Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday Review: Spider-Man Movies

Out of professional interest I should probably go see the new Spider-Man movie.  But I really don't feel like it.  Maybe I will at some point if I'm bored.  For now, though, I thought I'd talk a little bit more about the original Sam Raimi trilogy and how it connects to my novel A Hero's Journey

Unlike most people, I actually liked the first Spider-Man movie better than the second one.  The reason is mostly that the formula was still fresh then.  Also, other people might have liked Doctor Octopus better, but I thought the Green Goblin was pretty cool.  I mean he has a sweet glider and throws a variety of pumpkin bombs that can blow shit up and shoot boomerang knife thingies or disintegrate people.  By comparison Doc Ock was just a fat guy with four robot arms.  Lame.

And really there are a couple of great scenes in the first film the other two never topped.  First was obviously the upside-down kiss in the rain.  That was just pure awesome.  (Even though according to an article I read on the Geek Twins blog, Tobey Maguire could not breathe with all the water running into his nose and was basically getting mouth-to-mouth from Kristen Dunst while they filmed that.)  You know if you had Spidey powers you would do that after you rescued a hot girl in an alley.  Incidentally in my book the Scarlet Knight rescues someone from an alley in the rain.  But it's not a hot chick--unless you're a chubby chaser--and they don't kiss.  I'm just saying.  The second thing was the whole end of the fight between Spidey and the Goblin when they get into that abandoned building.  What I liked about that is Spidey actually gets the crap beat out of him.  By the end his costume is torn up and he's bleeding and stuff.  Which is always good because when the hero takes some punishment but keeps going then they seem more heroic.  I kept that in mind when I wrote the final fight between the Scarlet Knight and Black Dragoon in my book.  By the end both characters have suffered some damage, which I think makes it a lot more dramatic.  The problem with some superhero movies (like the recent Batman ones for instance) is the villain isn't really capable of going toe-to-toe with the hero, which makes the outcome of the fight seem hardly in doubt.  Which incidentally is a problem with my book's sequel.

Of course it wasn't a perfect film.  The effects were kind of lame, especially when he's jumping between buildings and such.  But it was 2002 so what do you want?  Whenever the Goblin and Spidey talked in costume it looked cheesy because neither really had a mouth on their costume.  It made me think of those "Power Rangers" shows where they used footage from the Japanese show when they were in their Ranger costumes and just redubbed it.  I also hated the part where the Goblin takes Mary Jane hostage and offers the sadistic choice on whether to save her or a carload of other people.  I didn't really like that in "The Dark Knight" or "Batman Forever" either because you know what always happens:  the hero saves both.  Compounding that was the part where all these New Yorkers on the bridge come to Spidey's assistance by throwing stuff at the Goblin.  Since this was less than a year after 9/11 it seemed as if it had been added in as some kind of patriotic statement.  Look, I love America, but I didn't pay $8 to watch Joe the Plumber fight the Green Goblin.  And really if you saw the Green Goblin on a bridge would you throw a wrench at him?  I'd be squatting in a corner making a mess in my pants.  I would have been annoyed had the movie ended at that point, but once it got back to the Goblin vs. Spidey I was happy.

As for the second one, it was a well-crafted movie.  It was nice they plumbed a little more of the problems associated with being a superhero, especially one who isn't a billionaire playboy.  That was definitely something I tried to work into my book and the sequels.

The big problem though was they brought up all this stuff about him wanting to quit and so forth, but then they resolved it in such an unsatisfactory fashion:  Doc Ock kidnaps Mary Jane and Peter becomes Spidey again to save her.  Yawn.  It really annoyed me when I thought about that later because why build up this whole angle of him having to choose and then create this scenario that forces his hand?  He didn't really choose anything then except to save his whiny girlfriend from being killed.

On top of that they reused a lot of the same formula.  The bad guy sets up a sadistic choice between Mary Jane and a bunch of ordinary people (in a train instead of a cable car), New Yorkers rush to Spidey's aid (and in the process he reveals himself to half of Manhattan; he really ought to just go around handing out business cards that say "Peter Parker:  Spider-Man" and hire himself out for parties and bar mitzvahs or erotic dancing), Spidey ends up saving both the train and then later Mary Jane.  Huzzah.  So really to me the last third or so just fell flat.  The whole movie ended up being a bridge to nowhere, or a bridge to where we were last movie.  Not to mention the cheesy "Raindrops Falling on My Head" dance number and the utterly pointless chocolate cake scene where the landlord's daughter offers Peter chocolate cake and we sit there watching them eat it...why?  To drive up concessions?  That would be a good point to use the can though.

As for the third one, it had some potential.  If they had just focused on the Sandman guy it probably would have worked out.  But someone (I assume studio assholes) had to make them wedge Venom into the plot too.  Then they fell back on the same formula in the first two movies:  bad guys kidnap Mary Jane to draw Spidey out.  Just like the second one a bad guy (or former bad guy) sacrifices himself to save the day.  I guess from the reviews of the new one they actually let the girl DO something at the end instead of just scream a lot.  That's probably an improvement.  And somehow Peter Parker was even dorkier when he was trying to act like a badass.

There was one great moment in the movie, where just after he becomes a pile of sand the Sandman tries to grab the picture of his daughter but he can't get his fingers to solidify.  That part was sad, which is why I think if they'd just focused on the Sandman it would have worked better.  As it was there was just too much stuff going on so it never got the chance to add up to much.

Anyway, besides what I mentioned before, I pilfered a couple other things from the Spidey movies, perhaps unconsciously.  First off is that our hero Emma is a science nerd like Peter Parker.  She's also an orphan (though that was also in Batman too) and has a sick aunt she lived with.  And if you look at this picture of her, doesn't she look like a combination of Peter and Mary Jane?  If they had a daughter this is what she'd look like, right?
Peter Parker & Mary Jane Watson's illegitimate daughter?
Tuesday is another Two-Fer!


  1. I also prefer the first Spider-man movie to the second. I'm likewise not excited about this new version because I just can't see that they've added anything new. If you do go see it, I hope you'll provide us with a review.

  2. I think by the third one they finally stopped pretending that these movies were better than they actually were, and just did what made sense for the characters, and that's why it's my favorite one.

  3. Did you see that io9 article about the 22 Pixar storytelling tips? Anyway, one of them was that the audience identified with the effort the main character makes, not the result.

    Dammit. There was something else. I forget now.

  4. I did enjoy the first Spiderman, and never saw the sequels. I'm also not in a hurry to see the new one, but am curious about the chemisty between the leads. I like your Emma creation and do see the resemblance! Julie

  5. Every bags on Spider-Man 2002 now but it was a ground-breaking film. Spider-Man 3 was ruined by the studio input. That part where the two team up makes me cringe every time. Talk about pointless. "You hate the spider too? Great let's team up. I'll tie Mary Jane to a car and you hit him with your fist."

  6. *Sings "Spider-Man, Spider-Man..."

    My friend said he isn't going to support these reboots. He plans on pirating it as soon as possible so that the studio gets no money. It's the only way to make sure that the makers of this reboot get the economic message.

    I LOL'd.

    1. A critic who gave the movie a bad review made the point that they needed to make another one in order to keep the franchise rights from reverting back to Marvel (owned by rivals Disney) and after things fell through with a Spider-Man 4 the reboot seemed like the best way to go. So one way or another Sony is going to keep making these.

  7. Very intriguing post. I liked the Spider-Man trilogy as well and I love all the points you brought up about all three movies being the same story over and over.
    I think writing sequels that aren't the same story is a hard think for any writer to do correctly.

    I went and saw the new Spider-Man and I do like it. It also had a lot of flaws but it was good. And I think one thing that is very misunderstood about the new Spider-Man is, it is a different story. They didn't just re-do Spider-Man.

    The Amazing Spider Man is different from Spider-Man. They are different stories with the same idea.

    One thing I loved about the new Spider Man is the 'Why'. Peter is trying to find out what happens to his parents. He finds one of his Father's greatest friends and tries to help finish his father's work.
    When it back fires and creates the villain, he truly becomes Spider Man to stop the monster he believed he created. He isn't out just because he has the power and thinks he can save the world. He has an actual 'Why'.

    Anyway, wonderful post. I'm a new follower, glad I found your blog!

    Konstanz Silverbow
    Proud Creator of magical worlds, fictional creatures, ideal super heroes and sarcasm since 2007!
    A to Z April blog challenge co-host 2012

    1. What I still don't get though is they wanted this to skew younger and set it in high school and then cast actors in their late 20s.

  8. I've only seen the Toby Maguire Spiderman and I liked that, so I'll give this one a try. There are certain tropes they air over and over, don't they? (Like, as you say, the hostage thing and, as you also say, you know the hero's going to sort it all out).

  9. I actually thought this was a good movie. It made me realize how much I disliked about the first "Spiderman" (Tobey McGuire's whiny nerd voice, Kirsten Dunst's snaggleteeth, the over-emphasis of comedy over drama, the black-and-white morality, the organic web-shooters, the rushed story that crammed his entire origin into an hour, then essentially started over with a new story in the second half, the cheesy special effects). Frankly, it's not like Sam Raimi's version of Spiderman was perfect. I'm not saying the new one is perfect, but I thought there were big improvements.



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