Peter Parker lives! Yes, all you Spider-fans, there is now a truly web-tingling, eye-opening, sure-fired-stunning realization of the famous superhero crime fighter available on the big screens that will keep you dangling from your seats as you're swept along through the skies of the Big Apple. The production design is perfection, the costumes are delicious (especially when compared to the loose fitting tugs one can remember from scrawny past attempts to recreate this superhero on TV in the sixties and eighties), and the computer effects are flawless >>> so, the time has finally come that Stan Lee's story gets its just deserts. And, of course, we must not forget the cast, consisting of super-talents who not only have the ability to interpret their fabulous two-dimensional comic-strip characters in a screen-popping three-dimensional way, but possess the wit and wisdom to exploit the potentials of this genre without trespassing the boundaries of the ultimately acceptable. Yes, folks, Spiderman has arrived!

The gang's all here, hanging out in Queens and Manhattan (or sometimes shooting, behind the scenes, on the sound stages of LA). Little orphan Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who lives with his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), is a cute boy and clever student, but ineffectual social mingler who winds up, more often than not, getting the proverbial sand kicked in his face by many of his fellow schoolmates. Best buddy Harry Osborn (James Franco) and romantic interest Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the girl both boys adore, are Peter's only two solid and trustworthy sidekicks throughout. The winds of change, however, are about to shift amazingly for this amiable outsider! During a school excursion to Columbia University, Peter is bitten by a genetically manipulated spider and, after suffering a night of feverish sweats, awakens to find himself possessed of super-spider-powers. (No hi-tech design web-shooters for this post-millennium-boy-in-blue-and-red, but sticky wrists that shoot his personal gummy substance onto lunch trays, skyscrapers, and villains alike.)

Despite his new super-strengths and spider-like agilities and abilities, Peter remains an honest all-American boy with strong values instilled in him during a youth spent under the careful and caring guidance of his adorable aunt and uncle in a household that retains the decor and flavor of the fifties. Growing up in a new age, however, he lives in a modern world where entrepreneurs like the power-hungry Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) will stop at nothing to achieve world domination. Osborn, whose corporation develops weapons, finds his business tottering on the edge of bankruptcy and can only escape total decimation by getting signatures on a long-awaited government contract. With no time left for further development and no alternatives at his disposal, he sacrifices himself to his dire objectives and winds up splitting his already stretched personality. Existing as a man divided in his private life between the natural love for his son, Harry, and his fatherly affection for Harry's best friend, Peter (who possesses many qualities Norman would prefer to see in his own son), Norman finds little time to suitably tend to his fatherly affections. The greatest divide in Mr. Osborn's personality, however, comes about after using himself as a guinea pig in the Oscorp laboratory's latest experiments. Following chemical injection and gas infusion, he evolves into the crazed super-villain Green Goblin and soon turns the destructive strength of his terrifying weapons against the unwary citizens in the metropolis. The forces of good and evil, embodied in the figures of Spiderman and the Green Goblin, are bound to fight it out above the towers of the city until the best man wins.

Peter, whose life has already been struck by terrible tragedy, will always remember and live by the all important message shared with him by Uncle Ben: "With great power comes great responsibility." This motto for our time echoes throughout and serves as the basis for a spiritual journey as well as one whopper of a good movie.

Spiderman, another one of Marvel Comics' Stan Lee's wonders (developed in collaboration with Steve Ditko), first appeared in 1962 as a character in the last issue of the failing "Amazing Fantasy" comic book. He became such an immediate success that the comic reappeared one year later with the new title of "The Amazing Spider Man." The rest is both history and legend.

It's obvious that director Sam Raimi is a longtime Spiderman fan from this film, which is both faithful to the original and sufficiently modernized to make it accessible for a contemporary audience. Tobey MacGuire is the perfect Peter Parker (and Spiderman). Already having proven his talent with such striking performances in "Wonder Boys" and "The Ice Storm", he can now add an exciting action movie (with much more going on than effects) to his already impressive cinematic list. Great work from DP Don Burgess, production designer Neil Spisak, costume designer James Acheson, visual effects designer John Dykstra and editors Bob Murawski and Arthur Coburn.

Anybody out there still suffering from arachnophobia? Maybe you should try the latest kinky cure: kiss a man hanging upside down who wears a mask. In any case, whether or not you try this cure-all, don't miss the film.


© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett