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SPIDER-MAN, 2001
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SPIDER-MAN MOVIE POSTER
SPIDER-MAN, 2002
Movie Reviews

Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Willem Dafoe, Cliff Robertson and J.K. Simmons
Review by Andrew Kosarko



SYNOPSIS:

Orphaned at a young age, young Peter Parker was always some what of a nerd, living with his aunt and uncle. One day while attending a high school field trip to a science laboratory, Peter is bitten by a genetically enhanced super spider. The next morning, he awakes to some massive superhuman changes overtaking his body, allowing him to climb walls, shoot webs from his wrist and a super keen reflex ability. As any teen would, he attempts to abuse his new power to win points with a girl he’s in love with, Mary Jane Watson. Then, because of an indirect result of his greed, his uncle is shot and killed, leaving him with the knowledge that with his great power, comes great responsibility….

REVIEW:

Alright, let’s begin. I was never, ever a fan of Spider-man, nor Marvel for that matter. But I was pumped for this movie when I first saw the trailer where Spider-man webbed up a helicopter full of crooks between the Twin Towers. It gave me Goosebumps. And while I wasn’t a fan, I knew all about this character and his enemies. I got so jazzed seeing Easter eggs like “Otto Octavius” portrait in the background of the trailer. But it seemed no one around me was “pumped” about it. Then, the day the world stopped. September 11th. The world was in shock. Americans were in confusion. In the time that followed, little was accomplished in bringing those responsible to justice. People where discouraged. Their faith in justice, un-rewarded. All they wanted was a hero. Someone to stand against an unstoppable evil force, and triumph. And that man was Spider-man. I once took a History of film class. The one thing I took away from the lessons was that films have their success by the time they are created. Sure, stories, acting and a whole bunch of other things contribute to a great film. But timing is everything. Spider-man hit at just the right time.

The Story:

This film does a great job of just getting to the point. Within the first few minutes we meet all our central characters and the inciting incident is off and running. And it doesn’t stop. Complication leads to complication. But this film, compared with other films of it’s genre, is able to keep itself fun. You can actually enjoy every scene and not feel all too depressed or upset. Of course the scenes of death may lower the tone a bit, but joy wouldn’t feel as good if it wasn’t for pain. Catch my drift? The plot rarely gets off track and keeps in mind that it has to do two things at once; tell an origin story, and tell the story of a hero battling evil. Everything that happens develops both the plot and the characters in addition to their relationships with those around them. That right there folks, is how you tell a story.

Acting:

Now we’re going to run into some problems… Tobey Maguire - Peter Parker / Spider-man: Tobey’s 2nd best portrayal of the webslinger is in this film. He takes the cake in the second film, but this one was still strong. He’s able to play a lovable dorky nerd and a true bad ass when he wants to be. His emotional scenes with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May are always touching and some of his best work. But overall, as many others have said before me, it’s a tad “wooden” at times. The emotion comes and goes from him. I don’t think it’s a lack of effort on his part, just a style of acting he’s become accustomed to. It’s really just a nitpick to be honest.

Kirsten Dunst – Mary Jane Watson: Never since Smallville’s Lana Lang have I been so annoyed with a female lead in a super hero portrayal. There’s just something about her that makes me want to drive off a cliff. I’m not saying she’s a terrible actress because she can hit the mark (See: The Virgin Suicides). But I just don’t like her in this role. In an effort to make her an “independent, strong willed woman”. She just comes off as a pain. I’m all for strong women roles. Aunt May is a strong women role. But there’s some actresses that try to show “strong women” and just come off as annoying and bitchy. This is one of those portrayals.

James Franco – Harry Osbourn: Good stuff. I mean, there’s not much all for him to do right now. He’s just a spoiled rich kid who takes up with Peter because he’s outcast from the normal crowd. He does a good job of showing that there is a good side to him, but that he’s headed down the wrong path because of his father’s lead. Which, of course, brings us to…

Willem Dafoe – Normal Osbourn / Green Goblin: By far, one of the greatest villain portrayals ever. He’s crazy. No more explanation needed. When he slips from persona to persona he’s taken the job of working his eye movements differently, different posture, changing up his voice tone, and as my father always said about characters who wear masks in movies; “It’s all about the eyes.” Dafoe does an excellent job of helping to plant the seeds for Harry’s arc in later film as well.

Rosemary Harris / Cliff Robertson: Aunt May / Uncle Ben – this tag team is great. When one sets down the reigns of guiding Peter, the other picks them up in a beat. It’s the anatomy of a good couple. One that holds the same values. So not only is it believable when they guide Peter through his journey, but also makes them realistic characters. I could believe that these two were in love just by the way they compose themselves in scenes where the other is not there. Fantastic acting and characterization.

JK Simmons: JJ Jameson – had to mention this. BEST PART OF THE MOVIE EVER. If anyone ever got a comic book character more perfectly adapted it’s this one. Granted it’s not a prominent role, but still scene stealing none-the-less. Directing: Sam Raimi hit the mark on this film. It’s a perfect balance of tragedy, comedy drama and action. It has all the necessary requirements to please comic fans, movie fans, and the general audiences. The look of the film, the tone, just everything about it, while it doesn’t appeal to me personally, does work and coincide with one another. The hallmark of a good director is someone with a stylistic goal. Raimi never sways away or loses track of what he intended.

Cinematography:

Don Burgess – A great job. The swinging shots through the city are just amazing and everything is well captured and shot. The colors shine greatly like how a comic book film should. It’s not blatantly campy/comic booky ala Batman & Robin or Sin City, but it’s also not gritty and “realistic” as something like Batman Begins.

Production Design:

As cited above, everything is well done and put together. It combines the realistic feel it needs while still giving it that “comic book” style and edge.

Editing:

No real problems here. Nothing special either.

Score: Not Elfman’s greatest work, but he still shines. I’m not a personal fan of the theme for Spider-man that he came up, but it works. The strongest part of his score, in my opinion, is the sad scenes and the use of the piano and the strings. Very powerful stuff that is guaranteed to hit your heart when you’re watching it.

Special Effects:

Top notch. I mean, nothing has topped Jurassic Park in terms of CGI believability, but this doesn’t take you out of the movie or anything. It’s always enjoyable and fun.

In closing:

The movie is solid. It’s a good popcorn flick with a little swig of substance mixed in. It was what we needed in a tough time to give us all that hope that in the end, the good guy will win. Call it what you may. But I find it ironic that the first trailer focused on the WTC and then those terrible events happened, only to come back with the Spider-man movie and give people some hope again. So from me to those who made this film. Thank you. Your film was what we needed.

….oh, but really quick. Next time, do it without Macy Grey. Ok-thanx-bye.


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