Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937) Review

Snow White Poster

Out of the Disney canon, “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” is the big one in terms of cultural significance. Disney had been producing theatrical shorts for years before this film and was generally successful in that practice, but this was their first, ambitious attempt at a full-length animated film, and they threw all the money at it. If “Snow White” hadn’t been as successful as it was then the following fifty-five films would probably never have existed. But luckily, it was a smash hit and it bolstered Disney to continue to pursue the movie-making business for years to come, producing several fan favorites. Unfortunately for Disney, their next couple of passion projects wouldn’t prove to be as profitable as “Snow White” was (poor, poor “Pinocchio” and “Bambi“) and they wound up being really strapped for cash by the end of their short-lived but remarkably consistent golden era. As it stands, “Snow White” is one of the more enjoyable Disney Princess films and it holds up well despite it’s advanced age. There were a lot of likable things about this movie, and I think the only the major complaint I had about it is that the villain is kind of a non-entity for much of it.

“Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s about the misadventures of Snow White and her seven dwarf friends as they stumble around their little cottage and the surrounding forest. One of the greatest pros of the movie is that the bulk of it is focused on them and the large amount of chemistry they have as a group, particularly during a prolonged section of the movie devoted to Snow White’s first night at the cottage and the eight of them learning to co-exist. The consequence of this though is that the magical tyrant, the Evil Queen and her dimensions never feel that fleshed out as an antagonist. In fact, she disappears from the plot for over thirty-five minutes around the middle of the film, and doesn’t really achieve that much in the third act as well when she reappears. In the fairy tale “Snow White” was adapted from, the Evil Queen tried to kill Snow White three times before she succeeded. The Disney version truncates this to her most famous and successful attempt – the poisoned apple – which probably contributes to her lack of screen-time. As it is, it’s not that big a deal and only takes away a few things in an otherwise impressive movie.

Snow White Birds

Since she was the first girl of the line-up and the one who started it all, Snow White embodies many of the classic Disney princess stereotypes. She’s pure of heart; animals love her because of how kind she is; guys feel compelled to talk about how beautiful she is when they’re around her; she speaks with a soft, fluttering, thrilling voice; she falls in love at first sight; and she always tries to see the best in everyone. If “Snow White” was produced today, people would probably quickly write its protagonist off as an overly sweet, purity sue, but the charm of the 1930’s and the sincerity of Snow White’s character allows Disney to pass off her portrayal. Besides, I like Snow White. Snow White is compassionate and understanding, but she can also be sarcastic and silly, and at times condescending. Despite her young age, Snow White has a sternness to her and a maternal streak that surfaces when she refuses to take guff from the dwarfs. She’s classy and she carries herself with dignity, yet she longs to be accepted. But the best side of Snow White is the rarely seen, savage Snow White. After Grumpy continues to give her the cold shoulder, he immediately walks right into a door and Snow White sarcastically asks him ‘Oh, did you hurt yourself?’. Good one, Snow. After moving in with the dwarfs, Snow White volunteers to earn her keep by doing the housework while they’re away. Because as it turns out, being turned into a servant in her own home for a decade by her awful mom did have some benefits. It left her with useful life skills she could use to bargain with.

Snow White gets a sequence early in the film that’s kind of frightening. After being sent into the wilderness by the Huntsman, Snow White runs screaming from everything she encounters, including some tree branches and logs. It’s intense and a bit amusing, but at the same time you understand why she’s freaking out. She just learned her stepmom wants her dead and actually sent a guy to do her in (she always knew the lady was a bitch, but this is a whole new level), she can’t go home again for obvious reasons, and despite running through the woods she has nowhere to go and no one to help her. It’s easy to feel sorry for her when she finally gives up and starts crying to herself. There are other times in the film where it’s very apparent that, despite the years of abuse, this young girl has lived a very sheltered life and her perspective is a bit off. When she first stumbles upon the dwarfs’ cottage, she decides to trespass there – which is at best rude, and at worst could actually get her into some serious trouble – and her first thought while doing so is that it could use some tidying up and redecorating. And when she’s done with that, she actually goes full Goldilocks and falls asleep in their beds (though she does have some survival instincts: when she wakes up and sees the dwarfs huddled around her bed, she quickly pulls up the sheets and assumes they’re perving). Luckily, the dwarfs don’t kill her when they find her and they become her friends instead. Like all good character flaws, Snow White’s youthful naivety and lack of worldly experience is eventually used against her by the Evil Queen when the old hag shows up to poison her in the last act.

Snow White The Dwarves

The seven dwarfs are a raucous bunch. The seven, short, bearded miners are brash and boisterous, they’re hyperactive and prone to some rough-housing, they’re easily frightened, and in general, they tend to come off as quite boyish. It’s not uncommon for the dwarfs to think and act as a hivemind, but when we do delve into their individual personalities, the dwarfs are generally defined by the names they have. Doc is the odd man out, in that his name isn’t really a descriptor. He stutters a lot and is often flustered, but he is the de-facto leader of the dwarfs, and the boldest of the lot. Dopey is childish and absent-minded, he never speaks (though he’s notably not mute) and he sometimes seems more like an animal than a person. Sleepy is lazy, slothful and lethargic. Bashful is shy but sincere, often having trouble expressing himself. Sneezy has an uncontrollable sneezing problem. Happy is cheerful, straightforward and easygoing. Grumpy is stubborn, cynical, sullen and masculine. He immediately dislikes Snow White because she’s a girl, though I imagine his pride also isn’t fond of being bossed around by the youngest person in the house (who only showed up half an hour ago). For much of the film, Grumpy is the most annoying dwarf, though he’s also the one who grows the most and warms to Snow White over time. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to define the dwarfs’ relationship with Snow White beyond simple friendship. At times, they seem to see her as the mother hen of their merry band, and at other times, they seem to regard her as their new surrogate daughter (and then there’s Dopey). What is clear is that the dwarfs quickly grow fond of and protective of Snow White, to the point where they chase down the Evil Queen in the climax to avenge their fallen friend.

When talking about the Disney princess films, animation enthusiasts usually take note of how the princesses have become developed over time and how impressive and refreshing that is is. It’s easy to forget that the Disney princes have come a long way since “Snow White” as well. Prince Florian appears in two scenes and is kind of an enigma. We get some more background on Prince Charming, since we see his home life and get an idea of what it was like before Cinderella. Prince Phillip is the first prince to become involved in a climax, and the first one to be named in his movie. Prince Eric has the best elements of Charming and Phillip, and feels like a really well-rounded character. Beast received just as much character focus as Belle, and even more character development. The expansion trend finally comes to a head in “Aladdin“, where a Disney prince carries a whole movie by himself. Getting back to Florian though, the Prince is a roving nobleman on horseback who has an encounter with the humble Snow White one day. The prince has some pretty sweet pipes, and he charms her with a genuinely romantic love song. Throughout the film, Snow White hopes to be reunited with him and daydreams about eloping with her handsome prince. She eventually gets her wish, though not before one more near-death experience. Florian was originally intended to have a larger role in the film, but this was cut back since animating the character proved to be surprisingly difficult for Disney. As a result, he only has two scenes and feels like more of a plot device than a character. The ending will most likely move you, but it has more to do with Snow White saying good-bye to her friends than Snow White finally getting to ride off with her mystery prince.

Snow White The Old hag

The Evil Queen, Grimhilde, is a conventionally attractive and incredibly powerful yet incredibly insane woman. The queen is a powerful sorceress and she rules her kingdom with an iron fist. She’s cruel, petty, spiteful and vain. She kills any woman who proves to be more beautiful than she, and not even her own stepdaughter is safe from her wrath, since she married the girl’s father for her title but she has no love for Snow White. The film shows the Evil Queen has made Snow White’s life pretty terrible before now, but it would be a later Disney film called “Cinderella” that would really dive into the implications of how horrible it would be having your own stepmother hate you and try her best to emotionally destroy you (I wouldn’t be opposed to getting Snow White and Cinderella some therapy). When the queen sets out to kill Snow White, she tries to do so in incredibly vindictive ways – demanding the Huntsman cut out her heart and present it to her, and trying to trick the dwarfs into burying Snow alive. When the Huntsman betrays her, the Evil Queen disguises herself to torture Snow White further and do the job herself, and it’s here that she really shines as a villainess – hamming it up as the manipulative old hag. Her outward appearance also finally matches up with her complete lack of inner beauty. Queen Grimhilde has one of the most satisfying death scenes in the canon. Like Frollo’s, it can very easily be seen as an act of divine intervention right when she was about to succeed, and I roar with laughter every time her evil gloating is cut short and she drops to her death, with that boulder tumbling after her to crush her. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer witch.

Humbert the Huntsman is the kingdom’s hardy, loyal and dependable hunter who the Evil Queen calls upon to murder Snow White for her. The Huntsman is obviously not okay with murdering someone, let alone a teenage girl, but the Evil Queen delivers him an ultimatum. Either he kills Snow White or the Queen will kill him – her life for his. Despite the threat, and despite steeling himself to kill Snow White, the Huntsman still can’t bring himself to go through with it and sends Snow White into the forest to seek freedom and sanctuary instead. Even though he’s a minor character, I’ve always liked the conflicted Huntsman and I’ve always been a bit curious about what ever became of him after he sent Snow away. The queen apparently decided she would kill him for his betrayal later, after she was done with Snow White, and that obviously didn’t pan out for her, so his current status is up in the air (though he was probably relieved when Snow White returned to the throne at the end of the film). Snow White is tailed and accompanied for much of the film by her intrepid animal friends – including birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, mice, and one incredibly persistent turtle – who help her adjust to living in the forest. The animals are the second greatest source of comic relief after the dwarfs, and I find each of them adds a lot in their own way to the movie’s charm.

Snow White Dance Party

For Disney’s first stab at a feature-length film, “Snow White” sports some gorgeous, skillfully crafted animation that’s admittedly a bit rough around the edges at times. Since this was the studio’s first attempt at animating humans with realistic proportions, Disney used human actors as references and translated their actions to the screen with the aid of rotoscoping. This is especially noticeable with Snow White and the Evil Queen. Snow White’s rotoscoping is done fairly seamlessly, and she’s the center of some of my favorite shots in the movie, like the woodland critters showing her the way to the dwarfs’ cottage or the dance party Snow and the dwarfs throw after dark (you have no idea how much I enjoy the visual quirk of a teenage girl dancing with a group of older men who are all like half her size). The animation for the Evil Queen and her crow seems a bit more unrefined however, particularly when she’s in her old hag disguise. It seems like the queen’s black cloak gave Disney some trouble. Something I always admire about the golden age films are their backgrounds – they look exactly vibrant, scenic wax paintings. The world of “Snow White” especially comes to life during the sequence where Snow White is running through the forest, hopelessly lost, and encountering each and every one of her twisted hallucinations.

I really admire “Snow White’s” soundtrack. I love how consistently upbeat and operatic it is (with a few standout performances from Snow White, the Dwarfs and Prince Florian), and how it feels even more like a musical than your average Disney movie. The characters burst into a new song every five to ten minutes, which will either entice you or annoy you depending on your tolerance for musicals. In my eyes, Frank Churchill is officially to the golden era what Alan Menken was to the renaissance era, the guy who contributed some of the best music from that period in the canon (he also worked on “Dumbo” and “Bambi”). The collaboration of Frank Churchill, Larry Morey, Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith provide the songs and score for the film, taking the audience on a harmonious journey through the romantic duet of sorts, “I’m Wishing / One Song”, the heartwarming “Smile And A Song”, the endlessly catchy double bill of “Whistle While You Work” and “Heigh-Ho”, the significantly weaker “Washing Song”, the incredibly infectious “Dwarf’s Yodel Song”, and the stirring main theme for the film, “Someday My Prince Will Come”, in which Snow White pines for her mystery lover. The instrumental versions of these songs laced throughout the score prove to be just as endearing as their vocal presentations, and the character of the Evil Queen is granted a pretty exciting, manic leitmotif that takes center stage during the climax.

After eighty years, “Snow White” is still an enjoyable masterpiece that appeals to one’s carefree, inner child, in spite of an undeveloped villain. As a result, it’s a must-see for Disney fans and it set a pretty high bar for future fairy tales and future Disney princess films.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

Snow White Staircase

* “One song, I have but one song! One song only for you! One heart tenderly beating, ever entreating, constant and true! One love that has possessed me, one love thrilling me through! One song my heart keeps singing! Of one love, only for you!”

* Oh, hell no!

* “My, what a cute little chair!”

* The deer in this movie keep giving me “Bambi” vibes. It’s not just me, right?

* Snow White, understandably, determines that the dwarfs’ cottage is filthy so she enlists the animals’ help in cleaning it. Um, Snow, you do know a bunch of wild animals aren’t that clean either, right? (But hey, it worked).

* Poor, poor Bambi.

* Oh my gosh!

* “Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho! It’s home from work we go! Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho!”

* This is precisely how the dwarfs’ lost their fortune in jewels.

* “Jiminy Crickets!” No guys, he’s in the next movie.

* Throughout this whole review, I kept wanting to spell ‘dwarfs’ as ‘dwarves’. The former feels so grammatically wrong, though it’s apparently correct.

* The reason I said Dopey isn’t mute is because, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag, Dopey actually screams when he sees Snow White’s ‘ghost’.

* Something tells me the dwarfs in “The Hobbit” and “Lord Of The Rings” wouldn’t approve of how bumbling these guys are – not that they could judge.

* “She’s a female! Everyone knows females is poison! They’re full of wicked wiles!” What are wicked wiles?” “I don’t know, but I’m against ’em”.

* Fresh.

* “So, what are you and who are you doing?” Still fresh.

* Maturity.

* “You’ll pay dearly for this!” They outnumber you six-to-one, Grumpy. I don’t think they’re that worried.

* The Evil Queen finally remembered she’s in this movie.

* I am loving the capes Snow White and the Evil Queen are sporting. They’re not very practical, but capes are just cool.

* “A breath of wind to fan my hate! A thunderbolt to mix it well! Now begin thy magic spell!”

* Sometimes, in movies, I think it’s good to have a few scenes that don’t really add anything to the plot, but are simply the main characters enjoying themselves. It really does help to endear the audience to them, and I would never cut out this bit of silliness.

* “Anyone could see that the prince was charming!” Nah Snow, that’s Cinderella’s prince.

“Some day my prince will come, some day we’ll meet again! And away to his castle we’ll go, to be happy forever, I know! Some day when spring is here, we’ll find a love anew! And the birds will sing, and wedding bells will ring! Someday when my dreams come true…”

* Dopey is a happy dwarf.

* “Bless the seven little men… oh, and please make Grumpy like me” “Ugh, women” Oh my gosh, he actually heard that.

* “Her breath will still, her blood congeal, soon I’ll be fairest in the land!”

* Is she talking to the audience?

* “Love’s first kiss?” Well, it’s lucky for Snow White that she never had a boyfriend before this movie, or she would have been so screwed.

* Even by cartoon standards, those vultures look extra evil.

* Aww.

* It’s murder time!

* “So beautiful, even in death, the dwarfs could not bring themselves to bury her”. Yeah, she’s not gonna look that beautiful when she starts decomposing.

* So, how long before Snow White gets bored of that one song?

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Snow White The Old Hag 2

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Review

Spider-Man Homecoming Poster

If “Spider-Man” was a modern update of your classic, campy comic book movie, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a brooding, angsty film aimed at the hipster demographic, then “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a light, breezy film aimed at Millennials and Gen-Zers, and delightfully that proves to be a very good thing. There are two main plot threads interwoven throughout the movie: Spider-Man’s investigation into the Vulture’s arms-dealing gang, and Peter Parker’s tumultuous school life – the latter of which feels like a cute, high school sitcom. There’s a whole subplot devoted to Peter’s friends and classmates, as well as the camaraderie they have with or without Peter’s presence, that’s always fun to return to, thanks in part to the sharpness of the screenplay. Easily one of the best things about “Homecoming” is the dialogue. It’s razor-sharp, it’s witty, and it’s always engaging. I especially love how often the characters tend to get distracted and wander off topic when they’re observing things or chastising each other – it’s classic comedy and the sort of thing someone would probably do when they’re dealing with something far out of the norm for them. It’s also a testament to how likable the supporting cast of this movie is that I’m just as invested in Peter’s bromance with Ned and his odd encounters with Michelle as I am in his vigilante sleuthing.

The overall screenplay is probably the most fresh and creative one we’ve seen in a Spider-Man film since the early days of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire; it trades in many of the tropes and cliches that one had started to expect from a Spider-Man movie (like OsCorp shenanigans, schizophrenic mutants, and on-again, off-again romances) for excitingly uncharted territory and a straightforward superhero romp. The clean, sleek nature of the story is aided nicely by the smart decision to skip Spider-Man’s origin story for once and make him a pre-established character, trusting the audience would be familiar enough with Marvel’s flagship hero (from the comics, the previous films, or Tom Holland’s earlier appearance in “Captain America: Civil War”) that it wouldn’t be necessary to drop us straight into one of Spidey’s cases. The greatest positive about the film though is that it feels really good to see Spider-Man / Peter Parker regain his liveliness and his sense of adventure. Peter causes his fair share of damage in this movie, he gets himself into trouble and learns from the experience, but he’s also always proactive. He does some crime-fighting, he does some mystery-solving with his keen mind, and he goes out and has actual adventures, as opposed to sitting around and wangsting, non-stop, for two and a half hours like Peter did in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2“. This is a superhero film, and “Homecoming” knows a superhero film should have an adventurous spirit. The movie also knows when the time for fun and games has passed. The first two acts are mostly a lighthearted romp with some fun character building, but starting with the ferry scene, it’s the sharp writing and the non-stop emotional high of the third act that elevates “Homecoming” from an enjoyable movie to a great movie.

Spider-Man Homecoming Determination

Peter Parker, i.e. Spider-Man, is New York’s youngest resident superhero. He’s quirky, sassy, inquisitive, clever, plucky, enthusiastic, and in general a ball of energy. He keeps up a facade of being a normal teenager, but he suits up as Spider-Man at the end of every school day to fight crime and patrol the city, and he loves what he does. Unlike Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s respective Peters, who were about ready to graduate high school when they were bitten, Tom Holland’s Peter is the same age his comic book self was when he was bitten by the spider, age 15, and both he and the script excel at capturing the impulsiveness, naivety and impressionability of a younger teenager. Particularly, a superpowered teenager who’s a total nerd and a fanboy. He’s a joy to follow throughout the story. A sad, recurring thread that the film periodically returns to is Peter’s isolation and his non-existent social life when it comes to his classmates besides Ned, and even Ned as well sometimes. Peter lives apart from the other kids his age, saddling himself with the responsibility of a superhero’s life and a sense of duty that prevents him from being popular or getting to experience the regular rituals of a high-schooler. The film never obsesses over this or bludgeons you over the head with it, but it’s very much a part of Tom Holland’s character. Even in a pretty lighthearted Spider-Man movie, being Spidey means having to make some sacrifices. While his naivety usually serves to make him more endearing, the film also doesn’t shy away from the downsides of how young this Spider-Man is. Peter is itching for some crime-fighting adventures, he has a serious hero worship for the Avengers and Tony Stark, and like most teens, he can be bratty, petulant, stubborn and impatient at times.

As he grows restless and frustrated with how the other Avengers don’t take him seriously, Peter leaps at the chance to solve the Vulture mystery so he can prove himself to the older heroes. As Peter becomes more fixated on this, he becomes reckless and destructive, losing sight of his original goal, ignoring his friends’ warnings and blowing off his responsibilities. This eventually comes to a head when he unwittingly puts innocent people in danger of being killed and gets chewed out by Tony Stark, being verbally knocked down to Earth. Up until this point, I thought Peter was getting off too easy for his screw-ups. Almost sinking the ferry was one consequence, albeit one paid by other people, and losing his suit was another one, albeit still fairly light. The real consequence comes when Peter visits Liz’s house. All of Peter’s impulsiveness and bad decisions catch up to him in this scene, where they put him in the perfect position to be outed, blackmailed and eventually almost killed by the Vulture. In his reckless desire to live out a fantasy, Peter got too close to things and wound up paying the price, a mistake he won’t ever be making again. Buried in the Vulture’s trap, Peter has to tap into his true identity, strengthen his resolve, and rely on himself and only himself to get free, which is easily the most badass thing Spider-Man has done on film since he stopped a runaway train in 2004. With new determination and a clearer focus, Peter hunts the Vulture down and brings him in. Impressively, he saves Toomes’ life despite the man trying to kill him earlier, and even more impressively, he manages to take a few good things away from the Vulture’s mentality. Peter decides he should remain New York’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man instead of an Avenger, staying true to himself and helping out all the little guys of the world.

Spider-Man Homecoming Vulture

Adrian Toomes, i.e. the Vulture, is a welcome departure from your usual Spider-Man cinematic villains. Before now, Spidey’s villains have almost always been mutants created as a result of mad science gone wrong. This formula for antagonists worked well enough in the Raimi trilogy, but it started to feel pretty forced and worn out by the “Amazing” series (for example, Electro gained his powers by falling into a tank of electric eels). A guy in a Vulture suit might not be as physically imposing as Green Goblin, Doc Ock or Sandman, but it felt like it was time to take a break from mutants, and Michael Keaton more than makes up for his lack of powers with pure charisma, grit and menace. Toomes starts out as a gruff, streetwise construction worker and your usual working-class man, who’s driven out of business by the events of “The Avengers” and decides to start selling alien technology on the black market partly to get by and partly to spite the law of the land. Toomes is very cynical and jaded; he hates the rich and powerful like Tony Stark because he thinks they have an easy ride through life and they never have to be held accountable for their destructive actions. He’s done a very good job over the years of ignoring the cognitive dissonance of selling dangerous weapons to criminals that could level the city and kill lots of people, so he can provide for himself, his family and his crew. He doesn’t have to see the damage after all, and he most likely doesn’t care. At his most delusional, Vulture likes to consider himself a crusader for weak, down-trodded, hard-working, regular men, something Spider-Man actually is, though Peter’s been losing sight of his original goal lately.

The fact that Vulture isn’t afflicted in any way with sanity-affecting super powers actually helps to make his character more disturbing at times. Unlike Green Goblin, Doc Ock or the Lizard, Toomes is acting of sound mind and body when he’s pretending to be a normal, outgoing family man, while moonlighting behind everyone’s back as a gang leader and arms dealer. To say nothing of the times he tries to kill a teenage Peter. While he’s at work on his real business, treating it much the way he would a construction gig, Toomes is gritty, tough, ruthless, and pragmatic. The Vulture is thuggish, vicious and implacable, but Toomes is clever, methodical and crafty. What makes Toomes dangerous is the massive difference in experience between him and Peter, demonstrated several times throughout the movie. Toomes can take advantage of Peter’s rookie status to escape him, and even lay traps for him. He hates Spider-Man for getting in his way and threatening his way of life, but he also sort of respects him for being a credible threat and for saving his daughter’s life. Vulture’s mixed feelings on Peter stem from the fact that while he’s a selfish villain, he’s not fully evil or irredeemable. When he learns Spider-Man’s identity, he starts to view him as being an annoying, dumb kid. He tries to intimidate him into backing down and he tries to talk him over to his way of thinking, and when neither of those attempts work, he just tries to get rid of him. In the end, after everything Vulture did to him, Peter still chooses to save his life when Toomes’ greed nearly gets him killed. And since Peter has done him a solid twice now, Toomes chooses to protect his identity while he’s in prison – a move that could mean several different things, and leaves the future of this character and his rivalry with Spider-Man up in the air for the sequels.

Spider-Man Homecoming Bromance 2

Ned Leeds is Peter’s nerdy, ditzy best friend. “Homecoming’s” incarnation of Ned has a very different personality than he did in the comics and a much larger role, and I’m pretty satisfied with that. Despite how often I reference the comics in these reviews, I’m completely okay with comic book movies diverging wildly from their source material so long as it results in a good story. In this instance, I’m glad to see Peter has a best friend in this continuity who isn’t Harry Osborn, since the last two series have shown that things with Harry never work out (“I protected you in high school, now I’m gonna kick your little ass!” “AUGH! YOU’RE A FRAUD, SPIDER-MAN!”). Peter and Ned are both quirky, nerdy fanboys and the designated losers of the school, but Ned is the more excitable of the two. Hilariously, he can talk a mile a minute non-stop, to Peter’s annoyance sometimes, and once he learns Peter’s secret early in the film, he quickly gets swept up in the glamour of a superhero’s escapades. Ned is initially shown to quite superficial and it’s suggested that he might not be the best influence on Peter, though he does grow out of this. Ned hopes to be Peter’s mission control, his ‘guy in the chair’ as he puts it who gets to help him on missions and do cool stuff, and as the movie progresses he slots into the role of Peter’s sidekick. Ned’s character development stems from him gaining perspective over time that fighting crime is really not a game and becoming more level-headed and mature, while Peter ironically becomes more short-sighted and obsessive. Ned starts to notice Peter losing focus and acting out-of-character, and becomes increasingly worried about him. In the last act, Ned saves Peter’s life from the Vulture’s goons and gets to live out his dream of helping Spider-Man crack a case, which fully seals the deal on endearing me to his character and his bromance with Peter.

Michelle Jones is the school oddball. Michelle is basically an artsy, emo chick who draws sketch art, does what she likes and keeps mostly to herself. She’s snarky, bluntly honest and sardonic, but she also has her share of hidden layers. She’s clever and perceptive, and she helps her debate team to score a huge win in Peter’s absence. She seems to have a crush on Peter that she tries to play off as nothing, and it’s implied that while she enjoys being a non-conforming individualist she doesn’t enjoy being a loner and still craves having friends like everyone else. Michelle has a small but very satisfying arc in the background of the movie – she grows to enjoy the companionship of Peter, Ned and the debate team and feels a lot more fulfilled and accepted by the movie’s end than she was before. From the nickname she drops at the end, Michelle seems to be the MCU’s equivalent of Mary Jane Watson, and I am onboard with Peter x Michelle being endgame in this continuity. Michelle is a nice enough character, and she has more personality than the girl Peter was interested in for much of this movie. Flash Thompson is another character who feels quite different in this movie, but at his core very much the same. Flash isn’t a sports star this time around and is instead a smarmy, antagonistic member of Peter’s debate team, who hates Peter for a being a loser and for being smarter than him. However, he’s still athletic, quite dumb, a bully, a blowhard and a cowardly weasel. Flash’s mostly one-sided rivalry with Peter is a running gag throughout the film, and while he doesn’t display the intriguing redeeming qualities that his counterpart from “The Amazing Spider-Man” did, he is significantly funnier. There’s also a gloriously karmic pay-off to Flash vs Peter, where Peter commandeers Flash’s car for the climax and totally trashes it in the name of justice.

Spider-Man Homecoming Garage 2

In a movie filled with fun, interesting characters, one of them has to be the weakest link, and unfortunately that someone is Liz. Liz Allan is a popular and beautiful senior girl who Peter has a crush on, and one who he tries to work up the nerve to talk to throughout the movie. To be honest, Liz’s personality is pretty bland and dull. She has a few personality traits – such as she’s sociable, she’s overly forgiving when it comes to Peter, she sneaks out to pool parties, and she’s something of a daddy’s girl – but none of them make her that interesting or unique. She’s basically there so Peter can have a love interest, and to tie together the two main strands of the plot when it turns out the Vulture is her dad. Thankfully, the movie never devotes that much time to Peter crushing on her, and the film ends with her being a romantic false lead – breaking up with Peter and moving away to Oregon, leaving Peter single to date other girls in the sequels (you know, like Michelle). The Vulture has a few notable goons in his gang, including two men who take up the mantle of the Shocker. The first guy is a brash, unfettered slacker who often seems more like a bratty, whiny teenager than a grown man (which makes sense in a way. If he’s not going to put in the effort to be a law-abiding citizen, why even bother trying be a mature adult either?), which amusingly enough, gets him killed when he pushes his boss too far. The second guy, Toomes’ right hand man, is much colder, competent and significantly more menacing due to how efficient he is, and how apathetic he often is about anything other than survival.

Tony Stark is kind of irritating in this movie, though to be fair, this is Iron-Man we’re talking about here. ‘Tony Stark’ and ‘kind of irritating’ often go hand in hand. For most of his scenes in this film, Tony comes off as distant, dismissive, and somewhat classicist, recruiting Spider-Man and getting his hopes up about being a big leagues hero only to spend the next six months ignoring him (and belittling his rogues gallery). Tony is busy running his company and working with the Avengers, and it’s implied that he’s starting to regret recruiting someone as young as Peter into Avengers business, but he still wants Peter to be trained properly and he still listens to Happy’s reports about Peter’s progress. Tony tries to be Peter’s mentor, even if it’s from a distance, and one of the most satisfying scenes in the movie is when he rips Peter a new one for causing the ferry catastrophe. By the end of the film, Tony’s estimation of Peter has risen and he’s all set to welcome him into the Avengers, only for Peter to turn him down because he feels like he’s not ready for that yet. The rejection catches Tony off guard and is also cathartic to watch for a number of reasons. Aunt May continues to get younger in the Spider-Man movies, but I really like her portrayal in this film. May is, as always, such a mom in this film. She tries to get Peter to open up to her about his problems, she’s fiercely protective of him, and she encourages him to try to have a social life. We’ve seen these traits from May before, in other Spider-Man films, but they’re particularly down-to-earth and understated here, and I appreciate that.

Spider-Man Homecoming Vulture 5

The direction and cinematography by Jon Watts and Salvatore Totino is impressively on point and consistently engaging for the viewer, making it the best work we’ve seen in a Spider-Man film in a while. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” looks and feels like a comic book movie and a high school movie at the same time, with an overall bright, wide and colorful aesthetic, a thrillingly large sense of scale whenever Peter leaps into action as Spider-Man (especially during his save at the Washington monument), and just the right amount of soft, personal shots lended to the scenes where Peter has to deal with problems in his personal relationships. The CGI is handled well, especially for a Marvel film. “Homecoming” understands that CGI is a helpful tool, but it shouldn’t be the main attraction of a movie. It’s used sparingly, it’s usually integrated seamlessly into the film, and most of the scenes that call for a large amount of CGI are set at night, making any rendering problems the movie might have had a lot more difficult to notice. Michael Giacchino’s score for the film is great fun to listen to and a perfect fit for the film. Considering the sort of hero he is, Spider-Man should have a theme that convinces you that he’ll never give up and he can do the impossible, and Michael Giacchino pens just that – a diehard, triumphant and determined leitmotif that feels like a call to action in several scenes, and also a few peppy and minute variations scattered throughout the movie. Michael also composes a bombastic and intimidating villain theme for the Vulture that heightens several scenes, but isn’t quite as memorable as Spidey’s. The Ramones’ “Blitzkreig Bop” is picked as the signature song of this film, which is a pleasant surprise since I’d heard this song several times before and would never have associated it with Spider-Man before now (and now I probably always will).

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a great start to Spider-Man’s own series in the MCU, and an enjoyable romp from start to finish. Now that I’ve grown fond of Tom Holland’s Peter, I look forward to seeing where Peter, Ned and Michelle go next in the upcoming sequel.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

Spider-Man Homecoming Washington

* “Maybe next time, don’t overextend yourself” Oh, snap!

* “We should probably stop staring before this gets creepy” “Too late. You guys are losers” “Then why do you sit with us?” “Because I don’t have any friends” Honesty.

* I get the impression that Happy is starting to get a bit tired of Peter’s constant messaging.

* Mr. Delmar, you hypocrite.

* “Why would I tell him about the churro?”

* Can we talk about how terrible Spider-Man is at keeping his secret identity an actual secret, especially in the movies? All six Spider-Man movies involve multiple people discovering Peter’s secret identity, including a whole subway train full of people in “Spider-Man 2“. By this point, “Homecoming” largely plays it for laughs.

* “Okay, okay, okay. I’m gonna level with you, Peter, I don’t think I can’t keep this a secret”.

* “Wow… do you lay eggs?”

* “So how far can you shoot your webs?” “It’s unknown” “Well, if I was you, I’d stand on the edge of a building and just shoot them as far as they would go-” It’s already been done, Ned. It didn’t end well.

* Well, that was a nice subversion of an evil villain cliche. Toomes only intended to beat Brice up with the anti-gravity gun but he winds up disintegrating him instead.

* “They stopped in Maryland. What’s there?” I don’t know, evil lair?” “They have a lair?” “A gang with aliens guns, run by a guy with wings? Yeah, dude, they have a lair” “Badass“.

* “There’s a ton of other sub-systems here, but they’re all disabled by the… ‘training wheels protocol‘.

* “Suit lady, what was that?!” “You jumped off the sign and landed on your face”.

* For Tom Holland’s Peter, literally everything is awesome (except being condescended to by Tony Stark).

* “Taking it all in, Michelle? “Oh, yeah, I just don’t want to celebrate something that was built by slaves” I’m sure the Washington Monument wasn’t built by-” *Guard does iffy, uncertain gesture” “Okay. Enjoy your book” “Thanks”.

* Of course, it would be Flash who almost got everyone killed.

* I swear, cops are 100% useless in superhero movies.

* “Are you really friends with Peter Parker?!” I love this movie.

* “As you know, we made it out alive, and that’s the important thing. I couldn’t bear to lose a student on a school trip. Not again“.

* Out of all the many comedic scenes in this movie, the interrogation scene is my favorite. Peter wanted to be cool so badly, but Batman he ain’t.

* “You know Delmar’s?” “Yeah, best sandwich in Queens” “Sub Haven’s pretty good” “It has too much bread” “I like bread”.

* “That’s gonna dissolve in two hours” “No, no, no. Come fix this” “Two hours. You deserve that!” “I got ice cream in here” “You deserve that. You’re a criminal. Bye, Mr. Criminal!”

* “Would you like me to activate Instant Kill?” “No, Karen, stop it with the Instant Kill already!” She’s so bloodthirsty.

* Toomes, the silver fox.

* “I tried to tell you about it… but you didn’t listen! None of this would’ve happened if you had just listened to me! If you even cared, you’d actually be here” *Tony Stark steps out of the armor to glare at Peter* It was then, Peter knew he was screwed.

* “I just wanted to be like you!” “And I wanted you to be better” Doesn’t that nicely sum up Steven Universe’s relationship with Rose Quartz?

* This loser is you.

* I always laugh at how Peter just can’t stop staring at Toomes when he realizes he’s Liz’s dad. Inwardly, he’s freaking out and he’s probably wondering if Liz is in on it all. I also always laugh at that glare Toomes shoots a terrified Peter in the rear-view mirror – his ‘I see you, boy‘ face.

* “Good old Spider-Man”.

* Imagine if Toomes’ hunch had been wrong and he outed himself as some criminal loony to a totally random teen (“I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you and everyone you love”).

* So Toomes just discovered Peter is Spider-Man, and two minutes later the Shocker is behind Peter’s school, all filled-in and waiting to kill Peter as a trap. What the hell? Did Shocker get teleporting powers at some point off-screen?

* “Guy in the chair!”

* Toomes disrespecting Tony’s mask is a nice reminder that these two characters never met in this movie, and that feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

* This is cute.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Spider-Man Homecoming Churro

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Poster

“The Amazing Spider-Man” series took a surprisingly large drop in quality, surprisingly fast. “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a solid superhero origin story; it had a lame villain but it also had plenty of drive and heart. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” though is goofy and not in an intentional sort of way, in a ‘this movie is so bad, over-the-top and unsubtle that large portions of it are fucking hilarious’ sort of way.

In the list of dumb things in this movie, you’ve got Paul Giamatti overacting like crazy as the Rhino and later being reduced to a floating head inside a poorly-designed, CGI Rhino tank-suit; Electro gaining his powers by falling into a tank of electric eels; Peter imagining Captain Stacy’s ghost following him everywhere, glaring at him from out of his cop car, even during action scenes; Mr. and Mrs. Parker having this surreal espionage subplot that culminates in Peter finding their hidden spy train-carriage in the subway with all their research in it; Peter and Gwen breaking up and making up over and over again and Peter stalking Gwen; an evil, cliche Nazi scientist ripped straight out of World War II propaganda movies torturing Electro to classical music; Harry Osborn injecting himself with spider-venom that looks like it gives him Grinch hair and a nasty case of AIDs; and several instances of overly-simplistic, terribly-rendered CGI, including the climatic fight between Spider-Man and Electro, which looks exactly like two characters duking it out inside a video game with terrible graphics.

On top of all that, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is long and boring. This film has two antagonists (some would say three but let’s be honest here, Rhino is a glorified cameo), but they barely do anything antagonistic. Electro only gets two confrontations with Spider-Man, and Harry only really goes evil in the last twenty minutes. The rest of the movie’s plot is either devoted to Peter moping, angsting and feeling sorry for himself, or Peter and Gwen flip-flopping on how they feel about each other. So with very little meaningful conflict in this movie, it just drearily drags on and on through an ungodly runtime of two and a half hours. All of the other Spider-Man movies before now, including “Spider-Man 3“, have at least been fun to watch, this one just felt soulless.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter 3

Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a lot less interesting in this movie than he was in the previous film. In “The Amazing Spider-Man”, Peter was spry, outspoken, snarky, determined, amiable, troubled, hubristic and haunted by his Uncle Ben’s death. In this film, Peter spends 90% of it angsting about how he wants to be with Gwen, but he can’t be with her because of her dad, but he still pursues her anyway; angsting about how he wants to know more about his missing parents but his investigation has unfortunately hit a dead end; angsting about how he wants to help Harry but he can’t know what will happen if he gives Harry his magic spider blood; and angsting about how people don’t like Spider-Man. In the span of one movie, Peter has been reduced from a well-rounded and engaging character to a one-dimensional sad-sack, which ironically makes it a lot less effective when Gwen actually dies in the last ten minutes and we’re meant to be moved by a montage of Peter grieving her. Peter also makes a number of weird decisions in this movie that don’t exactly endear the audience to him, like letting a high-speed chase spiral further out-of-control for several minutes so he can stop and tell bad jokes, or stalking Gwen around the city, spying on her, several times a day every day for a month, which the movie just casually throws out there and never brings up again (I guess I was on point when I made that “Twilight” comparison last time).

There are a few times I like Peter in this movie, like when he rescues some kid from being harassed by neighborhood bullies and walks him home, or during the Times Square sequence, when he tries his best to approach Electro and talk him down, and when that doesn’t work he runs damage control and tries to nip things in the bud as quickly as he can. That’s a well-written Spider-Man. Peter, ignoring what he learned in the last movie about being responsible, eventually decides to give up being New York’s superhero so he can follow Gwen to England, and is immediately punished for this by the narrative when Green Goblin shows up out of nowhere and kills Gwen. Peter gives up being Spider-Man out of grief and a few months later decides to come out of retirement, but this has no real emotional effect however, since it all literally occurs in the last ten minutes of the movie. Peter going up against the Rhino is supposed to  be a satisfying return to form, but since the Rhino is really very lame it’s not a particularly inspiring place to close out this film or this franchise, and with Gwen’s death still extremely fresh in the audience’s minds, Peter still feels like a failure of a hero by the time the credits roll.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter and Gwen

Like Peter, Gwen Stacy is noticeably less fun than she was in the last film, though she doesn’t feel as blandly written as he does and Emma Stone is still nice and perky. Graduating from her high school as a valedictorian, Gwen Stacy is all set to leave her old job at OsCorp behind and head off to Oxford university, if she can beat a younger teen prodigy to the scholarship. Gwen retains her fiery personality and continues to find ways to help Peter fight the good fight; she’s still incredibly stubborn and refuses to be strung along. Like I mentioned before, Peter and Gwen spend the majority of this movie flip-flopping on how they feel about each other and whether or not they should break up for good, and to be honest, I really don’t care that much about the outcome. The Spider-Man movies always devote more time than they probably should to Peter’s love life and Peter’s on-again, off-again relationships with his girlfriends, and at a certain point, you just get burnt out on it. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was that point for me. The fact that the movie ends with Gwen dying only makes the preceding melodrama more tedious, and makes me wish all that screentime had been better used on other things, like letting Electro be an actual antagonist. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” naturally ends with Gwen being killed off, because love it or hate it, that’s the direction her character has been heading since the end of the last film, and Marc Webb handles it well.

For context, let’s talk about Gwen’s original death in the comics, several decades ago. One of the writers at the time, Gerry Conway, thought Gwen was a flat, boring character and that Peter had better chemistry with Mary Jane, so when it was decided that one of Peter’s loved ones would die to change the status quo, Gwen was killed off by the Green Goblin. It’s not uncommon in fanfics for characters to be killed off for a preferred ship, but Gwen was one of the first cases where that actually became canon. Amusingly enough, she literally died for shipping. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” chooses to follow the comics, but it also clearly tries to have Gwen’s death seem less like a textbook case of fridging by having it be the consequence of her own poor decisions, as well as Peter breaking Captain Stacy’s trust. Gwen’s fatal flaw has always been her stubbornness; she chose to ignore Peter’s warnings and put herself in harm’s way for the greater good and right before her death, she seemed to accept where her choices had led her. I don’t really think this improves it though. In this new outcome, the film punishes Gwen for exercising her own agency and not letting other people make her decisions for her (the exact opposite of what happened with MJ in the previous trilogy), and still kills off the hero’s girlfriend just to punish him and make him feel sad at the end, which is a particularly tiresome writing trope (though I suppose it does continue the spaghetti western theme established with Captain Stacy in the last movie). In Sony’s plans for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”, Gwen was going to be resurrected as Spider-Gwen, but since they pulled the plug on that sequel Gwen’s whole character arc ends here, and it is both sudden and underwhelming.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Electro 4

At his worst, Jamie Foxx’s Electro is only slightly less cringy than the other villains in this duology, but I have to admit I do have a soft spot for him. Part of it is because I liked Jamie Foxx in the role, part of it is because Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams wrote a distinctive leitmotif for the character, and part of it is because Electro provided the Times Square sequence mid-movie, which is one of the few scenes in this film that feels like it actually had a great deal of effort of poured into it to make it adventurous. Max Dillon is a shy, awkward and repressed nerd. A hard-worker at Oscorp, Max is often overlooked, underappreciated and mistreated by his co-workers and superiors, and as such has really low self-esteem. He idolizes Spider-Man for his boldness and bravery, and puts him up on a pedestal of hero worship. Max is shown to be more than a bit unbalanced, having violent fantasies about his co-workers, devoting a shrine to Spider-Man and hearing whispery voices in his head. It’s interesting to consider this Electro as a foil to Spider-Man. Peter was a nerdy outcast who used his new powers for the good of the city, while Max is driven insane by mistreatment and tries to take his revenge on everyone who ostracized him. After a really goofy workplace accident turns him into an undead mutant, Electro is rejected and humiliated by all of New York City, and permanently made into a freak show. He wants someone to blame for his wreck of his life, some sort of scrapegoat, and Spidey had the misfortune of being the one who was present at the time.

When Electro turns on his former hero and starts shooting up Times Square, lashing out at everyone there, it’s one of my favorite visuals in the movie and the moment you realize “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” could have been a better movie than it was. This is a villain who can not only harness electricity but become electricity – in Manhattan. Peter should have spent a chunk of this movie trying to find a way to track him down, pin him down and contain him in a city as large as New York. Instead, he’s benched in an asylum for the next hour and most of his potential is wasted. In Ravencroft, Electro is examined and tortured by Dr. Kafka, a lab-coat clad, black-glove wearing, sadistic scientist with a taste for classical music who has an exaggerated German accent – in other words, a Nazi in all but name. I think we’re actually supposed to take these scenes seriously, but that ain’t happening – and that’s before I mention the atrocious dialogue these two are given. Ironically, Dr. Kafka in the comics is a woman, so Marvel gave her a sex change and a nationality change for this movie. Harry springs Electro so Harry can get into OsCorp and Electro can go after Spider-Man, which would be exciting were it not for the fact that Electro’s character and his motivations have been completely neglected and undeveloped before now, and the CGI during Spider-Man and Electro’s final battle (which is also only their second one) is completely, laughably terrible. It’s unfortunate, because out of all the villains in “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, Electro was the one who had the most potential in my opinion, but he’s completely wasted in this movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Harry Osborn

Since he was never once mentioned in the last movie, Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn is casually retconned into Peter’s backstory in this movie, as an old childhood friend. One common sentiment I often see expressed about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is that it has an overabundance of subplots that have virtually nothing to do with each other, but I don’t think that’s entirely true – there is one thematic idea linking them. The main theme in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is the victims of Oscorp’s greed, ruthlessness, callousness and cruelty – the ones they tossed aside and stepped on to get what they wanted. People like Max, and Harry, and Peter’s parents. Dr. Connors from the last movie fits the bill as well. Whether or not this theme is handled well however, is a different story. Harry is the prodigal son of OsCorp, who returns to run the company after his father dies. Harry is cynical, sarcastic, and bitter, as a result of being abandoned by his neglectful father and his privileged background causing him to grow up friendless, but he does have a close and unlikely friendship with Peter Parker. Dane Dehaan is one of the few actors in this movie who goes full ham and does it well (as Harry anyway, not so much as the Green Goblin), and the scenes devoted to his friendship with Peter are nice enough to watch. Harry’s attempts to command Oscorp are undermined by his employees and Norman’s old board, who disrespect him and see as just a rich brat.

Despite wanting to be different from his father, it’s pretty clear Harry is going to become a villain, even if you’ve never seen the previous trilogy or read the comics. Harry can be very temperamental and he has an entitled and manipulative side to him; he’s not above trying to use Peter and Gwen to get ahead. When he learns the terminal disease his father died from is genetic and it’s going to begin killing him as well eventually, he becomes determined to do whatever he can to save himself. His attempts to use Oscorp’s sciences are thwarted by his traitorous peers, and when he approaches Spidey for some of his blood, because he hopes Spider-Man’s healing factor can help him, he turns him down. Desperate, obsessed and vengeful, Harry eventually teams up with Electro so they can both get what they want and get their revenge. It’s a short-lived team-up that again makes you wish more attention had been given to these villains. Harry eventually shoots himself up with some spider-venom that will only work on Peter and mutates into something unintentionally funny. Since it occurs in the last twenty minutes, Harry’s transformation into the Green Goblin is rushed, poorly-acted and embarrassingly cringy with a weird character design. He kills off Gwen to spite Spider-Man, and later we get some business about Harry arranging a super-villain team-up in prison. You see, for the last two movies Sony had been using the OsCorp arc to try to set up a Sinister Six movie, even if it came at the expense of the story currently being told, hence why the villains are so neglected and underdeveloped in “TASM” and “TASM2”. That Sinister Six movie never came to fruition however, since this one unperformed, so there are a lot of loose ends still hanging in the “Amazing” series, and it never received a proper ending.

Unlike the last film, we finally get some answers about what happened to Peter’s parents in this movie. Basically, Mr. Parker did some genetics research for Norman Osborn, found out Norman was a bad dude, destroyed his work and tried to go on the run with his wife, only to be killed (as an aside, this plot feels a lot like something you’d see in “Smallville”, particularly during the Lionel Luthor arc in that series’s third season. Just swap out Oscorp for LuthorCorp, and Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn for Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor). There was a storyline about Mr. and Mrs. Parker being spies in the comics, but for the most part they’ve never received as much attention as they do in these movies, because they’re honestly not that interesting and they have little to no relevance on the man Peter currently is as a result of his aunt and his uncle’s upbringing. Peter’s birth as Spider-Man being predestined by his parents, and his healing blood being strongly emphasized, also feels as though it takes something away from the unassuming, everyman aspect of his character. There was an alternate ending to the film (which is ironically much better than the one in the movie), where Peter finally reunited with his father, who survived his plane crash, a few months after Norman died and Gwen died. Mr. Parker helped convince Peter to return to being Spider-Man. Marc opted not to use it and save any further development for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”, which was obviously a mistake, and as such the ‘Peter’s missing parents’ arc lacks a satisfying pay-off after two movies of build-up. One could argue that such a reunion would overshadow Aunt May and Uncle Ben, but that’s already happened since Aunt May is given nothing to do in this movie except argue with Peter, and Uncle Ben is afterthought, so Marc Webb and Sony might as well have gone all the way with that subplot.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter and Gwen 6

If Marc Webb’s direction for “The Amazing Spider-Man” felt bland at times, it’s often feels downright pedestrian in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. It’s basic level stuff, devoid of any style or substance save for the Times Square sequence and Gwen Stacy’s slow-motion death scene, and a lot of shots are framed awkwardly. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” abandons the dark and edgy aesthetic that the first film benefited from in favor of a bright and open look (more “The Avengers” than “The Dark Knight”), which only highlights the genericness. The CGI in the film is occasionally good, like during Spider-Man’s web slinging scenes, but most of the time it feels clunky and intrusive, or it feels like we’ve been transported inside a video game. In general, the film relies on it way too much considering how conspicuous it is. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams (in a collaboration by the artists) is easily the best part of the movie. Hans reworks Spider-Man’s main theme into a proud fanfare and incorporates it into many of the film’s cues, as well as pens some nice, techno pieces for the threads devoted to Oscorp and Peter’s parents. But the standout and centerpiece leitmotif is the ‘paranoia’ theme for Electro, performed by Pharrell – a combination of electronic dubstep elements, electric guitars and woodwind instruments that underscores most of Max Dillon’s scenes. “My Enemy” and “The Electro Suite” enhance whatever scenes they appear in.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is amazingly boring, and when it’s not boring it’s laughably cringy. This awful movie is easily the worst Spider-Man film produced so far; it killed the “Amazing” series and I suspect it’s a large part of the reason why people dislike Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. You can easily give this one a pass.

Rating: 3/10.

Side-Notes:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Electro

* If you notice, unlike the previous four films, Sony placed their logo over Marvel’s and Columbia’s. Gotta get that self-promotion done right.

* This is a nice bit of symmetry. In the last film, we saw Peter’s parents leave from his perspective, but in this one we finally get their point-of-view.

* It bothered me that Mr. Parker’s laptop seemed far too modern for a flashback to the early 2000’s, so I did some digging and discovered laptops similar to contemporary ones have been around since the 90’s, so I suppose it’s feasible.

* “I know that we all think that we’re immortal. We’re supposed to feel that way, we’re graduating. But like our brief four years in high school, what makes life valuable is that it doesn’t last forever, what makes it precious is that it ends. I know that now more than ever. And I say it, today of all days, to remind us that time is luck. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life, make yours count for something. Fight for what matters to you, no matter what. Because even if you fall short, what better way is there to live?”

* “Sweetheart, I’m so proud of you. I know the first thing that your Uncle Ben would say” “Yeah, I know too. You better hurry up, the party’s over. You’ve gotta get a job”.

* “Wow, you have done this to me again and again. I can’t live like this. I break up with you, Peter. I break up with you“.

* “I don’t feel like my kids are safe with him out there. Get out of the way and let the police do their job!” This person is a moron. Cops are useless in superhero movies. And not only are the cops useless in “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies, they only ever seem to make things worse than they already were, as we’ll see later when we get to Times Square.

* “This is my laundry, my home, my machine! Back off! Eat your breakfast!” “Alright laundry sheriff, I’ll do it later”.

* Dat green-screen elevator.

* “From now on everybody at this table works for Felicia, because Felicia works for me” I like Harry and Felica.

* “Did you ever figure out why your parents bailed?” “My Dad left a briefcase. Thats all I got, a briefcase full of junk”.

* It’s a shame Electro lost the hoodie so soon. It’s a good look on him.

* That guy just called for back-up. How the hell did all those cops show up that fast?

* So, why is that one camera connected to all the screens in Times Square?

* Blue lives matter.

* “They lied to me, they shot at me, they hate on me, they’re using me, afraid of me, they’re dead to me! They lied to me, they shot at me, they hate on me, they’re dead to me, and now they’re all my enemy!

* “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillips Phillips is a good pop song, but it really doesn’t fit the mood of this scene.

* Heh, Peter’s ringtone.

* I really love Harry’s emo bangs. They look they were inspired by Emo Peter’s in “Spider-Man 3”.

* It’s horror movie jump scare time again, Gwen!

* “I don’t want you money” “Come on, everybody wants my money!

* “AUUGGH! YOU’RE A FRAUD, SPIDER-MAN!

* “The truth is your parents left you here, on our door-step. And you were this little boy whose whole world was turned upside down with no explanation. We did the best we could, your Uncle Ben and I. I mean, who else was gonna care for you and protect you and worry about you? Your father? No. I was the one who wiped your nose and made you brush your teeth and do your homework and washed your dirty underwear. Me! Your stupid, non-scientific aunt, who doesn’t know how to make ends meet, who has to take nursing classes with twenty-two year old kids so I can pay for you to go to college. And I don’t know how to do this without Ben! I don’t know how! And…and you’re dreaming about your perfect father, who was never here. No! No, I won’t tell you. You’re my boy. As far as I’m concerned, you’re my boy, and I won’t hurt you”.

* “Once you shut down the grid, Spider-Man will come to you, and I want you to make him bleed!” Harry is easily the most quotable character in this movie.

* It feels so good when Harry and Electro finally shut Menken up.

* Dat green-screen bridge.

* Seriously though, how can you not laugh at Ghost Stacy?

* I love Peter’s ‘bitch, what the fuck is that?‘ expression through his mask when Harry shows up. He looks as appalled by that character design as the audience.

* Choke that bitch, Peter! Somehow, Harry didn’t get a snapped neck from that move.

* I thought Peter’s webbing was supposed to be super strong? It’s pretty shoddy if a simple gear snapped it.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Harry Osborn 3

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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Review

The Amazing Spider-Man Poster

Out of the three live-action Spider-Man franchises, including the Sam Raimi trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, and the MCU films starring Tom Holland, “The Amazing Spider-Man” films starring Andrew Garfield are the ones I’ve taken the longest to warm to, since they felt a bit too bland and generic when they were initially being released. Over time though, I’ve come to appreciate their better elements, including Andrew Garfield’s byronic portrayal of Peter Parker / Spider-Man. There are two main problems with “The Amazing Spider-Man”. The first is that it borrows too heavily from Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” movie. Part of that is to be expected, since we’re doing the origin story again, but it feels like it spends a large chunk of its runtime re-threading plot points and character beats from another movie.

Loner Peter Parker has a crush on a girl he admires from afar, who sticks up for him against bullies. He gets bitten by a super-spider, which leads to humorous post-bite freakouts and maybe a fight or two. Peter has a temporarily satisfying confrontation with his school bully, Flash, that leads to him being chewed out by his Uncle Ben. Peter is a dick to his Uncle Ben and then Uncle Ben dies. An adult friend of Peter’s and a famous scientist to boot is secretly the villain of this movie, after he was pressured by his superiors into doing some mad-scientist testing on himself, and he manages to discover Peter’s secret identity. Peter’s somewhat creepy but supposedly wise adult friend has developed a crazy, murderous, split-personality, is totally out-of-control and only Spider-Man can stop him from destroying the city. After everything he’s done for the city, the people of New York repay Spidey by giving him the support he needs in his greatest crisis so far (cranes, baby). The villain is defeated and the city is saved but at a great cost, and after a grey funeral, Spidey decides he should probably stay away from his true love for her own good, but really he can’t bring himself to do so. In terms of creativity and originality, this screenplay that doesn’t get that many points.

The second problem is that “The Amazing Spider-Man” raises several mysterious plot threads that it eventually drops and never resolves in favor of stopping the Lizard from destroying New York. Peter’s search for his missing parents? It’s forgotten about after the first act. Peter’s obsessive quest to find his Uncle Ben’s killer? It’s dropped after twenty minutes. Dr. Ratha threatening Dr. Connors to find a cure to save a dying Norman Osborn? Dr. Ratha never appears again in this movie after the bridge scene. “The Amazing Spider-Man” was clearly produced with several sequels in mind (which Sony stopped making after the second movie wasn’t a success), so I’m not sure if this movie stands that well on it’s own. Especially with that bizarre post-credits scene that teases a nonexistent future movie and will never be explained in the slightest.

The Amazing Spider-Man Peter Parker

In a large change from how he’s usually written in the Spider-Man franchise, Peter Parker is less of a nerd in this movie and more of your standard teen movie protagonist,  particularly one from the “Twilight” era. With debonair looks but a nonexistent social life, Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a loner, a skateboarder, and an angsty teen who sometimes has the demeanor of a spaced-out stoner, particularly after he gains his powers. Still, he’s one of the nicest guys at his school – he’ll help you out in a fix and stand up to jerks. This iteration of Peter has a rather irritating, repeated verbal tic. Anytime he’s mildly stressed or uncomfortable, he starts babbling, stuttering and repeating himself. I’m not sure if it’s the fault of Andrew Garfield’s performance however or the script. About halfway through this movie, I noticed that most of the conversations the characters have are either awkward, drawn-out or uncomfortable, and in a movie that’s over two hours long that gets old eventually. In any case, Peter Parker has always been troubled by how his parents disappeared without a trace when he was young, and as he enters his senior year in high school he starts to suspect there’s a whole conspiracy involved. Retracing their steps to Oscorp and Dr. Curt Connors, he gets bitten by a super-spider and gains spider powers. Wanting to do Dr. Connors an act of kindness and make some progress in his search, he shares with him some of his father’s work, which bites Peter in the ass later.

After being bit by a super-spider, Peter the skateboarder gleefully turns into Peter the adrenaline junkie. Peter behaves pretty recklessly and irresponsibly with his new powers, until he gets his Uncle Ben killed, after which he continues to behave recklessly and irresponsibly – going on an obsessive hunt for vengeance on his Uncle Ben’s killer. It’s not until he gets a sharp and humbling dressing-down from Captain Stacy, saves a few lives from the Lizard, and discovers the Lizard’s rampage is because of his mistake that he learns the true meaning of responsibility and what it truly means to be a hero. Peter’s late night activities also start to put a strain on his relationship with Aunt May. Andrew Garfield’s Peter is in some ways closer to his comic counterpart than his predecessor; he has his standard web-shooters and he has a lot more of Spider-Man’s signature snark which makes some of his action scenes pretty fun to watch. I think what I like most of all about this Peter is that he eventually becomes a people-person. We saw Tobey Maguire’s Peter save people loads of times, but he rarely ever engaged them on a personal level except for Mary Jane before she learned his secret. In the Marvel universe, Spider-Man is a symbol of New York, so I like that both the “Amazing” films and the MCU movies try to establish him more as a community figure. Peter gives it his all to stop the Lizard and save New York in the last act and he does succeed, but not before Captain Stacy dies. The Captain makes him promise to stay away with his daughter, something Peter can’t quite bring himself to do, which can only spell trouble for the sequel.

The Amazing Spider-Man Captain Stacy 4

Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is a cool girl, and her character is much better served here than she was in the previous series. As a classmate of Peter’s, Gwen makes recurring appearances in the first half of the film and plays a much larger role in the second half. A humble science prodigy, she’s intelligent, hard-working, quirky, straightforward and kind. Peter catches her eye early on because she finds him cute and she’s sympathetic to his problems. Gwen has her own troubles relating to her home life. She’s the daughter of policeman, and she has all the fears, insecurities and anxieties that would come with that. Peter and Gwen have some cute and precocious, lowkey chemistry throughout the film (save for the scenes that involve Peter’s babbling), especially after Peter reveals his secret to her. I think it was good idea to let Gwen in on Peter’s double life relatively early on. I always enjoy when the girlfriends of superheroes get to be their partners and confidantes, which I why I like those rare stories where Lois Lane knows Clark Kent is Superman. With a war of sorts going on, Gwen is determined to be a part of it, and she does manage to contribute a few useful things to Peter’s mission. Gwen’s fatal flaw is that she’s too stubborn for her own good and far too eager to run into harm’s way when she’s not as durable as Spider-Man (you know she gets all her foolish courage from her dad). The last ten minutes introduce a dilemma with Gwen that I’m not fond of. Before she was just another character, but from here on out she’s set up to be a sacrificial lamb and eventually gets killed off so the narrative can punish Peter for breaking a promise to her dad and punish her for not letting other people coddle her or make her decisions for her, but that goes down in the sequel.

Captain George Stacy, Gwen’s father (portrayed with brevity by Dennis Leary), is a gruff man. He’s stern, short-tempered, protective, bullheaded and no-nonsense, but refreshingly for a cop character, he is not stupid or unreasonable. There’s a satisfying scene halfway through the film where he knocks Peter’s ego down a peg when they get into argument over dinner about lawfulness versus vigilantism. The Captain is an interesting obstacle to Peter in that he’s not a bad guy, and he gets the protagonist to reevaluate some things about himself. He’s just your typical hardass cop who’s at odds with Peter, or rather, Spider-Man because they’re on two different sides of the law, despite technically being on the same side. A small arc he has in the film is learning there are even more important things than fully upholding the law, and giving Peter his blessing to continue his crime-fighting. In that sense, Captain Stacy is almost like a western figure – the lawful but misguided sheriff who later sees the error of his ways and ultimately gets slained to pave the way for the true, morally ambiguous hero. Captain Stacy has a fairly predictable death scene – if you didn’t see it coming when he learned Peter’s identity, you knew he was doomed from the moment Peter was injured and the Captain rushed in after him for back-up – one that feels like it passed up an opportunity to expand Peter and George’s relationship further before killing him off in a sequel, but is nonetheless hefty, sufficient and affecting.

The Amazing Spider-Man The Lizard's Plan

Dr. Curt Connors is a one-armed, handicapped scientist, a genius, and an employee at OsCorp for several decades. The British scientist is aloof, soft-spoken, somewhat unscrupulous, and filled with his share of regrets. Plagued by his own disability, he wishes to create a world without perceived weakness; he’s a self-professed radical and he used to be friends with Peter’s father before the man pulled away from him, no longer trusting his partner because of his obsessions. Out of all the actors in this movie, Rhys Ifans turns in the best performance as the amiable, multifaceted, self-serving man. After he starts taking the Lizard formula, Dr. Connors starts to become defensive, aggressive and shifty, giving Rhys a chance to be icy and steely. Dr. Connors works well as an antagonist, so it’s a shame everything about the Lizard is dodgy. The Lizard’s character design is basically grafting a human face onto an entirely CGI, overly smooth object, which looks as goofy as you would expect and a world away from his canon design (perhaps they should have gone old school and used prosthetics?). It doesn’t help that the CGI rendering of the Lizard (and several other things in this movie) is terrible. He never once feels like a tangible or organic part of the film’s environment, which makes several of his confrontations with Spider-Man unintentionally amusing (like their fight in the school).

The most bothersome thing about the Lizard though is his rushed, vague, and muddled motivation. This is actually a core problem both “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies have, the villains are undeveloped. They tend to jump from being flawed and troubled individuals to pure, 100%, destroy-the-world evil in the course of a day because the plot needs to them to, and not because they grew to that point. In Dr. Connors’ case, he goes from thinking about using his serum to heal his own arm to wanting to gas all of New York to turn everyone else into Lizard monsters (which is more than a bit ridiculous), with the implication that the Lizard’s personality is starting to take over his mind, since we have an odd scene of Dr. Connors screaming at himself in his head. It feels like we’re missing a step in his character arc, and as it turns out, we are. In a deleted scene, Peter confronts Dr. Connors in the sewers and he admits, drunk on power, that what the Lizard wants for the city, he wants just as much. He’s obsessed over this his entire life, and he’s willing to cross more than a few moral boundaries to achieve it, which is why he lost Richard Parker’s trust. Having become two halves of the same whole, Dr. Connors stealthily and willingly shoots himself up with more lizard serum so he can try to kill Peter. This scene gives Dr. Connors much stronger motivations and makes him a much stronger villain, since he actively chooses to be this monster instead of simply being a pawn of the Lizard. It also wraps up Dr. Ratha’s storyline by having Dr. Connors kill him, instead of having him simply disappear from the movie. I really don’t understand why it was cut, but it is what is.

The Amazing Spider-Man Uncle Ben

Aunt May and Uncle Ben are, as always, Peter’s parental figures in the absence of his birth parents and the ones who ground him, though it is worth noting that Uncle Ben is presented as being more of a flawed parent and father figure in this movie than he usually is. He keeps secrets from Peter for years, and he’s pretty self-righteous. He can offer Peter rustic, working-class life advice and easily console a troubled teen, but he can also be standoffish and judgmental. In the first Raimi film, Peter was the one out of line in his argument with his uncle; in this film, they both are. Uncle Ben starts lecturing Peter about how sensible his father was and how he felt people were obligated to always be responsible (Uncle Ben’s catchphrase is credited to Peter’s dad this time around, which some have argued was the start of Sony shifting too much focus on Peter’s parents), which is all well and good except he’s telling this to the kid Mr. and Mrs. Parker left behind and never returned for. Peter points this out and Uncle Ben actually retorts ‘how dare you?’ at which point Peter quite rightly snaps at him and storms out. This is made even worse by the sequel, where we learn even Aunt May and Uncle Ben started to believe Peter’s parents were deadbeats who abandoned him. In any case, Uncle Ben follows Peter into the night and foolishly gets himself shot trying to fight some crook, because he really took that responsibility thing to it’s furthest conclusion.

With her husband dead, Aunt May has to continue the task of raising Peter on her own, and as the film progresses we see her be torn up inside, not just because of her grief but because of her fear for Peter. He disappears every night, he hides things from her with terrible lies, and he always returns bruised and bloody, which terrifies her that he’s part of some gang or he’s being abused. There are several, genuinely sad scenes devoted to this lack of communication between mother and son, that are well-acted by Sally Field. It’s pretty important for a Spider-Man movie to remember that Peter’s wall-crawling, crime-fighting adventures should at some point have consequences for his life at home. By the end of the film, May’s mind can finally rest at ease with the implication that she’s figured out Peter’s secret identity. Flash Thompson is the school bully and your typical mean jock, who harasses his classmates and beats on Peter, though I do appreciate the film’s attempt to give him layers beyond being a one-note antagonist. After Peter’s uncle dies, sending him into a depression, Flash has the decency to feel sympathetic and seems to finally understand his actions have consequences, which leads to him mellowing for the rest of the movie. Flash in the comics did eventually grow out of being a bully and wind up befriending Peter in college, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” film was the start of Spidey adaptions emphasizing Flash’s redeeming traits beyond being a dumb blonde.

The Amazing Spider-Man Peter And Gwen Kiss

Marc Webb’s direction for the first half of the film is solid and workmanlike, if a bit generic and bland. It gets the job done, but I suppose the problem with it is that there’s very little style or risk on Webb’s part and it rarely ever engages, though he does fare better in the second half of the film with the action sequences. There are a number of shaky cam, first-person POV shots for Spider-Man, to make his wall-crawling and web-slinging scenes feel more personal and immersive, and the crane-swinging scene in the climax, where Spider-Man soars over a lit-up Manhattan, is a thing of beauty. Throughout the film, “The Amazing Spider-Man” has a very moody and gloomy, murder mystery atmosphere to it, largely because it has a very grey aesthetic. At the time the film was produced, Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy was extremely popular, and a number of film series wanted to mimic it’s style. “Man Of Steel” did so, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” does as well. I like the dark and edgy style “The Amazing Spider-Man” goes for and how it heightens the tone of the film and romanticizes New York in a different way than it’s predecessor, making the nighttime scenes feel like they belong in a crime series. It’s a shame “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” dropped this approach for a lighter and softer look, since it’s one of the signature things about this movie. The CGI, as mentioned before, ranges from pretty good to really bad, depending on whether the Lizard is in the scene. James Horner composes the score for the film; James Horner is usually a reliably great composer and is actually one of my favorite artists. The score he pens is pleasant with a nice mix of electronic elements and traditional instruments, with some highlights being the enigmatic piano keys that recur throughout the film, Peter and Gwen’s slow-burning love theme, and Spider-Man’s messianic main theme.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is a solid superhero movie. It’s weighed down by a case of deja-vu and a weak villain, but it’s a charming, stylistic start to a franchise that was unfortunately short-lived.

Rating: 7/10.

Side-Notes:

The Amazing Spider-Man Peter Swinging 3

* Did Peter’s dad really go through all the trouble of setting that up, just to fake out Peter?

* Poor, poor Rodrigo.

* I’m not the only one who laughed at how Peter got bitten, right? He actually walked into a cage full of spiders, was surprised when they started falling on him, and started trying to shake them off like a dog. You couldn’t pay me enough to go in a room full of spiders.

* “Save him, or we’ll both lose our heads” Heh, that would have forshadowed Dr. Ratha’s death scene before it was cut.

* The super-spider didn’t just bite Peter. It burrowed into his neck and made webs in there. Ouch, and gross.

* The New Yorkers in “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies are pretty nuts. You’ve got all of Peter’s classmates doing nothing to stop Flash’s bullying when it’s happening right in front of them, a bunch of hooligans trying to beat up a teenager on the subway, trigger-happy cops almost shooting Spidey and a webbed-up crook. And that’s before we get into the sequel, where Spidey tries to talk down a dangerous and unstable mutant, and everyone nearby treats it like it’s entertainment.

* This scene of Peter humiliating Flash is so satisfying. And as an added bonus, he took the non-violent approach.

* Fred and Wilma, cute reference. The part where Fred ate Wilma wasn’t cute though.

* “Careful, I don’t want to sting you. Human trials aren’t til next week” Think of it, Spider-Lizard.

* “It feels better, right? Look, your uncle died. I’m sorry. I get it. I’m sorry. Okay?”

* Nicky promises to come after Peter since he’s seen his face, but nothing ever comes of that threat. Perhaps he would have turned up again in “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”.

* A lot of people consider Spidey’s suit in this movie to be ugly, but I kind of like it. In terms of style, it fits with how this Peter is kind of a punk.

* Can we talk about how Spidey was just waiting inside someone’s car for who knows how long for someone to come along and try to steal it? Cause that’s pretty creepy.

* Yeah, there are definitely some creepy vibes to this scene.

* “Peter, listen to me. Secrets have a cost. They’re not for free. Not now, not ever”

* “If I wanted the car thief off the street, he’d be off the street” “Then why wasn’t he then?” Oh snap.

* “Up your what now, dad?”

* Heh, Dr. Ratha’s chaffeur is named Alfred.

* Boy, you are gonna die, climb faster!

* All the lizards in Manhattan flock to the sewers to meet their lizard king, which makes me wonder if a lizard king is anything like a lion king?

* Peter, boy, why are you taking cameras with your name printed on them out into the field?

* “I know what this is” “What is it?” “Everyday, for as long as I can remember, my father has left every morning and put a badge on his chest, and strapped a gun to his hip. And everyday, for as long as I can remember, I haven’t known if he was gonna make it home”.

* “No” “Yes” “No” “Yes” ‘Spongebob, when are you gonna learn that no means yes?

* “I’m gonna throw you out the window now” “What? Auuggghhhhh!”

* “It’s heading to OsCorp, and your daughter’s there right now. You have to let me go”.

* What part of you hold your fire did you not understand, you moron?

* It’s horror movie jump-scare time, Gwen!

* It’s sad to think this is the last time Gwen saw her daddy alive, and she was worried about Peter at the time.

* I’m sorry Lizard, but I still can’t take your character design seriously. It’s just so bad.

* “I was wrong about you, Peter. The city needs you. Here. You’re gonna need this. You’re gonna make enemies, people will get hurt. Sometimes people closest to you. So I want you to promise me something, okay? Leave Gwen out of it. Promise me that. Huh? You promise me”.

* He finally brought the fucking eggs.

* And just like that, the Peter / Flash ship was born.

* “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Mr. Parker”. “Yeah, but those are the best kind” And just like that, the Grim Reaper grinned with anticipation.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

The Amazing Spider-Man Gwen's Umbrella

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Spider-Man 3 (2007) Review

Spider-Man 3 Poster

There are things I like about “Spider-Man 3”, but as a whole this is easily the weakest Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie. “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” had two different styles of pacing but they both had a very strong idea of what sort of movies they wanted to be and a strong focus. “Spider-Man 3” has way too many characters and subplots constantly rotating and competing against each other for screen-time, which results in a bloated, overly-convoluted and unfocused script. You’ve got Peter looking to propose, MJ losing her job, Peter getting a swelled head, Harry and Gwen putting a strain on Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, Harry’s vendetta against Peter for ‘killing’ his father, Sandman trying to get money for his sick daughter, Peter’s vendetta against Sandman for killing his uncle, the alien symbiote latching onto Peter and trying to corrupt him, Eddie and Gwen’s brief spark, Eddie and Peter’s rivalry that leads to him becoming Venom. It’s way too much. It’s a testament to how overstuffed with characters this movie is that despite being set up early on, the symbiote doesn’t actually make a move until we’re in an hour in, and Peter’s character arc doesn’t advance beyond Peter growing conceited until we’re an hour in as well, despite Peter being the main character.

“Spider-Man 3” also contains a few soap opera style plot twists that exist largely to advance the plot and feel really forced, like Peter thinking it’s a good idea to kiss Gwen Stacy right in front of Mary Jane, or Harry threatening Mary Jane to break up with Peter and MJ at no point trying to tip Peter off that there’s something’s wrong like most people would (especially since she knows he can handle himself), or Harry getting some freaking plot-convenient amnesia. It’s frustrating, because Peter, Mary Jane and Harry are good characters and have come so far but they all have one moment in this movie where they seem to regress as characters or do something stupid for the sake of the plot. With that much having been said, “Spider-Man 3” does redeem itself a bit in the last act, which is not only a great climax but also feels like a fitting finale for the Raimi trilogy as a whole. Peter, Mary Jane and Harry (the core three) finally team up to try to survive Sandman and Venom, Venom is killed, Peter finally gets some closure for the Uncle Ben angst he’s been carrying around for three movies, Harry dies, and Peter and Mary Jane still have each other. It’s a bittersweet ending, but it’s a good place for this franchise to end.

Spider-Man 3 Peter Suits Up

Something I appreciate about the way Peter is written in this film is that he’s far more confident than we’ve ever seen him be before. Part of that ties into the arc of Peter growing conceited in his newfound fame, which is not a good thing, but most of it has to do with the fact that Peter has been in the superhero business for several years now; he’s taken care of countless criminals and at least two super-villains, so he’s gained a lot of experience. Case in point, Harry manages to ambush him while he’s in his civilian clothes and lead him on a good chase, but Peter still manages to nip that in the bud in about five minutes. After two movies of being life’s punching bag, it’s good to see Peter become a more seasoned and assertive hero (and I look forward to seeing Tom Holland’s Peter undergo a similar transformation as he ages). Stoked about his new, sweet relationship, Peter is all set to rush into a serious commitment with Mary Jane when neither of them are mature enough for such a long-term thing yet, especially with Peter starting to become a bit of a twat, but their relationship troubles are interrupted when Peter meets the Sandman – later revealed to be the guy who shot his Uncle Ben – and a manipulative alien symbiote latches onto him. I actually don’t mind that Uncle Ben’s death from the first movie is retconned here, because I like that that pivotal night plays a role in all three movies and forms a loose arc for Peter. In the first film, Uncle Ben’s memory became Ben’s drive; in the second film, Peter had to confess his festering guilt to his Aunt May; and in the last film, Peter has to face all the rage, wrath and regret he’s been burying for a while and deal with his demons. Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry all have father issues and a major thread throughout the trilogy is the trio wrestling with them.

With the alien symbiote amplifying his rage and aggression, and whispering seductive thoughts into his head, Peter becomes a much more violent and remorseless Spider-Man addicted to the suit. He tries to kill Flint Marko, he’s brutal to Harry the next time Harry tries to kill him, and he humiliates Mary Jane. As a strange side-effect, Peter also starts to go emo. You see, Tobey Maguire’s Peter is such a repressed nerd that even when he’s starting to turn evil he’s still not cool or genuinely edgy. Depending on who you ask, tryhard emo Peter is either so cringy that he’s embarrassing to watch or he’s hilarious precisely because he’s so cringy and phony. I fall into the latter camp. There are quite a few things that are frustrating or annoying about this movie, but emo Peter is one of the more fun aspects because he’s so much more funny and savage than regular Peter. He finally gives Harry a well-deserved ass-kicking, he gets the world’s most annoying version of Eddie Brock fired and strong-arms Jameson for a proper job at last; he also makes a complete fool of himself in a jazz club. One of the only things emo Peter does that isn’t funny or enjoyable is shoving down Mary Jane when he mistakes her for some dude in a bar fight, which finally gets him to snap out of it and realize his new suit is turning him evil. After ripping his new duds off him and breaking up with them, Peter, like all addicts, has to deal with the consequences of his little ‘fun’. Namely that he’s jacked up Harry’s face, his relationship with Mary Jane is in tatters, and Sandman and Venom want him dead. Having seen the worst of himself, Peter has to be at his best in the finale to fix his mistakes and be the hero everyone needs him to be once more.

Spider-Man 3 Peter and Mary Jane

Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is cute as always, as they still enjoy each other’s company and seem to be going strong from the end of the last movie. After two movies of dancing around the secret, it’s refreshing that MJ is in the know about Peter’s activities as Spider-Man (for the most part) and gets to be a part of that aspect of his life, though it’s not long before some new difficulty arises. Being Spider-Man, Peter still isn’t around that much, and with all the adoration he’s been receiving from the city lately he’s starting to get too big for his britches. Compounding this, Mary Jane gets fired from her Broadway gig, and is too proud to come clean to Peter right away, though privately she feels like a loser since her self-consciousness is still her primary flaw. The straw-breaking moment is when Peter kisses Gwen right in front of MJ, which leads to a fight later. This is probably the most tedious scene in the movie, because they’re both twats here. Peter is an insensitive idiot, and Mary Jane is a hypocrite. Considering every film in this trilogy has involved her heart straying from her current boyfriend (like kissing Spidey while she’s still seeing Harry, or dumping John for Peter, or kissing Harry later in this exact same movie), MJ is the last person who should be rushing to accuse someone of infidelity. Still, Mary Jane is pretty sympathetic throughout the movie. Peter and Mary Jane bonded over their dreams at the start of the trilogy, and in a bittersweet, true to life sort of way, I like that there’s never a straightforward line to achieving them. We saw Peter hit a roadblock in the last movie with his life sort of falling apart, and now it’s MJ’s turn. I imagine if “Spider-Man 4” had ever been made, we would have seen her build herself back up eventually. Thanks to some wounded egos and an evil alien symiote, Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship falls apart halfway through the movie, but they pick up the pieces by the end. It’s left open-ended where they’ll go from here, especially with Harry dead, but the audience knows that as long as they have each’s other love and support, they’ll be alright.

At the start of “Spider-Man 3”, I find it ironic that Harry is still furious that papa Osborn was ‘killed’, but apparently has zero problems with Norman being a terrorist who tried to kill everyone else in the city, including him and MJ that one time. I feel like that says a lot about Harry. I think the writers wrote themselves into a corner at the end of the last movie. Harry discovered Peter’s secret and his father’s performance enhancers, and he had built a large part of his identity around trying to fill Norman’s shoes, which naturally meant he would go after Peter. But they couldn’t have Harry try to kill Peter throughout this entire movie, because then there wouldn’t be time for soap opera angst, so they gave him freaking amnesia so they could put his arc on hold until it was convenient for the plot (yeah, I’m still not letting that development go. It feels so cheap and ridiculous). Harry’s amnesiac stint reminds the audience of what good friends Peter and Harry used to be before Spider-Man came between them, something that’s important to this movie, and he becomes something of a ticking time bomb as the viewers know for sure that this Goblin reprieve is only temporary. Considering Harry’s turn to villainy has been set up throughout the entire trilogy, it feels like he should have more to do in this last movie than he actually does, but when he does get to play the villain James Franco delivers his best performance yet as a vicious, deranged Harry. I love how much of an insincere bastard he is when he’s rubbing Peter and MJ’s ‘break-up’ in Peter’s face in the cafe, and how relentless he is in his two attempts to kill Peter. Harry, who was never wholly evil, finds some measure of redemption in the last act when he and Peter team up to save MJ one last time (Spidey and Gobby team-up, baby), and they manage to repair their friendship just in time for Harry to be killed. It’s actually surprising how touching Harry’s death scene is, considering he’s never been that likable of a character in these films, but you can feel Peter and MJ’s loss in this moment and at least he died a hero.

Spider-Man 3 Sandman's Transformation

Flint Marko, later dubbed the Sandman, is the most well-written of the three new characters, and one of my personal favorite characters in the movie. I think it helps that he’s also the antagonist that’s utilized the most out of the three, compared to Harry, who’s given little to do, and Eddie, who’s completely useless until the last thirty minutes. Thanks in part to a quaintly dated canon design and an overall rough demeanor, Flint Marko is the picture image of a 1960’s wanted criminal. He’s a burly thug, an escaped convict, and most importantly a concerned father with a sick daughter. For all that he’s a tough brusier who rarely speaks (Thomas Haden Church was a good fit for the role), his heart melts when it comes to the small child he left behind when he was imprisoned, and he would like to be a family man. Sandman’s motivation throughout the movie, and the reason he was imprisoned in the first place, is trying to steal enough money to have his impoverished daughter operated on for her cancer. Flint’s attempts wind up finally getting him in too deep and nearly killing him, causing him to get mutated into a creature of living sand. The Raimi trilogy has done tragic monsters and sympathetic villains before, and Sandman is no different; he’s arguably the quintessential example in this trilogy. In one of the film’s best scenes, that contains no dialogue and is conveyed entirely through computer graphics and score, Flint survives his mutation and initially thinks his life is over and that he’s a failure and a monster, until he realizes nothing has really changed. He can use his new curse to aid his quest for his daughter and accomplish much more now than he ever could before.

Sandman’s semi-sympathetic portrayal in this movie is fascinating, and there is precedent for it in the source material. Compared to some of the top tier villains in Spidey’s rogues gallery (like Green Goblin and Doc Ock), Sandman has always been written as a petty crook with sand powers who admittedly has layers and is potentially redeemable. He once tried to renounce crime and use his powers for good, which lasted about twenty years in real-world time before Marvel reset the status quo. Adding to film-Flint’s complications, he was also an accomplice to the mugger from the first film and is responsible for killing Peter’s uncle, something he’s not exactly proud of. With Spider-Man on his tail, Flint has to set aside any lingering guilt on his previous act of old-man murder to prevent Spidey from getting in his way. A symbiote-crazed Peter tries to kill him, which he survives and is pretty miffed about afterwards. I will never not laugh at how literally the first thing Flint does when he reforms is linger around alleyways, waiting for Spider-Man to show up so he can ambush him for payback. The dude was pissed. Teaming up with Venom in the last act, the two of them try to lure Spider-Man out into the open so they can get rid of him, though that doesn’t go the way either of them hoped. With no point in fighting anymore, Flint finally comes clean to Peter about what happened the night he shot Uncle Ben, which wasn’t deliberate, and they bond a bit over how they’re both dicks. Thanks to the power of character development, Peter finds it in him to forgive the obviously guilt-ridden man and find some closure himself at last. The two go their separate ways, the touched Sandman presumably going to try to give up the life of a criminal like his comic counterpart so he can just be there for his daughter in her last days, in a beautifully opened-ended ending.

Spider-Man 3 Venom's True Form

Sam Raimi’s portrayal of Eddie Brock / Venom noticeably draws as much inspiration from the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon as it does from the comics, what with the alien symbiote actively trying to turn Peter evil and Peter personally getting Brock fired by exposing him as a fraud, which is a nice touch. The alien symbiote itself is adapted well, in that it’s patient, manipulative, vicious and wrathful, and it likes to butter up it’s hosts and indulge their worst tendencies to get them hooked onto it like a drug. I can’t say picking Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, the symbiote’s ultimate host, was an inspired bit of casting though. Topher’s Eddie is quite frankly a flat and annoying character. He’s a sleazy, whiny, weaselly, conniving kiss-up who never once shuts up and worst of all contributes almost nothing to this movie until the last act. It’s not until the last thirty minutes, when Eddie goes evil, that Topher gets interesting and starts chewing some scenery as a deliciously twisted, merciless and relentless villain who goes at Spider-Man with everything he has. He also gets an exciting and satisfying defeat, when Peter traps him in a cage of sound and gets a glimpse at the symbiote’s true form.

Venom’s marginal screentime in this movie is because he’s more of a metaphor than a character. Revenge and forgiveness are the two main themes of “Spider-Man 3”. Unlike Peter, Mary Jane, Harry and Flint, Eddie is the only one who never relinquishes his hatred towards someone who ‘wronged’ him and refuses to repent, which is why he gets fully corrupted into a monster and gets blown-up (I might have smirked at that).  People who hate this film often cite Venom being wasted as one of the big reasons why, and that’s entirely fair. Venom is one of the most interesting characters in Spidey’s rogues gallery. Unlike some of the other baddies, who either know they’re evil or have no interest in human morality, Venom sees himself as the put-down hero of his own story and Spider-Man as the villain. He’s also the ultimate stalker. He doesn’t have to eat, he doesn’t sleep, he never tires, he knows all about Peter’s life and he has his powers. There’s a whole lot of psychological horror that can mined out of this invasive character which “Spider-Man 3” doesn’t take much advantage of, because it’s already stuffed full of other things. If you ever want to see how interesting of an antagonist Venom can be, I suggest checking out “The Alien Symbiote” three-parter from Spidey’s 90’s series.

I think the single most annoying character in this movie though is Gwen Stacy. Eddie at least goes evil in the last act and provides a thrilling climax. Gwen Stacy contributes absolutely nothing of value for this entire movie and feels shoehorned in. The only reason why she exists is to act as a plot device to stir up drama between Peter and Mary Jane, and considering the precedent set in the last two movies, they clearly don’t need her for that. No offense to Bryce Dallas Howard, but if I were to trim the fat in this movie, her character would be the first to go. Rosemary Harris is a delight as always as Aunt May, and I always enjoy her mother / son relationship with Peter, particularly when she’s divulging stories about her early years with Uncle Ben. It’s easy to overlook with so many other things going on in this movie, but karma starts to catch up to J. Jonah Jameson for the last two films. Betty and Ted drive him crazy, Eddie makes a fool out of him, Peter strong-arms him for a proper job, and he gets hustled by a little girl. So that’s fun to watch. Peter’s landlord and his daughter get a few scenes as well, and while I like the rent running gag I’m glad we get to see more of Mr. Ditkovich’s personality beyond worrying about money. He’s actually really concerned when Peter starts acting out-of-character and tries to get involved in his love life. I also still really like Ursula. She clearly has a crush on Peter but she knows he’s with MJ so she just tries to be a good friend.

Spider-Man 3 Mary Jane In Peril

Thematically, “Spider-Man 3” is the darkest of the Raimi trilogy, so the color scheme reflects that. While the first two films were mostly bright and open, “Spider-Man 3” has a dark blue, subdued color scheme and a steely, silver aesthetic for much of the movie. The direction from Sam Raimi is as inspired and elaborate as ever, with a number of tightly-cut, invigorating sequences like Harry chasing Peter through the city, or Spider-Man saving Gwen from falling to her death as time practically stops, or the entire, dizzying climax of Peter trying to save MJ from Venom’s web. Unlike the last two films, where practical effects were blended with CGI at every opportunity, “Spider-Man 3” relies more on green-screen, which means the visual effects in this movie haven’t aged as well as the others, with some pretty noticeable instances of green-screen in places. The sand effects for Sandman remind me a lot of the visuals for Imhotep in “The Mummy”, in a good way. Since Danny Elfman opted not to return for the third film, Christopher Young scores the last movie. Presumably Young didn’t have the deal Elfman had with Sony Records, since his score for the movie was never released, which I’ve always felt was a shame since he easily turned in the same standard of work as his predecessor (particularly the cue for Harry’s first attack on Peter). Young writes two themes for the Sandman, a rumbling, menacing and unmovable prime leitmotif, and a quiet, tender piano theme for the character’s strained relationship with his daughter. He pens a dark, daring and untamed theme for black suit Spider-Man, and a corrupted, perverted version of it for Venom. Interestingly, while Chris spins numerous variations on Danny’s Spider-Man theme, the personal theme for Peter Parker is absent from the main title suite for once, and is also absent for most of the movie’s score. It finally turns up twice in the last act, implying that Peter had been missing his heart and humility for most of the movie until he recovers it near the end.

“Spider-Man 3” starts strong and ends strong, but the middle act can be a slog to get through, with the section where Harry breaks Peter and MJ up being the absolute nadir of the film. It would probably get a lower grade if the last act wasn’t so good. As a whole, through it’s up and downs, I feel like the Raimi trilogy tells a pretty satisfying complete story about what it means to be a hero and what it takes to get through life.

Rating: 7/10.

Side-Notes:

Spider-Man 3 Sandman Washed Away

* The cumulative opening recap, barreling through footage from the last two movies and backed by Christopher Young’s main titles overture, really puts into perspective that this is the climax and finale of the Raimi trilogy. It’s been quite a ride.

* Grow up guys, you’re college students, not high schoolers.

* I’m surprised that Kirsten Dunst actually performed her songs in this movie. She’s a good singer.

* “I’m not a bad person. I’ve just had bad luck”.

* Aww.

* And that’s how Harry died. Seriously though, Harry bangs his head a lot in this movie.

* The researchers noticing that something organic has fallen into their pit but pushing on with their experiment anyway is so stupid. Why would you even draw attention to that, screenwriters?

* Honestly though Sandy, this is kind of what you get for shooting Uncle Ben.

* “You have lovely friends” “My best friends. I’d give my life for them” Real subtle, movie.

* “Peter, this isn’t about you. This about me” That sounds pretty bad out of context.

* “Try to understand how I feel” And he’s got nothing. Peter, boy, you really need to work on your empathy.

* “What’s she doing up there?” Captain Stacy, you are being way too calm about watching your daughter potentially fall to her death.

* It’s kind of mean, but I always love that Mary Jane briefly thinks the people outside the theater are cheering for her only to realize they’re actually cheering for Spider-Man across the street. Burn, girl.

* Ironically, I wouldn’t say the singer they replaced MJ with was an improvement.

* “Kiss her! Kiss her!” Why would you even want that, you perverts? How do you know he’s not in a relationship? How do you know she’s not in a relationship? That small boy is the only one who was the right idea (“No Spider-Man, no!”).

* “Where do all these guys come from?” Heh, never change, Peter.

* Along with Eddie Brock, I’ve always considered Sandman to be one of the more handsome members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery (partly because of the scruffiness), and pleasantly that’s still the case here (also fitting, since his partner, Carradine, was just as hot in the first film).

* “Good riddance” Edgy.

* “You’ll get your rent when you fix this damn door!” Super edgy.

* “I loved your Uncle Ben fiercely, but he wouldn’t want us living one second with revenge in our hearts. It’s like a poison. It can take you over, and before you know it, turn us into something ugly”.

* “A guest? You mean like a guest guest?”

* “How’s the pie?” “So good” Why do I get the feeling he’s not imagining pie?

* “Look at little Goblin jr. You gonna cry?” Savage. Also, that’s a pretty ironic taunt to be getting from Tobey Maguire’s Peter, who spent a good chunk of these movies bursting into tears.

* “If you want the shots it’ll cost you. I want the staff job. Double the money” At least one good thing came out of this symbiote business. By the end of this trilogy, Peter is finally financially secure.

* “Now dig on this!Dear god, my sides.

* What Gwen Stacy contributed in “Spider-Man 3”.

* “You start by doing the hardest thing, you forgive yourself” Rosemary Harris’ line reading feels a bit odd there (possibly flubbed?).

* How does Eddie already know about Flint’s daughter? The symbiote can transfer Peter’s memories as well as his powers because it thoroughly scanned his physiology, but Peter didn’t know jack about Flint to pass on.

* “I love you Harry, as your father loved you, and as your friends love you”.

* I was so pleased when MJ dropped that cinder block on Eddie’s head.

* Fun fact, in one early draft of the script Sandman’s wife, and more importantly his young daughter, turned up again in the climax to try to talk him down from attacking Spider-Man. It was as cute as it sounds. That version of the climax still exists in the novelization. The novelization in general is really good and arguably does a better job of juggling the movie’s convoluted plot threads than the movie does.

* “Never wound what you can’t killTopher’s eyebrows!

* It’s ironic that the guy who shot Peter’s uncle is the only antagonist to survive this trilogy, but it feels earned.

* Christopher Young’s somber score for Harry’s death scene is so good, it still makes me wish Young’s work had gotten a proper release.

* In all three Raimi films, the last scene is always devoted to Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, and this was a lovely note to close on.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Spider-Man 3 Bittersweet Ending

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Spider-Man 2 (2004) Review

Spider-Man 2 Poster

Something that stands out to me while writing these reviews is just how different all the Raimi films are from each other in terms of tone and pacing, despite forming a trilogy. The first film was a brisk and fast-paced superhero romp as well as a campy escapist movie. The second film is partially an action flick, but it’s mostly a romantic comedy and a slow-burning character drama. I still really have no idea what the third film is, but at least there’s some variety. The pacing in “Spider-Man 2” is definitely a lot more relaxed than the previous film. While “Spider-Man” had to hit all the right beats to pull off a superhero origin story, establish a universe and tell a complete story at the same time, most of the cast of “Spider-Man 2”, save for Doc Ock, have already been well-established, which frees up a lot of space. This movie can afford to take its time, have even more fun with itself, improve its visual effects (it certainly does that), flesh out the main characters, and ruminate on life and love. It’s for this reason that “Spider-Man 2” is often regarded as the best of the Raimi trilogy (and to some, the unrivaled magnum opus of “Spider-Man” films so far). The fact that this is the film where Toby Maguire’s Peter is given the most character development and Alfred Molina turns in a great performance as Doctor Octopus certainly helps as well.

Spider-Man 2 Runaway Train

When we last left our geeky mutant Peter Parker, he had decided to become a lone wolf, and when we rejoin him again in this film his life is falling apart. Because of all the time he spends fighting crime as Spider-Man, he’s having trouble holding down a job, which means he’s running low on money to pay his rent. His grades are declining and his peers all think he’s lazy and irresponsible. His friendship with Harry is in tatters, since the latter still blames Spider-Man for his father’s death and is obsessed with him. His other friendship with Mary Jane is falling apart as well; he still loves her and is misguidedly trying to protect her by keeping secrets from her, but he can’t be reliable or emotionally available anymore. He can’t be there for Aunt May when she’s starting to lose her home, and he still feels guilty about what happened with Uncle Ben. Because of his low-income, he has to live in a dodgy, run-down apartment, and to top it all off, he’s starting to lose his powers and his confidence, which is putting him in danger of being killed on what should be ordinary patrols. Needless to say, Peter’s double life as a vigilante has become a really unhealthy lifestyle and is making him miserable. As the stress, abuse and misfortune pile up in the first half of the film, it becomes easy to see why he would be tempted to hang up the mask.

When you watch the original film, you could easily get the impression that Peter only became Spider-Man and remained Spider-Man because he felt it would be what his Uncle Ben wanted him to do, and that’s certainly what Peter’s starting to believe at the start of this film as he loses his drive. The second half of “Spider-Man 2” becomes a character study of Peter Parker and an examination of what ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ truly means. Peter gives up being Spider-Man to try to live an ordinary life. This is an understandable and sympathetic choice, but also an irresponsible one, since he knows Doc Ock is still on the loose and the police can’t handle him. As a result, Peter’s own life improves as he now has the time to be a good friend, student, employee and son; but accomplishing this requires him to turn his back entirely on people who need help – people who are being attacked, people who are losing their homes in fires, people who are losing their livelihoods and maybe even their lives – while he has the godlike abilities to make some sort of difference. As the movie progresses, Peter comes to the realization that Spider-Man isn’t something that’s been forced on him by his Uncle Ben or by himself; the urge to help others is a part of who he is, even without his powers. He can do a lot more as Spider-Man than he ever could as Peter Parker, and he serves as something of an inspiration to the people of New York, an ideal and a symbol of the city. After a month of mediation, Peter comes to the conclusion that he needs to commit to what he started and get back in the game. The train sequence, in which Peter fights to his last breath and is nearly torn apart trying to save innocent people, serves as a nice visual metaphor and summation of everything Peter has learned in the film.

The fact that nothing ever goes right for Peter but he still does the right thing regardless, without recognition or reward, because he can is a staple of the Spider-Man comics and a large part of what makes Spider-Man a great character. Raimi and the screenwriters do throw Spidey a bone and lift some of the weight off his shoulders. After all the hardship he experienced in the last two movies, Peter finally receives some love and appreciation from the people he saved, and he gets to have his dream relationship with Mary Jane. Spider-Man is who he is, and he’s never giving that up again. Toby Maguire, who was already good in the role in the last film, has noticeably improved and is now able to convey all of Peter’s quirks and thought processes without having to say a word. In particular, the scene where he quietly and ashamedly confesses to Aunt May the truth about Uncle Ben is captivating. Mostly though, I’m impressed by how much character development Toby’s Peter received in just his handful of films. In two movies, we’ve seen him grow from a timid, awkward, wide-eyed, nerdy boy to a courageous, determined, independent, thrill-seeking and now somewhat wiser nerdy man who can take on super-villains and win, which makes him a very likable and engaging protagonist to follow.

Spider-Man 2 Mary Jane Overjoyed

When we last saw Mary Jane Watson, she had just been rejected for reasons she didn’t understand, and while she’s still friends with Peter in this movie, they’ve grown distant and strained and she’s starting to get annoyed with him. Mary Jane’s Broadway career is finally starting to take off, and she has a new man in her life. She’s growing up and moving forward, while Peter is seemingly stuck in the same old rut and can never be there for her like he used to. I’ve sometimes seen people say Mary Jane is too harsh in this movie, and while I’ll be talking about some MJ hypocrisy in “Spider-Man 3“, I’d say she’s right to take Peter to task here. It was Peter who spent much of “Spider-Man” sending out signals only to reject her at the end of it, who spent much of the gap between movies apparently avoiding her, who waited until she was seeing someone else and even marrying them to try to win her back while he was still keeping secrets from her, and even then couldn’t seem to make up his mind what he wanted, messing with her head. The audience is predisposed to sympathize with Peter since he’s the protagonist and we know how much being Spider-Man is holding him back, but if you step outside Peter’s perspective that looks really bad. If anything, several of her scenes in this movie make me pleased that she has a backbone and Peter mostly has himself to blame for choosing not to tell her his secret. Which isn’t to say Mary Jane comes out a saint in this movie, because that would be ridiculous. Despite wanting to believe that she loves John, it’s worth noting that he fits the previously established pattern of ‘important guys MJ feels she should be with’, which suggests that she might be falling back into old, bad habits. And that spark she had with Peter is still there, making her question her feelings towards John. By the last act, Mary Jane can no longer deny that Peter is still the one she loves and John is the rebound.

Over the last two movies, we’ve seen Mary Jane quietly try to decide between what her heart wants and what she thinks she should have, gradually gaining the courage to go for the former. The turning point in the movie is when she finally learns Peter’s secret, as a result of Doc Ock kidnapping her, and gets some insight into how lonely and solitary a superhero’s life is. The movie seems all set to have a bittersweet ending again like the last one, where Peter and Mary Jane have to go their separate ways, but Mary Jane nopes right out of that. In the final scene of the movie Peter and Mary Jane come full circle and re-enact the ending of the last film, but with a more liberating subtext. With full knowledge of what she’s getting into now, Mary Jane reclaims the agency she was denied before and insists that Peter let her make her own decisions, as it’s better that they take the risks that come with a superhero-civilian relationship than be safe and miserable. There’s no one she would rather be with than him. “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” follow the same formula as “Superman” and “Superman II”, in that the first film introduces the hero and the second film has him try to give up his job to be with his love, but I’d say the Spidey films improve on it. Because while “Superman II” ends with a reset button that ensures Lois learns nothing from that adventure, both Peter and Mary Jane get to keep the character development they received in this movie. With that much having been said, as happy as I am to finally see Peter and Mary Jane get together, MJ leaving John at the altar with only a note to call off the ceremony is super harsh. The last few minutes of “Spider-Man 2” might be a happy ending for Peter and Mary Jane, but not as much for John though.

Spider-Man 2 Bank Heist

Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is a villain with class. Otto Octavius fits a similar template to Norman Osborn in the last movie, a scientist friend of Peter’s who rapidly goes off the deep end, but that’s as far as the similarities extend. More time is devoted to making Otto’s personality likable and well-rounded before his transformation, which makes his subsequent descent into villainy very effective, and he’s a more stern and goal-oriented villain than the campy, maniacal anarchist Green Goblin was. Otto is initially intelligent, worldly, charismatic, strict and humorous, with a lengthy scientific career and a decades-long happy marriage to his name. The picture of an individual who has their life together, unlike Peter who’s struggling with everything. The downfall of a good man is brought about because of Otto’s fatal flaws – his large amount of hubris and his god complex. He flies too close to the sun with an insanely dangerous and reckless experiment and gets burned. Because of Otto’s refusal to shut down his life’s work, his wife is killed in front of him and he gets four sentient, mechanical arms grafted onto his back (which is a bit of a miniature theme in the Raimi trilogy. You’ll want to be very careful what choices you make in life, because you never know which ones you’ll have to live with forever. Peter certainly learned that when he got his Uncle Ben shot). The tentacles, unburdened by human morality, were designed to have one function and are solely obsessed with their fulfilling their one purpose – building and sustaining Doc Ock’s machine. With a direct link to the Doc’s brain, they whisper into his head and feed into his own obsession and hubristic god complex. This makes Doc Ock a somewhat tragic villain. He’s a victim of his own mad science, the same mad science that destroyed his life and his love, and he never truly gets to grieve and cope with Rosie’s death before it’s quickly discarded.

Turning his back on his old, wrecked life, Doc Ock and his tentacles turn their attention to rebuilding his life’s work and ‘improving’ it, and they are completely ruthless and unscrupulous in their approach. To get the parts they need, Doc Ock is willing to resort to murder, theft, kidnapping, and everything else, and he presents a different sort of threat than any Spidey has had to deal with before, one that forces the webslinger to use his head more since Otto can easily overpower him with four other limbs. Whenever they fight we get a keen mind versus a keen mind. The problem with Octavius as a villain is that he kind of disappears into the background for the middle act of the movie, so we can focus more on Peter’s short-lived retirement. He feels somewhat underused, though the strong presence he has in the last act (including the train fight) as he enters his endgame makes up for it. The parallel between hero and villain is subtler this time than it was in the last movie, to the point where I didn’t realize it was there until the climax. I hadn’t noticed that both Peter and Octavius had put their selfish desires over the needs of the city – Peter gave up being Spider-Man to try to be normal, and the Doc put the city in danger to pursue his obsession. Considering Octavius has required Peter to rely on his brains more than his brawn throughout this movie, the climax is a nice capper to that. When Ock’s tentacles are damaged, Peter uses what he’s learned throughout the film to talk him down, appeal to the man beneath the monster and reach what’s left of a formerly good scientist. Pulling an eleventh-hour heel-face turn, Doc Ock manages to destroy his raging experiment and drowns with his life’s work, rejoining his Rosie in whatever afterlife the Spidey films have. It’s quite a send-off.

Spider-Man 2 Doc Ock Flees

Harry Osborn continues his tumble down the slippery slope of morality in this movie. As the sole surviving Osborn, Harry steps into his father’s old position as chairman and tries to save Oscorp by funding Octavius but fails, leaving him depressed. In the two years since his father’s death, Harry has grown obsessed with Spider-Man, and as a result is now bitter, hateful and resentful. His formerly close friendship with Peter is now strained to the point of breaking, since he perceives Peter as protecting Spider-Man. A significant turning point is when Doc Ock confronts him in his penthouse and Harry sends him Peter’s way. At this point, Harry is officially willing to sell out his friends to dangerous criminals to get what he wants. When Harry finally discovers Peter is Spider-Man, we get one of the creepiest scenes in the film – Harry having Goblin hallucinations, goading him into killing Peter. Except unlike his father in the previous film, Harry hasn’t taken any performance enhancers yet. After obsessing over Spidey for two years, Harry’s mind quietly snapped when he learned his best friend betrayed him and his subconscious whispers to him to finish the job. He puts the words in his father’s mouth because one, that’s honestly what Harry believes his father thinks of him, and two, on some level Harry knows there’s no one whose opinion he values more than Norman’s. The fact that this is stemming from Harry and Harry alone is creepy and it honestly makes you wonder how much those performance enhancers actually did to Norman. Perhaps some sort of mental illness like schizophrenia already runs in the Osborn family, waiting to be brought to the surface. While Harry is still the least interesting character in this trilogy, James Franco turns in a more dynamic performance as an older, harder Harry.

J. Jonah Jameson, Peter’s snarky tightwad boss, is pretty much the same as he was in the last movie and still just as funny, though do we learn more about him and his family. Jonah can barely contain his excitement about his son, the astronaut, being married, and he furthers his media crusade against his self-appointed nemesis, Spider-Man. For a moment, it seems as though Jonah may have to reflect and question his bias towards Spider-Man, but when a return to the status quo appears he humorously snatches it up immediately. There’s also a deleted scene, where Jonah parades around in Spider-Man’s suit and it fits J.K. Simmons better than you would expect. Two new minor characters are introduced, Mr. Ditkovich, Peter’s surly Russian landlord, and his daughter Ursula, the former of which has a nice running gag hounding Peter about his rent money, and the latter of which seems surprisingly nice and considerate from what little we see of her. Aunt May has a larger role in this movie that allows Rosemary Harris her time to shine as a mother figure who’s both strong and fragile, living on her own now. We see May grieve her dead husband on the anniversary of his death, maneuver her way through a hostage situation (ironically, Doc Ock and Aunt May had a very different and arguably more disturbing first meeting in the comics), adjust through constant changes in her life, and learn a few hurtful truths about Peter. I like the implication that May has figured out Peter’s secret identity after the bank heist and is quietly encouraging him to take up the mantle of Spider-Man again. May might be Peter’s aunt, but she proves to be a good mother.

Spider-Man 2 Retirement

The stunts and visual effects have somehow improved from the last film and are now mostly seamless, in tandem with some amazing direction and cinematography from Sam Raimi and Bill Pope. There are a lot of creative and immersive shots throughout the film, with my personal favorite being the rapid pan-out of Spider-Man swinging through the city into Doc Ock’s eye, revealing Octavius has been watching him coming the whole time. Raimi gets to tap into his horror roots again with two surprisingly disturbing death scenes. When Mrs. Octopus is killed she’s sliced up by hundreds of shards of flying broken glass, and the movie even implies one of those shards went into her eyes before she died. Hot damn. This scene is immediately followed by a prolonged sequence of Doc Ock’s tentacles murdering a whole lot of surgeons in the emergency room to protect themselves. What really makes this scene is the decision to include no score for once. There’s nothing but uncomfortable silence and screams as the tentacles kill the lights and starting picking the surgeons off one by one (Raimi even included the horror movie cliche of a screaming lady being dragged off into the darkness to be killed a monster). Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s signature train fight is a marvel to watch, thanks to a winning three-way combo of strong, escalating direction (with ever-tightening shots), creative choreography, and an intense, blaring score from Christopher Young – making their stand-off feel as much like a dance as it is a battle.

Danny Elfman returns as the franchise’s composer for the second film, now integrating a majestic choir into many of his old themes, with Christopher Young re-scoring several scenes. From Elfman’s contributions, the Peter and Mary Jane love theme is adorable as always, and the main antagonist Doc Ock gets a strident, sinister, maniacal leitmotif that crawls under the skin during his origin scenes. I’m especially impressed by how well Elfman ties together Spider-Man, Mary Jane and Doc Ock’s themes and takes them to their romantic zeniths in the climatic piece, “Armageddon / A Really Big Web“, as well as how he effortlessly reworks and refines his “Farewell” cue in the film’s last scene. Danny’s previous decision to assign Peter Parker and Spider-Man separate themes pays-off nicely in this movie, as there are times when Elfman reprises Peter’s personal theme that just feel right – like the parting shot of the opening credits, or when the bewildered train passengers thank Peter for saving all their lives and promise to keep his identity a secret. On Christopher Young’s end, he writes some proper, mystifying and bombastic mad scientist music for Doc Ock’s ill-fated fusion experiment, and a thrilling piece for Spidey and Doc Ock’s railway confrontation, with wild, blaring and unrelenting brass perfect for a runaway train sequence.

Like it’s predecessor, “Spider-Man 2” is a phenomenal superhero movie and a strong film in general, and to my pleasant surprise, it’s aged even better than the last movie. I’d definitely recommend “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” to any superhero fan.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

Spider-Man 2 A Really Big Web

* Alex Ross drew the artwork in the opening credits, designed to look like the Spider-Man comics. He did a really good job capturing the spirit of this adventure.

* Peter, you know you’re my man, but sometimes you make terrible life choices. Like wasting two minutes trying to shove some brooms into a broom closet when you’re already running late, or mixing the bright colors with the whites, or deciding to jump off a building to test your powers.

* “Look, Mr. Aziz, just give me another chance” “What about my uncle, did you give him a chance?!

* “Rosie, our friend here thinks I’m gonna blow up the city” Well, now that you mention it…

* That was more than Ursula ever needed to see.

* I don’t know who’s idea it was to have some lady mangle the old Spider-Man theme song in front of Peter, but it was a great meta joke.

* Peter, that was more than that guy ever needed to hear.

* Let’s go over all the reasons why Doc Ock’s experiment was a terrible idea from the start. First, he’s trying to create a miniature star. He is not a god and that is way beyond him. Two, he’s doing a nuclear fusion experiment, something that’s incredibly dangerous and usually done away from human populations, right in the heart of Manhattan. Who did Harry bribe and how much did he pay to get the clearance for that? And three, he’s creating this fusion star in the same room he, his scientists and his guests are in with no sort of barrier between them except for a vague promise of an electromagnetic shield. It’s a miracle it was only his wife he got killed.

* “The power of the sun, in the palm of my hand” You know he’s making crazy eyes behind those goggles.

* Here’s one unintentionally funny moment – when Doc Ock sees all the murdered surgeons, he starts wailing ‘Nooooo’ like he’s Darth Vader and his tentacles actually start wailing with him. Oh my lord.

* Mr. Krabs would be proud, Jameson.

* Considering that Peter liked Otto beforehand, it’s always felt weird to me that he has no reaction to Otto’s sudden turn to supervillainy. He just carries on like it’s business as usual.

* Some cool examples of Doc Ock learning. Spidey sends two flying desks his way since he can’t disarm both at the same time, but Ock turns that same trick against him seconds later with taxi cab doors. Likewise, Aunt May gets the drop on him with her umbrella (go Aunt May), so when Mary Jane tries to sneak up on him later he just smacks her out of the way.

* You know this scene is the predecessor to emo Peter’s jazz montage in the next movie, right?

* I like how Doc Ock starts wearing shades all the time when he’s evil. There’s no real practical reason for it. He just decided that if he was going to abandon all human morality and decency, he might as well look cool while he’s doing it.

* This little girl is a whole lot stronger than she looks.

* In a nice fake-out, Peter’s signature hero music fires up and gets you all pumped up to watch him hurt himself.

* Doc Ock decides to blackmail Peter so he gets his attention by tossing a car at him. Keep in mind, he doesn’t know Peter is Spider-Man yet, he still thinks he’s just an ordinary nerd. So Doc, you know Peter can’t tell you anything if he’s dead and crushed under a fucking car, right?

* “We found something. We won’t tell anybody… it’s good to have you back Spider-Man”.

* “Peter Parker. Brilliant but lazy”.

* Toby Maguire makes some interesting faces in this movie.

* “I will not die a monster!

* “MJ, I will always be Spider-Man. You and I can never be”.

* Luckily, Mary Jane never specified who she was leaving John for in her note, because I don’t think Peter would still have a job if she had.

* “Go get ’em, tiger” Even sweeter comic book fanservice.

* Two things make this final swing perfect. First, Peter whoops when he’s catching up to the cops. Considering he hasn’t enjoyed being Spider-Man for most of this movie, it feels good to see daredevil Peter emerge again at the end. Second, unlike the last film, it doesn’t quite end on the high of Peter swinging off into the sunset. Instead, we cut back to Mary Jane staring, wary and uncertain, behind him. She’s glad that things worked out and that they’re happy now, but she knows it’s only matter of time before something else happens to cause them trouble and heartbreak – and she’s right.

* After everything that happened in this movie, with MJ and Harry and Doc Ock, Peter still never paid the rent.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Spider-Man 2 Doc Ock's Death

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Spider-Man (2002) Review

Spider-Man 2002 Poster

The 2002 “Spider-Man” film (as well as it’s 2004 sequel) is not only one of my favorite superhero films, but also one of my favorite films in general. It’s over fifteen years old now, and I still always find something new to admire about it whenever I revisit it. Part of that is because on top of being an origin story, “Spider-Man” is also a film about three different things at once without it feeling disjointed and unfocused. It’s a coming-of-age story, since we follow Peter from the last days of his wide-eyed boyhood to the first days of his loftier, jaded adulthood. It’s a story about about father figures, their legacies and the impacts they can have on their kids, as we see with Ben Parker, Norman Osborn, and Phillip Watson (who flies under the radar more than the previous two examples, since he has so little screen-time). And it’s a story about power and what people choose to do with it, since Peter Parker and Norman Osborn act as foils to each other and their opposing ideologies are pitted against each other as the main conflict of the movie.

I’d also say “Spider-Man” has perfect pacing, moving along at a brisk but calculated rhythm that rarely ever drags. The first half of the film takes its time introducing Peter Parker and his most important relationships, focusing on all the right character beats and showing his steady leveling-up into Spider-Man, while Norman Osborn grows increasingly insane and becomes more and more of a threat – the hero and villain’s arcs running parallel, unbeknownst to each other (they’re even ‘reborn’ on the same night). The film wisely only shows glimpses of their alter-egos, and it’s at the halfway point that they finally have their first confrontation in full costume. At this point, the second half of the film is a non-stop thrill ride, as the focus is now on the explosive and constantly escalating rivalry sparked between Spider-Man and Green Goblin, since neither of them are going to budge. Said rivalry only grows worse when the Goblin discovers Spider-Man’s secret identity, raising the stakes, until it eventually becomes clear that their feud is never going to end until one of them is dead. I also have to give Sam Raimi credit for not shying away from the camp of the superhero genre (since an overabundance of camp has led to many a cringy superhero film), but embraced it wholeheartedly, since it makes “Spider-Man” so much more fun to watch.

Spider-Man Wall Crawl

If you’re gonna adapt Spider-Man to the silver screen, it’s important that you have a good portrayal of Peter Parker, because Spider-Man is a bit different from most heroes. With characters like Batman or Superman you have these extraordinary people pretending to be ordinary citizens as a mask to the public. But with Spider-Man, Peter Parker is the heart and soul of the character and Spidey is the mask. A large aspect of the comics is how being Spider-Man takes it’s toll on Peter’s personal life as a working-class hero, and that is translated largely well to the Raimi trilogy.

Raimi’s Peter Parker is the shy, introverted and put-upon nerd with a heart of gold who wouldn’t seem out of place in an 80’s movie. That doesn’t make him any less likable though, thanks in no small part to Tobey Maguire’s earnest portrayal. He has a crush on a girl who he thinks is out of his league, he’s picked on by other kids, and his best friend can be pretty wishy-washy. His life changes incredibly and irrevocably when he’s bitten by a mutated spider and gains superpowers as a spider-mutant. He grows stronger, faster, tougher. He finally has a strong body to match his sharp mind, and he feels like he’s on top of the world. Along with beating up his bullies, he gains the confidence to finally try to approach Mary Jane. It’s a lot of fun watching Peter discover all his standard spider powers step-by-step – like strength, speed, precognition, wall-crawling and webbing – and gradually level up into the hero we know he’ll be soon. The boy is having the time of his life in this movie so the audience does as well, making him a great escapist character. All of this methodical build-up finally comes to a head in the chase scene where Peter is pursing the mugger – swinging haphazardly from buildings, vaulting over bridges and barreling through traffic. It’s exhilarating to watch, and it’s the moment when the audience realizes Spider-Man on the big screen is not only going to work, it’s going to be great. The downside of Peter’s new abilities is that he grows cocky, arrogant and rude, and starts to take his aunt and uncle for granted until he gets his Uncle Ben shot and learns an extremely painful and lasting lesson about humility and responsibility.

Taking his uncle’s advice about using his powers responsibly, Peter decides to become a vigilante (amusingly enough, gaining spider powers also seems to have given Peter knowledge of martial arts), while also growing closer to Mary Jane and taking his first tentative steps into young adulthood by going off to college and trying to hold down a job. There’s a noticeable and enjoyable difference between Peter’s usual demeanor and his attitude as his alter-ego. It’s implied that Spider-Man is Peter’s outlet for some of his more repressed traits, letting him loosen up and become a confident, sharp-tongued daredevil when he dons the mask. But it’s not long before he has to deal with a superhero’s burden. Trying to stop Green Goblin also means dealing with his wrath. Peter finds himself on the receiving end of the Goblin’s games and torment as he tries to break him by targeting his friends, his family and innocent people. There’s a small but significant moment where Peter has a nightmare about the Goblin, which reminds the audience that Peter is still just an eighteen year old fresh out of school who’s fighting an insane, murderous terrorist well over twice his age and that’s bound to take a psychological toll. The climax is surprisingly brutal, especially since the audience has been reminded how young Peter still is. Up until now, Peter has been somewhat in control of things and able to play the hero, but when he runs out of tricks he gets dragged down to human level and beaten within an inch of his life by the Green Goblin. Norman almost kills him and he only just barely wins their fight due to his indomitable spirit. His victory comes at a steep, horrible price though, saddling him with more guilt, and after everything he’s experienced in this movie, Peter decides it’s best if he goes it alone – which nicely sets up the dilemma for “Spider-Man 2“. Peter started this movie as a boy, but he walks away from it as a man. A Spider-Man.

Spider-Man Upside Down Kiss

Mary Jane Watson is the school ‘it’ girl and Peter’s next door neighbor. Despite being a popular girl in high school, Mary Jane is a nice person with a gentle nature, and even early on she has a sort of fondness for Peter. She’s flirtatious, outgoing and vivacious, but also more troubled than she likes to let on. I really enjoy Peter and Mary Jane’s budding friendship throughout the film, with or without the romantic undertones. It’s a bit awkward, but also earnest and sweet. Peter and Mary Jane bond by talking about their dreams and ambitions, as Peter wants to be a photographer and Mary Jane hopes to be a star on Broadway, even if they may have some difficulty achieving them. Throughout the film, they confide in each other and try to physically and emotionally support each other, and their numerous and cumulative shared scenes make for enjoyably quiet and tender side-trips between the main action. Mary Jane gradually falling in love with Peter and reciprocating his crush is also handled well, though it’s probably on your second watch that you’ll be paying enough attention to MJ as a tritagonist to notice her journey through the film.

It’s established early on that Mary Jane comes from a broken family and has a toxic and abusive father who has worn down her self-esteem over the years. Mary Jane has had it drilled into her head that she’s worthless and is very self-conscious about her talents (or lack of). When she dates guys, she tends to go for guys who are ‘important’ in some way – guys who are popular like Flesh, or rich and upcoming like Harry – presumably because they make her feel validated or worthwhile by proxy. But she doesn’t really love them, and they don’t really love her. She also develops a short-lived crush on the heroic Spider-Man. But it’s clear that out of all her ‘suitors’, Peter is the only one who really takes an interest in her, likes her for who she is, cares for her and tries to support her by making her feel valid, and even tries to be a friend when she’s not looking for a lover. Something real and tangible blooms between them, and when she realizes she’s in actual, real love she decides to act on it – she chooses him. Superhero love interests are often attracted to their handsome, hero personas (like Lois Lane), so I like that it’s nerdy, normal Peter who steals her heart, especially as we move into “Spider-Man 2”. Unfortunately for MJ, Peter’s character arc has been moving in the opposite direction as hers – everything he’s experienced in the movie has convinced him that the two of them having a relationship is a bad idea – so she winds up being rebuffed until the next movie in a perfect example of a bittersweet ending. Peter and Mary Jane are probably at their most likable in this first film, since arguably one of the flaws of the Raimi trilogy is that the two of them get slightly more dickish with each movie, which eventually comes to a head in “Spider-Man 3“.

Spider-Man Norman Osborn

Norman Osborn is a scientist and a supposedly successful businessman, one who has very high standards and more than a few secrets. Norman is outspoken, frank, hardworking and ambitious, with some latent delusions of grandeur. He’s something of an inspiration to our main character, Peter. He pushes his son, Harry, and shows him tough love to try to make him strong and great, while also showing an interest in Peter, an up-and-coming intellectual, and trying to force his way into becoming a mentor figure to him – much to the chagrin and envy of his own son. There is more than to Norman than being a confident and successful business tycoon though; there’s a desperate, fearful and needy side that he keeps well-hidden. Norman’s company is going under rapidly, and he’s failing to convince the US military to buy his new defense project that could save OsCorp. So with time running out and no human volunteers on hand, Norman decides to test his new mad science on himself, which naturally goes horribly wrong – much to the delight of the audience. Norman’s super soldier formula ravages his mind and creates a new split personality that he funnels all his rage, aggression, resentment, vengeance and wrath into – loosening him up and driving him insane. In a sense, Norman Osborn dies the night he decides to experiment on himself and is reborn as the Green Goblin.

The villains in the Raimi trilogy are often extreme reflections of Peter’s worst traits, and that trend starts with Norman. Peter is given the incredible gift of becoming superhuman and initially tries to use it for profit and self-gain before he’s smacked down and humbled, preventing him from traveling further down that path. A similar transformation happens to Norman and the scorned man decides to make a grab for power, status and revenge. With his newfound strength, the Goblin decides to target and kill off anyone he feels has ever wronged him, gradually becoming a murderer, a terrorist and a threat to the city. In his own twisted way, he feels that nothing will ever prevent him from being seen and recognized as being exceptionable ever again. He also dons a suit that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of the “Power Rangers”. I like the way Willem Dafoe portrays Norman; out of all the actors in the film he’s probably the one who embraces the camp the most, and even when Norman isn’t being murderously evil you can still tell there’s something off about him. What makes Green Goblin a great villain isn’t just that he’s gleefully psychotic – lost in his own vanity and delusions – but also how self-aware he is. The Goblin knows all the tropes and conventions of the superhero genre, lampshades them and embraces them wholeheartedly – like appealing to the hero’s pessimism or trying to fridge the hero’s love interest. It honestly makes you wonder if Norman was a comic book nerd in his youth. Appropriately, it’s embracing those tropes that also do him in. Norman couldn’t resist one last bit of ill-advised, evil gloating before trying to kill Peter, which gives him time to get a second wind, and it’s the Goblin’s spiteful, vindictive nature that winds up finishing the job. Norman tries one last time to stab Peter in the back but in a clever and satisfying example of a Chekov’s gun, he didn’t know about Peter’s spider-sense so he winds up running himself through instead. That’s some sweet, sweet karma.

Spider-Man Final Swing

Harry Osborn is Peter’s unlikely best friend and his closest companion for several years. While Peter comes from a working-class background, Harry’s family is pretty rich and successful, and as such he feels the pressure of his father’s judgment, high standards and expectations, causing him to become somewhat biter and cynical. It’s apparent that Peter and Harry have had each other’s back for years before now as study buddies to deal with bullying at school, but if you look closely you’ll notice there’s some tension between them even before the main plot kicks in. Both of them have eyes for MJ, and Harry makes several underhanded moves with her that imply he’s kind of a dick. Likewise, in the background of the film, Harry quietly grows jealous of Peter because he feels like Norman favors him and he knows MJ has feelings for him. Harry is kind of a daddy’s boy, so when he dates Mary Jane he’s more focused on gaining Norman’s approval than he is being a good boyfriend, and as such they don’t last long. All of this is fairly minor though, until the ending of the film when Harry comes to believe Spider-Man has killed his father and he grows to hate Spider-Man. This development truly marks the beginning of the end of Peter and Harry’s friendship. Harry is far from one of my favorite characters in these movies, but something the first two “Spider-Man” films do well is convey his steady and tragic descent into villainy.

Peter’s boss, J. Jonah Jameson, is the most amusing bit of comic relief in this movie. As a newspaper editor, he’s stingy, loud-mouthed, cynical, quick-witted and sassy, with a habit of double-talking. Jameson bossing around his employees and his tendency to disrespect Peter but keep him around regardless is comedy gold, and JK Simmons milks all three of his short scenes for all the absurdity he can. He’s a sensationalist, he has an odd vendetta against Spider-Man, and he’s not an honest journalist (at all), but he is surprisingly protective of his employees since he refuses to sell out Peter to the Green Goblin when he’s threatened with death. I’m glad we’ll be seeing a lot more of this weird man in the sequel. Ben and May Parker are Peter’s aunt and uncle and his legal guardians. They’re getting on up in the years and they’re not as capable of supporting themselves as they used to be, but as Peter’s surrogate parents they’re the reason he has such a strong moral fiber. Uncle Ben is less of a character and more of a paragon of virtue, since he sits alongside Jonathan Kent as one of the most famous examples of a sacrificial lamb in a superhero’s backstory in the comic book world. Uncle Ben has a good relationship with Peter, but he worries about Peter becoming at best a jerk, at worst a delinquent, as the boy gets older and pulls away from him and May. After Ben is killed one night as result of Peter’s carelessness, he serves as an inspiration to Peter for the rest of his career as Spider-Man, while Aunt May takes on his job of providing Peter with reaffirming life advice.

Spider-Man Goblin Attacks

Sam Raimi’s direction for the film has a very lite and thoughtful touch; he always knows just what to focus on and how much attention he should give it in the small, personal scenes, but also gives us grand, sweeping, dizzying shots of New York City’s skyline whenever Spider-Man or Green Goblin take to the skies, instantly immersing us in Spidey’s fantasy world. Raimi was a horror movie director long before he dabbled in superhero films, so he gets a chance to return to his horror roots during the Goblin’s transformation – a scene that’s surprisingly atmospheric and tense compared to the rest of the larger than life movie. While “Spider-Man” is set in the early 2000’s, it takes place in a very romanticized version of Manhattan that evokes the nostalgic feel of classic comic books and almost has a noir vibe to it at times – like when MJ takes to the streets and dons her trenchcoat, or when the cast attends Norman’s windy, grey funeral at the end. While he was producing the film, Raimi tried not to rely too much on CGI and opted for practical effects whenever he could, sometimes blending the two, and as a result the visual effects in this movie have aged surprisingly well. There are some shots where you’ll quirk an eyebrow at the 2002 CG, but for the most part this movie is looking good after fifteen years.

I’ve stated this before, but Danny Elfman’s score for this movie is really great; it’s a large part of the Raimi trilogy’s identity and it grabs you from the very first scene. Elfman composes two distinct but intertwined leitmotifs for the main character. The first of which is a primal, daring, determined and straightforwardly heroic theme for Spider-Man that builds through strings, percussion and brass in the title sequence. The second of which is a quieter, noble, sometimes forlorn and sometimes triumphant theme for Peter Parker that symbolizes his heroic heart and his relationship with Uncle Ben, covering both halves of his personality. Elfman pens a harsh, sneering and predatory theme for the Green Goblin that builds excitement and anticipation more than it does dread, especially when the Goblin attacks Times Square. Like Spidey’s theme, Gobby’s leitmotif incorporates a fair amount of percussion, and Danny’s themes for Spider-Man and Green Goblin tend to dance around each in the second half of the film – always expanding outwards. I also have a great deal of fondness for the pining love theme Elfman wrote for Peter and Mary Jane, performed on soft strings and woodwind instruments. It harmoniously simmers away in the background of many of their scenes together – growing quietly stronger as their connection grows – until it finally boils over passionately the two times that they kiss (in the alley and at Norman’s funeral) in the last act. I find it’s very easy to get to swept up into it. I hope Danny Elfman’s score gets a more comprehensive re-release someday, since there was a good bit of material omitted from the original album.

“Spider-Man” is an incredibly strong superhero film, and a very accessible one. It works well as a standalone, and I imagine even people who aren’t already Spidey fans would still be won over by it.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

Spider-Man Times Square Save

* “Don’t even think about it!” Glass houses, nerdy girl.

* Diverging from the comics, the Raimi films give Peter organic webbing instead of his standard web-shooters, which has actually led to some minor debate over which is better. In terms of practicality, organic webbing is probably much more reliable.

* “In this recombination lab, we used the synthesized RNA to encode an entirely new genome, combining the genetic information from all three spiders into these fifteen genetically designed super spiders“.

* ‘Back to formula?

* The first time I saw this film, I wondered if a psychic link had been forged between Peter and Norman. Obviously that’s not the case, and it wouldn’t have made any sense anyway, but to be fair, that’s kind of what the movie implies, since we cut back to Peter waking up right as Norman kills Dr. Stromm.

* “This guy, Flash Thompson, he probably deserved what happened” Pretty much.

* “I know I’m not your father” “Then stop pretending to be!” Way too harsh, bro.

* “What’s your name, kid?” “The human spider” “The human spider, that’s the best you got?” “Yeah” “Oh that sucks”.

* “Hey freak-show, you’re going nowhere! I’ve got you for three minutes! Three whole minutes of playtime!” And that’s how Peter lost his virginity.

* I like how this movie makes wrestling fans look completely insane. These people legitimately wanted to see Peter get beat to death and even tried to give Bonesaw the tools to do so. Eventually, Peter realizes they’re all crazy so he just starts kicking Bonesaw in the face and doesn’t stop kicking until he goes down.

* Goodbye murderous mugger guy. We barely knew you, but you were pretty hot.

* “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to put Norman Osborn out of business” Why though? You seem to be taking this OsCorp business quite personally.

* “With great power, comes great responsibility. Remember that, Pete. Remember that“.

* “You can’t do this to me. I started this company… DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I’VE SACRIFICED FOR IT?!

* “You’re out, Norman” Again, you people seem to be making this very personal for vague reasons. Was Norman a massive dick before this movie and you’re all happy to see him fail? Are you jealous of his success? Give me some explanations, movie.

* Here’s a fun drinking game that will destroy your liver and possibly kill you. Take a shot every time Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst start screaming in this trilogy. It happens quite often.

* Spidey saves the girl and drives Green Goblin away for a while, but there’s one important question still left unanswered. Is Macy Gray okay?

* “Pete, what was that thing?” Your daddy.

* This movie teaches you so many lasting life lessons, like the difference between slander and libel.

* “I’d better get going, tiger” Sweet comic book fanservice.

* It wouldn’t be a superhero movie if some random hysterical lady didn’t appear, screaming about saving her baby.

* Norman bitterly accuses all women of being gold-diggers and does so just loudly enough for everyone to hear him. It’s funny because we all know the Osborn men don’t need any women to waste away their money. Norman seems to have done a good job of putting OsCorp on the rocks, and Harry finishes it off in the sequel.

* “The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout, down came the goblin and took the spider out!”.

* Fun fact about Peter. He’s a cute nerd, but if you push him far enough he will maul your ass. Just ask Carradine.

* I would ask why MJ decided to confess her love for Peter at a funeral, but MJ liked Norman about as much as Norman liked her, so I guess that explains it.

* Why does no one in this movie ever recognize someone’s voice? Peter never once notices that the Green Goblin sounds like his best friend’s dad, and despite Peter not even trying to disguise his voice as Spider-Man, it’s their kiss that tips MJ off that they’re same person.

* “Whatever life has in store for me, whatever comes my way, I will always remember these words – with great power, comes great responsibility. This is my gift, this is my curse. Who am I? I’m Spider-Man” In any other context that might sound braggy or self-important, but after the last two hours of this movie Peter Parker and Toby Maguire have both earned that boast.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Spider-Man Mugger

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