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Entry updated 7 October 2019. Tagged: Film.

Film (2002). Columbia Pictures presents a Marvel Entertainments/Laura Ziskin production. Directed by Sam Raimi. Written by David Koepp, based on the Marvel Comic book by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko. Cast includes Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and Tobey Maguire. 121 minutes. Colour.

A critical and commercial hit, Spider-Man, along with X-Men (2000) (see X-Men Films), reinvigorated the Superhero genre in cinema. Spider-Man is an origin tale, largely true to the Comics. (Spider-Man made his Marvel Comics debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962, and was given his own comic, The Amazing Spider-Man, in March 1963. From the beginning up to Amazing Spider-Man #38 the comics were drawn by Steve Ditko.)

Peter Parker (Maguire), a science and photography high-school nerd, is bitten by a spider produced by Genetic Engineering (an update from the radioactive spider of the comics). Soon he finds himself possessing Superpowers allowing him to shoot webs from his wrists, climb sheer walls, withstand pain and leap huge distances. Meanwhile, his mentor Norman Osborn (Dafoe) experiments on himself and unwittingly unlocks an evil alter-ego: Green Goblin. The pair battle through the streets of New York, much of the time fighting over a young woman: Mary Jane Watson (Dunst).

Eschewing the current convention of rendering superhero stories more serious and gritty in transferring them to the big screen, Raimi made Spider-Man as a colourful spectacle with humour and heart. The core of the film is not the threat of the Jekyll-and-Hyde figure of Norman/the Green Goblin, a sub par villain by comics standards, but the coming of age of a troubled young man as he searches for love and meaning in his life. The film's warmth is cemented by Maguire's touching innocence as the hero who has greatness thrust upon him, rather than as a birthright (Superman) or a choice (Batman).

Computer-generated effects, artistically and technically of very high standard, allowed for breathtaking and iconic scenes of Spider-Man swinging between the skyscrapers of New York. Whereas the Superman and Batman films exaggerated aspects of New York for the heightened realities of Metropolis and Gotham respectively, Spider-Man has a sense of blue-collar solidity that comes in large part from the use of real New York locations.

The film generated two sequels also directed by Raimi: Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007). It was novelized by Michael Teitelbaum as The Adventures of Spider-Man (2002). [JN/PN]


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