Before Spider-Man was created in the early 60's, super heroes tended to be a step down from gods (and some actually WERE gods). They were powerful, morally upright, and unwaivering in their convictions. In other words, it was fun to follow their adventures, but they were a bit hard to relate to.
Stan Lee changed all of that when he created Spider-Man. He decided to make a hero who was an unpopular, nerdy kid who just happened to get stuck with powers he wasn't even sure he wanted. He had everyday problems like dealing with bullies, being uncomfortable around that cute girl he likes, and feeling left out in general. And who hasn't had experiences like these at some point in their life?
I've seen some great comic book adaptations that really got down to the core of a character (Batman), and I've seen movies that simply made me cringe and wonder how they could have been so far off the mark (Daredevil, anyone?). As far as capturing the true essence of it's title character, this movie tops them all.
In a lot of ways, this is THE Spider-Man story. This is Peter Parker's struggle to decide just who he is and what his resposibility is to the world, his family, and himself. And it's not an easy decision to make.
It's been beaten to death a bit by now, but it all boils down to what Uncle Ben told Peter: "With great power comes great responsibility." And Peter rages against this logic for the entire movie. Should he live for himself, enjoy his life, and ignore the powers he's been given? Or should he put the needs of others before his own, essentially sacrificing his personal happiness in lieu of the satisfaction and knowledge that he's made a difference in the world? This is the conflict that is at the very core of this character, and this movie captured that in ways that I'm sure made Stan Lee proud.
To be totally truthful, this movie should probably be called "Peter Parker." If you're looking for mindless action, go buy Terminator 3. This is a movie about a young man trying to find himself--it just so happens that this particular young man has some extraordinary powers.
Don't get me wrong; there are some absolutely amazing action sequences. Doctor Octopus is a visually dynamic (as well as tragic) villain, and he makes for a lot of exciting scenes. And I must say, he's played to perfection by Alfred Molina; I don't have a bad thing to say about his performance. And special effects? I get goosebumps every time I see Spidey swingin' through the concrete jungle. Spectacular!
But at heart, this is a movie about character development. I can't express how grateful I am to Sam Raimi for turning out such a quality film that stays so true to the character. He did an amazing job, mixing drama, action, humor, and just a dash of Evil Dead-like horror into a final product that left me emotionally drained and wanting more. It's gonna be tough to top this one. I'd give it 10 stars if I could.