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Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

St. Petersburg Times Online

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'Spider-Man' silkily spins a classic tale

Billy photo
Read Billy's movie reviews on his special archive page.

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 6, 2002

Movie: Spider-Man

  • Rating: PG-13

Summary: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who lives with his aunt and uncle in Queens, is the resident loser-nerd-science whiz of his school.

While on a field trip to a laboratory in Manhattan, he indulges in the opportunity to take a few snapshots for the school paper of the girl he has admired since the fourth grade, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). One of the genetically altered super-spiders (created by the lab from unique characteristics of other kinds of spiders) has escaped its tank. It drops from the ceiling and bites Peter's hand. At that point, little does he know how much that bite will affect his life. By the next morning, he has developed all the characteristics of the super-spider, and with a little practice, he becomes proficient in the uses of each one.

The movie goes on to explain precisely why he chooses to use his spider abilities to become a crime-fighting hero. It also provides a detailed explanation of how Spider-Man's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin, came to be.

This story stays very true to the comic books, and you can be sure a sequel is on its way.

Peter Parker
[Photo: Columbia Pictures]
Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, also known as Spider-Man, gets some wall-crawling practice.
My view: What could be wrong with a movie based very closely on one of the most popular Marvel comics ever? Well, not much. I thought the casting in this film was perfect -- Willem Dafoe effectively played the parts of Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin with great flair. And, when you think of the Spider-Man character, you normally think of the man behind the mask as being at least somewhat physically sturdy and rugged. Even so, Tobey Maguire fit the role exceptionally well. In addition to that, he had a nice chemistry onscreen with Kirsten Dunst. The plot was great, because it combined the magic of the comic book world with the reality of an actual city with actual people. The relationships among the characters in this film gave it substance that helped to enhance that overall sense of reality.

Favorite part/least favorite part: The special effects. Let me explain. They did justice to the comic-book aspect of the movie. They have to be cool when you've got a human spider jumping from building to building and capturing criminals with webs that shoot out of his wrists, and they definitely were! There were almost too many special effects, though; the movie would have been just fine without some of them.

Recommendations: Spider-Man is a comic book, and you might think the movie is geared toward kids ages 8-12, but it definitely is not! Despite all the related toys that will be marketed to little kids, this film is not for them. There is a lot of harsh violence and a few adult references that will blow right past them. So, I recommend this film to teenagers and up, and certainly to fans of the Spider-Man series. I'm sure they will thoroughly enjoy it.

Grade: B+

- Billy Norris, 14, is in the eighth grade at Seminole Middle School, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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