An overnight success in the making for nearly forty years, Spider-Man had been in the making in the mind of the child sitting behind me (at an 11 o'clock show at a multiplex in Brooklyn on 3 May, the earliest possible viewing for a member of the general public) for several months before the film's opening, at least. Perhaps six years old, the child showed in its involuntarily murmured comments a burnished precognition of the film's various plot points, key character arcs, and, at least once, of a precise line of dialogue. I guess these had been gleaned and rehearsed from advertising sources, but also from some highly accurate comic book or picture book-isation of the movie - an advertising source in an only slightly subtler sense. 'It's always like that for him,' the child mused when, in the film's opening sequence, Peter Parker, Spider-Man's 'real' teenage self, missed the school bus. In that one remark the child encapsulated what the director and producers had got so right in casting Tobey Maguire as the misfit character, and in their gentle faithfulness throughout to the homely tone of the 1960s Spider-Man comics. 'I can't wait until Aunt May says, "You're not Superman, you know,"' the child stage-whispered a bit later (Aunt May being the parentless Peter Parker's sweetly feeble guardian, who speaks this admonitory line in ignorance of Parker's superheroic secret), and again it was evident how deeply programmed the 'Marvel Style' had been into the advertising campaign.
LRB 6 June 2002 | PDF Download