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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK
Spider-Man weaves his magic
Spider-Man commits himself to fighting evil
Tobey Maguire does much of the stunt work himself
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By Peter Bowes
BBC News in Hollywood
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Tobey Maguire is an unlikely super hero, yet he is perfectly cast as the geeky student turned sky-diving, evil-conquering Spider-Man.

The 26-year-old actor plays the nerdy high school student Peter Parker.

He is a downtrodden kid who misses the school bus, is bullied by the bigger boys and has a crush on the beautiful girl next door, Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst.

Parker's transformation comes when he is given extraordinary powers after being bitten by a genetically modified spider during a field trip to a laboratory at Columbia University.

The next morning he wakes up sprouting spider hairs and rips off his shirt to expose an ultra-pumped up torso with web-weaving super powers.

All of a sudden Maguire is believable as the comic book hero.

Willem Dafoe plays a villain called the Green Goblin
Dafoe is convincing in his split personality role
Thrilled by his new-found strength, Parker first tries to cash in by wrestling in public for money.

When he is swindled out of his winnings and inadvertently fails to stop an armed robber who kills his uncle Ben, Spider-Man commits himself to fighting evil.

The phrase, "with great power comes great responsibility," once uttered by his doting uncle, becomes the rule by which Spider-Man lives his life.

Inevitably, the film develops into a mighty battle between good and evil. The evil comes in the form of a villain called the Green Goblin,played by Willem Dafoe, who happens to be the alter ego of millionaire defence contractor Norman Osborn.

The character's destructive rage, prompted by being sacked from his company, is precipitated by a dose of the firm's "human performance enhancement" drug.

As the bad guy, Dafoe excels at his split personality role - engendering both sympathy and hatred from the audience.

Parker has to compete with his only real friend, Harry Osborn, played by James Franco, son of Dafoe's villain, for the affections of Mary Jane.

After much tame foreplay, the scene-stealing kiss between Parker and the girl of his dreams is clinched by Spider-Man in the form of an upside down snog in the pouring rain.

Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst
Young women should warm to the teen love story
It is bound to take the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss.

On the whole, the film is true to the 1960s comics.

Purists may be irritated that it deviates from the original story in some respects - most notably, when Parker spins spider webs from glands on his wrists.

Many will no doubt miss the fact that Maguire's character does not design and make Spider-Man's synthetic web and the mechanical wrist guns that fire it.

There are inspired moments of comedy - some of it slap-stick. Parker causes a scene in the school canteen as he over zealously exercises his super dexterity.

This much-anticipated live action adaptation of the classic adventure will be one of the summer's biggest popcorn hits - and deservedly so.

It will play especially well with young women through a plot that dwells heavily on the teen love story. Others will find it decidedly cheesy.

The special effects look like special effects - but comfortably gel with the impressive stunt work, much of which is done by Maguire himself.

The audience at one Los Angeles pre-release screening whooped and cheered and responded to what was happening on screen in a manner which usually signals a major box office hit.

The film's conclusion is, not surprisingly, open-ended. The scene is set for the sequel.

Spider-Man is on release in the US from Friday 3 May and in the UK from Friday 14 June.

See also:

31 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Spider spins web for Maguire
03 May 02 | Music
Spider-Man hits US cinemas
30 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Bringing Spider-Man to life
07 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Welder killed on Spider-Man set
03 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Spider-Man escapes lawyers web
05 Apr 01 | Film
Spider-Man suits stolen
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