Spider-Man: Strong Start for Summer Movies
- Thursday, March 14, 2002
Best for: Mature kids and adults who enjoy this comic character.
The plot: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) lives with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) in New York. He's had a secret lifelong crush on next-door neighbor Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and enjoys hanging out with his buddy Harry Osborn (James Franco), whose wealthy father, Norman (Willem Dafoe), is conducting experiments for the government.
While on a school field trip, Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider. The next day, he discovers he has spider-like characteristics. He can climb walls with his flat hands, leap from building to building using webs that spring from his wrists, and fight with ESP-like "spider sense."
After a crime is committed against Peter's family, he vows to fight crime as Spider-Man. His creed, given to him by his Uncle Ben, is, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Peter vows to use his power for good.
Meanwhile, Norman becomes a Jekyll-and-Hyde psychotic killer, with great intelligence and strength -- dubbed the Green Goblin by the press. He becomes Spider-Man's arch-enemy.
The good: I enjoyed every minute of this exciting, entertaining, well-made movie! Matrix-style moves and the latest special effects technology make Maguire look as if he's scaling walls and leaping from building to building. Credit has to be given to Director Sam Raimi for creating characters who aren't overly cartoonish or cheesy.
From the get-go the audience connects with an average boy who gains powers in an unusual way and grows into a man who uses those powers with integrity and character. Maguire has that look of innocence about him and is perfectly cast. He and Dunst have great onscreen chemistry even though their blossoming romance only produces a couple of kissing scenes. Dafoe is believably cast as the menacing Green Goblin.
I read another review that stated this movie has a strong "spiritual" message, but although the story has a moral message and a hero who's a great role model, the few scenes of his aunt and uncle saying grace or the Lord's Prayer don't make it a "spiritual" film. Even though the story takes place in the present day, I think the director was trying to harken back to the culture and mentality of the '50s.
On the other hand, I'm grateful to see characters praying in movies these days and am always delighted to hear the name of God mentioned in a positive way rather than the profane way Hollywood seems to prefer.
The bad: The only thing that dampens this otherwise excellent caper is the use of some profanity and a few intense battle scenes.
Offensive language: A few uses of bad language, but what saddened me most were a couple instances of taking the Lord's name in vain. The scenes weren't dramatic or serious enough to warrant bad language in the first place, let alone religious profanity. It only serves to prove a point I've made before: that in the middle of a great story targeted for the younger audience, this kind of language must be viewed by Hollywood as "OK," "normal" or "mild." I wager that if Hollywood started using the name "Mohammad" or "Buddha" as profanity in movies, we would see a tremendous uproar from the Muslim community and several other religious sects.
Sexual situations: Skimpy costumes on a couple of female wrestlers, a revealing wet shirt and a couple of kissing scenes.
Violence: Some tame fight scenes at first, but when the mean green villain strikes, the fights become more serious.
Parental guidance: As incredible as this movie is, it's simply not kid-friendly. The violence, the death of Peter's uncle and some language make it more appropriate for mature kids ages 12 and up.
It's a wrap: I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would! I can wholeheartedly recommend it to not only comic fans but to anyone who enjoys exciting action and adventure. This is a masterpiece that appeals to the kid in all of us. "Not everyone is meant to make a difference in this world," Spiderman says, but thankfully, for Christians, that's only true in the world of cartoon heroes.
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