Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Sam Raimi (2002, Columbia Pictures)
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, and James Franco

A high-school outcast gains special powers and decides to use them towards justice.

View count: Twice



4 stars

December 29th, 2004 on DVD  

I think that my opinions expressed in my first review of this movie, below, still stand, with the exception of the comparison with Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. This movie was definitely better, in many ways. There was definitely much more logic to this one.

I am now in a position to compare this movie to its sequel, which I have also seen twice, but not reviewed. Many people have said that the second Spiderman movie was better than the first. I disagree, though they are nearly equal in my view. The first movie had to create the character, and develop him, which made it a little more interesting, as Peter had to grow throughout the movie. The second one has more comedy, and more violence. It has sacrifices, but of love rather than life. What Peter doesn't realize is that he doesn't have to be Spiderman to take action against injustice. When he walks away from the man being beaten in the alley, he is just wrong, whether he has super powers or not. I liked the villain in the second movie better, as well, since he is very reluctant, and is being controlled by outside influences.

The Green Goblin, in contrast, comes to accept his evil nature, by both sides of his personality. He is still a better villain than the ones that inhabit the Batman movies, because they are more than just insane. I liked the way these two movies are very "normal", that they don't go over the top in typical superhero fashion. I think that is part of the huge appeal of this movie. Also, Peter remains a geek even after he becomes Spiderman. He struggles in his life as he struggles to become a superhero, also. I loved his aunt's line "you're not superman, you know"!

Finally, I first really noticed the music during the opening credits to the second film, which made me take notice while watching this movie again. I really liked the music; not the pop stuff so much, but the instrumental score. It felt dramatic, with all the proper undercurrents to make us feel pumped during the action, and tenderness during the romantic scenes.



4 stars

May 25th, 2002 in the Theatre  

Definitely very well made, and extremely interesting in that we get to see the creation of Spider-man as he himself makes the discoveries.  Even the love story was palatable.  I only wish the bad guys in comic books were not so insane!

I was very intrigued for the first half of this movie.  I could relate to Peter Parker, who is a high school geek or nerd.  Although I was never abused by class-mates, and had many friends of my own, it was easiest to relate to how Peter felt shy and intimidated by beautiful girls.  In particular, his next door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson, otherwise known as M.J.  I was surprised to see her defend him so often, especially from her boyfriend.  Maybe that's why she can't see his infatuation- he can't defend himself.

Peter's friend Harry was a quick study, and is a particularly slimy creature, which is probably genetics at work.  Every chance he gets, he makes moves for M.J.  Often enough she is as clueless to his advances as she is to Peter, but after graduation, he seemed able to snag her.  But he keeps it a secret from Peter for as long as he can!

As for Peter, after being bitten by a genetically enhanced spider, he gains the spider's abilities.  This is Star Trek science at its worst, unfortunately.  If I bite somebody, they will not become me, or even partly me.  Fortunately for evolution. But I suppose we can rationalize this by saying they had adaptive DNA, which they also secreted into Peter's bloodstream, which can reorganize his DNA, kind of like AIDS does.  But for him, the results is miraculous.

It's refreshing to see him spin webs and fight back at the bully, especially when he scares himself, as well as everybody else in school.  And this is when he tests his limits.  He goes off, climbing buildings with his newfound grips.  He bounds from building to building, spins webs, and makes clumsy mistakes. It is really fun to watch him make those mistakes, because they come from a natural curiosity.

The funniest part of the movie has to be his entry into the wrestling competition. Wanting to impress M.J. by buying a car (to compete with the sports car her boyfriend received for his birthday), Peter attempts to win the money at this competition with his new abilities.  He enters as The Human Spider, and keeps trying to correct the announcer, who calls him the much better name of Spider-Man. 

Peter gets a huge wake-up call in the name of justice immediately following that match.  I know the feeling of showing up a cheater.  It must have been infuriating to be cheated out of his $3000 by a technicality by the organizer, but it must have felt infinitely better when the money was stolen right in front of his eyes, since it wasn't going to him, anyway. 

But as his uncle told him, not even knowing anything about his newborn abilities, that "with great power comes great responsibility".  And he was right.  Sure, it felt good to get even, but he didn't realize that there were consequences beyond that satisfaction.  Justice doesn't even enter into it.  But when we find out that his uncle has been killed by a car-jacker, I knew immediately that the person responsible could have been stopped if Peter had not taken his revenge on the wrestling organizers.  And I was right.  It is unfortunate that it takes a great loss to create that wake-up call for him, but it really drives the message home, hard.

While racing to catch up with the bad guy, Peter swings through the streets on his webs for the very first time -very awkwardly.  He kills the man in anger when he realizes who it was (the flashback was not necessary), and flees police.  From this moment on, he decides to take justice into his own hands, stopping robberies and muggings and other criminal acts.

The newspaper editor, Jameson, was hilarious!  Offering a reward for pictures of Spider-Man, and then putting a slanderous headline on the front page, the man was completely flippant in his attitude.  Peter decides to make some money by putting a camera nearby when he thwarts a robbery.  He provides enough photos to keep himself going for a while. 

Things start to turn ugly when Harry's father develops an evil side.  He loses a government contract for metabolic enhancers, so tries the drugs on himself.  But he never remembers anything evil that he does.  He turns into the Green Goblin, destroys the competition to his product (which looked incredibly unwieldy), kills the board of directors to his own company, who kicked him out, and takes on Spider-Man.

I am surprised that he didn't remove the mask when he had Spider-Man drugged at one point.  But all he wanted was to offer a partnership, which Peter refused, of course. 

The middle section of the movie, right up to the confrontation at the end, is rather non-descript.  Spider-Man and the Green Goblin compete, using New York as their battleground.  Meanwhile, Peter courts M.J. by not courting her, by simply being her support.  And when Harry's father figures out that Peter is Spider-Man, because of a gash given during one of their battles, he rushes off and plans his next move. 

First, he injures Peter's aunt, sending a clear signal that he knows the hero's identity.  Then, when he discovers that Peter is deeply infatuated with M.J., he captures her.  The climactic battle is cool in that it looks like Peter will choose love over the lives of small children when the Green Goblin threatens both.  I liked the tribute to New Yorkers ("you mess with one of us, you mess with us all!") as they pelt Green Goblin from the bridge.  But Spider-Man manages to save both M.J. and the load of children, and lower them safely onto a barge in the water below. 

Then we get a duel, which was no better or worse than any of the other battles, except that Peter doesn't actually kill the Green Goblin -it's the Goblin's treachery that eventually kills himself.  I think this lessens the impact (except that Peter has already killed a man), so he doesn't have to go through more growing pains. 

The ending leaves the door wide open for sequels.  Harry is convinced that Spider-Man killed his father.  On a wish from the good side of Norman Osborn, Peter didn't tell anybody of the real identity of the Green Goblin.  Harry promises revenge.  There is also the love story angle.  Just when M.J. professes her love for Peter, he must deny it, because he can't have the same thing happen again -he can't put his loved ones in danger (although the fact remains that his aunt is still alive, and he still loves M.J.- anybody who knows him will figure this out, also). But the ending makes us wonder if she has figured out his identity anyway -she wonders why his kiss feels so similar to the kiss she received from Spider-Man when he rescued her (for the second time).

I truly enjoyed this movie, but I don't think it was as perfect as its insane box-office numbers make it seem!  I especially liked the way the producers made the creation of this super-hero step-by-step, letting us discover the results as Peter first experiences them.  The love story was also quite natural, and the two leads pretty to look at (I think Kirstin Dunst in the rain was pure demographic, and nothing else!), and they had good chemistry together.  All of the characters, from the major ones to the smaller roles like Peter's Aunt and Uncle, were well developed.  And the bad guy, even though he was insane, was still good at being insane!

I still don't understand how it could have made all the money that it has so far.  Yes, I'm a little incensed that it will undoubtedly beat all the Star Wars films on the all-time gross list!  Was it better than Attack of the Clones?  No, but it wasn't any worse, either.  I think they stand about even, though for different reasons.  The special effects in Spider-Man were more subtle, and not as grandiose, the music was more pop-oriented, and the love angle worked better.


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