Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * · )

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Along with the original Superman and year 2000's X-Men, Spiderman is one of the great traditional superhero movies. It succeeds by following a very simple formula for good superhero movies. Don't ignore the story and take the material seriously. By having a serious superhero movie with a good story and making action and special effects a secondary piece, Spiderman manages to tell the tale of the second most well known superhero in history.

The success of Spiderman is due in no small part to the hands of Evil Dead trilogy. He is a director who didn't grow up with the sour taint of Hollywood schlock in his veins. He made the best horror movie known to man for about eighty five bucks. While his style isn't quite noticeable in this movie, the lead actor doesn't have a chin the size of a Buick for example, his influence kept this movie from being a two hour ad to sell Burger King kids meals.

Story is a key piece to making Spiderman a success. Instead of working with well known stereotypes and common Saturday morning plotlines, Spiderman took the story seriously. This is shown very clearly on the night Spiderman first uses his powers. There is no doubt why he is the way he is and why he chooses the side he chooses. In a very clear, harsh way, our hero is very well defined. He isn't born with the pure red blood of a hero. He is made one when he sees the red blood of his uncle on the streets of New York. There is a raw intensity to his origin and the choices he makes throughout the movie and at no time does it feel polished or simmered down for the protection of our viewers. He is a superhero in a real world and in this real world people die.

The special effects are are actually one of the disadvantages to this movie. While they are a necessary evil, they do not feel so polished as to lend an amount of realism to the rest of the film. We understand what powers our young hero has, but not what the limits of those powers are. Gravity seems to have little effect here and the strengths and endurance of our hero seem limitless. How can we fear for him when we don't know what to fear?

The DVD of Spiderman is very good. There is a 1.85 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that proves DTS isn't the end all be all of audio formats. The disc is a two disc set with a whole bunch of the typical featurettes. There are two commentary tracks including one with Sam Raimi and others.

Once again I must express my anger at the choice of two versions. I am a seasoned veteran DVD shopper for over five years and I still had to double and triple check to make sure I had the Widescreen and not the pan-and-scan. If movie studios care for their customers and film, they would only release widescreen versions and offer proper education in the form of one-page inserts and on-screen frame by frame examples of the destruction of pan-and-scan.

There are many good superhero movies now. My favorites are the unconventional looks at heroes like Unbreakable that manage to contain the entire storyline for the making of a superhero without any special effects or fancy action scenes. In the field of traditional superhero movies, the key is to focus on story and not to trivialize it. Spiderman does neither. It is a great superhero movie.