The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 9, 2002

Spiderman casts celluloid web
Nutan Sehgal

KAPOW! Whammo! Splat! Ask any four-year-old boy about his most favourite comic book heroes and chances are he’ll name three — Superman, Batman and Spiderman. That’s because ever since these superheroes first appeared they have made an indelible niche for themselves in the psyche of children.

And they’ve been around for years. Superman first came to Planet Earth in 1938, which makes him 64, Batman followed a year later and turned 63 this year. The youngest, Spiderman , turned 40 in May, 2002.

So it is only natural that the web-slinger becomes the latest in the long list of heroes to leap out of the pages of a comic book on to the sliver screen. Unlike Superman and Batman, no films have been made on Spiderman because his screen image has very little scope for real-life characters.

This has turned out to be quite a summer of content for Indian kids with films like Harry Potter, Lord Of Rings: Fellowship Of The Rings, Monsters Inc and now Spiderman. Brought to India by Columbia Tristar, the film hit the theatres on May 24 and is expected to be the biggest hit ever in the history of Hollywood.

To familiarise children with the character, the producers had planned to show clippings of the animation show on various channels. The film stars relatively newcomers like Tobey Maguire, William Dafoe, James Franco, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons.


Spiderman is the story of a shy high-school student Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, who keeps his head buried in his books. Orphaned as a child when his parents were killed in an air crash, he lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May.

A school field trip to a science exhibit forever changes Peter’s life. The exhibit is about spiders, and there are dozens of different species on display, including some genetically charged breeds.

A mutated spider falls on his hand, bites him and dies. Peter is in great pain for the next few days and also starts manifesting strange, spider-like abilities. He gains superhuman strength and an ability to cling to any surface. He develops razor-sharp reflexes and sixth sense that warns him of any lurking danger.

Amazing powers

Peter doesn’t comprehend what is happening to him. But in a fight with the school bully he discovers his amazing powers. He can jump very high, climb walls with little effort and shoot a web from his wrists.

First, he thinks of commercially exploiting his powers by becoming a TV hero. But his Uncle Ben tells him that with great power comes greater responsibility.

When a burglar kills his uncle, a grief-stricken Peter vows to use his abilities to protect his fellow man. His powers are soon challenged, when a scientist is altered in an experiment gone wrong, becoming the evil spirit called the Green Goblin who is out to destroy the world. But between Osborn and destruction stands Spiderman.

The film is loaded with special effects which are most effective in the fight scenes between Spiderman and the Green Goblin. Both characters are extremely colourful and enhanced by fast-motion photography and added CGI to make them look more agile than a normal human. The results are astounding as they both leap across buildings, dodging bullets and missiles.

There’s a touch of Americanese as well. One of the most stunning scenes in the film showed Spiderman swinging between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The scene was cut after September 11. In an obvious reference to terrorism against America, even as New Yorkers help Spiderman fight the Green Goblin, one of the crowd exclaims, "You mess with one New Yorker — you mess with all of us!

Such mushy scenes aside, the movie is worth every minute of its viewing and lives up to the reputation the comic book hero has built for himself. Created by Stan Lee in 1962, Spiderman has appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide, and has been seen as an animated television series in 1967 and a live action series 10 years later. Ever since fans have been pressing for a ‘Spidey’ movie.

In the West, the hype surrounding the film is reaching a crescendo. It is being billed as one of the most awaited movies of this year. Whatever its fate at the box office, there will be many more sequels of the world’s favourite web-slinger.

— NF

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