9 out of 10

Believable And Vulnerable Character who was also a Superhero

When Stan Lee, the legendary comic book artist of Marvel comics came up with the idea of Spiderman, he gave us the first believable and vulnerable character who was also a superhero. Given the past history of adapting comics to the big screen and given the past mutilation of Spiderman in the old TV series, it was a great relief to me to find I was witnessing the best comic book movie since the first Superman film. Spiderman is simultaneously true to the spirit of the comic series, complex in its portrayal of the characters, and by turns genuinely funny, thrilling and tragic.

The casting is nearly perfect. Tobey Maguire, previously known for playing whiny teens, gives a great performance as Peter Parker, a young man simultaneously becoming an adult and, unexpectedly, a super-hero. He is not muscular but still gives the impression of concealed strength later on in the film, even when not in his costume. Parker is indeed an introverted everyman, more good than evil but hardly a saint, whom the audience can easily identify with. Parker's maybe-unrequited love interest is played by Kirsten Dunst, who comes across as the sweet and vulnerable girl next door yet also as the alluring and talented future star.

William DaFoe is the villain of the piece: he is a successful industrialist affected by a dangerous prototype drug which releases his darker fears and emotions and transforms him into the Green Goblin (with the aid of some hi-tech gadgets from his company's labs). DaFoe is an engaging villain but somehow the performance was just a little off; the Goblin is a little too controlled for a character of released emotions. His fight scenes with Spiderman are great, thanks to the impressive special effects.

The story builds gradually with character development and quirky humour taking precedence over the more traditional elements of a comic book film, such as fight scenes and Burtonesque scenery. The cinematic flow of the film is such that the pace never drags and occasional spikes of emotion and action will keep the viewer glued to the screen. There are a couple of twists to the plot that should take most of the audience by surprise but they are quite believable and consistent.

Credit for this near miracle goes to the director Sam Raimi, who previously directed the Evil Dead series. Word is that 20th Century Fox executives and Raimi had a series of battles over the script, the casting and the overall feel of the film which Raimi generally won. The studio should go down on their knees and thank god they lost the arguments because Spiderman is going to make them a lot of money. This is especially true given the previous problems the project had before Raimi was brought on board, such as lawsuits and James Cameron.

Spiderman is guaranteed to become a classic. Even the secondary elements work in this movie, and I particularily liked the bitter-sweet ending to the (hopefully temporary) end of Peter Parker's adventures. You must see this film, preferably on a big screen.

A Near Miracle

Film Critic: Douglas A Gunter