Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
2002, Columbia Pictures
Directed by Sam Raimi
Screenplay by David Koepp
Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

The Spider-man movie myth begins, and it is well formed. Why is he called "Spider-man," and where do his powers come from? This is where the movie first takes us. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a nice guy, nothing special, a little nerdy, just as bashful and unsure of himself as most of us, and of course infatuated with the girl next door, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), to whom he can hardly bring himself to say "Hi." When Peter gets bitten by a super-spider, the only thing that really changes is his physical abilities. Although Peter becomes Spider-man at will, he is still shy around M.J.

In a perfect world, Spider-man's first nemesis would be a villain he could hate as easily as a cockroach. But it is scientist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), the father of his friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) - both have been nothing but good to Peter. Alas, Norman not only turns into the Green Goblin, Harry moves in on Peter's girlfriend.

Will Peter destroy the Green Goblin with his powers and wit, or will the scientific madness of the arch-villain overpower him? Will Peter win M.J. with his Spider-man powers, or will he steal her heart with his charmingly innocent ways? And will Peter learn that with power comes responsibility? The answer is, it's a really good story.

The computer graphics had to be difficult. As Spider-man leaped and swung from building to building, the Green Goblin flew through the sky, and other real characters moved, the camera also moved along the set constantly changing perspective. It was a well integrated package that came across convincingly.

The production design was very good with subtle nuances that were easy to miss. I'm sure I missed many. While the story was set in 2002, I couln't help but note a period quality that harked back to The Shadow, and later, in the music, costume, and character (Jonah Jameson), which fit the early comic book story period well and created a unique atmosphere that really added to the production. The music was classic from the opening scene, and went well with the production.

The costume design was exceptional. With the Spider-man costume, the designer, James Acheson, faced the problem of a skin tight costume with no way to hide the harness and wire. The costume looked really good. The Green Goblin costume was just as impressive, if not more so. I loved it as soon as it appeared. The angular metallic features looked like a suit of armor that some mad genius might create to go with the flying platform he rode, and symbolized the character and his impersonal dastardly actions well. The meeting of the two costumes in battle was so improbable it was "fantastic."

For a fantasy, the characterization was excellent. Spider-man may appeal to us for two reasons. 1) His powers aren't so strong that he easily overpowers anyone - he just has an advantage. 2) He is a lot like us. There was a "real" quality to the characterization that typically is not present in action-hero fantasy, and it played exceptionally well. Kudos to the writer.

The characters were brought to life by an excellent cast. Tobey Maguire created a stunning character transformation in drawing the powerful Spider-man from the shy Peter Parker, losing innocence without losing "character." Willem Dafoe not only portrayed a maniac, he managed to make the character come to life through a rigid costume and mask. James Franco created a character that went beyond being credible - we will look forward to him as Spider-man's future nemesis. Kirsten Dunst "was" the proverbial girl next door. Cliff Roberson (as Peter's Uncle Ben) and Rosemary Harris (as Peter's Aunt May) were as real as any real life characters, delivering excellent performances. J.K. Simmons, as Peter's gruff newspaper employer, Jonah Jameson, uniquely brought us a character hewn right out of a comic book, (a bit melodramatic) which I thought was very appropriate to add a catching dimension to a small part - fun character.

You don't get much better for fantasy stories developed from comic-book action heroes. Although the plot was too coincidental in places in that the proximity of the nemesis was too convenient, perhaps it is symbolic of what happens in real life. The ending reminds you of Casablanca, a fitting ending that sits much better than other action heroes. The audience clapped at the end. This is one for children of all ages, 7 to 127. This is a hit that is sure to propel a series.

You can read more about the movie at Columia Pictures (Sony) Spider-man Web site:

I give this very enjoyable movie four spotlights out of a possible five for the writing, acting, directing, production design, casting, editing, music, costume design, fight and action coreography, cinematography, casting, and entertainment value. It carries a PG-13 rating. Enjoy!

My comments below attempt to draw attention to things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions, and for professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts.

  • Writing - excellent characterization for a fantasy, excellent and worthwhile storyline, great interaction with the set, and very visually presented. (Coincidences detracted, and it was a bit weak just after the first act - room for improvement). Four to five spotlights.
  • Acting - excellent acting in well drawn parts. Five spotlights.
  • Casting - every part was well chosen. Five spotlights.
  • Directing - the scenes flowed well, the story was cohesive, the drama was told visually, the CGI blended well with the live scenes, and good overall production. Four to five spotlights.
  • Production design - the set was well integrated with the tremedous amount of action, and made a major contribution to making the entire production very visual. The web motif at the beginning was great. Five spotlights.
  • Special effects - CGI made a major contribution while being difficult to achieve. Five spotlights.
  • Editing - the action flowed smoothly, captured good action and character reactions, was well integrated with the CGI, and put together a coherent story. Five spotlights.
  • Music - nice period and genre selection, seamless, and complimented the action. Five spotlights.
  • Costume design - very appropriate to the characters, and well done. Five spotlights.
  • Choreography - fight and action (Spider-man "jumping and swinging") - excellent choices. Five spotlights.
  • Cinematography - well integrated with the CGI and told the story visually. Five spotlights.

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing (rarely given)
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

Inevitable Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed on this page are only opinions and should be regarded as opinions by the reader.

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