07/05/2004: Saw Spider-man 2 today....
Great flick! All in all, I have to agree with Roger Ebert that: 1) it is the best superhero movie since the modern genre was born (i.e., 1978's Superman, starring Christopher Reeve), and 2) it is a superhero/comic book movie for people who aren't fans of the genre.
There are moviegoers who make a point of missing superhero movies, and I can't blame them, although I confess to a weakness for the genre. I liked both of the "Crow" movies, and "Daredevil," "The Hulk" and "X2," but not enough to recommend them to friends who don't like or understand comic books. "Spider-Man 2" is in another category: It's a real movie, full-blooded and smart, with qualities even for those who have no idea who Stan Lee is. It's a superhero movie for people who don't go to superhero movies, and for those who do, it's the one they've been yearning for.I'd need to ponder a few points (and maybe see it again) before I can write a full review (and by then I'll probably be distracted by other things), but I do want to make a few observations.
- The opening credit sequence retells the story of the first movie, in artwork done by Alex Ross (his style is very distinctive and easily recognized). Ross obviously used the original actors as models for his artwork; a very nice touch.
- Tobey Maguire does a superb young science nerd. He is probably the archetypical Peter Parker; even the comic book Parker doesn't look quite right anymore. And his rendition of Peter Parker as the everyman being crushed by a burden of a life spiralling out of control is absolutely spot on, I think. Watching Maguire limn Peter Parker reminds me of one of the classic reviews of the original comic book Spiderman back in the early 60's: "If Charlie Brown wore a skin-tight suit and fought crime, he would be Spiderman."
- Speaking of archetypical looks: J.K. Simmons is J. Jonah Jameson. Unlike Maguire, though, his visage doesn't exactly replace the comic book's Jameson; Simmons resembles the comic book Jameson as closely as it's possible for a living actor to do so, though I think that Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant gives Simmons a run for his money on pure looks; unfortunately for her, the Betty Brant character is pretty much a nonentity in the movie. That's a pity, since in the comic books Betty plays a much more critical role (she is, IIRC, Peter Parker's first love, but unfortunately a misunderstanding regarding Spiderman's role in the death of her brother makes that relationship a non-starter); I get the feeling that, in a movie that cut Betty Brant loose a bit, Ms. Banks would be given a chance to shine.
- Props also to Rosemary Harris; I wish I had an Aunt May like her, too.
- Kirsten Dunst is the hottest superhero girlfriend in the entire genre. Bar none.
- Director Sam Raimi trademarks: he cast his brother Ted as Jameson's assistant, Hoffman (this is a holdover from the first movie), Raimi childhood friend Bruce Campbell does a superb cameo as a snooty usher, and of course Sam's '73 Olds Delta 88 makes an appearance in Aunt May's driveway (or was that the garage?)--which is perfectly appropriate, since the car was being driven by Peter's Uncle Ben in the scenes leading up to Ben's death (and the commencement of Peter's career as Spiderman).
- Props to Raimi and his writers for handling a very complex plot and moving it on in a believable fashion (even though the science underlying the science fiction in the plot is completely unbelievable; then again, after The Day After Tomorrow unbelievable science isn't a particular objection to science fiction, it seems).
- More props to Raimi for the scene where Parker renounces (temporarily) his Spiderman role (this is the scene featuring the long shot in the alley, with the Spiderman costume draped over the side of the trash can as Peter Parker walks away, back to the camera); it perfectly captured on film a famous Spiderman comic book cover ("Spiderman No More!"--a title that was referenced by a headline in The Daily Bugle that is used as a transitional device in the movie).
- I won't spoil the ending, but they closed by telegraphing quite noticibly the plot of the third movie (then again, given the comic book arcs that they're using for inspiration, I wouldn't really be spoiling the "surprise" for anyone with an even marginal knowledge of the comic books).
Len on 07.05.04 @ 08:23 PM CST