Plot: After getting bit by a spider at the museum, high school nerd Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) develops the agility and strength of the spider, becoming the superhero ‘Spider-Man.’ When Norman Osborn (William Dafoe), head of the highly successful Oscorp, injects himself with experimental human enhancers, he turns into the deranged Green Goblin who threatens New York City, leaving Spider-Man the only one who can stop him.
Let me start out by saying I’m not a huge Spider-Man fan. I think his origin is pretty lame compared to other superheroes. Having said that, I’ll just come right out and say it; I don’t like this movie. I’m not saying it’s terrible, but to regard it as one of the better superhero movies is just flat out wrong. I don’t normally do this, but get ready; I’m about to nit pick the shit out of this thing. This will be a lot longer than my normal ‘Superhero Movies on Steroids’ pieces, but I have a lot to say about Spider-Man.
First of all, it’s very slow-paced, especially when setting up the Green Goblin character. The plot itself is terrible. Green Goblin has no specific goal or plans. He’s just a big nuisance who bothers Spider-Man. There are no grand aspirations. I also can’t stand the “With great power, comes great responsibility,” line, only because I had to hear it constantly the following few years. And did we really need a Macy Gray music video in the middle of the film?
The clichés are relentless. Uh-Oh, Peter Parker gets tripped on the bus…hahaha, what a nerd. Peter tells Mary Jane, “She’s going to light up Broadway” in response to her wanting to be an actress. Come on! Then of course we have the montage of Spider-Man saving people and stopping crimes. Because we didn’t see this in 1978’s Superman done way better. Oh, and Spider-Man rips off his jacket to reveal the suit underneath it, identical to Superman. Not to mention the fact that Aunt May even tells him, “You’re not Superman, you know.” You got to be kidding me. Let’s remember that Superman was also mentioned in Batman & Robin…just putting it out there.
Now the design of the costume if fine, but there are so many moments it looks like a giant cartoon, especially when we get the first close-up shot. It looks horrible. I’m really not one to complain about the look of superhero costumes and special effects, but it just looks laughable at times.
The acting is pretty bad all around. Tobey Maguire isn’t terrible, but he lacks a lot of charisma in the role. I think another actor could have taken this to better places. The acting in general is extremely deadpanned (James Franco anyone?). Even Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Ben and May Parker respectively aren’t real compelling. The acting between ClarkKent, Jonathan Kent, and Martha Kent on Smallville is a better family dynamic than this. There’s also Kirsten Dunst who’s pretty terrible. She always giggles her lines and can’t say anything without a goofy smile. The romantic angle between Mary Jane and Peter Parker lacks a lot of chemistry. It’s no better than a run of the mill television romance, I’m sorry. Plus Mary Jane is so inconsiderate, why should I like her? But I’ll touch on that later. Maybe this is director Sam Raimi’s fault. I know Liam Neeson is a great actor, yet I didn’t like his performance in Raimi’s Darkman.
The tone of the film is really corny, cluttered with bad jokes. This is pretty apparent in the dialogue. Let’s take a look at some of these lines:
–“Well, beats taking the subway.” –Spider-Man to Mary Jane after rescuing her
–“I think I have a superhero stalker.” –A giggling Mary Jane after she nearly dies
–“It’s you who’s out, Gobbie. Out of your mind.” –Spider-Man to Green Goblin
Speaking of which, my biggest complaint with the film is the atrocity that is Green Goblin. Now I don’t have a problem with William Dafoe, but it’s how the character is portrayed. He’s a big silly, giant, goofy, stupid cartoon. The costume and mannerisms of this character at times belong in a Joel Schumacher Batman film. Here are some of his lines:
–“Hello my dear,” when meeting Mary Jane
–“We’ll meet again, Spider-Man,” As he escapes Spider-Man
–“Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep,” after gassing Spider-Man
–“You’ve spun your last web, Spider-Man,” Before trying to kill him
-And he also sings the ‘itsy bitsy spider’ song
Now maybe on paper these aren’t terrible, but just imagine the most clichéd and over the top cartoonish villainous laugh there is in conjunction with these lines. I hate his voice. I hate this villain.
Now after all my ranting, I don’t hate this film. I think there are cool fights and some nice sequences, but there aren’t any truly great moments. Maybe this is what it’s like in the Spider-Man comics, but we have another case where staying too faithful to the source material is a bad thing.
Spider-Man is overrated. It’s a giant goofy cartoon. I’m not saying you have to be deadly serious with every superhero movie, but this is all fluff with piss poor acting and a lame plot. It’s nothing more than a mediocre popcorn flick.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)
Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):
Best Performance: J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
-His delivery is priceless. I could watch a spin-off of Jameson. He’s the one legitimately funny character that works.
Worst Performance: James Franco as Harry Osborn
-Can someone please tell me the fascination with this actor? He stepped it up a little bit in 127 Hours, but here he is one big ball of deadpanned acting. It’s amazing how asleep he looks throughout the film. There’s one scene in particular where he kind of raises his voice at Mary Jane, going one little notch up from his monotone voice. It’s awful, but also unintentionally funny.
Best Line: “Forty thousand years of evolution and we’ve barely even tapped the vastness of human potential” –Norman Osborn
-This sums up Norman Osborn perfectly, which is why it’s a shame he becomes such a cartoonish villain. William Dafoe is wasted, and with different direction, it could have been interesting.
Worst Line: “I could squash you like a bug right now.” –Green Goblin
-Ohhhhh, because spiders are like bugs, and that’s what Green Goblin wants to do with Spider-Man. Okay, I get it. Clever.
-I like the end with Green Goblin where Spider-Man’s mask is half ripped and stuff, but I’m actually going to go with the fight he has with Mary Jane’s dick boyfriend Flash. I like the slow motion dodges as Peter discovers his powers. This was done pretty well.
-It’s really just the Mary Jane character in general, but specifically when she kisses Spider-Man. First of all, while dating Harry, she’s making it clear to Peter she loves him. She also says to Peter, “I better run tiger.” Ugh. She shouldn’t be dating Harry and continue to lead him on by pushing to meet his father. What the hell MJ! This is what I mean by being no better than a Gossip Girl level television show. But when she kisses Spider-Man, she doesn’t even think twice about it. I get he just saved your life and the adrenaline is rushing, but aren’t you dating Harry? And the next day she’s gabbing’ it up with Harry, smiling like everything’s fine. She also tells Peter she loves him right after the funeral of her ex-boyfriend’s father. She’s so selfish, yet MJ is supposed to be this really likable and good person. Whatever.
-When Spider-Man chases the Car Jacker who killed his uncle and we see him hang upside down for the first time is pretty cool.
-The scene that really sticks out for me is Spider-Man tied up by Green Goblin on the rooftop. There’s a moment where he taps Spider-Man on the head, leans on the pillar, and just chats with him. I freeze frame the shot. I’m looking at this dumb green metal suit Goblin having a casual conversation with a guy dressed up like a spider. Then it hits me; this is stupid. I strongly believe that superhero movies can be a serious genre of film, but watching this play out, I understand why the Academy doesn’t nominate superhero movies for real awards. It’s a big dumb cartoon.
-When Spider-Man goes to the wrestling match to fight, he has to sign in. This woman takes one look at him and explains he has to agree to all these waivers and then just throws in at the end, “Down the hall to the ramp, and may God be with you.” It’s a good delivery that always gives me a chuckle.
Bad Ass Moment:
-Green Goblin’s bombs are pretty nasty, but what’s even cooler is when Spider-Man dodges and spins around to avoid all the spiked bombs in the burning building.