Before I get to the movie itself: the DVD pissed me off. No, I am not installing software on my computer in order to watch a rental. I have perfectly good DVD software already. When I first heard about movies being traded over file-sharing networks I couldn't understand how a download that might take days to complete was somehow more convenient than popping over to the video store and plunking down a couple of bucks. But maybe it's not a price thing. Maybe it's just that the latest generation of DVDs is a big pain in the ass.
Anyway, on to Spider-Man. Verdict: lame. When it was in theaters someone I know said, "To be a real Spider-Man movie, you have to hit points A through G. This one hits all those points. Unfortunately, to be a good movie you also have to hit points H through Z and it doesn't hit any of those." Me, I'm not even sure it hits points A through G. For instance, it's fairly key that Spider-Man be funny. Here, not so much. Lighthearted, maybe, but funny... no. I mean, c'mon, Spidey's whole schtick is that he peppers the villains with punchlines along with the punches. Where were they? I'm looking at the "memorable quotes" page on IMDb... "bland quotes" or "cheesy quotes" I could believe, but memorable? I can rattle off Spider-Man lines I read in the comics twenty years ago. I saw this movie three hours ago and nothing stuck.
Any treatment of Spider-Man also has to handle the whole Uncle Ben thing, and this one did it quite clumsily. This Uncle Ben doesn't have much in the way of personality (not that Stan Lee's did, either; Brian Michael Bendis did a fair bit better on this count in the "Ultimate" revamp a couple of years ago). His "with great power comes great responsibility" speech is artificial and perfunctory, just something to get out of the way so that Spidey has a mantra later on. And the pacing overall is just terrible. The revelation that the guy who killed him is the thief that Peter Parker failed to stop early on should come as a surprise, meaning, y'know, some intervening material so that we forget about that guy. This isn't 1962 and we're not limited to eleven pages to tell this whole story. But instead Spider-Man makes the whole thing one long scene. It's pretty weak.
Spider-Man awkwardly bounces from tone to tone, from the tragic to the buoyant in 3.6 seconds, and it jars. Yes, the mixture of comedy and tragedy is a big part of what has made Spider-Man successful over the years, but making that work takes skill that isn't on display here. Instead, we get bad computer graphics — half the movie is spent on blue-screens that don't fool the eye for a second — and bad acting. I was astonished to find reviewer after reviewer hailing Willem Dafoe for a conversation-with-a-mirror scene that had me wincing... actually, I was wincing pretty much whenever Dafoe was onscreen. Spider-Man's villains are a fairly embarrassing lot in any case, but the movie version of the Green Goblin really just could not have been more lame. I kept picturing Joel Schumacher sitting in the front row at a screening giving Sam Raimi the thumbs-up.
So, yeah, all in all, it's not funny, it's not cool, it's just... hokey. One review I read declared that "anyone who cherishes anachronistic pop storytelling will have a blast." Uh-huh. You do the Anachronistic Pop Pokey and you turn yourself around... that's what it's all about.