Title:  Spider Man

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA English

Running time: 110 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  Columbia

Director; Writer:  Sam Raimi, written by David Koepp


Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe 

Technical: 1.8 to 1, digital

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  “With great powers comes great responsibility…. I am Spider-Man,”

  So ends another teen fantasy. Yes, there are plenty of teen or young male heroes in comics (Batman, Superman, Spider Man), but only recently has their adolescence come to be interest.  Here, a nerdy, matriculating teen (Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire) gets to become a hero over night when he is bitten in a museum by a genetically engineered spider. So what, if he can’t grow hair on his chest (it would get in the way of the spider suit anyway as well as that buffed look – and for that matter, the winsome picture of Maguire in Premiere shows his forearms to be erased, too, though this isn’t the case in the movie—remember Robin Williams in Hook?), he can grow it on his thumb, like a werewolf. Then he can spin webs from his wrists, rappel buildings and leap from roof to roof and save people.

  Maguire, who starred in Pleasantville and Wonder Boys, consistently plays this gentle, soft-spoken young male character. It really works here: he has real fun (see it in his eyes) with his new powers, and gives some great lines (in the wrestling cage: “to get away from you”… later, “I hunch.”) Compare this to the WB Series Smallville, where Clark Kent (teenage Superman) got his powers from, well, being born on another planet, and comes across as the all American jock-hero. Both boys have to do their chores, and have similar powers: Kent has his “speed” and Spider Man leaps and spins.

  The story gets more prophetic when his Willem Dafoe’s character gets sacked from his company without severance, and becomes (using his own “technology”)  a terrorist, the Green Goblin. It would all seem silly except for current events, and here it comes across as loose, almost inappropriate satire. But this was all filmed before 9-11.

  I liked to see both the Peter Parker and Clark Kent characters given more depth. What about their schoolwork?  What about going to college? What about playing on the Internet? Of course, neither can afford to “tell” who they “really are.” (“don’t ask and don’t tell,” again.)

  I have known a number of real-life great kids with terrestrial powers that are striking enough. I can imagine a movie about a teenager who defeats other teen hackers, or perhaps by hacking himself uncovers a terrorist plot. Any takers for this idea?


The sequel Spider-Man 2 (2004, PG-13), brings us back to full wide-screen and this time an artificial octopoid (Otto Octavius, played by Alfred Molina as a villain, trying to find the tritium cores that would probably be sought by terrorists to recharge suitcase nukes.  There is the friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) who hates Spider Man and who doesn’t know the connection. At the end, in fact, there is a small nuclear fusion “sun” that threatens to consume everything.  Peter gives up on being Spider Man for a while before realizing how much he misses the perks and fame of power. Studying physics in college isn’t enough, especially if you aren’t doing too well (although a term paper on tritium sounds interesting). Tobey Maguire had to really bulk up for this one.  The orchestral music at the opening and the comic-book artwork were stunning.


The next franchise sequel Spider-Man 3 (2007, 140 min, PG-13), again dir. Sam Raimi and written by Sam and Ivan Raimi) presents a plot concept similar to the red kryptonite idea from Superman and Smallville. Here, a meteor rock lands in Central Park and “infects” Peter Parker with its web, turning his suit black and unleashing his inhibitions, making him aggressive. The other players are friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), show singer girl friend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and the “villain” who murdered his uncle Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) who will transmogrify into a golem Sandman, and rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who also experiences the pleasure of being bad and aggressive when infected with the black web. (In this movie, the evil stuff is black; in Superman it is red, but the concept is the same.) At the end, Peter says, “We are made by our choices, and we can always choose the right thing.”  The big city special effects, with heights and things crashing into tall buildings are indeed mind boggling. Nice boy Tobey Maguire is muscled up for this movie, but one sees little of that.   



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