Here’s one of those “genre films” that a lot of fanboys like myself have been looking forward to for months… nay, years. In many ways Spider-Man has been our last, best hope to see a good movie based on a Marvel comics title. X-Men, after all, could have just been a fluke.

I’m pleased to say that Spider-Man, the movie, does not suck.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already been inundated with hype and info and imagery and so on. I’ll spare you things you don’t need me to tell you.

Here’s what works about the movie:

  • Yes, Tobey does an outstanding job. He absolutely picks up this movie and carries it on his back from start to finish. Spectacular work.
  • The interpersonal drama outweighs the fancy CGI and fight choreography. It really does. If it didn’t, the last scene wouldn’t have worked at all. (No, I’m not giving that away, even though it gets spoiled in a lot of other reviews.)
  • Willem Dafoe manages to work some subtlety into what would normally be Just Another Nickelson’s Joker Ripoff.
  • There were very few played-for-laughs moments. In a weird sort of way, this makes great sense. We’re watching an origin story, and while Spider-Man is one of the original wisecracking superheroes he doesn’t quite evolve to that point in this film. We’ll probably see more of that in movies to come.
  • Setup. There’s an awful lot of setup, both blatant and subtle, for future Spidey films. Listen for the name of the place Peter gets fired from on account of poor attendance.
  • The organic webshooters. As used in this movie, it works. It breaks from canon, but it works.

Here’s what doesn’t (quite) work:

  • Danny Elfman’s score. Soulless. Lifeless. A vague pastiche of everything else he’s ever done. Just about the only good thing I can say about it is that it never once gets in the way of the movie. I dare anyone to pick out a real melodic sequence out of that awful score. I dare anyone to remember any given series of notes. It’s that lame, folks.
  • Kirsten Dunst. Bless her soul, it’s not really her fault that MJ didn’t have much more to do in this film than to bounce from rich brat to rich brat and get saved a few times by His Spideyness. While she’s the center of Peter Parker’s emotional existence, only a few times does she appear to have the strength or depth of character to deserve it. Again, not the fault of the actress, and she does have a few moments in the film that indicate possible greatness in future films.
  • Some of the CGI is a bit obvious. It doesn’t detract from the movie too much, and is probably kind of unavoidable, but every so often there’s a jarring “Ah, that’s CGI” bit that takes you out of the movie for a moment. Luckily the movie pulls you right back in again, but you shouldn’t have left in the first place.
  • The organic webshooters. (On both sides of the coin, yes.) My objection isn’t that it breaks from canon, but that we lose the opportunity to see that Peter Parker really is a science whiz. We sure hear about it often enough, but at no point is it actually evident. The screen time used to show him getting the hang of the organic webshooters could have been used to show him developing the mechanical/chemical ‘shooters.

Overall, it’s a great superhero movie and a better-than-average movie in its own right. If you like “genre” films in the least, you owe it to yourself to catch a showing. As for the Kerezman clan, my son Alexander stated halfway through that “we have to buy this when it comes out.” And he was saying this during one of the better Peter/MJ scenes in the movie, so it wasn’t just a reaction to the cool fight sequences. That’s my boy!