Orphaned at an early age, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) lives in Queens, New York with his beloved Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Peter leads the life of a normal student, working as a photographer at the school paper, pining after his beautiful next-door neighbor Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and hanging out with his buddy Harry Osborn (James Franco).

On a school field trip where Peter and his classmates are given a science demonstration on arachnids, Peter is bitten by a genetically-altered spider. Soon after, he discovers that he has gained unusual powers – the strength and agility of a spider along with a keen, ESP-like 'spider sense'.

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Peter Parker, Tobey Maguire, is a bashful orphan who lives with his uncle, Cliff Robertson, and aunt, Rosemary Harris, in a working-class suburb of New York; he loves Mary Jane, Kirsten Dunst, the girl next door, but she seems to be more interested in the beefier kids at schools, the ones who constantly bully and humiliate poor Peter. But things change when, while on a field trip to a science lab, Peter is bitten by a genetically modified spider; as a result, his eyesight improves, he develops powerful muscles, he finds he can spin webs, and his acrobatic prowess is amazing. He uses his new powers to do good for the community.

Spider-Man
first appeared in the Amazing Fantasy comic in 1962, and he’s a different kind of super-hero from Batman or Superman; Peter is the 90 lb weakling who becomes a a heroic tough guy. Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast in the role. Always the most sympathetic of young actors, Maguire’s calm, intelligent, quietly humorous performance is what makes Spider-Man, the movie, work as well as it does. In contrast, Willem Dafoe is rather one-dimensional as Norman Osborn, the scientist businessman who becomes Spider-Man’s main antagonist, The Green Goblin.

Though the CG special effects are pretty awesome, the film succeeds mainly because it’s so well grounded in the reality of Peter Parker’s existence, and his sweet, hopeless love for Mary-Jane, who’s more interested, for most of the movie, anyway, in Peter’s best friend, Harry, James Franco, the son of Norman the Goblin.

Director Sam Raimi brings a nice sense of humour to the film (Peter’s first spider costume is a delight), plus some shock moments, making this, on the whole, one of the better and more enjoyable big-scale superhero fantasies.