geeky student Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically engineered
spider, he gains superhuman strength and the ability to climb
up walls. But, as his beloved Uncle Ben tells him, "With great
power comes great responsibility..."
is always the case when a major comic-book franchise is brought
to the screen, some changes have been made so that the characters
and situations are better suited to their new medium. Most
notably, the villainous Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) wears
a green protective mask instead of actually having green skin.
Evidently it was also decided that having the Goblin hurling
pumpkin-shaped bombs at his enemies, as he does in the comics,
would have looked too silly for a live-action movie, so his
deadly devices are simply spherical. As for Spidey himself
(Tobey Maguire), instead of shooting his webs from gadgets
worn on his wrists, the superhero develops the ability to
spin the substance out of his own skin. And, of course, genetic
engineering has replaced radioactivity as the sci-fi weapon
of choice for creating mutated superheroes.
has been no pointless tinkering with the mythology, however,
and the essence of Spidey's origin is maintained. The production
team have also managed to cram in a lot of supporting characters
from the comic-book series, including Peter Parker's guardians
Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson),
the girl next door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), Peter's
roommate Harry Osborn (James Franco) - who also happens to
be the son of wealthy scientist Norman Osborn, alias the Green
Goblin - and newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons).
It is a credit to the writers and director Sam Raimi that
the movie does justice to each member of this ensemble. The
narrative in which they exist is a coherent one, in which
events and relationships unfold as convincingly as possible
given the fantastical premise.
also helps enormously that the casting is damn near perfect.
In particular, Tobey Maguire is the epitome of the shy, sensitive
teenager who has greatness thrust upon him. Spidey was always
the most angst-ridden of Marvel's pantheon of heroes, and
Maguire really brings out this aspect of the character, without
ever letting Peter's geekiness turn the audience off. Willem
Dafoe is also excellent in his own dual role. The Osborn half
of his split personality remains sympathetic to the end, even
while his Green Goblin id commits ever more heinous acts of
carnage and destruction. There's a particularly effective
sequence in which Dafoe converses with himself in a mirror.
And J.K. Simmons looks and sounds perfect as the cantankerously
brisk J. Jonah Jameson.
being a Sam Raimi film, we expect a rich seam of wit in addition
to the eye-popping action (of which there is, it almost goes
without saying, plenty). Spider-Man does not disappoint
with regard to humour. Take, for example, the scene in which
Peter attempts to master his web-slinging technique whilst
trying out a variety of lame catch phrases. Or how about Aunt
May's line, when she tells Peter that he is trying to do too
much: "You're not Superman!" We also hear a busker singing
a few lines from the familiar theme song to the 1960s' animated
Spider-Man TV series!
Danny Elfman providing the incidental music to this film,
comparisons with his score to Tim Burton's Batman are
inevitable. However, once you get past the opening credits,
the music frees itself of any association with the Caped Crusader
and is surprisingly unobtrusive throughout much of the movie.
is the biggest comic-based movie event since the aforementioned
Batman - bigger even than the X-Men movies.
released at a bargain £5.99, there is no excuse for
not swinging by your local video store and buying a copy.
To tempt you even more, there is also a 25 minute bonus feature
included on the tape.
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