It’s taken more than a decade for marvel comics and Columbia Pictures to steer their roughly $100 million superhero epic ”Spider-Man” toward the big screen, in large part because of convoluted legal battles over film rights to the iconic character. Yet here it is, April 2001 on the movie’s frenetic Manhattan set, Tobey Maguire, who’s starring as Spider-Man, is at long last in front of the cameras, striding into a shot with a prop baby cradled in his arms.
Up close, the actor’s signature red-and-blue, web-latticed costume looks like a scaly, funkadelic Body Glove. (Unique as the getup appears to be, it’s actually one of 23 made for the production, at a cost of up to $100,000 apiece. Four would ultimately wind up stolen.) After he hands off the plastic peanut to its grateful mother, a cop busts out with an urgent ”Don’t let him get away!” before a mock-leaping Maguire exits stage right.
In the finished scene, digital effects will give the star’s hops some much-needed lift, catapulting him up the face of the building. Of course, this is just one of the hundreds of elaborate F/X shots that visual-effects designer John Dykstra (”Star Wars”) and the team back at Sony Pictures Imageworks will be inserting into the movie — covering everything from Spider-Man’s aerial acrobatics to an explosively photo-realist Times Square battle sequence. No wonder ”Spider-Man” producer Laura Ziskin says, ”In a way it was a good thing that the movie didn’t happen for 10 years, because the technology really didn’t exist before.”
The movie faithfully recounts the character’s origin, in which awkward teen Peter Parker gains amazing powers after suffering a freak spider bite. But it’s Peter Parker’s life out of costume that has always fascinated Raimi most about the ”Spider-Man” saga. ”As a child,” says the 42-year-old filmmaker, ”the thing that drew me to ‘Spider-Man’ wasn’t just watching Peter become a hero and identifying with that, but also identifying with his desire to be noticed by the young ladies at school, and his rejections. The human story has always been the strength of the comic.”