Review: Spider-Man (2002)

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: David Koepp
Columbia Pictures; PG-13; 120 minutes
Release: 5/02
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst

Spider-Man: it's one of those movies that arrives in the media months before it hits the silver screen. Living up to hype can be difficult, so it's interesting to note that Spider-Man's greatest successes come from the scaled-down, personal touches rare in summer blockbusters.

The film updates the superhero's comic book beginnings. New York City teen Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) gets bitten by a genetically altered spider. (In the '60s the bug was radioactive, but contemporary fears have evolved.) The boy slowly awakens to his newfound powers, initially using them to impress the girl next door Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). Spidey stumbles into crime fighting just in time to combat the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe, working at half-wattage). This Jekyll-Hyde figure was a regular rich businessman before he swallowed his company's untested product. He currently wreaks civic havoc on a flying surfboard. The Goblin's son is Peter's only real friend, and both are competing for Mary Jane's affections.

Unlike most superheroes, Spider-Man harbors a socially awkward, plainly human side under the flashy costume. Soft-faced Tobey Maguire fills the role perfectly. Fans should be satisfied with director Sam Raimi's adaptation, and newcomers will get a sense of character rare in superhero movies. That and truckloads of CGI special effects. But it's the terrestrial drama that gives this film kick.

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