Saturday, July 17, 2004


So after having to put it off for a few weeks because of life and other obligations, Kate and I finally got to see that highly talked-about film, the one with the smart-mouthed working class hero who irritates the wealthy, the powerful, and the irresponsible media. I am talking about, of course, Spider-man 2

This isn't a real review, per se, but just a few thoughts that popped up during watching the film, but spoilers abound, so if you are in the remaining five people who haven't seen the film but intend to, go over to Haetmonkey's page and badger him about posting more often. Coming from a strong comics and storytelling background, four things came to mind:

One - the working class roots of this Spider-Man. I thought about this from the first movie - we haven't seen houses like Aunt May's since All in the Family. We're talking lower middle class, here. Even the comics themselves tended to give young Peter Parker a yard, and a porch, and some physical distance between him and his neighbors. The movie version of his boyhood home works real well for Parker and even better for Mary Jane. Mary Jane in the comic always seems a little too dreamy and little too facile in the comics - like Peter was marrying up. MJ's own lower-middle-class life gives her a great starting point for her own character's advancement

Two - Doc Ock was never this good in a comic book. In the originals, he was the typical mad scientist driven even further mad by one of his experiements. Sort of a Dick Tracy villain - all flash and no underpinning. Yet the long first act of this movie lets Alfred Molina shine as a strong, intelligent, warm and happy man, so his later madness is a greater tragedy (the long opening act also is intended to grind in how sucky Peter Parker's life is, such that when Dr Octavius does show up on the screen, he's a welcome chance). In the same fashion as Ock's background, the movie has done more with the arms, both collectively and individually, as a force and personality of their own. Ock's strange hand-puppet relationship with them makes him both master and slave, and that's something that brings him depth that he never had in the comics.

Three - The New York of this movie is different than the one of the first movie - its thirty years younger. The first movie, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, you could feel the hole, the emptiness in the sky. Now we seem to move further back in time, to the late 60s of the Spider-Man era - straphangers on the elevated, fifties-style planetariums and a reference to playing football on the moon. This is a world without Iraq, as if they punched through the temporal barrier to restore an older, sweeter New York. (It is also a smaller New York, where everyone knows everyone - Parker's Professor knows Doc Ock who is working on a fusion device for Peter's best friend Harry Osborne)

Lastly - Why the movie works as a sequel - the hero continues to grow. In a lot of superhero films, the first movie in the origin story, and then anything afterwards lacks the creative steam - the character has emerged from the mold, fully minted and unchanging. You can challenge him, but you won't change him (the Supe and Bat franchises have this problem in spades). At the end of SM1, Parker makes his decision. By the end of SM2, he has grown as a person, reversed his decision, and rather than separating himself into another peson to be a hero, embraced it. His mask is off more often than it is on in the last half-hour of the film, and he comes to terms with it, resolving a number of problems from the first film (and creating a few more the third). This is the big reason the movie works - its a rejection of the "Never reveal yourself" meme that is part of the superhero genre - be colorful AND anonymous. While the city rolls back thirty years, the story itself moves forward into the present day, and I think that's one thing that will make people excited for the third film.

OK, that's it for me. More later,