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The dazzling new blockbuster Spider-Man is big, bold proof that sometimes you can take the...
The dazzling new blockbuster Spider-Man is big, bold proof that sometimes you can take the indie director off the fringes, but you can't make him forget his roots. Though Sam Raimi might be flash with the cash with this major event movie, he still plays it the same way he did with Evil Dead and Darkman. Spider-Man may be blessed with corporate capital, but it's got an individualistic spirit and indie flair that make it the kind of blockbuster that it's okay to love.
Adapted from the famous Marvel comic-book series by screenwriter David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park), and from an original treatment by James Cameron (Titanic), Spider-Man plays like the ultimate revenge of the nerd. School geek Peter Parker (Maguire) is picked on and bullied until he's bitten by a radioactive spider, and develops spider-like powers. Cue the heroics as Parker becomes a teen hero, wins the girl (Dunst) while he's in costume and faces off against his nemesis, The Green Goblin (Dafoe).
Though Spider-Man uses the latest technology to create some truly extraordinary screen action (the sequences featuring Spider-Man hurtling through the city's buildings are an eye-popping delight, and the fight scenes are choreographed to bone-crunching perfection), the film's heart is with its characters. Maguire finds the angst and teen confusion in Peter Parker, and effectively plays his transition into a more responsible, mature adult. His scenes with Dunst are touched with a real magic and chemistry, and Raimi's handling of the film's romance is surprisingly sensitive. But the thundering scene stealer is Willem Dafoe, who chews the sets up with malevolent hilarity, playing The Green Goblin as a conflicted, bi-polar mental case, while still finding a strange kind of sadness in the character.
In an ironic twist, the usually hyper-kinetic Raimi drops his trademark florid visual stylings and delivers a true rarity: a perfectly pitched blockbuster where the characters come first.