Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by:David Koepp
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris
Released: June 6, 2002
Grade: A-

As Peter Parker is told by his father, “with great power comes great responsibility”.  With comic book adaptations the latest cinematic craze, Columbia Pictures and director Sam Raimi have put a lot on the line to bring Spider-Man to the screen.  With the story of so many other famous comic book characters bastardised by money-hungry studios, many were sceptical about this new blockbuster.

Having just emerged from the cinema, my feelings are of great relief (as the film was equal to the hype), of great satisfaction (having seen a very enjoyable production), and of great anticipation (knowing an intriguing sequel lies ahead).  It’s certainly not a ground breaking flick but it doesn’t purport to be anything it’s not.  It’s only trying to be fun, action-packed entertainment and it’s right on the mark without overstepping it.

Tobey Maguire (The Cider House Rules, Pleasantville) was a criticised choice when initially cast but is a natural in the role of Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man).  He has a nerdish quality but a subtle sense of humour that is ideal.  He doesn’t try to be a super-serious superhero and has a lot of fun.  I love his cries of “woohoo” when flying above the city streets.  Kirsten Dunst (Interview With A Vampire, The Virgin Suicides) is also superb as Mary Jane Watson and her relaxed “girl next door” persona which makes her a refreshing love-interest who isn’t second-fiddle to both the hero and the story.

I’ve never read a Spider-Man comic but the film’s introduction provides the background to building interest in its subject.  Peter Parker is an ordinary teenager with the hots for a girl, Mary Jane Watson, who’s never really noticed him.  On a school excursion at a science laboratory, he is bitten by a genetically-engineered spider and develops super-human strength and dexterity.  Oh, and he can also shoot sticky spider webs from his wrists.

Peter’s best friend, Harry (Franco), has a wealthy father, Norman (Dafoe), who has been working himself on genetic mutation.  After a botched experiment, he too develops miraculous abilities but as The Green Goblin, is using his power in evil ways.  And so Spider-Man’s easy-living days of clearing crime off New York’s streets are about to get more difficult.   He’s now got an nasty adversary with the strength to stop him.

Credit to the marketing team behind the film.  They have woven a web of media hysteria and the resulting box-office is validation of their efforts.  Spider-Man has completely destroyed Attack Of The Clones.  After a new record for the biggest 3-day opening in U.S. History ($114.8m), the film’s gross already has it in the top 5 of all time with still much more to be reaped from returning audiences.  A great film with great marketing will always equal extraordinary results.

Sam Raimi has done well from the director’s chair.  There are no unnecessary lulls and the dynamic screenplay gives it the depth that’ll keep you attentive the entire time.  It’s the cracking pace that makes raises Spider-Man above almost any other action film to be released in the past few years.  Frustratingly, the special effects are a little too obvious but there’s plenty of daring stunt work too that helps offset the CGI distractions.

            Essentially, Spider-Man offers something different while staying within the realms of familiarity.  It’s the tricky love-triangle between Peter, Mary and Harry that rightfully gets focus ahead of repetitive action sequences.  Highly recommendable, Peter Parker sums it up best in his introduction - “This story, like any worth telling, is all about a girl.”