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  Crescent Blues Movie Views

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Spiderman weaves its web from the first credit. The names appear over white strands of webbing, against a black background, which converge into webs, split apart and reconverge, mesmerizing the audience. "Come into my parlor," said the spider to the fly, and, like the beckoning arachnid, director Sam Raimi (Darkman, The Quick and The Dead, Xena: Warrior Princess) entices us into this film about "Spidey," the Marvel Comics superhero.

As Spiderman fans know, a mutant spider, developed in a laboratory, bites hero Peter Parker's hand. Overnight Peter develops spider strength and characteristics -- rapid movement, wall climbing, producing strands of webbing and tingling Spider Sense.

While mastering his new abilities, Peter withdraws from his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). Uncle Ben decides to "have a talk" with Peter. He tells his nephew, "With great power comes great responsibility." This advice furnishes the theme in Spiderman.

Tobey's Maguire's portrayal of Peter Parker/Spiderman calls to mind his self-effacing yet self-aware characters in The Ice Storm, The Cider House Rules and Wonder Boys. While Peter progresses from wonderment to self-confidence with his spider powers, he never loses his unpretentious nature. Although intense while battling bad guys or saving a baby from a fire, he modestly responds to thanks and praise. This diffidence also accentuates Peter's guarded relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the girl next door and his secret love since first grade.

Every superhero, however, needs a super villain. Enter Green Goblin, a.k.a. Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), rich scientist and head of Oscorp, a military defense contractor. Oscorp develops a performance-enhancing vapor, which unfortunately produces side effects of insanity, uncontrollable aggression and power lust. To prevent losing the military contract, Osborn tests the vapor on himself. Osborn splits into a Jekyll/Hyde personality, his evil alter ego calling all the murderous shots. Dafoe's nuanced movements and facial expressions convincingly differentiate his two characters, especially when the evil twin appears in a mirror to confront the reluctant Osborne. Dafoe also deftly moves from one character to another in the same scene. Outfitted in green armor and helmet with ghastly yellow eyes, Green Goblin vows to kill Spiderman.

The conflict between Spiderman and Green Goblin presents a twist. Osborne's son Harry (James Franco) is Peter's best friend and college roommate. Digital camera work creates New York City and captures the fluidity and freedom of Spidey flight, zapping strands of webbing from one building to another. Two camera shots taken from Spidey's perspective as he swoops down and then up made this reviewer's stomach lurch. The film also captures all the classic Spidey motions and poses, from wall-crawling on all fours to hanging upside-down by webbing with knees out and feet together.

Of course, the ending sets us up for a sequel. The webslinger shall swing again!

Lynn I. Miller

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