Retro Review: Spider-Man

With the flick of the web and the pounce of a hero, Sony Pictures unleashes Marvel Comics prime creation, Spiderman into a multiplex near you.

“Spider-Man” debuted in August 1962 in Amazing Fantasy #15 and launched a new kind of superhero. This new kind of superhero was a teenager who had typical human problems and was always influenced by the world around him. This hero was a more realistic version than heroes before him.

Spider-Man was the brainchild of Stan Lee and famed comic artist Steve Ditko. Amazing Fantasy #15 eventually went on to become one of the greatest comics of all time.

In its comic book infancy, Spider-Man was never a sure thing a lot like the new feature film that is about to hit theatres around the globe. It has taken over a decade to bring the Marvel’s prime creation to the silver screen. It wasn’t until the character rights surfaced from legal battles that the film was finally green-lit.

The new feature film that stars Tobey Maguire (Cider House Rules) as Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker is accidentally bitten by a “genetically-altered” spider while on a class field trip. This small insect bite revolutionizes Peter’s life.

Peter finds himself invigorated by the bite as he is able to make a mark in his world. But no matter how hard he struggles with his new identity, Peter can never quite get up enough nerve to ask out the girl of his dreams, Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).

Years go by and Peter eventually moves to the “City” and moves in with his friend and millionaire offspring Harry Osborn (James Franco).

Meanwhile Harry and Peter start to see significant changes in Harry’s father, Norman (Willem Dafoe) as a sinister armored man, dubbed the Green Goblin, starts terrorizing New York. Spider-Man is forced to confront this fiend when he targets people Peter cares about.

“Spider-Man” has all the elements of a great superhero film and a summer blockbuster. Just while I was watching it I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing within this new version of our favorite “webhead”.

The beginning and first half of Spider-Man is literally ripped right from that infamous Amazing Fantasy #15 and it made my adrenaline surge. I loved watching Tobey Maguire’s looks and eye movements during the scenes where he explores his new powers.

It was a great performance and encompassed the character to perfection. I could see what director Sam Raimi saw in Tobey. The wrestling match and the field trip were all great scenes. They were always what I imagined when reading the origins of Spider-Man.

I loved that they maintained to the classic look of Spider-Man’s costume but why make the Green Goblin look like a “Transformers” robot. I found it hard to relate to the villain because of that armored look. I would have liked to have seen him have prosthetics on his face as he goes insane (ala the Joker in the 1989’s Batman).

And have them maintain the green and purple style costume so loved in the comics. Since we can’t see either hero or villain’s mouth or eyes when they fight it kind of reminded me of those old Japanese monster films. You know the ones with the rubber suits. Maybe that was just me.

My problems and feelings of something that is missing occur when the film brings the characters to New York. I felt something was missing as they try to bring the worlds of Peter, Mary-Jane and the Osborn’s. I really liked how they portrayed Peter and how he eventually got a job at the Daily Bugle. The whole portrayal and handling of J. Jonah Jameson was brilliant. But the other stories really never did much for me except for Dafoe’s performance as the stressed out, secret hiding Norman Osborn.

As I thought more and more about what was wrong with the whole film I came to the conclusion was that the film doesn’t have a constant cohesion as it evolves.

The textures and tone of the film as it follows Peter’s life seem to be slightly off key. The feel of the second half of the film is much darker and grittier than the first half except when Spider-Man is swinging.

The final fight scene and eventual film ending is very dark and cryptic which made me wonder why leave a film on a down note even if it is a set-up for a sequel.

I enjoyed Spider-Man to a point but I guess I was disappointed because they stuck so realistically and loyal to the comic until the second half. I wish this adaptation would have maintained what it set out to do in the first half.

4 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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