Spider-Man Review

Passion. That is what Spider-Man can showcase. It and director Sam Raimi wear that on their sleeves. His love for the source material and desire to bring the fashionable world of web-slinging action to life is a bold and exciting attempt that, thanks to the joys of hindsight and nostalgia, feels far stronger than it did upon its initial release. Audiences clamour for the days when Danny Elfman and Willem Dafoe could be attached to a project about a man bitten by a radioactive spider, swinging his way through the streets of New York. Woody Allen wishes his love for New York were this strong, Spike Lee yearns for such passion, and Martin Scorsese wishes he could pull off a superhero movie this fun. Hell, he probably could. 

What is certain though is that Raimi is the right man to bring this project together. Willem Dafoe and James Franco showcase a sublime animosity. The shame of the rich kid heading to public school is not displayed as an economic issue, but a social one. That aspect of their relationship includes Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), as do all these subplots and moments of interest. Jealousy and romance blossom in every pocket of detail around this feature. Maguire plays ball exceptionally well with Kirsten Dunst and Dafoe, but his leading performance as the eponymous, neighbourhood superhero is a delightful one. He is an inherent geek and never changes that nerdy, introverted persona even in his times of crisis and heroism. He may be a hero, but science can only change his genetics so far. He may be toned, superhuman and able to swing his way through the streets of New York, but no amount of spider bites will ever overcome social awkwardness. His change of DNA is scientific, but his chemistry with those around him is inherent. Maguire and Dafoe are great parallels, a reporter and a businessman at conflict because of their alter egos. The sad truth Raimi realises is that they would be great collaborators if it were not for their twisted DNA. Parker has a fascination with science, Norman Osborn works within it.  

Dafoe is somewhat of a scientist himself, and his change into the villainous Green Goblin is magnificently handled. A split personality strikes him down, and it is hard not to love his performance. Iconic for all the right reasons. Pleasant at first, his split personality fires him into a marvellous tug of war between genius scientist and maniac, hellbent on pursuing those who wrongfooted him. It is the amicable, safe nature of that split that, under Raimi, is thoroughly endearing, rather than predictable. Dafoe sells these moments supremely well, and the special effects, costumes and dialogue that surrounds him is the icing on the cake. Raimi has a vibrant spectacle on his hands, but balances that out with moments of quieter, relaxed moments. Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and May Parker (Rosemary Harris) provide those slower scenes, and they are magnificent. Their concern is genuine, their performances adept, and the impact clear.  

Superheroes are inundated with flash colours and a desire to capture an audience with special effects, not a story. Where the new instalments of Spider-Man or Thor go are of little point to an audience. They focus on the cool moments, the big fights and the star power. Raimi utilises those same moments but uses them with restraint, and slick pacing. Whether it is through nostalgia or genuine appreciation, Spider-Man holds up as a vibrant showcase of what made superhero films of this period so strange. Colourful, oozing with confidence and cheeky bits of charm here or there, Spider-Man and the ensemble collected here ascend the devoted cult following and meme culture of modern memory to provide exciting material in the darkest days of comic book adaptations.  

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