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Spider-Man (2002)

  Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Steve Ditko, David Koepp, Stan Lee
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, Tobey Maguire
Links: Spider-Man on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Action

This movie gets: 8.00 (3 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 53rd of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Spider-Man (2002) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Batman Begins (2005), mino's review of Daredevil (2003), citizenjoe's review of Hulk (2003), mino's review of Hulk (2003) and pearly's review of Spider-Man 2 (2004).

"Good vs. Evil done well" - a review by pearly

Everyone knows the comic-book hero Spider-Man. On a school "field trip" (we call them excursions in Australia), Peter Parker (in this movie played by Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a genetically modified super-spider, and this gives him spider-like super-powers. He can cling to walls, shoot out webs, and is incredibly strong. Peter, being a big nerd and a softie at heart, then decides to use his powers for good. In the film, this means saving people from the dreaded Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe); especially the girl that makes his heart beat damn fast - M.J. (Kirsten Dunst).

Essentially, Spider-Man is an old-fashioned tale of good versus evil. Of course, in this case it's been done with all that modern-day special effects teams have to offer (and they do what they do well).

Giving characters with masked faces expressions that make the audience understand their feelings seems to have been somewhat of a challenge. In the case of the Green Goblin, this was mainly overcome with evil laughs and voices. With Spider-Man, there was far less animation, and more reliance on knowing the deal based on Peter Parker's previous monologues. Playing a character whose face is covered for a great portion of the movie must have been difficult, and I think this is one of the reasons why Willem Dafoe's performance is more of a stand-out than that of Tobey Maguire.

I have one bone to pick with Spider-Man. What's with the hyphen? Surely Spiderman would have done? I don't remember Superman (1978) being called Super-Man. That just bothered me.

Other than that, what bad things can I say about this movie? From the classy spidery-webbed credits at the beginning, through the not-rushed description of how our hero got his powers, onto the creation of his arch-nemesis, and through to Spider-Man saving the day (I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that Spider-Man does in fact beat the Green Goblin - I don't think it's possible for anything else to have happened), this film delivers the goods.

The love story running through it rings true, and the detail which brings the characters to life (for example, M.J's abusive parents, and the relationships between Peter's best friend and the Green Goblin) give the movie an extra element of interest, making the movie more than just Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin. The plot doesn't always travel down the path most trodden; it gives its audience a little more credit than some other films of its ilk. I particularly enjoyed J.K. Simmons' character (the editor of the local newspaper, Mr Jameson).

This movie is a lot of fun, for adults and kiddies alike. A blockbuster worthy of being so.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Sun 30 Jun 2002

"As good as we'd hoped" - a review by mino

Big Hollywood 'blockbusters' (the kind that are always designated as such long before they come out) have always left a sour taste in my mouth. With very rare exception, they disappoint. I think, in the case of most blockbusters, the problem is that they try too hard. The humour is forced, the acting hammy, the over-direction obvious (even to a film idiot like me), the special effects way too over-the-top. In summary, they take themselves too seriously.

Well, Spider-Man doesn't take itself too seriously. Not by a long shot. And as a result, for the first time in ages (excluding instant-fanboy-hits-just-add-water Fellowship of the Ring and the first Harry Potter movie), a mega-hyped Hollywood release is not just worth frittering away a couple of hours on, but an actively entertaining and enjoyable film.

Spider-Man is, for those of you living under, say, Ayers Rock, the story of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), a bookish young man who is shunned at school, blah blah, you know the story. He gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider, blah blah, turns into a superhero who can climb walls and shoot webs, and so on. This is the standard superhero deal - and the movie realises this, and tries not to do anything too fancy. We see Peter coming to terms with his powers, with his blossoming love for girl-next-door (literally) Mary Jane (the highly… erm… attractive Kirsten Dunst), and his inevitable arch-enemy the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe).

Maguire is perfectly cast as the angst-filled Parker/Spidey. While there was a lot of speculation back when this movie was first mooted as to who would make a good Spider-Man, I doubt anyone thought of Maguire. He's just not the type you would pick as a superhero, but he's absolutely spot-on as Spider-Man. He's got the whole gawky-teen-thing down pat, and plays well off Dunst as the rather two-dimensional (not Dunst's fault) Mary Jane. As a bonus, he's suprisingly good at the cool-dry-wit-of-the-action-hero thing too.

The whole arch-enemy thing, though, was always a potential weakness of Spider-Man; Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has The Joker, and so on. Who does Spider-Man have? Ask most people, before the movie came out, and they would have had no idea. So the writers had to just pick one, more or less, and came up with the Green Goblin - really no more (or less) memorable than any other original Spider-Man villian. But Dafoe does a great job, his facial expressions as always wildly exaggerated and, in this case at least, perfectly suited to the part. It's a pity his costume is so… well, so awful. It looks great, don't get me wrong, but it just seems so… fake. Dafoe is a great actor, his face shouldn't be covered with a rather awkward-looking mask.

Though I enjoyed the movie a great deal, there are some pretty significant flaws in Spider-Man, that annoyed me enough to not be able to ignore them and just go with the ride, which I was trying desperately to do. As a case in point: the pro-US posturing, clearly added after September 11th, really grates. Movies and TV shows loaded with flag-waving (in this case, literally) histrionics are only just starting to filter through Down Under, and I'm sick of it already. It would be a lot better if they were in some way subtle, but with Spider-Man containing lines like "We're Noo Yorkers; mess with one of us, mess with all of us", well, they're about as subtle as an A-bomb right up your Tora Bora. Give it a rest, it always (and I mean always) looks bolted-on and, well, lame. Also, there are a few odd cameos scattered through the movie, with varying degrees of success. Randy Savage, thumbs up; Macy frigging Gray, big big big thumbs down. My personal thoughts on Macy Gray aside (easier said than done), her appearance really does smack of 'well, who can we cram into this scene needlessly?'. Awful, truly awful.

But all that aside, it's the sense of humour that really makes Spider-Man. It's a genuinely funny film; some parts will appeal to some movie-goers as having just the right level of silliness, but appear to others as just 'try-hard' (Dafoe's cartoonish "We'll meet again" goodbye to Spidey; the bomb which, on exploding, reduces the victims to their skeletons, which later crumble to ash), but overall, you'd be hard-pressed to not enjoy Spider-Man. It's no Brothers Karamazov, but hey: it's the best mainstream pap Hollywood has churned out in a while. Just sit down, shut up, cheer at the right parts, and have fun. (Bets are now being taken, however, on whether the already-moving-forward sequel will suck: my vote, yes.)

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 12 Jun 2002

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 2
Number of ratings: 3
Average rating: 8.00
Lowest rating: 7 (by em_fiction)
Highest rating: 9 (by mino)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. great!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from tina on Fri 23 Sep 2005 08:03 #

  2. poopy, i love this movie.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Frank Grafner on Thu 12 Jan 2006 09:41 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (2 ratings)

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