dir. Raimi
Opens Fri May 3
Various Theaters

The Mercury has two mottoes: "Pay us our fucking money," and "always give the people what they want." So if you're behind on a couple of Mercury payments you know what to do. However, how can we satisfy two core audiences that desperately want to know about Spider-Man? Easywe give the people what they want. In this case, two reviews: One for the normal movie-goer, and one for the hapless comic geek. And it goes a little something like this


As in Darkman, director Sam Raimi once again tackles the comic books--this time with gentler results, but no less heartfelt. Young dork Peter Parker--and as Tobey Maguire plays him, he is a D-O-R-K--is the classic teenage loser; lacking in popularity, physical prowess, and love from his heartthrob Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). However, a genetically altered spider bite turns him into a web-slinging powerhouse who has trouble coping with his new talents. Simultaneously, Peter's best friend's scientist father (Willem Dafoe) is in similar straits: After being ousted from his company, he ingests a serum to make himself super strong, which also has the unfortunate side-effect of making him super insane. And what happens when a surrogate father figure and a rebellious teen come face to face? Ever see Star Wars?

Though Spider-Man boasts tons of computer-generated action, in actuality, this is a teen romance about dealing with adult feelings and responsibilities. And while I generally despise Kirsten Dunst, the sparks literally fly off the screen whenever her and Tobey are together. Sure, this flick has all the trappings of a kid's comic: sappy dialogue, over-the-top action, and a scenery chewing performance by Dafoe--but it's fun, it's innocent, and it works.


Dude. Spider-Man is totally sick! Sam Raimi has taken the mythos of Lee and Ditko, and rather than tearing it down, or rolling his eyes at the material, has added layers to what is already an emotionally complicated story. Instead of rushing through the first three pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, Raimi concentrates on what attracted us to Spidey in the first place; a sad character whose dreams are always out of reach.

Of course, there's gonna be some minor points that make you say "HOLD ON THERE A SECOND, MISTER!" For example, in this version, instead of being bitten by a "radioactive spider," Peter Parker is chomped by its modern equivalent; a "genetically designed super spider." Is this supposed to indicate the screenwriter's moral aversion to genetic engineering? Who knows? But what I do know is that half the Marvel Universe owes their powers to good ol' fashioned ATOMIC RADIATION--and I don't think these fancy Hollywood types should be screwing around with it!

Example two (and this is a biggie): After being bitten, Spidey's powers are identical to those in the comic--except instead of web-shooters, he squirts webbing directly out of his freaking wrists!! There's something really fucked up about that. Not only for the obvious masturbation reference, but if he was really developing the physiology of a spiderwouldn't he be shooting webs out of his ass? (Now that's a movie I'd pay to see!)

Example three: The Green Goblin's costume is totally Ultraman, dude! It's soooo '60s Japan, I expected Gamera to come stomping around the corner! But don't worry--Spidey's skin-tight threads are 100 percent accurate, showing off all of Maguire's muscle-y bulges. Not that I'm gay, or nothin'. I'm just sayingyou know chicks'll dig it.

Anyway, the fights are killer, the CG is a little overcooked, and while the soupy love story may seem like Darkman "Lite," Raimi has nevertheless produced a heartfelt salute to the hero we all identified with--leaving all that adorable self-loathing guilt intact.