ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  sam raimi

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  121 minutes

RELEASED  -  3 may 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  sony pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  spider-man

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $139,000,000
spider-man - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from spider-man at

buy the dvd from spider-man at

the story of peter parker, a student living with his aunt may and uncle ben after the death of his parents when he was very young. when a freak accident miraculously grants him incredible spider-like abilities, in effect, it makes him into the amazing spider-man. peter will find that there's a thin line between an ordinary man and an extraordinary hero; and he'll have to be the one to cross it.

this movie was originally slated to be released in november of 2001, but was pushed back to may 2002 to allow for more post-production and special effects work.


picture from spider-man

picture from spider-man

picture from spider-man


two out of four possible stars

Suppose a Hollywood studio decided to make a film with the intelligence of a six-year-old, but market it to twenty-year-olds. Spider-Man is the big screen adaptation of a smart comic book that's been turned into a pretty dim-witted film. Filmmakers have been waiting, literally, for decades to make a big screen adaptation of the "Spider-Man" comic book series and with the improvements in digital special effects in the last few years, the reality of bringing this character to the screen has finally taken off. And now that audiences will be bombarding the box offices with requests for tickets, it should be noted that Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Marvel Entertainment have vastly underestimated the brainpower of its audience. Spider-Man contains a heavy dose of special effects and it seems, right off-the-bat, that those computer generated images have been placed in nearly every frame of the film to conceal the fact that the film doesn't really have a plot. Or much of a script. Or much of a cast.

The special effects really do take priority over the other elements in this film. It seemed to be a conscious effort on the part of the filmmakers to push the story and the acting to the back burner. Like they felt that the audience would be overwhelmed if they had to take in more than just a few fancy camera tricks. And in point of fact, those camera tricks, more specifically the special effects, weren't so incredible that a lack of story was tolerable. The work of CGI artists in films made earlier than Spider-Man have been much superior in their technical prowess. Jurassic Park 3, for one, is a film with quite an impressive array of dinosaurs made completely inside the computer. And those dinosaurs looked unerringly real. But it is an easy task to discern the difference between which of those swinging Spider-Men were computer generated and which were actual stunt men.

It seems that a picture so dependant on its special effects would put more effort into those elements. And it is possible to surmise that an increase in the quality of the script and/or acting would have over-shadowed the film's shortfalls in special effects. Of course, when the screenwriter had to resort to phrases like "I could squash you like a bug" (this phrase uttered by Spider-Man's nemesis, The Green Goblin), it is clear that being witty wasn't the first thing in writer David Koepp's mind. And the script is littered with several unintelligent arachnid puns that really have the ability to make the viewer squirm in his or her padded stadium-style theater seat.

And the actors can't overcome these shortcomings in the script. It is perhaps a combination of a lack of chemistry between two of the lead stars and the fact that they speak rather slowly. In the film, both Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man character and Kirsten Dunst's "Mary Jane" are from some New York Borough. But their accents would never point a listener in that direction. They both have the slow drawl of somebody raised in the South (even though in reality they're from the West Coast and New Jersey, respectively). This tendency to draw out their dialogue hindered their exchanges. But the way these two actors speak to one another in the film only highlights their lack of chemistry together. It's a classic case of beauty over brains, on the part of the casting directors. While both Dunst and Maguire could be considered two of Hollywood's smarter young actors, the casting of both of them in the same film, wasn't a particularly clever move.

It is uncertain whether true fans of the "Spider-Man" series will be impressed by this film, comic book fans being as particular as they are about their illustrated treasures, but at its basest level, Spider-Man looks to set-up a franchise for future movies in the series. The first hour (approximately half the film) consists of nothing more than the transformations of Maguire and Willem Dafoe into their super hero and nemesis roles. And the second half is filled up with some dubious swinging by Spider-Man between the silver skyscrapers of New York, with the Green Goblin close behind. For all the effort placed in making this movie a film that cares more than about the characters than special effects, the film seems to stall each time Spider-Man isn't swinging around Manhattan.

The simple relationships between Spider-Man and his adoptive parents (an aunt and uncle) and the friendship he has with his best friend harry, played by James Franco, seem dull in comparison to the pop-song infused frenetic pace of many of the fight scenes. Though it must be said that the best piece of casting in Spider-Man was in bringing James Franco onboard. Franco's the only character who has any chemistry with Kirsten Dunst, and his anguish about his future and the relationships with the characters around him really ring true. At the end of the film, it is certain that his character will pop up in the sequels, so perhaps the Spider-Man franchise isn't doomed completely.

This film will be a success at the box-office due solely to buzz about the film and a marketing campaign that can easily rival that of the forthcoming Star Wars installment. Hollywood has assumed that pretty faces and a cool looking poster can be a substitute for real humor and an intelligent script. The tricks and cinematic devices used in this film become so obvious at some points that the characters verge into the realm of the cheesy. It is inherent in any film brought to life from a comic book to become the sort of film which emits more chuckles during its series moments than gasps of excited joy. And in Spider-Man, there seems to be a lot of the former.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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