Tobey Maguire does whatever a spider can.
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.