May 3, 2002
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst,
Willem Dafoe, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris,
and J.K. Simmons
Laura Ziskin and Ian Bryce
Avi Arad and Stan
ON THE MARVEL COMIC BOOKS BY:
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Older children, teenagers
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By Movieguide Magazine
- The movie Spider-Man is not only well-constructed, exciting
and entertaining, but it is also chock full of faith, much to our surprise.
Three times during the story, people say very clearly, "Thank God for
you, Peter." Peter Parkers aunt, with whom he lives, says the Lords
Prayer just as the villain attacks, so her prayer to "deliver us from
evil" seems to be answered by Gods Grace alone! Cliff Robertson, who
shows up at a lot of real-life Christian events in Hollywood, says, "Let
there be light," as he screws in a light bulb, to which his wife May replies,
"God will be thrilled." In another scene, May asks the Green Goblins
alter-ego, Norman Osborn, to say grace. There are many other God bless
yous. Furthermore, Spider-man Peter Parkers uncle tells him as he dies
the theme of the movie, "With great power comes great responsibility,"
to which Peter much later adds, "This is my gift and this is my curse."
Since we know some of the people behind this production, were not surprised
by this very Christian God talk in one of their movies. It is surprising,
however, to find this God-talk in a movie about a comic book character who
in his comic book persona often seemed like a teenager with a wisecracking
Spider-Man opens with Peter Parkers narration telling the audience
that this is a movie about a girl. The girl is Peter Parkers neighbor, Mary
Jane or MJ, played by Kirsten Dunst. MJ, however, is the most popular girl
on campus and dating the really big man on campus. Also, the very wealthy
Harry Osborn, son of multi-millionaire inventor Norman Osborn, has his eyes
on her. Compounding Peters romantic problems is that hes a four-eyed wimp
that everybody likes to make fun of whenever they see him. Even the bus driver
wont stop for him, and, when he gets on, his classmates trip him. The only
thing that doesnt happen to Peter is that nobody kicks sand in his face.
One day, on a trip to one of the most advanced research labs in the world,
where theyre breeding super spiders, one spider bites Peter. He goes home
to his aunt and uncle's house and falls to sleep on the floor in a cold sweat.
The next morning when he wakes up, theres something different about Peter:
he doesnt need his glasses; hes strong; and, when the bully at school tries
to beat him up, he not only avoids all the punches with lightning reflexes,
but he lands one punch that sends the bully all the way down the school hall.
Suddenly, MJ notices Peter.
As Peter develops his spider-man skills, Norman Osborn is having trouble
with his defense contract. The army general doesnt like Norman, and Norman's
top scientist says that the miracle drug they have designed for the army,
which is supposed to turn soldiers into supermen, is actually producing psychotic,
schizophrenic killers. Norman panics. He doesnt want to lose the contract,
so he does what any comic book inventor would do, he takes the drug himself
and turns into a psychotic, schizophrenic killer. This, however, is a Jeckyl
and Hyde situation, because the real Norman doesnt want to turn into the
Green Goblin. Interestingly enough, the movie almost portrays this transformation
as demonic possession, especially in the scene where Aunt May says the Lords
Prayer while shes being attacked by the Green Goblin.
Back to Peter, who wants to raise some money to buy a car to impress MJ.
He signs up to participate in a cage wrestling match. If he can last three
minutes, he gets $3,000. When he beats the big gorilla in a short amount of
time, he only gets $100. After all, he didnt last three minutes.
As he leaves the ring to find his uncle, his uncle has been shot by a carjacker.
Thus, Peter realizes that he has to right this wrong and protect other innocent
victims. Wearing his wrestling Spider-man outfit, he goes off to exact vigilante
Eventually, the Green Goblin decides that the town is not big enough for
the two of them. Therefore, Green Goblin decides to destroy Spider-man and
everything that he loves, which he discovers when he realizes who Spider-man
Spider-Man is very high octane, with lots of action and lots of adventure.
So much so that the premise (remember, Peter told us that this story is about
a girl) gets lost in the middle of the movie. Thus, some reviewers say they
love the first half, but not the second.
Actually, the plot picks up rather quickly, and, better than that, there
are many moral and spiritual messages, a few of which were mentioned at the
beginning of this review. One that was not mentioned was when the Green Goblin
gives Peter a choice of letting the Goblin kill a bunch of school kids or
kill his love interest, MJ. Although set in a comic book world on top of the
59th Street Bridge of the comic book version of New York City,
the Green Goblin dilemma in the movie clearly represents a Solomon-like case
requiring biblical wisdom to choose the good. Eventually, even the conflicted
Norman/Green Goblin wishes Peter "God Speed." Furthermore, at the end, Peter
has become a humble hero who understands the responsibility of great power.
Kirsten Dunst is good in this movie as MJ, though she doesnt have as much
range as she did in The Cats Meow. Tobey Maguire makes Spiderman come
alive and deserves commendation. Cliff Robertson is heartwarming as Peters
Uncle Ben. Willem Dafoe has some wonderful conflicted moments in this movie,
though his portrayal sometimes slips into mannerisms rather than the fine
acting he is known for in his other movies. In a movie with so much God talk,
its too bad that there are some profanities and obscenities, usually out
of the mouth of Willem Dafoes conflicted character. The romance is very chaste
throughout, although Kirsten Dunst seems to be trying to restrain her normally
The real problem with the movie is, of course, the action violence, which
includes the frightening villain. Some of the beatings are pretty intense,
and the Green Goblin makes the audience believe that he really does want to
kill his victims.
Even so, it is extremely rare that an action fantasy like this has so much
faithful, moral content. With great power comes great responsibility, and
the filmmakers and Sony Studio are to be commended exercising some of this
responsibility in the production of the terrific, entertaining Spider-Man.
Please address your comments to:
Amy Pascal, Chairman
John Calley, Chairman/CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
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