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Review and Media by Stu

Original Release Date:May 3rd 2003

On a school trip, during which Peter and his classmates are given a science demonstration on spiders, a genetically altered spider bites Peter. Soon after, he discovers that he has unusual powers: he is endowed with the strength and agility of a spider along with a keen, ESP-like "spider-sense." After shamelessly attempting to cash in on his newfound powers, Peter refuses to stop a thief. The thief later car jacked his Uncle, and murdered him. Learning that with great power comes great responsibility, Peter began fighting crime as Spider-Man. With the threat of losing his company taking its toll, millionaire industrialist Norman Osborne undertakes an un-tested human enhancement drug. The drug drives Norman insane, and creates a duel identity dubbed The Green Goblin.

Screenplay By: David Koep
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Music By: Danny Elfman
Starring: Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, Cliff Robertson as Robbie Robertson, Randy Poffo as ‘Bonesaw’ McGraw, Bill Nunn as Robbie Robertson

Review: In the summer of 2002, Columbia released Spider-Man. Directed by Sam Raimi the film went on to become one of the most profitable and popular films of all time.

It’s quite simple to see why. After a string of comic book films which ranged from good, like Superman: The Movie, mediocre, like Batman and downright terrible, like Steel, Spider-Man was a welcome change from both comic book films and action movies in general, and has since become the film most are frequently compared to.

The film tells the story of teenager Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive Spider, and gain the proportional strength of a spider. Portrayed by Tobey Maguire (The Cider House Rules) the plot revolves around him learning that with great power comes great responsibility, and fighting crime as Spider-Man.

The leading female, Mary Jane is slightly changed from her comic book alter ego, and is now the girl next door with whom our hero is madly in love with. In a rare twist for an action film, the villain doesn’t feel the same, but his son; Harry Osborne (James Franco) does, which created an interesting triangle between the three of them. Whilst it's true that Franco is a little wooden in the role, and Dunst is a little off here and there, they were treated to better development than most supporting characters. The character interaction was one of the best parts of the film. There was superb chemistry between all the characters. Sure, there was the occasional cheesy line, as with all films, and some of them are great (“BONNEEESSAAWWW IS RRRREEEAAADDDYYYY!”) It’s no secret that the script is not the films greatest asset. A fine example of this would be the villain of the piece, The Green Goblin. Some corny lines are saved by an outstanding performance from Willem Dafoe. His voice, body language and general presence more than made up for a really, really stupid costume. He’s been accused of being a little on the camp side, but I disagree. I thought he absolutely nailed The Green Goblin.

It’s obvious the crew set out to tell a story rather than an action scene. There were a number of touching moments, including Uncle Ben’s death, Peter and his Aunt May talking after his funeral, and Peter telling MJ they couldn’t be together in the final scene. There were a few extra attempts at heart tugging scenes that didn’t quite have the same impact, such as Harry and Peter’s speech at the funeral and that painful hospital scene which felt like it took up 2/3 of the movie.

As mentioned above, there were some brilliant performances in the movie. Norman’s mirror scene being a textbook example and practically all of J. Jonah Jameson’s scenes were down right priceless. I could spend hours quoting them, they are that good.

The fact it wasn’t afraid to remain faithful to the original comics works in favour of the film in my opinion. There’s the odd bit that doesn’t follow the books, the organic web shooters, the car jacking, even MJ acting more like Gwen Stacey, but it is generally a faithful adaptation, which, to Spidey fans like me, is great. I was never a fan of movies that attempted to ‘improve’ or needlessly modernise the comics. Superman is still a fine example of how to do a comic book movie, if you read any interview with Richard Donner, you can tell he loved the Superman character, and it’s pathetically obvious just by watching them that the sequels are sorely lacking that love. Raimi and co seem to have the same love, and it certainly does show up on screen.

No doubt if you’ve taken merely a passing interest in Spider-Man you’ll know most of what happens in this movie, but again, I feel it should be told. It’s a good story, and it was great seeing it done in live action.

Whilst it’s true that Spider-Man 2 is superior to this in almost every way, Spider-Man is still a greatly enjoyable movie, which basically revitalised the interest in comic book movies.


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