Written by David Koepp
Directed by Sam Raimi

Running Time: 2:01

Rated PG-13
for stylized violence and action.

Tobey Maguire
as Spider-Man/Peter Parker

Willem Dafoe
as Green Goblin/Norman Osborn

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 Uncle Ben Parker

Randy 'Macho Man' Savage
as Bone Saw McGraw

Joe Manganiello
as Eugene 'Flash' Thompson


Spider-man  (Double Sided)

Green Goblin (Double Sided)
Green Goblin



Spider-Man lives up to the hype and delivers an action-packed event film with an actual storyline and characters you care about. It's not just a typical summer action film with nothing but special effects. It's got a good solid story that people can relate to, something a lot of films tend to forget about.


Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a typical nerd, geek, whatever you want to call him. He's picked on by others, has a brilliant science mind and is in love with literally the girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). One day while on a field trip, Peter is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider, one that has the combined abilities of three different spiders - to leap to catch its prey, spin webs that can hold massive amounts of weight, and a "spider-sense". Peter soon transforms into a part spider-part man creation. But his overnight transformation is hard (yet sometimes fun) for him to deal with. He suddenly has super strength, the ability to climb walls and an unnatural sense of his surroundings. But all this doesn't help him in his quest for the girl.

Meanwhile, Peter's best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) is a rich kid with a powerful father named Norman (Willem Dafoe). Norman is in line for a very lucrative military contract, one that the military doesn't really want to give him. Testing his latest and greatest technology one night, something goes horribly wrong and Norman instead of getting just enhanced abilities, is infused with super-human abilities and a mean temper to boot. It also gives him a split personality - his good half doesn't realize what his bad half has done. While Spider-Man saves lives, this newly created Green Goblin destroys them. The people of New York don't yet trust the web-slinger, and Spider-Man must not only fight the Green Goblin, but the people who need his protection, while at the same time, hold a torch for the girl he loves. Spider-Man is caught between being a boy and being a superhero.


From start to finish Spider-Man hooks you in and doesn't let you go. The best part of the movie was the first half where young high-schooler Parker learns how to deal with his new found strengths. Saving Mary Jane from taking a spill in the cafeteria leads to a fight with one of his tormentors. But even winning the fight doesn't win him the admiration of his peers. Learning how to crawl up walls and deal with his web-slinging abilities... wanting to win money by wrestling for 3 minutes... dealing with the loss of a loved one, and realizing that he could have done something to stop it. It's the evolution of a superhero, something we very rarely, if ever, see on film. Most films show you in flashback how a superhero came to be, this movie shows you from inception to superhero status how he came to be. What shy young boy who sat in the back of the class dreaming of kissing the girl-next-door didn't wonder what would happen if he suddenly had super powers? Listening to the newly created Spider-Man yahooing and screaming is fear and surprise (and happiness) as he learns how to shoot his webs to fly from building to building shows that even superheroes have have to adjust to their abilities. I think the greatest thing about this film is it relates to people more than any other superhero film has in the past.

Tobey Maguire, certainly not the first person I thought of as Spider-Man, does a wonderful job playing the dual role. He has the ability to go from being a timid, beat-upon kid, to a strong, powerful superhero, all without missing a beat. In one scene he'll be the shy kid who still can't speak to the girl he's in love with, to a kid crying for the loss of his uncle, to a guy seeking vengeance on the man who killed his family. Willem Dafoe is a scary looking guy to begin with, and his split personality shines through. Scary to his only child, nice to his kid's best friend, then turning around and terrorizing a city with a horrible green costume. Kirsten Dunst was va-va-va-voom as a redhead, but her character lacked any real depth. She was mostly there for Peter Parker to lust over, and Spider-Man to save. But it's the relationship that helps Parker figure out his new destiny, and it's something that I'm sure will be discussed more in the sequel. And in James Franco you can see his character's slow burn into someone with a real fear yet admiration of his demanding father, slowly transforming into someone with a real hatred of Spider-Man. Since this movie was the first in what should be a great franchise, the focus was on Peter Parker and his dealing with what has happened to him. The rest of the characters were introduced, explained to us and then shown in reaction to Peter. You still felt what they were going through, but they were kept in the background. The movie sets up wonderfully for the sequel, and I think now that we've gotten the back story of Spider-Man, the next film will deal more with the people within the story.

The special effects were almost seamless, although at times you could tell that it wasn't a real person jumping from building to building. The rest of the Spider-Man sequences however were pretty well done. I loved watching the evolution of both the name Spider-Man and his costume. The Green Goblin costume was decent, although the head was a little over the top for me. It related well to the character since he had a collection of strange face masks, but the top of the Green Goblin head just seemed wrong to me. The music, scored by Danny Elfman (has he ever done a bad movie score?) was in line with the film. Nothing memorable, but nothing that was jarring and out of place. And the direction was almost laid-back for a Sam Raimi film (don't think so? check out his Evil Dead films). Going back to the music, if you're someone around my age (late 20's, early 30's) you have to stick around for the closing credits. After the great song "Hero" by Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger, there's a pretty awful rap song, followed by the great old school Spider-Man theme song (Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can...) If you remember the old cartoon Spider-Man cartoon, you'll have flashbacks throughout the film (courtesy of your friendly, neighborhood Spider-man) and J.K. Simmons' dead-on impression of the cartoon J. Jonah Jameson.


Overall, Spider-Man was a great first film in the series. It spent a lot of time letting you get to know Peter Parker, and watch him as he dealt with all that was happening around and to him. It gave you a token villain that could have come from anywhere, but what it did was set you up for a second film where the villain will be much more personal. The movie introduced you to all the major players and did what any good film should do... leave you wanting more.

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reviewed 05/04/02

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