Sophisticated Spidey Woos Fans

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can, spins a web any size, catches audiences just like flies. Watch Out! Here comes the Spider-Man.

Moviegoers' favorite web-slinger is swinging into theaters Wednesday, June 30. "Spider-Man 2" is expected to be a blockbuster that could rival its predecessor’s box office gusto. Early reviews are glowing. The buzz is building about the bug. So what makes Spidey so popular?

Fans say the movie’s appeal, like of that of the comic book, is that it delves into the psyche of a conflicted, moody hero – Peter Parker/Spider-Man – with whom people of both genders and any age can identify.

"[Spider-Man] was always the thinking teen's comic book hero. He was the troubled '60s adolescent. He was flawed. He was more of an existential hero," said Carrie Rickey, movie critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The very human side of Spidey is illustrated by Parker, who is often tripping over himself and showing up late to important events, which is what Jonah Weiland, executive producer at Comic Book Resources, said makes Spider-Man appealing.

"Peter Parker is every kid in high school except for the jocks. He's a little nerdy. He's too smart for his own good," said Weiland. "He resonates with audiences because he is every single person in that audience."

Spidey's tortured soul, the push-and-pull between his crime-fighting duties and his desire for a regular life, is what hooked Tobias Trost, a fan and superhero aficionado who creates personalized action-figures through his company, Imatoy.

"The reason why I like Spider-Man is because he's kind of normal, your average college guy, and it's much easier to make him human and flawed than say, Superman."

Trost has high hopes for "Spider-Man 2." The movie trailers, posters and ad campaign have led him to believe that the blockbuster will explore the psychological side-effects of being Spidey.

"The movie will be more about what Peter Parker is going through, his emotional state and his inner turmoil and character development, instead of being just about his fighting super-powered bad guys," said Trost "I'm hoping it lives up to that."

And it does. In "Spider-Man 2," the friendly neighborhood superhero wrestles with the ideas of responsibility, duty and sacrifice more than with any evildoers. Peter Parker is exhausted by the burden of constantly saving every child, damsel and pedestrian in distress, which only further alienates him from his friends and loved ones.

"With great power comes great responsibility," said Anderson Jones of, borrowing from the film’s trailers. "It also means a singular life and it also means keeping secrets. [Spider-Man] is one of the many walking wounded."

This soulful ache is what makes Spidey appealing across all demographics, from teen boys to grandmothers and from soccer moms to Nascar dads, said Jones.

Indeed, as the credits rolled following a recent screening in New York, a young male audience member was overheard saying to his friends, "Man, that’s a chick-flick for dudes."

In other words, it’s got heart – and a lot of cool action too.

"They made it have enough of a love story so guys won't think it's gross and girls will really latch on to it," said Weiland.

But filmmaker Sam Raimi didn’t skimp on the action. Plenty of things blow up, crash and get destroyed to satisfy the most voracious action movie appetite. And Dr. Ock, played by Alfred Molina, is a formidable foe for the webbed one: Their fight sequences are high-flying, seat-of-your pants action.

Trost said he’s been impressed by the trailers in which a car comes crashing through the window of a café while Parker and Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst, are having a heart-to-heart discussion.

And Weiland said fans everywhere go for the swinging-through-the-concrete-jungle scenes, which epitomize the combination between Spider-Man the hero and Peter Parker the boy. These moments, he said, draw audiences into the fun-loving side of the character.

"When he's swinging through the air saying 'wheeeee,' it’s fun. He has this incredible ability to do gymnastics in the air," said Weiland. "Who wouldn’t want to stand on top of the antenna on top of the Empire State Building with the best view of Manhattan?"