Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spider-Man (2002)

So my wife has been out of town and I took advantage of the opportunity to waste more time than usual. I've been hankering for a superhero movie for a while, mainly because I want to see how different they are now that I've a acquired some comic book knowledge. I remember I used to be annoyed with people who would yammer on about the differences between the movie and the comic book, but now I've become one of those guys. I'll try not to do too much of that in this review.

 The first thing I noticed in re-watching Spider-Man is that the special effects have dated considerably. So many movies over the past decade have relied so heavily on special effects while ignoring basic movie making elements such as plot and character development. Luckily Tobey Maguire makes a great Peter Parker and Sam Raimi really spent some time developing Peter Parker as the loveable nerd who happens upon powers beyond his wildest imagining. The relatable characters in this movie more than make up for the fact that many of the special effects just aren't up to scratch anymore. I will say this though: as Spider-Man jumps across rooftops and swings through the city, his movements are very spider-like and still look pretty darn cool.

 The casting for Spider-Man was top-notch. Tobey Maguire was a perfect choice as was Kirsten Dunst. Uncle Ben and Aunt May look exactly like they should, and J. Jonah Jameson is beyond perfect. I actually found that Willem Dafoe was a bit hammy at times and played the Green Goblin a bit too far over the top. The same could be said for James Franco, who is a bit too mopey and distant, so his performance comes off a bit fake.

 The best part of this movie is related to the one thing I really hate in movies based on books and characters I already love: comic relief. The problem is that people like me (nerds) who are already fans of the source material don't need extra comedy to make us enjoy the movie. Unfortunately the powers that be aren't just trying to sell movies to the hardcore nerd fanbase who will always watch movies based on things they love (unless of course it's a Michael Bay picture in which case everyone would be better off not seeing it). Hollywood tries to make movies that are all things to all people. Movies are theoretically a for-profit business, so the model in which they attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience is fiscally sound even if it produces things that slightly annoy me. In The Lord of the Rings movies, for example, they turned Gimli from the proud and awesome dwarf that he was in the books into the brunt of all the jokes and the largest source of comic relief in the movies. They did this so that people who are not fans of the books could more easily endure the 3 hour movies. Hardcore fans like myself were annoyed with what they did to Gimli, but not so much that we didn't see the other two movies and didn't buy them in multiple formats multiple times when they came out. Would I have preferred that Lord of the Rings be absolutely humorless? Yes. That's exactly what I wanted. That's what I want out of my superhero movies as well. All of the recent Marvel movies (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, etc.) have all included scenes that made the audience laugh out loud, which made me secretly resent all of them. The good thing about Spider-Man is that it really only includes one of these scenes (when Peter Parker is trying to figure out how he got the web to shoot). Because there are fewer clear examples of pandering to the non-nerd audience in Spider-Man, I give it some serious bonus points.

Anyway, my rant about comic relief aside, Spider-Man holds up very well for a movie with lots of special effects that was made a decade ago. It sticks pretty close to the comic books, which is nice. The characters are well-developed, and the plot is engaging. It isn't Citizen Kane, but you could certainly do much, much, much worse in the superhero movie genre (I'm looking at you, Batman & Robin).

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