Bitten By The Bug

O, what a tangled web we weave...

Someone in Hollywood seems to have woken up to comic books - there are no fewer than five (count them, five) movies based on comic-book superheroes coming out in the next couple of months. And, hopefully, Sam Raimi will direct every one of them.

Why? Because Raimi is the brains behind "Spider-Man", easily one of the better adaptations of a comic-book to emerge from Hollywood in recent years. Backed by the able talents of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and aided by a well-rounded supporting cast, Raimi has made a movie that keeps you entertained while never losing its delightfully-camp edge.

In case you don't already know, here's how the story goes: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a high-school geek silently lusting after the girl next door (Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst) who is, one day, bitten by a radioactive mutant spider, and suddenly finds himself with the ability to cling to any surface. He also acquires the ability to shoot quick-drying web from his fingers, a super-charged sixth sense, and a natty red-and-blue costume. At first, Parker decides to use his new-found abilities to make a little spare change for himself (watch him in the wrestling ring as he deftly dodges the Rock's best friend), but a tragic murder in his family sets him on a vigilante crusade to make the streets safer.

Just when Parker's settled into his double life - journalist by day, webslinger by night - along comes the Green Goblin, a demonically-insane arch-villain who likes making entrances with a bang...literally. Before long, Parker and the Goblin are engaged in a duel to the death, one which will pose difficult choices for Parker...

You already know how this story ends, but Raimi's talent lies in making you want to watch it all the way through. Part of the reason is Maguire's boyish appeal; he plays the wimpy geek perfectly, and yet manages to imbue his character with just the right amount of confidence and superhero pizzazz when the script calls for it. Dunst, as his redheaded girlfriend, is wonderful also, and when the two finally get together for a deliciously-wicked smooch (upside down, no less!), you just have to applaud. Willem Dafoe (the Green Goblin) is good too, though his histrionics may make some viewers wince.

As a movie about a comic-book superhero, "Spider-Man" would be incomplete without visual effects...and some of them, especially the ones involving swinging over city streets, are fairly dazzling. The nice thing, though, is that they don't overpower the film, but seem to gel fairly well with the real actors. Raimi's camera angles are also well-planned, and the story is paced nicely, keeping you entertained while still holding back a few surprises until the very end.

All in all, I liked "Spider-Man". It's entertaining, has a great cast, and is chock-full of attitude. Catch up with it soonest.

This article was first published on 14 May 2002.