Monday, March 1, 2010

Review: First "Spider-Man" Flick Entertaining, but Average

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 28 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Spider-Man (2002)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – PG-13 for stylized violence and action
WRITER: David Koepp (based upon the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
PRODUCERS: Ian Bryce and Laura Ziskin
EDITOR: Arthur Coburn and Bob Murawski
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Joe Manganiello, and Bill Nunn

When a genetically modified spider bites high school outcast Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), Parker gains powers and abilities based upon the natural characteristics of spiders. After a robber Parker failed to stop when he had a chance kills his Uncle Ben, Parker becomes Spider-Man (again, Maguire), a costumed superhero to use his super powers for the greater good. Spider-Man soon encounters a destructive costumed super villain named Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ), who is the alter ego of a wealthy industrialist Norman Osborn. In addition to dealing with super crooks, Parker has domestic troubles. He is in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst, Interview with a Vampire), who is also the love interest of his roommate, Harry Osborn (James Franco), the son of Norman.

Directed by the diverse Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, A Simple Plan) and based upon the Marvel comic book of the same name, Spider-Man revels in the excellent execution of the fight scenes of its two antagonists. A combination of computer animation, close-ups, and stunt doubles, the confrontations between hero and villain burst with energy. Raimi, no stranger to SFX, knows how to compose a movie that takes advantage of effects and how to shape the effects around the movie or to shape the movie around the effects.

The script David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Panic Room) is another thing entirely. The plot is simple: Spider-Man is in the Green Goblin’s way, and Goblin wants to remove him. The story is fairly straightforward, and it’s nothing special. Whether the fault of the director or of the writer, the character drama between the action is boring and dry, and you could find your mind wandering while waiting for the next get together between Spidey and the Goblin. While the drama is clunky, the fights are so exciting; getting them is like getting a Christmas gift.

The acting is on the whole professional work. Both Maguire and Dafoe play the roles with class and are quite believable as Parker/Spider-Man and Osborn/Goblin respectively. Maguire totally sells us as the nerdy Parker, and when he becomes super powered, Maguire shifts into a whole other gear. Dafoe is funny, wacky, and intense as both Norman Osborn and as the Goblin. His prowess as an actor bleeds through the Goblin’s mask and gives the villain depth and dimension.

Spider-Man is a summer blockbuster: light on drama but heavy on the eye candy of the effects. Luckily the effects really work, because the drama is weak. Fans of comic books and action movies will likely get a jolt out of this movie. However, if you’re looking for something really special, or at least, very good, this is not it. Spider-Man is, at best, an average product with a big ad campaign behind it.

5 of 10

2003 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Sound” (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Ed Novick) and “Best Visual Effects” (John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier)


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