Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco, J.K. Simmons.
Directed by: Sam Raimi.
Written by: David Koepp
Based on the legendary flagship character of Marvel comics, this is the story of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), a geeky high school student living with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben after the death of his parents when he was just a baby. He's an avid student with a much-less-than-stellar social life and a knack for bad luck. While attending a scientific demonstration, a freak accident bombards a stray spider with radiation, and that same spider finds its way onto the unsuspecting Peter's body and bites him, miraculously granting him incredible spider-like abilities; in effect, turning him into the amazing Spider-Man. Peter will find that there's a thin line between an ordinary man and an extraordinary hero; and he'll have to be the one to cross it as he does battle with the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and tries to win the love of his next door neighbour Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst}.
It is rare that a much-hyped Hollywood blockbuster actually lives up to the hype, but here comes Spider-Man to change all that. Sam Raimi's visually inventive take on the Marvel comic character lives up to expectation and more, in this smart, sassy, funny and truly exciting adventure that is a far and away the best comic book movie to hit our screens since the first Superman films. Not falling into the traps set by Tim Burton with his dingy Batman, Spider-Man refuses to take itself too seriously, yet at the same time, remains faithful to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's comic book creation. Director Raimi returns to familiar territory here, but clearly shows his imaginative cinematic style, bringing a depth of vision and wonderful sense of storytelling to the screen. Raimi and writer David Koepp have skilfully fleshed out the Parker character to imbue him with a vivid boyish humanity, a sense of ordinariness, that makes his gradual transformation into the heroic title character all the more fascinating, and Peter's journey, both genuinely bizarre and rather funny.
The casting for this is perfect. While it was hard to imagine Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, having seen the film, it's equally hard to imagine the film without him. The 27-year old actor embodies Peter Parker's boyish nerdiness to a tee, initially creating the portrait of an insecure loner impassioned with science and desperately in love with his life-long next door neighbour, before discovering what his new-found alter-ego is capable of. Maguire is the perfect Spider-Man, and the more perfect Peter Parker; it's an astonishing, beautifully managed performance. Willem Dafoe is hypnotic as Parker's ultimate arch enemy, the Green Goblin, a character who successfully suggests that evil is personified by our deepest fears and anger. Dafoe is perfect and wonderful to watch. Nobody excels as playing the sweet teenage damsel in distress with as much fragility as the luminous Kirsten Dunst and James Franco is impressive as Parker's best friend Harry Osborn.
Stylishly directed by the wonderful Sam Raimi, he keeps his Spider-Man moving at a brisk pace, yet manages to ensure our empathy for the title character. There is also smartness to Raimi's Spider-Man that one wouldn't necessarily expect, but with its subtle references to contemporary pop culture and other super creations, there is much to look for beneath the surface. The special effects are not surprisingly, impressive, yet never detract from the narrative and a strong sense of character. The film is beautifully crafted and looks spectacular. Through it all, this Spider-Man is totally engaging from woe to go, a 2 hour fun-filled rollercoaster ride that never once insults the intelligence of its audience. As Peter Parker cleverly weaves his web, so does this enthralling film.
- Paul Fischer