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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Spider-Man's weary crawl
Spider-Man
Spider-Man is set for a sequel

Hollywood has often turned to comic book characters to provide the spark of inspiration for summer blockbusters.

The Batman franchise remains one of the most popular of all time despite ever-decreasing returns, Spider-Man has already done huge business in the US and Crouching Tiger director Ang Lee is working on The Incredible Hulk.

Heroes like Superman, the X-Men and Spider-Man are ready-made for popcorn-munching, big-screen afficianados who like their action in six-channel surround sound.

They exist as a kind of cinematic short-hand for good and evil and as such directors need waste no time before cutting to the action.

Inspired choice

Sam Raimi, like Lee, is an unusual choice of director with a track record of interesting and quirky movies and fans could be forgiven for expecting something out of the ordinary.

Tobey Maguire
Maguire is aptly cast as geeky Peter Parker
But what they get is the very text-book definition of ordinary.

Tobey Maguire is an inspired choice as the lead Peter Parker, a nerd who hides rippling muscles beneath his anorak, while Kristen Dunst delivers the requisite heroine's bosom but can do little with dialogue scant better than doggerel.

The plot would be familiar to anyone who has ever read a comic book or watched a Saturday morning cartoon.

An unlikely protagonist is transformed into a superhero who must do battle with the forces of evil and ultimately save mankind.

It is no different here, with Willem Defoe excellent as the Green Goblin, snarling with feral intensity, teetering with insanity and clearly having great fun.

Disbelief

Unfortunately the plot is so simple, so dismally straightforward that it would insult even the pre-teen readers of comic books.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing but when a genetically-modifed spider bites Peter Parker causing him to transmute into a superhero one would expect our lead to raise even one eyebrow in surprise.

Willem Defoe
Willem Defoe is shown the script
But no. Raimi plays the entire film incredibly straight and as such there is nothing here we have not seen in Superman, Batman or the X-Men.

In fact, the film closely resembles Bryan Singer's X-Men - both are well-made, polished action adventure but both lack any daring.

Spectre

The film swings from one action scene to another with plodding familiarity - even the special effects seem quite tired.

Another fault common to both films is the spectre of the sequel which bears down heavily.

At times Spider-Man feels like a pilot episode to a series and much of the dialogue and story is geared entirely to a second film.

Given the hype and the box office success enjoyed by the film in the US, one would have expected something a little different.

But Spider-Man is an imagination-free, weary trudge through some of cinema's most familiar cliches.

What is worse is that we will be expected to do this all again when the sequel is released.

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Spider-Man
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See also:

18 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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30 May 02 | Entertainment
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29 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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