seen more action in this movie than any other project I've worked on. I've been soaked in the rain for hours; I've been hanging in mid-air in harnesses; I've had things thrown at me, all the while screaming my head off - and it's been really exciting and fun!"

Dafoe on the glider, "The trick is to look graceful_ and not to fall off the thing! It was a little scary because my feet were clamped into these braces and attached to the glider. It was all about balance. "

  • Spider-Man. Copyright © 2002. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris.
  • Directed by Sam Raimi.
  • Screenplay by David Koepp. (Music by Danny Elfman.)
  • Produced by Laura Ziskin, Ian Bryce at Marvel/Coumbia Pics.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:54:12 PDT