Webbed wonder ensnares movie audiences

Grade: B-

"Spider-man" broke all kinds of opening records as millions of fans and their families flocked to theatres to see a film that was ten years in the making. But was it worth the hype? Yes and no.

On the positive, the casting of Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker), Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn) and Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane) was impeccable. Dunst plays Mary Jane as she should be played, flirtatious but not foolish. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn was a pleasure to watch as if John Romita drew his face right onto the screen.

-á-á Tobey Maguire does more than play Peter Parker, he is Peter Parker. He is shy, but inquisitive. Intelligent, yet still impressionable. Director Sam

Raimi ("Darkman" and "Army of Darkness") chose to show us a darker, more violent side of Parker as well. Where Maguire really shines; however, is the

all-knowing twinkle in his eye that is almost constantly present during his

scenes as Parker. It makes him lovable, a feat rarely achieved for secret

identities in comic-based films.

-á-á Raimi makes lots of stylistic choices for this film, as he often does with

any film he directs. His signature vertigo-zooms, first-person perspective

shots and sped-up film during fight scenes really throw the audience into the middle of the movie reminding us that it is a comic book on a big screen. At one

point, when Norman Osborn argues with his mirror reflection, one can't help

but wonder if they are really watching Evil Dead 4.

-á-á Most impressive are sequences that show the thought processes of Peter

Parker. Various images and elements from previous scenes flash and fade away in a moving collage that is exciting, yet thought provoking as they provide a window into the head of mild-mannered Peter Parker.

-á-á Despite all of the places this movie does right, it suffers from the Sam Raimi curse: poor story flow and editing. Vital scenes, such as when Green Goblin attacks Aunt May,last literally five shots and seem much too short. I felt like there had been important expositional scenes that landed on the cutting room floor. We never see, for example, how Spider-man obtains his final costume. Several bad cuts jolted me out of the movie.

-á-á-á Worst of all, it felt like Raimi couldn't decide what this movie was about. In the opening narration, Peter Parker tells us a story about a girl, yet the middle of the movie makes us feel as though it is a story about responsibility. Toward the end, it feels like a movie that asks the question "why do some people go bad?" A definitive direction for the film would have gone a long way to give "Spider-man" better flow to the story.

-á-á-á Despite the choppy editing, the interesting camera angles and excellent

cast that make Spiderman a joy to watch, fans need not fear, because the cast, production crew and director are already signed on for a sequel.

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