The fans have waited nearly 40 years for a big-screen adaptation of the Spider-Man comic book, and for the most part, Sam Raimi’s film does not disappoint.
Tobey Maguire is very impressive as Peter Parker, the teen-aged wimp who acquires great strength, super reflexes, and the ability to climb walls and spin webs after he is bitten by a genetically engineered spider; even after he wakes up with a buff new bod, he still has the beaming grin and nervous demeanor of a high-school geek.
Raimi, working from a screenplay credited to David Koepp, powerfully captures the moral issues at stake as Peter grows into the web-slinging super-hero; unlike Superman, whose parents merely died in a planetary accident, and unlike Batman, who witnessed the death of his parents and took up crimefighting as a form of revenge against criminals in general, Spider-Man fights crime almost as a form of atonement, after his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) is killed by a felon that Peter could have captured but, for reasons of pride, chose not to. As one columnist has put it, “Spider-Man devotes his life to fighting wrongdoers, knowing he is one himself.” Willem Dafoe also has some riveting moments as Harry Osborne, the techno-tycoon who goes mad and becomes the villainous Green Goblin.
Unfortunately, the film is marred by overly expository dialogue, shallow supporting characters, unconvincing CGI effects, and a few excessively campy moments. It’s great that Peter’s Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) is portrayed as a devout Christian, but you wish the character wasn’t so two-dimensional; still, the film does underscore the fact that Spider-Man’s sense of responsibility is traceable to his upbringing, and if faith has played a part in that, then so much the better.
— A version of this article was first published at the website for BC Christian News.