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Still shot from the movie: Spider-Man.

Spider-Man

Actor Tobey Maguire dons form fitting tights and a face-concealing mask, then heads out to the streets as Spider-Man. While the web-spinning super hero attempts to make New York City a safer place, he must also slough off bad press and keeping his real identity a secret.

Overall Grade: B-
Violence: C-
Sexual Content: B-
Language: B-
Drugs/Alcohol: B
Release Date: 02 May 2002
Run Time: 121
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

After starring in films like The Cider House Rules and Pleasantville, Tobey Maguire takes a decidedly different role as the web-spinning superhero in Spider-Man. Donning form fitting tights and a face-concealing mask, he makes the streets of New York City a safer place to be while sloughing off bad press from local newspaper editor, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons).

Peter Parker (Maguire), orphaned as a child, grows up in the care of his aunt and uncle (Rosemary Harris and Chris Robertson). But even their affection can't shield him from the taunting he takes as the high school nerd. Bullied on the bus and hassled in the hallways, he keeps a low profile until a class field trip where he is accidentally bitten by a genetically altered spider. Undergoing a strange metamorphosis, he acquires super strength, agility, and an ESP-like sense that warns him of impending danger -- all the advantages any disregarded geek could want.

But the fun of his newfound powers evaporates when his uncle is killed during a botched robbery that Parker inadvertently assisted. Coming to grips with the responsibility that accompanies his abilities, he adopts the persona of Spider-Man.

Keeping the secret from his friends, Harry (James Franco) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), the arachnid hero rescues fire victims, stops thieves, and deals with crime. But he soon discovers he's not the only mutant in town. Harry's father (Willem Dafoe), involved in a scientific experiment gone wrong, unleashes the Green Goblin on the unsuspecting citizens and sets Spider-Man's senses a tingling.

A combination of computer wizardry, special effects, and Maguire's exercise-enhanced body makes for plenty of eye-candy appeal in this film. But the clashes between the daring do-gooder and the emerald-colored antagonist become increasingly graphic as the story is spun.

It's not long before Parker realizes that the life of a superhero is often lonely, filled with difficult choices, and frequently unappreciated. A role that parents might relate to when feeling arm-twisted between the film's violence factor and the mass appeal of the comic book champion who weaves a web with the twist of a wrist.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Overall: B-

Peter Parker is a high school nerd whose life is changed when he is bitten by a genetically altered spider. Adopting the persona of Spider-Man, he fights crime to make the city safer, but parents of children should be warned that the film includes increasingly graphic violence.

Violence: C-

Character is strangled and thrown through glass window. Comments made about murdered man. Boy hit in head with lunch tray, fight breaks out between students. Domestic argument is heard. Characters fight in wrestling match. Character brandishes gun during robbery; man is killed. Numerous scenes depict stylized violence with punching, head slams, thrown bodies, and the use of some weapons including gunfire. Character points gun at man’s forehead. Character blows up men during military demonstration. Character attacks a heavily populated event, using explosives and ammunition. Several characters are disintegrated. News story reports murders. Characters are threatened by fire. Characters fight in burning building. Women are attacked, injured and kidnapped. Explosion on bridge threatens numerous people. Fight sequences include knives, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat that becomes increasingly more graphic, some blood shown. Character is killed.

Sexual Content: B-

Girl’s t-shirt reveals cleavage and navel. Women wear bikini tops at wrestling match. Comment made about woman’s underwear. Couples kiss on at least two occasions. Thugs making kissing noises chase girl. Girl wears clingy, somewhat transparent wet dress. Slightly seductive scene includes couple kissing passionately.

Language: B-

Includes at least 10 mild profanities, 12 terms of Deity used as expletives, and occasional name-calling.

Alcohol / Drug Use: B

Character smokes cigar on several occasions. Characters drink at social event.  Man, under stress, drinks at home.

Miscellaneous Concerns:

Character is bullied, taunted and physically hurt by other students. Characters suffer from effects of spider bite and scientific experimentation. Comedic scene depicts man accidentally hitting the side of a building. A character lies.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Peter Parker is the brunt of high school bullying. How does he react to the teasing when he discovers his spider skills? What reaction do the students have following the fight in the school hall? Were his actions justified? Did it change how he was treated?

Uncle Ben and Aunt May were concerned about the changes in Peter’s behavior. What did Uncle Ben mean when he cautioned Peter to be careful about the kind of man he became? How did Peter feel about the advice? How did it affect his decisions later? How do the adults in your life express concern for you, and how do you react?

Video alternatives

Parents concerned about this live action version may want to check video rental shelves for the animated adventures of this super hero, such as Spider-Man: Spider Slayer. Other comic book heroes that have found fame on the big screen include Superman (1978) and X-Men (2000). Inspector Gadget (about a physically modified security guard) and the animated movie Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero also showcase superheroes of a sort, but have more content issues. Jumanji is an action-packed film for teens and adults about a board game that requires lots of human interaction.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Spider-Man Trilogy

Release Date: 22 April 2014

Sony Pictures releases their Spider-Man Franchise to home video (Blu-ray). Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco, the package features Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). Bonus extras are also includes:

DISC 1: Spider-Man

- Bu-ray copy of movie

- Gag Reel

- Costume/Makeup Test

- “Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century” documentary

- Screen Tests

- Director Profile: Sam Raimi

DISC 2: Spider-Man 2

- Bu-ray copy of movie (includes Theatrical Version & Extended “Spider-Man 2.1”)

- Audio Commentary with Filmmakers & Cast

- Ock-umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You

- “Making the Amazing” 12-part documentary

- Blooper Reel

- VFX Breakdowns

DISC 3: Spider-Man 3

- Bu-ray copy of movie

- Audio Commentary with Filmmakers & Cast

- Snow Patrol Music Video

- Bloopers

DISC 4: Spider-Man 3 Bonus Disc

- Grains of Sand: Building Sandman

- Re-Imagining the Goblin

- Covered in Black: Creating Venom

- On Location in New York & Cleveland

- Inside the Editing Room & The Science of Sound

- 3 Stunt Featurettes

Home Video Notes: Spider-Man

Release Date: 12 June 2012

Spider-Man releases to home video on Blu-ray (Blu-ray/UV Digital Copy). Bonus extras include:

- Three audio commentaries (Filmmakers and cast: Sam Raimi, Laura Ziskin, Grant Curtis, and Kirsten Dunst; Visual effects designer and crew: John Dykstra and special effects crew; and Actors: Tobey Maguire and J.K. Simmons)

- Gag/outtake reel

- Six multi-angle webisodes

- Music videos: “Hero,” performed by Chad Kroeger and featuring Josey Scott & “What We’re All About,” performed by Sum 41

- Spider-Man: The Mythology of the 21st Century

- HBO Making of Spider-Man

- Spider-Mania: E! Entertainment Special

- Filmmaker profiles: Director Sam Raimi and composer Profile: Danny Elfman

- Costume design featurette

- Seven additional behind-the-scenes featurettes

- Screen tests: Tobey Maguire, J.K. Simmons, and CGI Spider-Man

- Costume and makeup tests

- Spider Sense Trivia Challenge

- The Spider-man Cutting Room

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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