So many classic shows and comic books have been made into truly mediocre movie franchises, it's refreshing to see one of the all time classic comic book superheros given the kind of treatment it deserves.
Spider-Man is as solid a Summer Superhero movie as you're going to find. It has the right mix of character development, action, drama and humor to make it much more than you're average action thrill ride.
One of the major problems I typically have with modern superhero movies is the fact that they often rush right through the 'discovery' phase of a super hero (the time where they discover and test their super powers). Maybe that's one reason I'm such a huge fan of Unbreakable (which is 100% discovery and almost no action). But in Spider-Man Sam Raimi finds a really great balance between the 'becoming' of Spider-Man and the 'being' Spider-Man. Just as he finds the perfect mix between Super hero action and the underlying story made up of the relationships between the characters.
Tobey Maguire is simply fantastic in the lead Peter Parker/Spider-Man role. He brings such a great level of complexity and emotion to the role, and it helps really flesh out Spider-Man from it's 2D cartoon life onto the big screen. Going in I had my concerns about Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, that he would be overly 'cartoony' and generally over the top. But honestly I was impressed with Dafoe who brought a similar level of complexity to his character that Tobey Maguire did. And the relationship between the two really does server to drive the film forward.
There's no question in my mind that Kirsten Dunst is going to get a lot of attention for her role in Spider-Man. Raimi's camera seems to be as fond of her as Peter Parker is, and she manages to take that attention and really light up the screen. Kirsten Dunst has been in front of the cameras since before she was 8 and it shows. She seems like a natural playing Mary Jane and shows she's really arrived as a leading actress.
While I did thoroughly enjoy Spider-Man, I was slightly disappointed at some of the CGI effects which unfortunately are 'hit and miss' throughout the film. Columbia Tri-Star heald the release of Spider-Man which was slated to be released last year (after September 11th which I think was a very smart move). But I wish they had taken the extra time to work on some of the rooftop Spider-Man scenes. One scene in particular where Peter Parker jumps from roof top to roof top looks just plain bad, so obviously CGI it's jarring. Ultimately Spider-Man shows that effects really don't make the movie, and despite some of the poor effects Spider-Man is still a very solid film.
One thing that's important to note about Spider-Man is the fact that it is rated PG-13 and deservedly so. Raimi's vision of Spider-Man is a dark one, not as dark as Tim Burton's Batman, but dark none the less. There is a fair amount of intense violence and so if you've got a younger fan of Spider-Man you may want to substitute the recent Spider-Man - The Ultimate Villain Showdown DVD (a cartoon) for this live action version.
If you're looking for a great Summer Superhero movie Spider-Man's the movie for you. It's got all that you'd want from superhero movie and more. A truly enjoyable film.