What is it with people who think Spider-Man is the second coming? I thought it was a spirited, competent, faithful adaptation of the original comics. And I say this having solicited some opinions from my comics-reading friends. It was that and a little bit more, and what you get out of the movie depends on what you expected. Sam Raimi's New York City is the opposite of Tim Burton's Gotham City. It's brighter and its buildings seem perennially shiny, just-washed. The film is aglow with teenage enthusiasm and optimism--contrasted again with Bruce Wayne's world-weary cynicism--even during its darkest moments, and that was the thing that I sort of clung onto when the filmed dragged or seemed slightly ludicrous. You can't fault a movie, however, for remaining faithful to the spirit and essence of its source. Willem Dafoe, poor thing, plays the hysterical, cartoonish villain well, and there are all these comic-bookish clipped scenes and exaggerated moments. I have to say it succeeded in what it was trying to do, to entertain and engage. Much of the credit goes to Tobey Maguire, one of the most versatile and amicable actors of my generation. I never knew the Peter Parker of the comic books, but I think I like the Peter Parker of the movies. Like any good superhero he was at first a loser, a geek ostracized at school, incapable of going after the girl next door. Pre-spider-bite Peter Parker was Bud of Pleasantville. But what's most impressive is Tobey's ability to convince us of his transformation from zero to hero. His comedic timing and his genuine wide-eyed wonder at his newly discovered talents infected us all. We couldn't quite believe what we were seeing, but neither could he. All credit goes to Tobey for creating a hero that most of us could most readily identify with, a hero that was more vulnerable, and thus more endearing, than any other. Sure, I found faults with the film's pace, its dialogue, and even some of its action sequences (they seemed ... insignificant. Convenience store robbers? Apartment fires? Would-be rapists?). But I have to remember this was based on a comic book (a not unreasonable justification), and that sometimes spirit supercedes everything. So I've gotten with the wall-climbing, tower-leaping, good-doing, ass-kicking spirit of the movie. It wasn't trying to be something it wasn't. And Spider Man was a sort of smalltown hero in a big city. It was pure campy cinematic fun, and it was only taking its baby steps in what I hope will turn out to be a long cinematic career. Peter Parker has only just begun his adventures.
We believe, and hope, as the end credits roll, that there will be much more to come.
Rating: B+ (First viewing, 5/5/02)