Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Edits and additional review by: Ken James
spiders in the Bible
father son relationship / unloved son
stabbed to death—murder in the Bible
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
male female relationships
split personality / multiple personality
madness / insanity
father daughter relationship
GUIDELINES—What are the biblical guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
DATING—Why won’t my parents allow me to single-date? Answer
Tobey Maguire … Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Willem Dafoe … Green Goblin/Norman Osborn
Kirsten Dunst … Mary Jane Watson
James Franco … Harry Osborn
Cliff Robertson … Ben Parker
Rosemary Harris … May Parker
J.K. Simmons … J. Jonah Jameson
Octavia Spencer … Check-In Girl
Bruce Campbell … Ring Announcer
Elizabeth Banks … Betty Brant
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Columbia Pictures Corporation
Laura Ziskin Productions
Avi Arad … executive producer
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“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Spider-Man was always a favorite of mine growing up—I was a fan of the comic book series. Like many young children, I always enjoyed stories about superheroes, but “Spidey” was the best. How can you not like a hero that struggles for acceptance as a teenage nerd? Many of us can identify with his more normal struggles. But while Peter is battling the bad guys, he’s also worrying about how he is going to pay the rent. And what fan of Spideys can ever forget the loving but nagging aunt?
Spiderman debuted in 1962 and the discussion of a large screen version of our action hero began in the 70’s. This film has been a long, but a very worthwhile wait. Stan Lee, the series creator, told ABC news that the film was even better than the original comic book series. Spiderman came and broke the “god-like” mold of other super heroes. He was the “everyman” that readers could relate to. Most guys could identify with his shyness and awkward actions around girls. He is a human hero with much vulnerability, but he still goes after the villains.
In our story, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is your average geeky high schooler most interested in academics (science particularly), chess, photography, and that girl next door he’s liked since the 4th grade (Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst) but is too shy to say a word to after all these years. Naturally, she’s one of the most popular girls in school and unfortunately going out with a big bully. But there is just something about MJ you just gotta like. She is sweet, compassionate, and cares about much more then just surface level adolescent interests. Her abusive father and sad home life make you want her to succeed in life even more then a girl who seems to have it all together. Since Peter lives next door to MJ, he knows the hardships she lives with and can’t wait to escape from.
One day on a science fieldtrip, Peter is bitten by an escaped genetically altered super spider. That afternoon, he stumbles home where his loving Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) await him, but all Peter can do is collapse on the floor of his room. The next morning Peter awakens feeling like a new man. The discovery of his spidery attributes are a joy to behold (shooting webs, super strength, the ability to scale walls and jump great distances, superhuman reflexes).
Peter wonders if his new abilities could help him get MJ. While brainstorming, he comes across an ad in the paper that promise $3000 for surviving just 3 minutes in an underground fight. “Colorful characters wanted,” the ad says. And so “The Human Spider” is envisioned. But after winning the fight, Peter is cheated and subsequently witnesses a robbery in which he lets the bad guy get away on purpose (due to his own anger at the time). Little did he know that his own Uncle Ben would be killed during a carjacking incident by the very criminal Peter let get away (in typical superhero storyline). Awash with emotion and the reminder that “with great power comes great responsibility” (Uncle Ben’s words), a super hero concerned for the moral right is born.
Willem Dafoe plays the multi-millionaire Norman Osborn who tries offers a father-figure like relationship to Peter. His own son Harry (best friend to Peter) is a bit of a disappointment to him. Norman sees in Peter what he wishes for his own son. The CEO of a top-secret lab hired by the U.S. Department of Defense, Norman is faced with the imminent closure of his lifes work and takes a risky step of experimenting a new serum on himself. The frightening conclusion causes a rift in Norman, a Jekyll and Hyde personality, which brings about the birth of the feared Green Goblin who is inherintely evil and wreaks havoc on New York City.
Director Sam Raimi (who begged Columbia Pictures for the job) does an outstanding job with this overwhelming task of bringing a favorite superhero to the big screen. Not only does he have a great eye for action, but also makes brilliant choices on the cast. Toby Maguire is perfect as Peter Parker/Spider-man. He does a convincing job as the hero that must rescue the damsel in distress and get home before ten to finish his homework. Dafoe as Osborn is just one of those great character actors that you love to see flex his acting muscles. It is great that another generation of moviegoers gets the opportunity to see him do what he does so well (some of his past films include “Clear and Present Danger” and “The English Patient”). The same is of Robertson and Harris who play as Peter’s Uncle and Aunt. While not personally a big fan of Kirsten Dunst, she does very well as Peter’s love interest.
Spider-Man has great action and top-notch CGI effects. The other positives include the role of prayer and the Christian faith that is present within this film. I loved the dialog and every corny pun. With all the positives, I do not approve with vigilante justice, some of which plays out in this film. However, it is not nearly as dark as any of the “Batman” movies.
The language in this film is quite tame compared to most. Kids-in-Mind reports “4 mild obscenities, 8 religious exclamations and some insults.” Screenit.com warns moviegoers that “some brief kissing occurs, while a young woman wears some cleavage revealing tops and is caught in the rain in one scene where one can rather clearly see her breasts through her wet top.” But overall I do recommend this Spider-Man with the above reservations. This is what a matinee-popcorn film should be like.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.