Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is your average high school science geek, picked on by the dumb jocks and ignored by the girl he’s in love with (Kirsten Dunst). One day, at the Natural history Museum, Peter gets bitten by an unnaturally mutated radioactive spider (these things happen), and he realises he’s developed special spider-like powers: walking on walls, shooting web from his wrists, the famous “spider sense.” The young man becomes arrogant with his newfound powers, and his indifference to the problems of lesser mortals inadvertently causes the death of his bloved foster father, Uncle Ben. He learns the lesson that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and the guilt of Ben’s death haunts Peter throughout the story.
It’s that tinge of guilt that separates Spider-Man from the older Superman and Batman series (those two are always as stoic and noble as a man can be in a pair of tights). Peter’s life is also complicated with the knowledge that Dr. Norman Osborne, the millionaire father of Peter’s best friend Harry (James Franco), becomes, due to a botched lab experiment, Spidey’s arch-enemy, the Green Goblin. Willem Dafoe handles this Jeckyll-Hyde bit very well. The inevitable fight to the death will be with a man who has always treated Peter (though not Spider-Man) quite decently.
There are very few moments when the computer imagery is obvious. Sam Raimi got his feel for the superhero genre while producing Xena, Warrior Princess in the 90s, and it shows. Spider-Man is actually worth the hype. And that’s good, because we’re in for a lot of it this summer!