SUPER 8 FILM REVIEW
If you were under any misapprehensions big, modern releases to the Super 8 gauge were a thing of the past Spider-Man (2002) has appeared within a near first-rate print which in years to come will surely be one of the most sought after 8mm films of all time.
The last time I looked Spider-Man came in at number 9 in the worldwide box office gross chart having taken $806,700,000. Many who have not seen the film may have preconceptions about it being a modern load of rubbish laden with computer generated special effects. It is certainly none of those things and I would challenge anyone to watch it and not enjoy it. There is a good story, all the characters are excellent, for the most part the special effects are very good and actually done with living, breathing human beings (though I won’t mention the sequence where Peter Parker runs over the roof tops!), there are no annoying, cocky remarks and the female lead won’t drive you up the wall. Just how is it such a good film can be made today, particularly of a comic book transferred to the screen when there are so many factors involved generally seeming to balk decent film making? The answer could be the director, Sam Raimi.
Raimi was a Spider-Man fan as a child and being as he was hired largely on that basis was virtually left to his own devices as all around considered he knew best. The result is a faithful representation of the greatest superhero comic book character of all time (with the possible exception of Batman). Spider-Man’s original 1960’s stories were always good and readers could sympathise with the predicament of the young man given superhuman abilities.
The film begins with the origin of Spider-Man. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire – an inspired piece of casting that brings that much needed believability to the story) is the odd one out at school. He is bullied by his class mates, has a good friend in Harry Osborne and loves M.J. (Mary-Jane Watson played by Kirsten Dunst). A school outing to a genetics laboratory brings Peter into contact with a “genetically engineered super spider” and a spider bite that is about to instigate the same genetic engineering in him.
He returns home to his foster parents, Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson of 633 Squadron fame) whereupon he heads straight up to his room. A very ill, puny looking Peter Parker passes out to awaken transformed the following morning. He no longer needs his glasses, has sprouted muscles overnight and completely recovered from his illness.
Some wonderful sequences follow where he discovers his hands stick to anything, webbing shoots out of slits in his wrists and he beats up his rival Flash Thompson without even trying.
That night he meets M.J., the girl next door and it is obvious there is a mutual affection before her boyfriend, none other than Flash Thompson, arrives in his new sports car to take her out. Peter is jealous and looks through the paper for a sports car he can afford himself. His attention is drawn to an advert for a $3,000 prize for anyone who can last three minutes in the wrestling ring with the present champion “Bone-Saw McGraw”. “Colourful characters are a must” the advert proclaims. Time for a costume design but at this initial stage we do not see the full blown Spider-Man costume.
Uncle Ben insists on driving Peter into town (although believing he is taking him to the library) as he wants to talk to him about the changes he is going through as an adolescent - particularly as he has just beaten up one of his class mates. Uncle Ben stresses to him that just because he can beat him up doesn’t mean he should. “Remember, with great power comes great responsibility”. As it happens this will be the last thing Uncle Ben will ever say to him and transpires to be the advice that shapes the rest of Peter Parker’s life.
The wrestling bout goes incredibly well but the organizer refuses to pay out the prize money as the bout only lasted two minutes before Bone-Saw McGraw was knocked out. The advert stated three minutes. A disgruntled Peter Parker is waiting by the lift (elevator?) to leave when he witnesses a gun wielding thug relieve the proprietor of his takings. He could easily thwart the thief’s escape but chooses to step aside to avenge not having been paid. He feels very pleased with himself but not when it transpires the same criminal murders Uncle Ben in his bid to escape. Spider-Man is born.
In the meantime, Harry Osborne’s father Norman has been mutated into the Green Goblin in a performance enhancing experiment gone wrong at his laboratory. Willem Dafoe excels in this dual personality role. The origin of the Green Goblin provides a good sub-plot and enhances the film enormously. It is interesting how in their normal lives Peter Parker and Norman Osborne are good friends but by night they unwittingly battle each other to the death atop the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
The Green Goblin finds out who Spider-Man is and terrorizes Aunt May and M.J.. As a result Peter realizes he can never let anyone too close to him and following the climactic battle with the Goblin the film concludes with him rejecting M.J.. Although after they kiss it is obvious M.J. has realized the truth of Peter’s double life.
Another character worthy of mention - J.K. Simmons plays the editor of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jamieson, to whom Peter makes a living selling photographs of Spider-Man in action. He really brings Jamieson to life and steals every scene he’s in. Just hilarious.
Having detailed much of the story it could be argued the highlight of the film is retained for the conclusion of the end credits when the original Spider-Man cartoon theme can be heard in its original incarnation. Who that saw the 70’s cartoon can ever forget…
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does whatever a spider can, Spins a web any size, Catches thieves just like flies, Look out there goes the Spider-Man.
An absolutely wonderful release from Classic Home Cinema worth every penny of its asking price. Probably the best print we have ever had from Classic having the look of a release from a genuine negative. The night sequences are exceptional with the best contrast levels seen for years. There is a minimal amount of grain visible in the daylight sequences but the image is still very sharp. Hardly any perceptible negative dust or marks of any kind even at the reel changes. The sound is absolutely spot-on, albeit mono, but good enough to even keep the likes of me happy.
I have run the film in sync’ with the Dolby Digital 5:1 tracks of the DVD and although I cannot be certain of whether there are any missing frames around the reel changes (I still have the film on its original six reels) it didn’t drift out of sync’ at all and appears to run all the way through without the need for adjustment.
Not a single problem with picture unsteadiness or sound dropout means this release is about as near perfect as can be wished for. It also helps if you have the film delivered to a mate so he can treat it with Thermofilm and run it for you first time through. He has his uses that Wilton!
Print A/A* Sound A
10 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE COMIC & THE MOVIE
1. Spider-Man did not have the ability to fire webbing from his wrists. This was achieved as an invention Peter Parker attached to his wrists and had to press a button to fire.
2. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider to gain his powers and not a genetically modified super spider.
3. M.J. was only fully introduced into the Amazing Spider-Man comic in issue 42. Prior to this appearance she was only ever partially seen.
4. Peter Parker’s first girlfriend was Betty Brant. She can be seen briefly in the film as the office girl in the Daily Bugle office.
5. M.J. did not have an abusive father and was in fact the niece of Aunt May’s best friend. Peter had been avoiding her for a long time before succumbing to an arranged date.
6. M.J. did not live next door neither did she go to the same school as Peter Parker.
7. The Green Goblin was quite a late addition to the list of villains to regularly give Spider-Man a hard time. For some time his identity was unknown until it was decided it would be a good idea to make the man behind the mask Norman Osborne. Steve Ditko, the lead artist, disagreed with this and resigned.
8. After the death of the Green Goblin Harry Osborne took over the role (but this may come to fruition in a future sequel).
9. The Green Goblin finds out the identity of Spider-Man by following him home having first used a potion to dull his spider-sense.
10. In the comic the wrestling prize money was $100. In the film it was $3,000! I suppose that’s inflation over 40 years.