James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris
Cliff Robertson, Bruce Campbell, Randy Savage
Scott Rosenberg, Neil Ruttenberg
Rated PG-13 for stylized violence and action.
Rated PG for thematic comic violence
It was in the late sixties and I went out to a little corner store that I used to visit each month to pick up a sci-fi comic called AMAZING ADULT FANTASY that was put out by Marvel Comics, written by Stan Lee and illustrated by the great Steve Ditko. Issue number 15 was out and to my surprise the book of short sci-fi stories had turned into a comic with a super hero. I did not know at the time but AMAZING ADULT FANTASY was scheduled to be cancelled. When publisher Martin Goodman told Lee that #15 would be the last issue, Stan decided to do something different. He wanted to present a super hero in a different way. Jack Kirby and Lee designed and created SPIDER-MAN and renamed the title AMAZING FANTASY and had the books regular artist Ditko draw the story.
The book was cancelled but when the figures came in the publisher was surprised at the huge sales figures and soon a new book came out... THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The rest became history and history became a cartoon television series and now it has moved on to the big screen at long last. Thanks to new techniques and CGI effects SPIDER-MAN is an absolutely phenomenal motion pictures true to the comic stories.
Yes I am going to gush incredible amounts of platitudes about this movie because it is great. It has everything to make it a cross generational film. It will attract us older readers from the sixties all that way to the newest, younger readers. The fact that they kept true to the book's origin and used the characters with very little modifications make it a pleasant surprise. The only major modification is of course, THE GREEN GOBLIN. in the movie he is a character in an exoskeleton war suit unlike the cloth goblin costume in the book. As much as I would have liked to see the original one, this costume makes more sense for the movie. Nothing else is wrong.
It was nice to see a big on screen credit to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as the creator but I was disappointed that Jack Kirby was not included in that credit. Still I wonder if the reclusive Ditko will go out into the world and see his work brilliantly brought to the screen. Stan Lee of course got a bit part in the film so I know he'll be out there with his wife Joan, at the premieres.
Peter Parker actually narrates some parts of his story. He makes us aware that this is not about him but it is a love story, involving the woman of his dreams, Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst, a beautiful tall redhead who has dreams of being a movie star. Peter's story begins at Columbia University Science Department where his high school class goes on a science field trip. Here we are quickly introduced to most of the characters involved in our little melodrama. We meet the wealthy, scientist and business man, Norman Osborn with his son Harry, a melancholy young man who also has eyes for Mary Jane. Yes, even the nasty high school jock, 'Flash' Thompson is present. Here he is Mary Jane's boyfriend unlike in the original story. Mary Jane for those who do not know, did not appear in the comic series in the first few years, but here it makes sense to move her up into the story's chronology.
The writers give us a quick education on the abilities of various spiders that soon lead to Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive, genetically mutated spider with many abilities of various other spiders. This super spider's bite affects Peter making him sick. He heads for his home where he lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May Parker. After passing out he wakes up with some astounding surprises. His body is suddenly more muscular, his vision is perfect making his glasses useless and he just feels different. Tobey Maguire the actor playing both Parker and Spiderman worked hard to get his 26 year old body into shape for this movie. His costume uses no padding and Maquire is proud of that. This is important because Peter, in the comic, was never overly muscular; he was just strong with the proportional strength of a spider.
Norman Osborn is also about to experience his fate. Under pressure from the military to produce an effective exoskeleton for soldiers, he decides to experiment on himself in true mad scientist behaviour. Exposed to a special nerve gas , Osborn becomes a schizophrenic killer, THE GREEN GOBLIN, after donning the prerequiste villians costume, here being the green exoskeleton. He rides a special weapon, his goblin glider, a deadly weapon that accompanies his deadly minature Jack O' Lantern weapons. He has plans to eliminate a lot of people. To bad at the same time his soon to be enemy is also going through a metamorphosis.
In school, an incident happens that causes Peter to run out of the school in terror. His wrists secrete a sticky web like substance. Okay here a lot of people were upset when it was found that Spider-Man's web creating abilities would be organic. No one in the screening were upset but there are websites out there that tried to convince director Sam Raimi to stay with Parker's invention of the web fluid cartridges. Yup, Peter had invented the sticky substance that the director felt should be organic. In the movie the organic web making abilities again fits better. Peter is about to learn that he has many more powers.
We are treated to lots of great building jumping and web slinging between skyscrappers before we get into the classic Spider-Man and Goblin battles. The battles are great, really. They are perfect comic battles that will please comic fans and regular theatre goers everywhere. The effects are great and Goblin looks really good moving around on the goblin glider. During these battles Spider-Man moves just the way Ditko drew him in the early comics.
Wanting to impress Mary Jane, Peter keeps true to his origin by trying to make money, in this case to buy a car. He decides to enter into a wrestling match where he must survive 3 minutes with wrestler Bonesaw. He puts together a makeshift costume to disguise him self while wrestling. After being cheated by the promoter, fate will come to play that will change his life forever. An interesting bit to notice here is that when he goes after the killer of his Uncle Ben, the robber Peter let escape, he goes after him in this makeshift costume. Now if you watch the trailers for these scenes you will notice that he has on his regular Spidey suit and not the makeshift one from the movie. The producers were smart to do this replacement because it would not have gone over well in the trailers and may have given the illusion of a shabby costume and gotten bad press.
Once Spider-Man begins his crusade against evil he comes to the attention of J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher and editor of THE DAILY BUGLE. J.K. Simmons is absolutely great looking as Jameson, funny crew cut and all. He must have read lots of Spider-Man comics to capture the character so well. Peter of course becomes a freelance photographer at the Bugle after getting fired by Dr.Connors. Yes, for those in the know Conners will become The Lizard, someday, which may be Raimi's little clue as to what may come in the sequel which is already in production.
It has taken 10 years of legal wrangling and false starts to get Spider-Man on to the big screen . James Cameron was the original director but everything fell through until it eventually ended in the capable hands of Sam Raimi who did an excellent job of bringing this comic legend to the big screen.
Except for some thematic violence the film is safe for most children over 6 years of age. Anyone being killed is mentioned but not really shown. This is a fun movie to sit back and enjoy with a drink in your cupholder and a large bag of popcorn in your hand. Just get ready to "ooo" and "aahh" a lot as your watch the thrill ride. As for myself, I'll be seeing it a few more times once it is released.
Before I forget, make sure you stick around for the credits because Raimi had the good sense to throw in the song from the Spier-Man television cartoon show. It brings back some nice memories. Well time to swing out of here; see you back here soon.
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