I will say this though, the box office results have astounded me. I never saw that much money for this franchise coming. X-Men maybe, but not Spider-Man. In fact, I'm actually stunned that Spider-Man has beaten X-Men at all. I guess I underestimated its more widespread appeal. In any case, I'm happy for Marvel since they have wrestled with getting this picture made for darn near two decades.
That being said, I'm surprised this picture was not better than it was. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't a BAD movie, just really not a great one. I almost graded it a C, but it was an above average COMIC book movie, so I inched it up in grading.
Let's look at the positive side of things. First of all, they stick to most of the original story. The parts that differed were either an improvement, like webs coming naturally from his arm rather than via mechanical web shooters, or needed for the movie, like Ben getting shot while picking up Peter from the library rather than having the robber break into Peter's house, with which I was OK..
Also, the action was second to none. Even X-Men did not have this much action. It truly was a comic book come-to-life and, considering how many dud comic book movies Marvel has put out, like The 1980's Captain America movie and The Punisher, Spider-Man was refreshing. They pulled no punches either. Green Goblin, at one point, was going to kill both Mary Jane AND a bunch of kids! The final battle was bloody and violent. It was great.
As for the characters, Toby McGwire was a fantastic Peter Parker and Spider-Man. His voice was perfect to represent the playful character that Spider-Man is. Very boyish, even when he matures. Though there was a lot of bad press when Toby was announced as the lead, I think his performance, as well as his physique, quieted critics.
Willem Defoe was a perfect Green Goblin. While I did not care for the uniform since, in the comic, he is mutated into a green creature, the insanity scenes, specifically the one when the Green Goblin helmet is on the chair and Willem crawls to it while talking to his evil alter-ego, were the best. When John Malkovich was touted as the lead, I was pleased. When John dropped out and Willem joined, I thought it was a mistake. Now, having seen the movie, I cannot think of anyone but Willem in the role.
Kirsten Dunst has great tits. She was a good Mary Jane as well. I look forward to seeing "more" of her soon.
Again, I recommend the movie, even to families, but really if you have older kids. Younger kids might be frightened at some of the Green Goblin monologues as scary flashbacks occur. I took my 6 year old and he loved it, so you just have to be the judge of what your child can handle. However, the movie needed to be made the way it was. A PG-13 rating is appropriate.
There are some critical downsides to this flick though. Primarily the needless dialogue between Mary Jane and Peter. When Toby was Spider-Man, the interaction between he and Mary Jane were great! However, the droning on and on during the hospital scene following Aunt May's encounter with the Green Goblin, as well as the not-well-prepared final scene between Peter and Mary Jane were just awful. I realize a story was needing to be told, but they spent too much time on Peter's awkwardness toward MJ and less time building up why Peter snubs her confession of love at the end.
If I did not know the story, I would have been pissed at the ending. However, for those of you who do not know the story, Peter does try and avoiding getting close with anyone due to his love for them and desire to keep the foes he has away from them. That is why Spider-Man never really joins a super group, like the Avengers. He is a loner, both personally and professionally. While you get some of that idea at the end, they don't hint at it enough throughout the film. Instead they spend 99% of the time discussing how much Peter is in love with MJ. Heck, this could have easily been remedied by Peter distancing a little bit after finding out the Goblin knows who he is. No, instead he says a ton of loving things to her only to finally sway her into loving him and then dissing MJ. It was just a bad sequence of events between the two of them. Throw in the fact that the dialogue between them is like listening to nails on a chalkboard sometimes, and you have some very uninteresting components to this movie.
Finally, the movie was almost TOO animated at times. I heard other critics complain about this, but the CGI effects were great when swinging around town, but when Peter first discovered his powers and was jumping from building to building, I felt like I was watching Toy Story, it was that animated. In addition, the Green Goblin costume I mentioned earlier was bad. It was fat and bloated when it was clearly Willem in the suit, but thin and darker when flying around via CGI. Again, I did not like that change. Green Goblin's skin should have been impacted by the experiment, bit just mental state. During the one scene where Green Goblin was trying to talk Spider-Man into joining him, I just kept thinking of how Willem looked like a villain in Power Rangers or a Sid and Marty Krofft character. It was just uneasy.
Overall though, I recommend the movie. If, at the very least, to appreciate what Marvel has worked so hard in trying to accomplish. The best part of Spider-Man's success is that it opens the door for next year's Hulk movie, Daredevil, X-Men 2 and future development deals like Fantastic Four and a new version of The Punisher.
It boasts an extremely effective cast, despite selecting a few actors I don't usually enjoy. Tobey Maguire makes an appropriately awkward, plucky Peter Parker. Kirsten Dunst is sweet and charming as his lifelong next-door crush. James Franco shows range as the troubled best friend. J.K. Simmons was positively born for his bit role as the hot-headed J. Jonah Jameson. And, of course, Willem Dafoe brings a fantastically expressive act in the villainous role of Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin (though he's often, sadly, relegated to mere voice work behind a stiff, metal mask).
It has spirit and humor and character, but it also has a habit of over-reaching and a wince-worth tendency for ridiculously awful dialog. Even in print, it can be tough to keep this character from sounding corny and stilted, and in live action that's doubly difficult. The script constantly trips and stumbles over itself, trying and failing to seem cute and off-the-cuff, and Raimi's direction (itself known to lean on the cheesy side) always has the actors winking at the camera while their puns are falling flat.
The plot is solid, planting handfuls of seeds for future storylines while effectively setting up the current conflict, though it does have a nasty habit of over-indulgence. A double backflip during a schoolyard fistfight, for example, when the leap alone would've been enough. That kind of exaggeration is all over the place, and not only isn't it necessary, it actively ruins the immersion. I remembered really enjoying this upon its release, and it's still entertaining viewing, but much of it hasn't aged well, particularly in light of its modern counterparts.
I went into Spider-man with, what I would consider, pretty low expectations. I always remembered it being fun but forgettable. Although after watching it again for the first time in over a decade, I have to say that the movie is a lot more fun than people give it credit for.
Now I'll admit it isn't very comic book accurate (think natural wed-shooters), but I wasn't a comic book reader when this movie came out so I had nothing to compare it too. This made my enjoyment of the movie far greater because of that. Peter in this movie isn't the tech savvy, smart ass, so it would be out of place for him to build web-shooters and other tech stuff. He was just a guy being bullied, he liked MJ, he had a family that cared about him. He had traits that any young person at the time could relate to. This is what made his character great. so for him to become Spider-man felt like something that could happen to any of us.
The performances from the cast were great as well. Tobey Maguire is definitely not a wise cracking Spider-Man. but the character he portrayed on screen was good. Kirsten Dunst was great as MJ. She was pretty and you felt that she was torn between wanting to fit in, and wanting to be her own person. Willem Defoe was great as the Green Goblin. His change between Norman Osborn and the Goblin was great and the scene with him talking to the Goblin through the mirror felt like 2 different people. James Franco was grand. nothing special but not bad either, although it was a bit mellow dramatic at times.
The action scenes were good. The first appearance of the Goblin at the parade was fun to watch and it show cased a lot of both his and Spider-Man's abilities. The final fight though, to me, kind of came out of left field. Spider-man hadn't gone looking for the Goblin, he just appeared. To me the flow was just a bit off. The uncle Ben scenes too were fine. It felt genuine when Uncle Ben was telling Peter that "with great power come great responsibility."
Now there were some things that didn't work for me. The script at times did feel very expositiony. I'm assuming this was because there wasn't a lot of super hero movies out so a lot of things had to be explained to the audience. I also didn't like the sudden change to Osborn after he went through the gas. It just seemed like there was nothing then everything. I would have liked to see a progression of this rather than a sudden change, but that might just be on me.
VERDICT: MINOR SURGERY
I had fun with this movie. It definitely felt like a different time in comic films. I think I counted 3 Batman and superman references (Aunt may flat out says "you're not superman, you know"), but it is a movie that feels "comicbooky" and enjoyable. I'm OK with him not being a comic accurate Spider-man, but I have to say , he doesn't hold a candle to Tom Holland.
Really it's the universal Spider-Man film