Saturday, September 11, 2004

Movie Review: Spider-Man

United States, 2002
U.S. Release Date: 5/3/02
Running Time: 2:01
Rated: PG-13 (violence, sensuality)
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson

Director: Sam Raimi
Producers: Ian Bryce, Laura Ziskin
Screenplay: David Koepp (based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
Music: Danny Elfman
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Posted by Hello
Just like midriffs and sand-blasted jeans, comic-book-to-film adaptations are the latest fad. Ever since Superman paved the way for excellence in 1978, movies based on comic-books have been popping up in endless amounts. The new millennium is now serving as a resurgence of bringing two-dimensional superheroes to the big screen. With franchise films like Spider-Man, X-Men, and Superman set for multiple sequels in the years to come, I can honestly say that Spider-Man is my least favorite film of the three. It may have grossed an exceptional $403.7 million, and it may have pleased comic-book convention nerds world-wide, but Spider-Man is really just a mediocre motion picture that is a little too flat, silly-looking, and immature for the common moviegoer.

After first hearing that Spider-Man was officially going into production, many were very uncertain and uncomfortable knowing that Tobey Maguire landed the lead role of “Spidey”. Maguire, previously seen in Pleasantville, just doesn’t come across as your stereotypical superhero. During the pre-casting selection process, rumors were flying that Jake Gyllenhall was in the running for the Peter Parker lead, but apparently Tobey – with more experience – edged him out. From my point of view, Maguire was a bad casting choice right from the get-go. I can honestly say that the entire cast – excluding Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin – did not sit very well with me. With Maguire, Dunst, and Franco, the movie acquires a teen-oriented aura that seems overly juvenile—compared to the well-established and adult-oriented feeling that the X-Men and Superman series bring to the table.

I am sure you all know the story of Spider-Man, but in case you have been living under a rock for the last forty years…here goes. Peter Parker is your average high-school nerd—a socially apprehensive loner who lives with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Benny (Cliff Robertson). Aside from being a studious nerd with an affinity for science, he serves as a photographer for the local paper. Parker’s interests in science and photography land him on a guided tour where he happens to be bitten by a mutant spider. After acquiring spider super powers (climbing on walls, sensing danger, and swinging from building to building by shooting webs from his wrist), Spider-Man is on a mission—to save the city from the evil Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and protect the woman he loves most (Kirsten Dunst).

First, let us cover the effects. The computer-enhanced special effects are mildly good and at most tolerable. At times, Spider-Man looks more like a video-game character than a live-action character. During the action scenes, he flings, flails, and flies around like a rag doll—defying the laws of physics. I mean, come on; he is a superhero, but he is also still a human-being. Gravity, inertia, and friction should still apply.

Secondly, the attire in this picture is absolutely appalling. While Spider-Man’s apparel is generally acceptable, that of his villain’s is amazingly dreadful. The Green Goblin’s garb is so utterly ghastly that it looks more like a cheap Halloween costume that was found on clearance at one of those mall stores that unsurprisingly sprout up every September.

Thirdly, at times, the dialogue is downright tacky. Some of the speech gives off the tone of one of those shabby old hero-vs.-villain cartoons where the villain plots, says “I’ll get you”, and then follows his thinking with an evil cackle.

Lastly, why is Macy Gray even in this movie? This is a question that will forever plague the minds of many.

Even though Spider-Man is an overall childish effort that comes off more like a cartoon with a poor choice of live actors than a comic-book turned cinematic masterpiece, it is still for the most part fun and entertaining. In comparison to the likes of other inferior superhero movies (The Punisher, Batman and Robin, and The Phantom), Spider-Man spins circles around its competition. But, should the best superhero movie of all-time be based on either earnings or quality? If it’s earnings, Spider-Man wins—no contest; if it’s quality, Spider-Man comes nowhere close. (**1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004