Besides waking up wrapped in my own sweat stained sheets, considering again why I live exactly where I do, I sat my ass on the couch from roughly 2:30 PM to 8 PM and watched, back-to-back-to-back, all three of Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movies. Why? Because I felt an odd loyalty to the franchise and that I should somehow prepare for the forth coming Marc Webb directed movie as well as this dumb need to fulfill nostalgic desires.
Or, “I do what I want.” (My defensive answer to my own question).
I owe a lot to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movies. They were not only a large part of my childhood but also the origin point for my interest in comics, and returning to them yesterday, after a few years away, was a mixture of both fun remembrance and gnashing teeth. Sort of what I expect my ten year high school reunion to be like.
But fuck it. While I didn’t love the return, here are a few quick paragraphs on Spider-man, Spider-man 2 and Spider-man 3. (Great titles by the way.)
Spider-man / 2002
This had a Nickelback song attached to it.
Besides the iconic or memorable moments and its push to somehow become this generation’s Superman: The Movie, Spider-man runs a bit dry, suffering from the stigmas adaptations usually suffer from, to now being remembered best for the upside down kiss and Kirsten Dunst’s wet nipple (which, at ten, was pretty fucking cool). I saw this movie for the first time at a drive-in theater with my grandma and mom, and I can clearly remember them saying to one another, “well, this is kind of a bit much for a kid’s movie.” And a kid’s movie it was, but watching it today, you can clearly see Raimi angling his Spider-story more toward the love connection than the action. Everything ends up revolving around it; Parker’s storybook voice over and the line “this is a story about a girl” solidify Raimi’s entire premise for his trilogy, and it gives him the opening to really meld the core details of the Spider-man story to the Peter Parker/MJ romance.
The approach works to a degree. As the sequels roll on, you see how Raimi balances the various themes of adulthood and proportions them to function with the trials and successes of the relationship – Spider-man 2 being the best example – but the ground work all goes down here, in an action movie where the action isn’t really shot or composed that well. For Dunst’s character, though, she’s nothing more than a prize. A prize with a bit of personality, but a prize nonetheless, and Dunst’s one layer performance doesn’t exactly spur on anything extra.
There’s also the case of Tobey Maguire, who I just can’t stand. Peter Parker embodies the shy child within us all. The lighthearted dork. The outcast. But Maguire’s presence takes these qualities and rams them into overdrive, making Parker more pathetic than an unsung hero. The film has those moments of wit and charm for the character to really show himself, but Maguire, with his 13-year-old boy voice drops them every time, resulting in a creepy expression rather than a showcase of confidence.
The film ultimately suffers for its concern of telling that classic tale most people know by heart and weaving it to fit a new set of performers, visuals and music, yet, ironically, it’s also why it’s memorable. In a sense, I do feel this is my generation’s Superman because, while stunted in areas, specific moments do still conjure that magic, and along with a pretty solid cast overall, this film created some lexicon. Especially for the super hero movie, which after Bryan Singer’s X-Men, only reaffirmed this new era of the super hero in Hollywood. For better or for worse.
I’d be curious to watch the James Cameron version, which apparently involved more penetration as well as curse words, but I still find the ability in myself to enjoy this movie. Spider-man made and has kept a connection.
Plus, the Randy Savage/Bruce Campbell shit still kills.
Spider-man 2 | 2004
It wasn’t until Spider-man 2 that I finally realized comicbooks were still being published and found the care within myself to hunt them down and devour them whole. I was twelve, and my friend’s babysitter drove us to the mall so we could watch this. She was in high school; I had a crush.
Also, this Dashboard Confessional song still ends up trapped in my brain at times.
This movie’s concern with being complete makes it work. Hands down, Spider-man 2 is the best of the three, and I think it’s where Raimi says the most with the character as well as makes Peter Parker most relatable or simply interesting. Movie one shapes him into a figure of shared experience, but it also keeps him in a constant state of being a caricature. Parker’s the nerd who gets power, but movie two humanizes the whole concept a tad more by really showing the gears of his life, the “Parker Luck” as well as the continuing whatever that is the Peter/MJ relationship. Where movie one is all about responsibility, movie two centers on the idea of choice, and as a theme close to super hero fiction, Raimi bases the theme on the relationship to force Parker into a position of uncertainty. But as typed … this one’s concerned with being a movie rather than a storyboard. In some sense, you could criticize Spider-man 2 for possibly taking itself a bit too seriously, but I feel the movie consistently does a fine job of balancing the relationship stuff with Doc Ock (who is fucking awesome in this movie ). Really, at times, Spider-man 2 is more about the romance while the comic book, action stuff acts as a side project, but I’m not annoyed by that because Raimi’s entire story is about the romance, not really the action. Although, this is probably some of best action in the entire series. Presentation wise. There’s more composition to the combat here, and it’s simply more entertaining to look at. Much of this comes from the nature of Spider-man’s antagonist. The Octopus arms give the camera a point of focus.
Of course, in a movie where the relationship between two characters reigns king, it would be important to have two actors who can carry such a thing, but Maguire and Dunst just fall. Along with my previous criticisms, I just don’t feel any chemistry between these two. Both are awkward together, and Parker still exemplifies this odd boyhood. A line like “punch me, I bleed” should soar. He swallows it, leaving the audience to digest a bad inflection. Raimi only gets so far with his more dramatic sequel, and while it works in many spots, his two leads disable the film.
Alfred Molina picks up the duo’s spilled crackers, though. He’s a dude with real chops, and he comes in and nails the idea of the villain being more compelling than the hero. Doc Ock certainly is a grey villain, and while I tend to prefer my bad dudes to be real pieces of shit, I do find Ock and Spider-man’s dichotomy entertaining. He works toward the film’s theme of choice, and while some scenes show him ham-handedly talking to his mechanical arms, or reviewing his stretched, ill-sensed motivations, scenes like the hospital escape or train fight make up for the mishandles of the script.
I would label Spider-man 2 as good. Obviously better than its predecessor, it still performs well in the year 2012. Overall, a solid, complete story packed with an array of special moments. And, I won’t lie, the Aunt May hero speech kind of chokes me up. Rosemary Harris, ladies and gentlemen.
Spider-man 3 | 2007
The movie where I was finally an established comicbook guy. I was so excited for this piece of shit. SO EXCITED. Aged 15. In high school. And Venom – a character who I think is pretty fucking awesome, yet always ends up at the ass end of every joke. That Rick Remender comic included.
I walked out of the theater trying to convince myself I enjoyed this, and even months after the fact, until the DVD, I thought I did. Lies I’ve told myself.
Three people wrote this script, and from what I understand Avi Arad really pushed for Eddie Brock in this movie while Sam Raimi hated every ounce of the idea. And you can tell, because that’s the character who makes the least amount of sense in this entire movie. Even up against Proto-Goblin or whatever the fuck they named Harry Osborn’s snowboarder persona, Venom has real no reason to be in this picture. He’s just shoehorned, and Topher Grace just plays a dick the whole time. Ah, fuck it.The problem with this movie is both the ambition as well as the lack of point. Spider-man 3 redoes Spider-man 2‘s choice theme, but infuses it with more of a good vs. bad through line rather than a general “who do you want to be.” And then you get one of those Geoff Johns’ overhauls of past events as they try to work the Sandman into Uncle Ben’s death. Like Michael Papajohn needed help. And then the relationship goes up in smoke again for some really immature, unrealistic reasons while the butler apparently knew everything.
Fuck this movie.
It’s almost a parody of itself. The way it opens … with the music and the voice over. It all just suggests, “yep, and the story continues … ” And it does. To the point of a second Green Goblin and a purely fan beckoned appearance by a villain whom the director hated. Bryce Dallas Howard sort of saves it, but even then, her Gwen Stacy just makes you question the entire love story Raimi’s been spinning. Why not her the whole time rather than this entirely grouchy, uncharismatic women we’ve been following for three movies?
I could rip on the dancing and emo hair cut, but honestly, it’s not as bad I remember. In a way, those elements provide some of the only moments of seeming enjoyment through the whole movie. They’re really stupid, yes, but funny stupid.
Other than a cool Sandman creation sequence and the few moments of fan satisfaction brought on by the sight of Venom, I have no real reason to watch this. The Harry/Peter team-up in the end sort of tugs, but past that, nothing, man.
The Amazing Spider-man | 2012
Ten years from the original. I’m in college. A better sense of taste. Still love comics and the character.
This looks better than all Raimi’s work. From the action, to the story, to the cast, this movie appears more complete and more driven than the blueprint it’s working from. I will be in a theater come Friday, and I’m confident I’ll enjoy myself.
Brief thoughts, but how could it be more when I haven’t even seen it yet.