Sat May 4, 2002
McGuire and Dunst glory in their vulnerability and set out to prove superheroes (and their girlfriends) can fall in love, nail villains to the wall, and still be tough enough to cry.
By Clay Lowe, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Hooray, Hooray it's the first of May and the summer's first blockbuster has already swooshed in to the local multiplexes!
Golly-gee-whiz-bang, folks. No coyness from this critic in the balcony. Hang on to your popcorn, the debate is over. Tobey McGuire is perfect as Peter Parker cum Spider-man. And Kirsten Dunst is just as perfect as his sexy next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson.
Don't knock McGuire's weepy-peepers, nor Dunst's misty eyes. In Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" these two meekies glory in their vulnerability and set out to prove superheroes (and their girlfriends) can fall in love, nail villains to the wall, and still be tough enough to cry.
Spider-Man's fearless disregard for protecting his tender underside is what sets this Stan Lee-Steve Ditko comic book hero apart from the superheroes of the past few decades gone by.
Though it gets off to a slow start, with the obligatory scenes of how meek and mild Peter Parker came by his miraculous powers, Spider-Man soon shows why he becomes New York City's most fervid champion of right-triumphing-over-wrong since, well, since Woody Allen.
The genius of David ("A Simple Plan") Koepp's script?
Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity.
No layers and layers of confusing plots and characterizations a la "X-Men." No dark shadows nor murky meanderings characteristic of the "Batman" series. And no interlocking plots and endless battles that go nowhere but up with the volume.
Nope. "Spider-Man" is clear-cut and to the point.
There's one villain. And one superhero. Both are caught up in a series of creatively set confrontations between "Spider-Man" and his nemesis the "Green Goblin."
Their battles have beginnings, middles and clearly resolved ends. Most importantly, each battle reveals something new about the relationship between the warring combatants. And each battle cleverly advances the plot.
Yep. No plethora of dark shadows here. The only shadows are those concealed within the characters themselves.
Dafoe's "Goblin" is a blood brother to Jeykll-Hyde. He has multiple dimensions (drug enhanced) that exhibit the full range of human emotions and contradictory motivations.
Spider-Man, also, is not without flaws. Though he seeks to save the lost, he too gets caught up in his own contradictions. Driven by guilt, anger, and a passion for justice, Spider-Man, nevertheless seeks to empower the world as he has been empowered.
Tobey McGuire's "Spider-Man" may drive out the cynical, amoral anti-heroes of Hollywood's most recent past. And yesterday's idealistic superheroes may soon enjoy a new return to glory.
In Hollywood, anything can happen. When things go well at the box-office.
Clay Lowe co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and programs the film series at the Columbus Museum of Art.