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The Makings of a Classic and the End All Be All of Film Renditions of Everybody's Favorite Web Slinger
2002's Spider-Man is a film that will always have a special place in my memory as, though I did see the first X-Men film on television some time after it came out on DVD, I never saw it in theaters, Spider-Man, on the other hand, was the first superhero film I saw on the silver screen. It was a film that had enough impact on my very young mind to make Spider-Man my second favorite superhero, right behind the Caped Crusader himself. I loved this film as a kid, almost as much as Jack Nicholson's outing as the Joker in the original 1989 Batman film, and watching Spider-Man again and again as I grew older has only made me appreciate it's spectacle even more.
For one thing, the special effects were top notch for the early 2000s and, for the most part, hold up very well today. That is, aside from the very early 2000s video game-esque crawling spider and spinning DNA strand intro animations, which I can't give them too much trash for because they are certainly not an integral part of the film, and I think they were going for a stylized, comic book appearance anyways. Aside from that though the special effects are still fantastic looking today with epic swooping camera angles and fantastically choreographed fight scenes. The overall cinematography of the film is grade-A with a perfect combination of practical and special effects for the majority of the film, aside from the occasional, dated, 90s- esque close-up shots of Spidey yelling to show how much fun he's having, but this is a movie about the web-slinger, and the web-slinging looks great.
The score of the film is fantastic as well with a powerful, trumpeting orchestra, presenting the perfect tone for both the action and emotionally-oriented parts of the film. It is yet another winner for Danny Elfman in my book and is the type of score that I would take any day over many of the heavily electronic scores of recent years even while these symphonic pieces seem to be fading away in favor of soundtracks that can be made by two guys with a computer and a $100 software program.
As for the acting, the majority of the cast is very strong and supported by an excellent script comprised of a multitude of Stan Lee's memorable as ever characters, making for some very compelling performances. Starting with the amazing wall-crawler himself, Spider-Man, a.k.a. Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, while there are certainly those who would object, mainly due to the train-wreck of a final installment which was Spider-Man 3, which was mainly a directorial disaster, in my opinion, I felt Tobey did a fantastic job as Spidey. Before what I imagine was director Sam Raimi's evil alter ego forcing Maguire to die his hair and dance around like a total numbskull, Tobey Maguire was delivering Spidey performances like this, bringing in all of the awkward nerdiness, emotion, charisma, humor, compassion, and complexity of both Spider-Man and Peter Parker, Maguire is not at all a bad pick for a leading role and he carries the film marvelously. Next we have the great Willem Dafoe whose role as the Green Goblin/Norman Osborne is easily in my top 10, if not top 5 supervillain performances of all time. Dafoe brings all of his Academy Award nominated, and in my opinion deserving, acting chops to the role bringing the menacing insanity of the character along with his emotional conflict as a father, friend, and businessman. When you're watching an actor like Willem Dafoe, you know your in for a classic performance, I only wish he had a more revealing mask, because with the diversity of this man's facial expressions, he could have brought a whole new level of terror to the Green Goblin if he did. To follow Willem would be Kristen Dunst as Marry Jane Watson, Parker/Spidey's love interest and, while I can't say I'm consistently her biggest fan, she delivers on the emotional aspects and a likable performance, so you can't ask for much more than that. After Ms. Dunst would be who I see as the only short link in the film if only because he isn't used enough, or allowed to develop his character enough in the film, Mr. James Franco, I never thought I'd say it because I am planted firmly in Franco's corner as of recent years but his character simply does not get enough screen time for you to care a whole lot about the misfortunate Harry Osborne. The last actor of note other than those characters would be J. K. Simmons as a simply spot on, bar none, perfect J. Jonah Jameson, after his performance there is just no one else I can think of for the role.
Overall, Spider-Man was a groundbreaking superhero film both visually and emotionally. It is spear-headed by an all-star cast and supported by a phenomenal original score. Though the film may have a few short comings, and can even feel a bit dated at times it is still, what I believe will be, and already is for me a superhero classic. The third film may have fallen off in it's own respect but this first film was a monumental step in the right direction for superhero films and for that, it's a 5 out of 5. For Spidey's Burning Building Baby Help Line, this is The Truth You Can't Handle, signing off.