Movie reviews are a funny thing. Reviewers are required to do a few things:
1) not give away too much of the story so, no matter how bad, people will still not feel they've been robbed of any surprises which the movie might hold 2) provide very little context for the review unless pointing out references to other movies (this doesn't relate to documentaries as often)
I plan to do neither.
The reviews so far on Spider-Man 2 movie have been very good, with some exceptions.
I was Spider-Man for Halloween when I was 5. I don't remember knowing much about him aside from that he'd occasionally show up on The Electric Company, and that I'd seen the cartoon show from the 60's with the catchy theme song. I also had a Spider-Man belt that I used to try to hook over the door to climb up the wall. It never worked.
Then Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends took off, and I remember watching that very closely.
When I got into comics, I read Spider-Man comics for a while back in the 80's, but I was always more of an X-Men and Batman guy. I liked Spider-Man well enough, but if it came down to scrounging up money for three comics at the Piggly Wiggly, I was getting X-Men, Detective Comics and Batman. My main exposure to Spider-Man came from the newspaper strip, and a huge collection of the strips I had bought at a discount bookstore in Florida while on vacation. I will say I was there for the Todd MacFarlane kick-off of the short-lived Spider-Man series, and I have the super-sized annual where Petey and MJ tie the knot (Sorry to blow any surprises, but this happened in 1985, kids. If you don't know this by now, it's your own fault. You snooze, you lose.). And I remember losing my mind waiting for each issue of the classic Spidey tale, Kraven's Last Hunt , to hit the stands.
Then, in high school, I sunk into my "Vertigo only" phase, and Spider-Man was off my list.
But you can't read comics and not know a bit about Spider-Man. I watched the whole Clone Saga thing go down from afar. Some folks love it (ahem, you know who you are...). Others point to it as almost bankrupting Marvel Comics. I've not read it, and know it only by it's less than sterling reputation.
And then when I was getting out of college, Marvel decided to shake the dust off the Clone Saga era and revitalize the Spider-Man books. I started picking the comics up, and lo... They were good. And while I liked Amazing and Spectacular, they didn't inspire the same mania with which Justice League and Superman were filling my mind.
In a fit of curiosity, I started picking up the "Essential Spider-Man" books. All in black and white, printed on cheap newsprint, but costing only $15 and collecting 20+ issues at a time. I love these books. Pure Stan Lee, Ditko, Romita. Classic Spider-Man, pure Spider-man before writers and editors with no good ideas started adding clones, etc... And right about then, I was aware they were making a movie. But big deal... Have you ever seen the 1991 Captain America adaptation? Ay carumba.
But I LOVED that first Spider-Man movie. Loved it. Someone had finally brought the elements of a comic to the screen in a faithful and respectable fashion. Sure, Batman had been good back in '88, but that wasn't the same Batman I read in Detective and Batman comics. This was some weird guy with a weird car who dressed in a rubber batsuit. He was not a master of martial arts and the World's Greatest Detective. And while I love Superman... Let's face it, the movie gets pretty silly for stretches once they hit Metropolis.
But short of Empire Strikes Back, and maybe Godfather 2 (the Wrath of Corleone), have I really gotten much out of a sequel. So I was expecting something out of Spider-Man 2, but not the same visceral thrill I got out of the first film.
And I was wrong.
Spider-Man and Doc Ock freak me out
I loved Spider-Man 2. I honestly believe it's the best super-hero movie to date. The movie is not unflawed, and will no doubt receive the usual scorn and derision of those who know better... But it's going to be one of the movies I buy immediately on DVD (hopefully in some sort of deluxe packaging, the way I managed to pick up Spider-Man 1).
I'm at a bit of a loss to speak about the movie without gushing. Suffice it to say, I felt that the film doubled the efforts of the first movie to capture the essence of the Spider-Man comics, and delivered the feel of the comics while ditching some of the dead weight which 40 years of straight Spider-Man stories have accumulated.
You have to understand a few things. For some of us, we have more invested in Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson's relationship than the relationships of our friends. Seeing Petey and MJ on the big screen fulfilling in two hours what it took the comics more than a decade to accomplish is no small feat. And if they do it this well in the film, I can ignore the fact that Gwen Stacy simply doesn't exist in the movies. For those of you who don't know who Gwen Stacy is... Well, something bad happens to her. Something that makes comic fans not like the combination of bridges, damsels in distress and the Green Goblin.
I always liked Doc Ock in the comics, but I loved Alfred Molina's interpretation even better. The comic's Doc Ock is a raving megalomaniac. In 1963, all you needed in order to be a super-villain was to be a bit funny looking and believe yourself to be an unsurpassed genius, and sooner or later, you were tussling with Spidey. Since then, they've developed Doc Ock. But the script Molina was given, and what he managed to do with it wiped away any misgivings I had on the issue. This villain made sense to me.
Ultimate Spider-Man scribe Brian Michael Bendis has stated that his entire MO for approaching comics, but especially Spider-Man is: make the situation bad. Then make it worse. Then make the situation unwinnable. Then find a way for our hero to triumph.
And that's what this movie gives us for Peter Parker. He's got to deal with his guilt over Uncle Ben's death and admitting his failure to Aunt May. He's got to accept that his two lives will never intersect. He's got to deal with a lot of issues that are basically character issues, that, super-hero or no, are interesting to watch. And all while dealing with the core of what would have been a fine movie unto itself, he's got to deal with the insane menace of a mechanical armed mad scientist (who has his own bag of problems).
Tobey Maguire remembers where he wrote the answers to his exam
These are problems I can watch on screen for two hours. And Tobey Maguire is actor enough to handle it all. I can believe in his Peter Parker and not feel embarrassed for the poor actor having to trudge through the role.
The effects in this movie easily surpass those of the first movie. The choreography of the fight scenes is insane. In a post-Matrix world, I was amazed to see fight scenes where people were able to perform superhuman feats, and still look as if they were hitting each other in something resembling an actual fight and not The Ice Capades.
What tweaked me? The movie does do two things which, for some reason, a lot of comic book movies do. But it did them better than most.
1) The villain discovers the hero's identity at some point. In the comics, Doc Ock and Spidey only really know each other in their super-human identities. But they made this work fairly well in this movie, and not only from a narrative standpoint did this work, but from a logical standpoint, it fit. It's just been done before (see the odd ending of Batman Returns sometime...).
As far as Peter's other unmaskings, these will surely irritate some Marvel Zombies and fanboys, but from a narrative standpoint, these were seamlessly interwoven, and advanced not just the plot but the character.
2) The hero loses his mojo. Superman II saw this. Hell, even Judge Dredd did this routine. It worked in Superman II, and it works here. In fact, it works amazingly well here. Superman II posed a hypothetical question which really made no sense. You must quit being Superman to have sex with Lois Lane. Will you do it?
What? Why? Lara (Superman's mum) never says. She just insists Superman must lose his mojo, and he goes along with it. I suppose you could infer the "well, Lois is a target" thing, but that isn't really what Lara seems to be hinting at. What my 20+ year old mind makes out of the idea is fairly grisly, and I'd rather not get into it here.
Spider-Man 2 sees the loss of mojo as something of an outward manifestation of internal problems. It grants Peter what he wants, but highlights what he's leaving behind. And I think it works pretty well.
The show-stopper for me of Spider-Man 2?
Rosemary Harris lights up the screen as Aunt May
Rosemary Harris gives us an Aunt May we all should want. Twice in the movie, Rosemary Harris absolutely broke my heart. And maybe it's all these years of reading Spider-Man, but I hope you guys liked those scenes as much as I did.
The first scene was after Peter's birthday party (and I'll let you guys see this one yourselves if you haven't).
The second scene included the monologue Aunt May delivers to Peter as he seems past his cross-roads, and appears content with returning to a normal life. The monologue sums up everything those of us in the superhero-reading community have always loved about the idea of a superhero, and why we pick up these damn comic books each and every month.
Harris's commitment to the monologue, the writer's execution and Raimi's direction leap out as what can happen if you treat the subject material properly, and understand why Spider-Man and superheroes need to exist, even if just as fictional characters.
And that's it. A rave review from The League.
There's probably more to write about from a critical standpoint, but this wasn't meant to be a critique, it's a review, and there's a difference. I haven't mentioned some key performances, or interesting visual imagery, or a lot of other things worth talking about. Maybe later. I think this review is long enough.
Kirsten Dunst is hot
My final, gushing note is that I loved MJ's last scene with Peter. "Go get 'em, tiger."
There are a few local celebs Central Texans know by their first name.
Leslie Stevie Lance
As a former Austinite, I dutifully follow the adventures of Lance Armstrong.
If Lance can win the Tour de France this year, he will have set the record not only for total wins, but most consecutive wins. (editor's note: if this is incorrect, please pipe up)
Hopefully Lance can pull it off, but even if he doesn't, he and the US Postal Service Team will surely be champions of some sort. I mean, Lance beat cancer and won the Tour de France. Have YOU gotten cancer and won the Tour de France? No, I didn't think so (unless you're Lance and reading this, in which case, I salute you).
Tuesday, July 06, 2004 Free Comic Book Day and Spider-Man
So after hyping Free Comic Book Day for weeks here at The League, I figured I'd better put my money where my mouth is, and on Saturday I headed down to the local (decent) comic shop. Now, the local shop is not the shop I go to regularly. Normally I go to a shop near my office, run by a decent enough guy who offers a signifcant discount to subscribing customers. On a light-traffic Saturday, my office is about 30 minutes away, so I didn't want to haul myself all the way down there. But out near my house, there's an Atomic Comics , and it's a great store. It's one of the two fairly professional jobs I've ever seen of running a comic shop. Unfortunately, it's just more expensive than other shops.
But when you're talking about free comics, how can you lose?
I'll tell you how. Probably due to high traffic, Atomic Comics decided to only allow each customer to take one free comic from a selection of about 18 or so comics. This decision totally negates the point of Free Comic Book Day for steady comic book readers. The point of FCBD (for me as a regular reader) wasn't just to get me in the store, which they did, but to allow me to sample different ongoing comics to decide what I, as a reader, might like to pick up this year. (Editor's note: it's bad comic shop etiquette to just stand in the aisle and read a comic. You can flip through the pages, or whatever, but you're really supposed to buy the comic if you read it cover to cover).
I have to give a load of credit to Atomic Comics. There was a LOT of traffic in the store, as this shop is at the mall in a prime spot near the movie theater. So all those kids leaving the 12:00 show of Spider-Man came straight over to Atomic Comics and picked up a free comic. Which is EXACTLY what the day is supposed to inspire. Of the 18 or so comics, the "comics for kids" ratios were very, very high to the "mature" comics. At least at this store.
Katrina, the manager, doesn't really know me, but she knows who I am. And she's sold me some funky stuff before, like "My Monkey's Name is Jennifer" (which is absolutely hysterical), and a few other things. So she put a comic in my hand when I walked up to the "one free comic" table. And it was a Slave Labor Graphics anthology.
I'm going to blow everybody's minds here, because I'm going to admit something: I have a low tolerance for indie comics.
A lot of indie comics are kind of like three chord punk. Indie comics are usually high energy and kind of goofy and sort of fun. And like 3-chord punk, they're cheaply done, almost inaccessible and kind of all come off the same. The indies try to be edgy, but it's that sort of post-suburbanite edgy, where they substitute narrative with weird for weird's sake and a lot of high-school literature references to look smart. This doesn't even begin to tap into how ideas seem to get recycled a million times over by the indie comics (probably a by-product of folks trying to recreate whatever it is they liked in a favorite indie comic of their own).
Some of the indie comics I like, but most of them are totally forgettable. And most of them never really see any print after one or two issues, leaving you hanging or wondering when the "artist" is going to lay off the pipe and get drawing again.
This makes maybe 1 in 15 indie comics something I'd want to peruse on a regular basis. I realize in admitting this that I have (1) upset the punk rock ethos, and (2)made myself appear to be a stick in the mud. But I'm going to call a spade a spade. If indie comics want to know why they don't move massive numbers and can't compete with, say, Legends of Batman's Neighbors, instead of being irritated and pretending that "nobody understands them", they might want to try things like a story and decipherable art. And, failing that, they should try to be funny. And not one joke funny (even as I say this, I am reminded The Lockhorns has been in syndication for 20+ years, defying all of my rules here).
I do not believe black and white indies are inherently bad. I do think the "artists" who put the bad comics together are the same kind of people who think everyone wants to hear their poetry, and refuse to write multiple drafts of their prose, afraid the editing process will sully the wild ferocity of their thoughts as each jewel drips from their ingenious mind.
Now some indie comics are very good. And when the format works, it's an amazing thing to behold. These guys are free from corporate bosses and other worldly constraints, and occasionally you get a Sex Pistols for the other 2 bajillion lousy bands. And you'll get something like "Blankets", "Ghost World", "Jimmy Corrigan", "Stuck Rubber Baby", "Maus", "Love and Rockets" or even "From Hell".
But as I say this, of the entire 48 page comic I got, I think about 6 or 7 pages were actually interesting. And 2 of those pages were Milk and Cheese, which has never been my favorite, but is better than the rest of the stuff, and a pioneer in violent, dairy-related comics.
As much as bad black and white comic bug me, get me started on "bad girl" comics someday. I beg of you.
Some of these indie comics end up doing very well, and that's thrilling. What happens most of the time is that the good indie creators get hired by the mainstream companies (Marvel, DC, Image, even Dark Horse) and either sink or swim with the big boys and thier millions of corporate-type rules. It's the equivalent of getting signed to a major label and then having to answer to the suits, to stretch the punk-rock analogy as far as it will go.
Some of the artists do okay. Some burn brightly before fizzling out under the high-pressure of the industry. Most do a fill-in back up in Spider-Man Unlimited, and then disappear from comics to go do something more lucrative, like selling shoes.
Anyway, suffice it to say, the Teen Titans, Go! comic Jamie picked up I found endlessly more rewarding, even if it took me an 1/8th as long to finish it. You see, the story had a beginning, middle and an end. It was well drawn, and had a point (admittedly, a child-friendly "teamwork" related point, but a point).
So we went to check out (as I also bought a few other comics, none of which were notable enough to mention [actually, I need to do a brief note on Marvel's new direction soon]), and the guy says "so, are you going to hang out? Because I need to staple your bag shut if you are." I looked around the shop, saw no impending action or promise of adventure. "Why? What's going to happen?" "Oh, I dunno." the guy shrugged. "Spider-Man is going to be here from 6:00 until 9:00." "It's 2:00," I said. "This Spider-Man is supposed to rule. He's from Universal studios and he actually studied up to be Spider-Man." "Sweet. But, no... I'm leaving."
And then it started to brew in my head. I went to the gym and tried to work it off. But there it was... Spider-Man was coming. Spider-Man! I love Spider-Man!
And I remembered four years before at Universal Studios where I met Captain America and how I had almost flubbed that meeting. One does not stand before The Sentinel of Liberty and not feel a little humbled.
So at 6:30, I was getting out of the shower (post-gym) and I said, "So, can we go see Spider-Man?" "Sure!" Jamie said. "What time is it showing?" "Uh..." I said. Clearly, we had different ideas on how this was going down. "Let me check." So I used my out! There was a theater right next to the comic shop, and the theater was showing Spider-Man every half-hour! "Where are we going?" Jamie asked as I went on instead of turning right. "You're going to the Mall? Oh my God! You're going to see the guy in the Spider-Man outfit!" "..." "Do you really want to see him?" "...yes...?" And she let me! She agreed to my insane plan! Sometimes you achieve a moment of absolute clarity as to why you married someone.
We drove down to the theater and parked, and we walked up to the comic shop, and... there was a line literally 500 or more feet long to get into the store and meet Spider-Man. It wrapped around the "dancing waters" and over to the California Pizza Kitchen.
I was clearly not going to meet Spider-Man and see my movie in one evening.
Distressed, I looked down the line, and there were hundreds of kids. Stupid, stupid kids... all blocking my path and destroying my plans. Stupid kids. All in Spider-Man shirts. Some in Costumes! Heck, some poor, confused kid was dressed up as Superman (to which I tipped my hat). And all of them had comics in their hands! They were all waiting diligently to have Spider-Man sign their comics! This, I realized, was the absolute realization of Free Comic Book Day! Kids and comics. Kids and Spider-Man!
"We don't need to meet Spider-Man," I told Jamie. "Are you sure?" "Yeah. I'd love to, but I don't think I'm going to get as much out of it as these kids." "Okay. Let's just go see the movie." And then, through the store window, we watched Spidey do the splits.
coming soon: Part II, a brief review of Spider-Man II. 10:29 PM |
So my student worker, Rahim, is from India, and this is his first summer in the good ol' US of A.
"So what are you doing for The 4th, Rahim?" "I believe we are going to Tempe Lake to see the fireworks." "That'll be rad." "It costs $8." "$8?" "Yes." "Climb up on a roof, my good man. Eight dollars is outrageous." "We are also thinking of doing that. So what do you plan to do?" "I dunno." "What do you usually do?" "Well, in years past I pushed meat around on a grill and drank beer until I got sick." "You do this most years?" "It's how most Americans celebrate our independence from those British bastards. Do you eat meat or drink beer?" "No." "Well, you're going to have to improvise."
So how does The League spend the 4th of July?
This year we combined two summer events: the usual 4th of July festivities (now reduced to our party of two, they are somewhat lackluster), and the annual viewing of Jaws (usually done to announce that it's now summertime).
We ate an inordinate amount of watermelon and potato salad, then around 9:00, Jamie persuaded me to climb the ladder and get up on the roof. From there we watched the fireworks from Tumbleweed Park, just a few miles away. And, hey... no traffic! One of the very few cool things about the greater Phoenix area is that, because it's so flat, you can see the fireworks going off in all the suburbs. At one point we were watching four fireworks displays, from Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa and Gilbert. Kind of groovy.
Mel was awfully baffled by our roof perching. He could see us up there, but could not determine how we had landed ourselves up there. So he stood just out of sight and whined.
Monday, July 05, 2004
Good golly. Had internet difficulty all weekend, which also meant I didn't have access to my "files" on the 2004 Mellies. That's going to have to get delayed. My apologies.
However, here's a little Melbotis Independence Day fun.
Also, here is a photo of our very patriotic neighbor, Flag Guy, as he's called by the neighbors. Jamie and I call him Squidward, but Flag Guy will do. He's NUTS for flags. How many flags can you count? I guarantee you, Leaguers... any number you've chosen is too low. Squidward constantly also dresses in shirts with the flag, he has flags on his car... he's flat out NUTS for being patriotic.