By default, Comic Books are the perfect Pre-Viz for movies based on them. And as a long-time Spidey fan, I was able to see the panels of this comic book come to striking life, sometimes reproduced with magnificent exactness in comparison to the way the books have been drawn and colored.
As far as this initial offering goes, the choices of Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe and James Franco allowed for an almost precise match to how the characters they each portray looked in the books. The casting of Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Uncle Ben and Aunt Mae, and J.K. Simmons as J Jonah Jameson: But it was not just the casting of actors who very closely resemble the characters of the Spider-man Universe, it was clearly Sam Raimi’s direction in concert with the script by David Koepp based very closely on Stan Lee’s “Spidey” Origin Story, which made these people come alive and pop out of the comic book frames, almost into real life.
Compared to some of the other comic book adaptations, this one was done with the most amount of care and respect for the series. Just to reproduce the postures of the flying web-slinger, using some of the most famous frames from the comics, was an astounding accomplishment.
From his humble beginnings in “Evil Dead” Sam Raimi has been a clever filmmaker, especially in his ability to make splendid visual effects. Combine that with a huge budget along with Visual Effects god John Dykstra, who designed effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the original Star Wars. Connect the dots with a fantastic Production Designer and Costume Designer, and it all just worked.
One of the tests of how well Digital Effects have been done are in the viewing of these films on lower-resolution mediums, like smart phone screens and Old Cathode-Ray Tube TV’s. I’ve viewed this film in each of those, and when Spidey is crawling up a wall in an obvious CGI shot, it makes you wonder if it really was CGI: In films like Daredevil, it is easy to spot the transition frames; here, it is impossible to find it.
Comparatively, the work on Captain America showing Steve Rogers as a skinny kid is very clever. Here, the same tech is used in a smaller degree to show Parker as a wimpy, skinny nerd. This is highly effective so that when Parker sees himself buffed out with his shirt off, you believe a change has occurred.
Where this film excels is in the rapidity of which it gets into the Spider-Man story, which is within the first ten minutes. As much as I do like the new Marc Webb “Amazing Spider Man” (2012) – It takes much too long to get into it, although the character development in that film is very good.
In this film however, the character development continues through the film and is incorporated even into action sequences, Continuing up to the very last frame of the film.
Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Dan Hicks (Of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks) are all inserted as cameo properly as with any Raimi film. It is Campbell himself who “names” Spider-man – Saying “The Human Spider? That Sucks!”
My few complaints revolve around the character of Peter Parker, who is fairly unlucky in the books, here he is a walking disaster area. He is the antithesis of “The Competent Man” and even when given extraordinary ability, he is still a wimp in his personality, especially in his dealing with Mary Jane Watson. Also, Peter Parker’s first Love interest was Gwen Stacy, and it was she, not MJ who The Green Goblin captured and gave Spidey the choice: Save these kids in the Cable-Car, or Save Gwen. It was a choice, and one or the other only could have been saved. Here, Gwen is completely absent, and he saves MJ with a feat even impossible for the comic- book rendition of Spidey.
But I suppose adding Gwen to the mix would have muddied up the water too much. And even though I did not like the distortion of that original classic story, they did reproduce it visually with astounding correctness, as they did with the images of Spider-Man flying through NYC. Animating several classic Steve Ditko Spidey Postures, and at the end of the film we get to see many of these animated fantastically.
But the main message: ‘With Great power, comes Great Responsibility” – As told by Uncle Ben to Peter right before his death, survives, and when coupled with Danny Elfman’s fantastic score, makes this a powerful, meaningful film.
8 out of 10 stars