Scott Hardie | May 5, 2002
Okay, so it's a hit: The numbers support it ($114 million is the early projection, shattering the record), and everyone I've talked to about it has said it's fantastic. What do I think? [Major spoilers herein.]

As a movie, it's exciting. We'll never be Bruce Wayne, but a lot of us are Peter Parker, and we're thrilled when he soars through the air with glee. The special effects were great, and almost always paced well - yes, sometimes they go too fast, but the director wanted that on purpose, for us not to get a clear glimpse of Spidey or the Green Goblin too quickly. The plot is rushed in the beginning then too slow later on, and Mary Jane falls "in love" with Peter (her words) after he makes one romantic speech to her. The origin of a superhero is the most fun part to most people, and it's suberbly done here, if the characters are a little underdeveloped in the beginning. Also, I don't know why, but I like Peter narrating the movie, even if only at the beginning and the end. It gets us in his head even more.

As a translation of a comic book, it's underwhelming. I'm a firm believer that movies should only change elements of the comics if it improves the whole, and making his webbing biological instead of technological is a big improvement. But the absence of the whole Gwen Stacy story, I dunno - that would have made the movie depressing, but Green Goblin is rather lame without it. (If you don't know: Goblin is arguably Spidey's greatest nemesis in the comics because of a story in which he murdered Peter's girlfriend Gwen by tossing her off a bridge. Spidey saved the cable car full of tourists but had to watch his girlfriend die. This was after Goblin murdered her father, too.) And by far, the worst change they made is the removal of Spidey's witty banter. It's his fucking trademark! In the comics and in most other media, he's a wisecracker, always making fun of his enemies as he beats them up. He makes almost no jokes in the movie; indeed, he seems depressed. He gets a little leeway from mourning Uncle Ben, but not much. Making a Spider-Man movie without jokes is like a Batman movie without shadows or a Superman movie without grandeur. Big, big mistake.

Overall I give it three stars, barely in "It ruled" range. (I teetered on the brink of "It was okay" until the classic Spidey TV theme came on at the end of the credits; that was just enough of a nudge.) Other comments:

- I love sly references to the comics. "I lost my job with Dr. Connors." "You're not Superman, you know." "Utility belt?" "A soap opera told me I need acting lessons." Cameos by Robbie Robertson, Betty the secretary (I forget her last name), and Eddie Brock at the Bugle.

- I really hate J. Jonah Jameson. I've always hated him. How fucking dense do you have to be to not get that Spider-Man is a hero? His bias is completely unreasonable and serves no valuable purpose. I've also always hated the fact that humans hate mutants in the X-Men comics. I also can't buy that. It's frustrating. I think I need to get a life.

- Norman Osborn has access to billions of dollars for development of this high-tech armor with all of its gadgets, and he can't build a fucking mouth that moves?

- Minor errors: When arriving for Thanksgiving, Norman calls her "Aunt May" at the door. I would think "Mrs. Parker" would be just a tiny bit more in character for him. Also, I think MJ's father is dead in the comics. I could look it up, I know exactly where to find it, but I don't give a shit.

- I really didn't like the ending, with Peter rejecting MJ at the funeral. It supports the theme of responsibility, but it's not worth it! Why do movies assume that the superhero must always keep his identity a secret from the woman he loves? Clark Kent revealed himself to Lois Lane, they got married. Peter Parker revealed himself to Mary Jane Watson, they got married. The movies feel some need to play this Mickey Mouse crap with the secret identities, and it's frustrating.

Hopes for sequels, since they're guaranteed (November 21 2003 is already announced for part 2):

- More witty banter! He's over the death of Uncle Ben, let him make some damn jokes.

- A villain with a plan, so we don't have to waste so many scenes on him trying to figure out what to do next, like this time. I would put in Doctor Octopus, a scientist who makes public appearances in the early part of the film, and there's someone doing something evil to the city, and gradually Spidey figures out the connection. In other words, we the audience are introduced to the public Ock and the private Ock, but we know no more of his plan than Spidey does. That would be a much smoother employment of a villain. Venom is virtually guaranteed to be in the series, but I hope not too soon.

- Peter revealing himself to Mary Jane, and the two of them getting together. Secret identities get old real fast.

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