Monday, October 3, 2022


April 25, 2002
Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunstab star in Columbia Pictures’ action-adventure “Spider-Man.” —

Spins a web, any size, catches crooks just like flies.

But can he capture millions of moviegoers and their pocket money?

On May 3, the highly-anticipated and much-debated “Spider-Man” movie finally will make its way to theaters all across America, with help from MSU alumnus and director, Sam Raimi. With talk about too many special effects, goofy costumes and its New York setting, some are expecting the movie to be less than great.

But there are just as many who are expecting to be thrilled.

“I think it’s going to be phenomenal,” said Stephen Jahner, a part-owner and manager of Capital City Comics and Books, 2004 E. Michigan Ave. “I’ve seen all the trailers, a lot of production stills, and read a lot of articles - it looks like it’s going be just great. The whole web-slinging thing looks phenomenal.”

The Spider-Man character has been around since 1962, when the first issue of the comic book hit newsstands. Ever since, the web-slinger has thrilled audiences, battling villains like Doctor Octopus, The Sinister Six, The Lizard and The Green Goblin - who just happens to be his nemesis in the upcoming movie.

But in all that time, a big-budget Hollywood production has eluded the character. While he was featured in a cartoon series, plans to create a live-action adventure never happened.

While other comic book heroes such as Batman and Superman have had film-franchises, Spider-Man was stuck in the realm of comics or Saturday morning. But with a whole mess of new superhero properties either on the way or already successful - “X-Men” was an amazing success at the box office and movies like “Daredevil,” with Ben Affleck and “The Hulk,” directed by Ang Lee, already are in front of the cameras - Spider-Man was a shoe-in.

For the director slot, Raimi happily took the job. Raimi first came to fame at the helm of “Evil Dead” and its accompanying sequels, “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness.” Raimi has since become known for his work on quirky and entertaining movies ,such as “The Quick and the Dead,” starring Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone, and “A Simple Plan,” starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton.

“It’s not my thing exactly,” said Bill Vincent, an MSU English and film studies professor and an old friend and professor of Raim’s. Vincent is not a huge fan of action films, but expects to make it to a theater for the movie. “I’ll probably see it.”

For the character himself, playing both Spider-Man and his alter ego Peter Parker, Tobey Maguire of “The Cider House Rules” and “Wonder Boys” fame filled the spot. Taking the reigns of love interest Mary Jane Watson is Kirsten Dunst, from movies such as “crazy/beautiful” and “Bring It On.”

Golden Globe winner Willem Dafoe is taking the role of Norman Osborn, aka The Green Goblin, the high-flying, bomb-throwing archnemesis of Spider-Man.

Of course, once all the slots were filled, the work and the fan concern began. With the Internet providing early pictures, costume designs and even scripts to armchair critics all over the world, debate began as to whether the adaptation would be worth the price of admission. Message boards on all sorts of Web sites discussed whether his web shooters should be the mechanical type, which they have been traditionally, or an organic growth he gains with his powers.

Then came the first trailers in early fall, in which Spider-Man captured bank robbers escaping by helicopter in a web directly between the towers of the World Trade Center. Intended as a teaser about a year before the movie would actually see release, suddenly it became a part of the Hollywood movement to decide whether footage of the towers should be included in movies that already were shot. In the end, the trailer was removed from theaters and footage from the movie was also taken out.

Now, the final product is prepped and ready to go, complete with a fast-food tie-in, action figures, comic books and posters everywhere to make sure everyone is aware of the hype.

In fact, there already are plans for a sequel, complete with the same cast and director, to follow up on what looks to be a huge success.

Because whether the special effects or story are a little weak, it looks as though too many will be unable to resist the temptation of seeing a classic hero brought to life on the big screen.

“I retain the right to reserve judgment,” said David Comfort, manager of 21st Century Comics and Games, 515 E. Grand River. Comfort said that he considered renting an entire theater the opening weekend for his friends and customers. “If it’s completely a special effects movie, it probably won’t be very good. But if they get the character down, it should be all right.”


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