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    Comic Book Webslinger Shakes Up Box Office

    Blockbuster summer 2002 officially kicked off with the release Spiderman intheaters. The superhero flick set a box office record for the highest profitover its opening weekend.

    Directed by Sam Raimi, the film finally pays homage to one of Marvel’#146;soriginal and longstanding comic book superheroes. The film is unique in thatunlike past superhero movies, the villain-hero conflict is less emphasized thanthe love story between the hero and the object of his affection. As Parker statesopenly at the beginning of the movie, ‘this story is about a girl.’

    The question that is asked whenever a film like this comes out: ‘Doesit do the comic book justice?’ The answer to that is quite plainly, yes.

    Spare the fact that gone is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’#146;s blonde girlfriendin the comic books. Instead, she is meshed into one character as Mary Jane,’the girl next door’.

    Also, rather than chemically modifying and creating webbing to come out ofhis hands, the movie’#146;s Peter Parker doesn’#146;t need to go through allthat trouble, as his webbing comes out in a spot just below his wrist (justanother side effect of a bite from a radioactive spider). The differences asyou can see are quite minor.

    Perhaps one of the best decisions by director Sam Raimi with regards to themovie was pushing on having Tobey Maguire of Wonder Boys and The Cider HouseRules fame play the title character.

    Though he convincingly trained and bulked up for the role, Maguire will neverbe the traditional sex icon that Hollywood studios prefer in these kinds ofparts. However, the appropriateness of his creaky-voiced sincerity, the veryordinariness of his offbeat charisma, turns him into the most convincing ofSpider-Men.

    But of course, before Spiderman even came to existence, there was his alterego. That is Peter Parker, a student at Midtown High School in Queens, N.Y.,who is so nerdy even the school bus driver wants nothing to do with him. Anorphan who lives with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson),Peter has had his eyes set on the lovely girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (ared-headed Kirsten Dunst) ever since he was 6.

    Peter has just one friend in the movie, Harry Osborn (James Franco of TV’#146;s’James Dean’), the son of the wealthy engineering tycoon Norman Osborn(Willem Dafoe), a man with an expertise in nanotechnology, who serves almostas a father figure to Peter.

    One fateful day (as the comic book states), Peter accompanies his class ona field trip to the science departments of Columbia University to view an exhibiton genetically enhanced spiders.

    As a photographer for the school newspaper, Peter is concentrating on a shotof Mary Jane (and the spiders, of course) when a rare, genetically engineeredspider takes a bite into his hand. By the next morning, Peter is a differentperson. His body is suddenly diesel, he doesn’#146;t need his nerdy eyewear,and he has reflexes ordinary humans can’#146;t even imagine. Finally, Spidermanis born.

    This paves the way for one of the movie’#146;s most interesting sequences inwhich Peter discovers, and then excitedly tries out his newfound spider powers.Scenes of him climbing walls, slinging webs and then gradually, through awkwardtrial and error, learning how to use them are cleverly worked out and are greatfun to experience.

    It’#146;s also enjoyable to watch how the film, through a combination of acrobaticstand-ins and computer-generated imagery, enables Spiderman to hurdle and swoopthrough the concrete caverns of Manhattan like an urban Tarzan.

    Green Goblin, the bad guy in the movie, is, in reality, the wealthy scientistNorman Osborn, who ends up testing performance-enhancement drugs on himself.To his chagrin, he finds out that the potential side effects of violent behaviorand insanity are all too real. Green Goblin is a completely generic evil-doer,and the battles with him prove to be quite standard with regards to the superherofilm genre.

    The film itself is quite entertaining as a whole, and I would say it does asuperior job of living up to the hype. Spare a few corny sequences such as thelove dialogues between Dunst and Maguire and a couple of cheesy patriotic pro-NewYork scenes, I definitely recommend the film. I give it a solid 3 stars outof 4.

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