Monday, 18 June 2012


"Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man"

A geeky high school kid, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is on a field trip to a genetics laboratory when he is bitten by a genetically engineered spider. Soon after he feels unwell but wakes up the next morning to discover that he is feeling better than ever, can see without his glasses and has new muscle tone in place of his once scrawny physique. Peter also discovers that his reactions are greatly heightened and that he is stronger and faster than ever before. After the untimely death of his Uncle, Peter decides to put his new found attributes to the test and adopts the moniker Spider-Man. This is just in time it seems as New York City comes under attack from The Green Goblin and only Spider-Man can stop him.

I saw this film ten years ago when it was first released and although I’ve never been into Comics, even I knew the Spider-Man origins story at that time. At the time I remember thinking that it was really good but after ten years I’ve changed my mind. Perhaps it is because the film has aged, maybe it’s because I’ve seen it before or maybe it’s just because it doesn’t match recent Comic book adaptations but this time around I was unimpressed.

The film’s tone reminded me of the mid 90s Spider-Man cartoon and is much more child friendly than more recent Marvel films. Although it might be unfair to compare it to Nolan’s dark Batman or Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, these are a high water mark for super hero films and Spider-Man pails in comparison. Even though the tone is cartoony there is little of the knowing humour from Director Sam Raimi’s TV work such as Xena or Hercules and I was reminded of Power Rangers. The film manages to be, either on purpose or not, cheesy, but there isn’t enough comedy to go along side it. As for the action, the few action scenes were over in a flash and it never felt as though Spider-Man was in any real danger. The CGI is a bit mixed, with some scenes still looking great while a lot of it looks dated and quite video game like.

Where the film is at its best is in the central characters unmasked interactions. Peter’s infatuation with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is explored in some detail and is for me the highlight of the film. Their upside down kiss was pretty much the only thing I remembered from ten years ago. Their friendship and affections rise and fall, never quite reaching the same point at the same time while there is a love triangle in the shape of Peter’s best friend Harry (James Franco). It’s no surprise that all three actors were bought back for a sequel. Personally I’d like to have seen more of the pre Spider-Man Peter as it was around the 18 minute mark that he transforms into his alter-ego. I find the background to the story interesting and a little more context would help to further explain the reasons behind his actions.

I think that Tobey Maguire makes a very good Spider-Man and manages to be both believable as the geeky school kid and the super-hero, something which isn’t an easy task. Kirsten Dunst and James Franco are both fine and very watchable but they don’t really stand out. Willem Defoe wasn’t very believable as a Scientist but was excellent as the schizophrenic Green Goblin. His task was made very difficult by a poor suit with mask that he was unable to show expression emotion through. Despite this he was good. I would like to have seen what first choice Nick Cage would have done with the role though. Another stand out for me was J.K. Simmons as the cranky Newspaper Chief. Elizabeth Banks and Octavia Spencer also popped up briefly and made me go “ooh, look!”

Overall I was disappointed with my return to Spider-Man. I’m trying not to be too harsh and compare it to more recent films but I just kept thinking to myself “I could be watching Thor or Batman Begins right now”. This film does not fair well by modern standards but there is still a nice story in there and some decent CGI in amongst some that has aged. There wasn’t enough action or humour to go along with the predictable but engaging plot.    


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