A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 391 – Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 – March 26th, 2011

The beginning of this movie, the first half hour and a bit – was painful for me to watch. Oh, I get that it’s setting up Peter in a downtrodden state so we’re all rooting for him to buck up and do well! But my goodness, this movie goes above and beyond. He loses his job, can’t pay his rent, is failing his classes, misses appointments and dates, crashes his bike, disappoints everyone he loves and respects, etc. On one hand, there are scenes like him in an elevator in full Spidey costume, having small talk with Hal Sparks about how the outfit itches and rides up in the crotch. On the other hand, he leaves pathetic messages on MJ’s answering machine to try and explain why he missed her play. Is it fun to watch Peter get berated by his landlord and his professor? Is it entertaining to see him (and Aunt May) struggle to make ends meet and fail miserably? No. Not for me, anyhow.

I can deal with a certain level of angst from my superheroes. I love me some broody Bruce Wayne and I’m totally down with snarly Wolverine. The Hulk’s not my favorite character, but I can run with the source of his issues. Hell, I’m not well versed on the comic version of Tony Stark, but I’m well aware he’s wallowed a good deal and he certainly had a breakdown in the second movie. The thing is, while there’s plenty of angst to go around for those guys, the difference for me is that they moan and whine and sulk and then they get things done. Peter just mopes. Even when faced with situations where he could help – and does – he still mopes. He mopes before, during and after. It’s tiresome. Isn’t he supposed to be making some wisecracks in between whining? I’m willing to allow him some leeway, what with him not being a gajillionaire like Bruce and Tony (we’re all on a first name basis, of course), but you know, I watch comic book movies for escapism, not to watch a hero cope with bankruptcy and unemployment.

Thank goodness for Alfred Molina as Doc Ock and J.K. Simmons as Jonah. And okay, as the plot goes? It’s pretty decent. Really, I do get the whole deal with giving Peter a reason (okay, several reasons) to doubt his role as a superhero. The pay is shit, it’s physically draining, it’s time consuming and it taxes his relationships with everyone around him. So he decides to quit and hooray, life is better! Not that we ever really see him pay his rent or get a steady job, but there is the general impression that life without Spider Man is far more stable and generally happy and upbeat. We get a montage! A montage set to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, at that! And that’s the whole point here. Because we’re supposed to see how hard it is for Peter to choose between a normal life where he gets the girl and the grades and can apparently pay his rent and a superhero life where he can save lives but everything else suffers. There should be a contrast there so we see the stakes and know why he might choose to give it up even though it would seem to be a no-brainer. So I get the concept.

And I like the villain. I like Doc Ock and I like the split personality theme that’s going on here and that went on in the previous movie where the villains are people who might otherwise have been mentors to Peter, but whose hubris causes their creations to take them over. It’s a great contrast to Peter/Spider Man, who’s got no hubris to speak of because he’s never had a reason to see himself as infallible. On the contrary, he’s quite fallible. His powers come from an accident. They were unwanted. He never went looking for them. So I like the choices of villains so far and I really did enjoy Alfred Molina as Doc Ock. He has a nice, if quick, character arc and Molina plays him well both as a sympathetic character and an antagonistic one, which is nice (I mean, much as I loved Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, he never really struck me as sympathetic).

As for the rest, well, I’ve got to say that the humor content of the first movie balanced it out a lot better than in this one. That’s probably because the humor content is all but nonexistant. We watch Peter struggle for much of the movie. His regular life is a mess because he’s spending so much time slinging web all over New York, and then his powers start to go on the fritz every so often. He’s stressed and tired and finally just gives in, right when Doc Ock is starting to really wreak havoc on the city. MJ’s mad at him, Harry’s a drunken mess and Peter’s given up the hero gig to try and fix his life. He even tearfully admits to Aunt Mae (who’s losing her house, by the way) his role in Uncle Ben’s death. There are no witty wisecracks here. No jokes, no lighthearted moments of humor. The attempts are kind of sad and painful. The only reprieve is Jonah, who is as bombastic as ever and pretty much exactly how I always assumed he’d sound and move. Between Jonah and Doc Ock, there are some good moments here. But the movie insists on continuing to go back to its title character and hang out with him in wet blanket town.

Seriously, Spidey. I get it that your uncle got killed and you blame yourself and your best friend blames your alter ego for his father’s death and your not-girlfriend isn’t waiting for you and life is haaaaaaaard but look at Wolverine! Dude was experimented on and can’t remember his past and you don’t see him staring out the window of his strangely large NYC apartment, pondering whether he’s supposed to be able to be happy. Suck it up or CRY MOAR!

March 26, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Spider Man 2

March 26, 2011

Spider Man 2

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the Spider Man movies it’s that being a brilliant scientist is a one way street to insanity and crime. It destroyed Norman Osborn and in this movie it destroys Otto Octavious. It also spells a kind of doom for Peter Parker, although it’s not his brilliance that destroys him, it’s just random happenstance. Still – in this universe brilliance equals doom. Kind of a sad message, really.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. The enemy in this movie isn’t science after all. It isn’t even Doc Oc, although he’s the primary super villain in this story. The main foe that Peter Parker needs to combat in this movie is Spider Man, which is simultaneously kind of a cool thing to do with a super hero movie and really irritating. The theme of the movie is that it is hard for Peter to be a super hero – it pretty much ruins everything in his life. It’s a good, strong, and interesting spine for the movie, and results in a strong emotional core to the action which raises the movie above the average comic book movie. The problem is that it requires the viewer to witness Peter’s life being systematically destroyed by his alter-ego, which is kind of hard to watch.

First we see Peter lose his pizza delivery job because he takes time out from an urgent delivery to save some children from being run over by a truck. Then he gets chewed out by his college physics professor for missing class and being late with his term paper. His landlord yells at him for being late with his rent. He misses a chance to see Mary Jane performing in The Importance of Being Ernest because he stops on the way to stop some bad guys with guns in a convertible. In short: he cannot live a normal life in any way. It’s not particularly fun stuff, and after the simplicity and cartoonishness of the first movie it’s a pretty harsh contrast.

Of course there’s the whole plot about Otto and his out of control mechanical arms trying to re-create the experiment that caused him to become the demented Doc Octopus, but he’s more there to provide a reason for Peter to don the red and blue again than to be a serious villain. About halfway through the movie Peter gives up on being Spider Man. He decides to just be a normal citizen. He wants simple romance with the painfully skinny daughter of his landlord and a chance to do his homework and maybe a chance to fix things up with M.J. after she flounces out on him to marry Jameson’s son the astronaut (and sometime werewolf.) But when Doc Oc, at the urging of Harry, who has a grudge against Spidey for the death of his father, abducts M.J. Spider Man has to come out of retirement to save his love, and save the city besides.

There’s a slightly uneven tone to this movie though. It’s hard to mix humor and wisecracking with all this moping. You go from seeing how awful Peter’s life is to Hal Sparks making comments about how uncomfortable the Spidy suit must be. It’s just odd. I like the humor, and as with the first movie any scene involving J. Jonah Jameson is pure gold, but it doesn’t always feel like it fits. This movie needs to figure out just what it wants to be.

This is a far better movie than the first one I think. The maudlin and emo mood of it is irritating, yes, but it’s a movie with a coherent plot that all serves to explore the character of Peter Parker. I like to see character exploration and emotional issues in my super heroes. Sure, yes, Dark Knight did it better (and had Heath Ledger) but that doesn’t mean that this movie is bad. There are hints though, little bits that indicate the direction that the series is going. The montage of Peter living a normal life is okay (if cheesy) but it resonates with me because it raises memories of the dreadful scenes from tomorrow’s movie of “evil Peter.” Oh, dear. I’m not looking forward to watching that again.

March 26, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment