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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Jane Austen's SPIDER-MAN
by Betty Jo Tucker

Forget Supeman, Batman, X-Men – and, yes, even Wonder Woman. My vote for the best superhero of them all goes to Spider-Man. After seeing Tobey Maguire play the popular cartoon icon on the big screen, I’m caught in the web of this wide-eyed actor’s surprising talent. Not being an avid Marvel comic book fan, my vote probably doesn’t count for much, but I’m sticking to it.

Maguire’s opening narration grabbed my attention right away. "This story, like any other story worth telling, is about a girl," he begins matter-of-factly. Experiencing a feeling of great delight over such a statement, I asked myself, "Is this Spider-Man . . . or a character from a Jane Austen novel?" And I couldn’t lose that feeling all through the movie. Afterwards, as reported below, I found myself channeling the venerable British author (who lived over two hundred years ago, so it wasn't easy) to discover her thoughts about the film.

TUCKER: Ms. Austen, what is your opinion of Spider-Man as a work of social significance?

AUSTEN: I’m amazed at how well it shows the way human relationships become emotionally complicated, especially where love is concerned.

TUCKER: That’s certainly true of Peter Parker(Spider-Man) and Mary Jane Watson, portrayed so endearingly by Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, in this flick.  

AUSTEN: Yes, indeed. Like so many characters in my novels, they face serious obstacles in the way of true love. Mary Jane seems quite similar to my Emma. Both women fail to recognize their romantic feelings about the men they really love. On the other hand, Peter has trouble showing his true feelings for Mary Jane, so he reminds me of Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. That silly mask he wears is symbolic of the barriers some people erect to protect themselves from rejection.

TUCKER: Good point! I never thought of it in that way. Spider-Man also deals with the power of evil. Although I was impressed by Willem Dafoe’s performance as the psychotic Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, I wonder if that character adds anything important to the film’s "human relationships" theme?

AUSTEN: Of course he does. By trying to destroy Mary Jane, Mr. Osborn and his Green Goblin alter ego emerge as just another obstacle to overcome.

TUCKER: I realize your novels focus on more delicate matters, Ms. Austen, and not on monsters like the Green Goblin.

AUSTEN: I beg to disagree. I would put Mrs. Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice, up against the Green Goblin anytime. With her unbridled tongue and uncaring attitude, this gossipy mother caused emotional wreckage for most of her daughters even on her best day.

Seriously, dear reader, if you’re wondering why I took this approach to reviewing Spider-Man, it’s because I fear some sensitive moviegoers – viewers who usually avoid action/fantasy flicks -- might pass up this terrific film without knowing it has so much other neat stuff going on. If I’ve offended any Jane Austen or Spider-Man fans, I apologize.

(Released by Columbia Pictures/Marvel Entertainment and rated "PG-13" for stylized violence and action.)


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