Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Macguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Willem Defoe, Cliff Robertson, J.K Simmons, Rosemary Harris
Plot: When high school nerd, Peter Parker (Macguire) is bitten by a radioactive spider, his body goes through some superhuman changes, setting him on the path to becoming the Spiderman.
Some criticise Sam Raimi’s vision of the Spiderman trilogy, after the flop that was Spiderman 3. The goofy tone was taken too far with the third and we became sick of Tobey Macguire’s hapless depiction of Peter Parker. The truth is, when Raimi balances them correctly, this tone is what made the first two Spiderman movies so awesome. Raimi truly understands the comic’s message – Spiderman is a metaphor for puberty and teenage awkwardness – and also the humour that Stan Lee would have wanted shown in this series of films. It is his keen eye and direction that really takes this film from good to great.
It is also important to remember how bad superhero films back then were. Rather than having Marvel’s intricate plan of how the next five years of superhero flicks are going to pan out, audiences were treated to terrible Fantastic Four adaptions and the god awful Nick Fury film, starring none other than David Hasselhoff. Even Spiderman was subject to several terrible pitches. When it came to good superhero movies, we just had Batman and Superman, two franchises that were struggling at the time this film was being produced. Therefore, this movie was a major gamble on the producer’s part, making it even more impressive that the first Spiderman movie reached the success that it did.
Sure, new viewers may struggle with the pace of this movie. Now that superhero movies have hit the standards of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, Spiderman may seem a little out-dated. It is pretty slow-paced, taking the time to explain the early days of Peter Parker’s development into the Spiderman. We are treated to lesser characters like Flash Thompson and Betty Brant, building up a full idea of Parker’s life. Looking back, an argument could be made that the exposition weighs the movie down considerably. However, again, Spiderman should be let off the hook, as it is the first of the great Marvel superhero movies. Raimi merely takes his time exploring this universe and comic book, giving the fans the full superhero movie experience, something we could argue is missing from the earlier hero adaptions.
One of the most impressive features of Spiderman is the CGI. It may look a little ropey, in hindsight, but it is difficult to fault the animation, especially as Spiderman’s web-swinging is not only difficult to master, but vital for this film to work. Raimi pulls out all the stops for the fight sequences, giving us some nail-biting scenes. It could have been too much to comprehend (a little like the Transformers and their fight scenes), but here, it is well done. We are never lost in the action, despite the breakneck speeds of the fighting and movement. This makes the action sequences one of the more enjoyable parts of the movie, as it should be.
Tobey Macguire is the kind of actor who revels in Raimi’s direction. He completely understands the tone that the director is going for and soaks it in, really milking the nerdy charm. He is instantly a loveable character, cool yet awkward at the same time. He is both relatable, yet at the same time the action figure we long to be, the exact figure that Stan Lee was attempting to create, when he first created the iconic hero. Taking up the figure of the love interest is Kirsten Dunst, as Mary Jane Watson. Although the actress has been criticised for her portrayal of Mary Jane, personally I believe that she looks the part, almost as though she has just walked out of the comics in order to take part in this movie. Then we have James Franco as Harry Osborne, seen here before the fame really kicked in. I never really thought much of his characters in the comics, so it was good to see my eyes really opened to the potential of Harry here. I believe I have Franco to thank for that.
But the guy who steals the show is Willem Defoe, as the maniacal villain, the Green Goblin. Raimi was clever when re-creating the character of the Green Goblin, not going for the goofy comic book look. Defoe strikes fear into his audience, really getting this idea of a crazed, almost animalistic, character. The Goblin has never been my favourite villain in the franchise, yet Defoe, as with Franco, wins me around. For the villain, who arguably, kicks off the Marvel franchise (did X-Men get in their first?), Defoe sets the bar high early. A fantastic performance.
Final verdict: Finally a superhero movie fit for the big screen. Spiderman is a colourful, fun and faithful adaption of a much-loved comic book.
At Noon today: The Bad – Date Movie