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  Spider-Man To The Rescue!
Year: 2002
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Joe Manganiello, Gerry Becker, Bill Nunn, Jack Betts, Stanley Anderson, Ron Perkins, Michael Papajohn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Who is Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire)? Do you really want to know? It's not a story for the faint of heart, not because he is an orphan who lives with his uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and aunt May (Rosemary Harris), not because he's in love with the girl next door, Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) who he barely has the courage to speak to, and not because he's basically a lowly wimp at high school, with only one real friend in isolated millionaire's son Harry Osborn (James Franco). No, it's because one day on a class trip to a genetics lab, Peter was bitten by a very special spider...

If you don't know the story of Spider-Man, even in its basics, you're obviously not familiar with pop culture since the sixties, as the character became part of modern folklore, complete with his well-kent origin and abilities, not to mention that distinctive red and blue costume. Rather than attempt to make a radical departure from this source, the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comic book, director Sam Raimi and his screenwriter David Koepp embraced it, offering everything an audience would want from the blockbusting interpretation of the superhero, and were rewarded with a summer hit.

Time passed and Raimi's Spider-Man movies fell out of favour after a poorly received third instalment, so much so that it was deemed necessary to portray this origin yarn all over again in a further film not even ten years after this effort, yet while this may have not been the greatest comic book movie ever made - and those fans were so fickle that it was hard to judge precisely what that actually was with any consensus - it remained a richly adapted and riproaring flick that did not disgrace the character, or any of the others who supported him. The key to this was, just as Superman was really about unrequited love for Lois Lane, a similiar not quite romance was at the heart here.

So Mary-Jane, or MJ as she is known, comes from a tough home life and has dreams that seem outwith her grasp, with the one man who truly loves her always at a remove from her life, first because she doesn't realise how valuable he would be to her, and later because she does realise that, but now he has moved on and become a more complicated adult. The reason for that is the genetically modified (not radioactive this time) spider which chomps on Peter's hand and after one feverish night transforms him into a young man with amazing arachnid-like abilities. But with great power comes great responsibility, as Ben advises him, a father figure Peter rejects at the worst moment.

This leaves space for another father figure, unfortunately an abusive one - if there's one thing this was about other than thwarted romance, it was the mixed messages children can get from their parents and guardians. This individual is Harry's scientist father Norman (Willem Dafoe), who has been experimenting on himself to create a supersoldier, an endeavour which works all too well as he falls prey to madness and turns into the Green Goblin, Spider-Man's opposite number. The sequence where he wreaks havoc on a parade to teach his board of directors a deadly lesson is among the finest in superhero screen fiction, with Spider-Man doing his best to put paid to the Goblin's plans, and tying in with the overarching theme: rescue the girl. This did leave Dunst in the victim role for too much of the film, but crucially she made MJ someone worth saving for Peter, and if Raimi packed a little too much into an overstuffed narrative, the love story was strong, and the action relevant. Music by Danny Elfman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Sam Raimi  (1959 - )

Precociously talented American director with a penchant for horror/fantasy and inventive camerawork. Raimi made a huge impact with his debut film The Evil Dead at the tender age of 22, a gory, often breathtaking horror romp made on a tiny budget with a variety of friends from his hometown of Detroit. Follow-up Crimewave was a comic misfire, but Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness were supremely entertaining, while tragic superhero yarn Darkman was Raimi's first time wielding a big budget.

Raimi showed a more serious side with the baseball drama For Love of the Game, thriller A Simple Plan and supernatural chiller The Gift, before directing one of 2002's biggest grossing films, Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 was released in summer 2004, with Spider-Man 3 following two years later. He then returned to outright horror with the thrill ride Drag Me to Hell, and hit Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful after that. On the small screen, Raimi co-created American Gothic and the hugely popular Hercules and Xena series. Bruce Campbell usually pops up in his films, as does his trusty Oldsmobile car.

 
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