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My spidey-sense is not so great.

Like just about everyone else, I’ve seen Spider-Man 2, but since everybody else has already taken the opportunity to comment, I’m not sure what to say. Well, maybe I am: Peter trying to use “The Song of Hiawatha” as a seduction tool may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Ok, not ever, but I was amazed and giggly for a good while afterward. But most of the things that struck me were absences rather than actual scenes.

Maybe it’s because the script went through so many authors’ revisions that it just didn’t mesh well or maybe there’s a lot more that will be in the DVD’s deleted scenes or maybe it’s because everyone knows there will be a sequel that no one bothered to tie up any non-MJ plot, but I found all of that somehow disappointing. There were plenty of campy scenes I expected and while they might have annoyed me had they arrived, I missed them when they didn’t.

Where was the bang/whimper joke when Doc Ock rejoins (or doesn’t, depending on his/your view of any afterlife) his beloved wife? If it wasn’t setup for a bang/whimper joke, why was there so much talk about T.S. Eliot?? (As an aside, I still think his last words, “I will not die a monster,” leave open the possibility for his return, because it’s quite possible that he won’t die, not that he won’t be a monster any longer.)

What, did Peter somehow magically pay the rent while not having a job but doing better in school? All of a sudden his previously obsessed landlord stopped asking for it. And why, when Mary Jane escaped her own wedding and ran dramatically to Peter’s doorstep, did the landlord not spoil the moment by accosting her and demanding Peter pay him? Or, worse, why didn’t he send his besotted daughter in to coerce Peter to pay and get her heart broken in the process? I don’t know; they just disappeared.

And Aunt May makes her huge speech and then disappears to her new apartment, which is maybe a good thing since while her husband gets to return from the dead, his comeback is far from a highlight. I’d say that deus ex machina runs in the family except that I’d have to assume they’re not blood relations. Maybe it’s why they were so well-matched?

And then there are general quibbles. Why does the generically Slavic landlord have a daughter named Ursula? (Yes, name issues always bother me, as I’ve said here previously. If you’re going to bother to give your characters some kind of ethnic identity, it’s really not hard to follow through. I swear. It’s easy, and it makes you look bad if you don’t bother, even if only to me.) And how did Peter and MJ and Harry all end up at the same high school anyway, since they’re not from similar economic backgrounds and they wouldn’t exactly belong at an academic magnet school or anything like that? And while I’ve complained, too, about the inappropriately high-stakes danger plots in comics-to-movie adaptations, it seemed a bit odd that having more than the power of the sun causing problems in New York twice wouldn’t generate much attention at all. All part of the superpower-heavy world, I guess.

And all this makes it sound like I didn’t like the movie, which isn’t the case at all. It was enjoyable, though uneven (and outright annoying when heavy-handed) and I had fun and would have had fun even if there hadn’t been Longfellow jokes. I would have liked it even if it hadn’t had a particularly goofy and tacky rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest. I liked the way Peter has trouble finding a balance between power and responsibility, particularly in the way he dealt with both in relation to the people he cares about most. And now that MJ has crossed his boss and complicated his life, what next? Will he be able to manage normalcy, when it’s the normal day-to-day life that has been draining him so far? What will MJ’s third wet-tshirt scene look like, and will she ever realize that Spider-Man’s girlfriend is better off choosing pants over skirts? I have no idea, but I have no doubt I’ll be willing to find out when the time comes.


  1. David Fiore says:

    Agreed Rose–especially on the question of world-shaking crises… and also on the Harry issue (in the comics, of course, Harry & Peter first meet at College, which makes a lot more sense)

    my main problems with the film, as I’ve stated in a few places already, are the overly solemn tone (nowhere more apparent than in the sickening ritual performed after the train-crash is averted, and in the scenes with elder Parkers living and dead…)


    — 13 July 2004 at 4:39 pm (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    Dave, I think Steven will be posting soon on issues of tone and pompous solemnity, so I’ll leave that for him. I’m still not sure what I think of the train pieta scene. Would people treat their savior like their Savior? I dunno, but I’m sure some would. Of course, coupling that with the “No, I’M Spartacus!” scene that follows made me take it far less seriously.

    Basically I think the movie was best when it wasn’t trying to be momentous or meaningful.

    — 13 July 2004 at 5:35 pm (Permalink)

  3. Robby Karol says:

    Well, in the first movie, it was made clear that Harry attended Peter’s high school because he had been kicked out of all the private ones his father sent him to.

    — 17 July 2004 at 8:27 pm (Permalink)

  4. Josh says:

    Obviously, Ursula was named for the patron saint of the order that ran the parochial school attended by her Irish mother (Well, maybe it’s only obvious to someone whose hometown shares the ethnic makeup of my own . . . ).

    I’m with you on the Longfellow –what a hoot, indeed. The rendition of Earnest, sadly, was less tacky than some professional productions of the play that I’ve seen, so it did not strain credulity.

    Here’s a criticism kind of opposite to David’s: why do these comic-book movies turn important, morally weighty secondary characters into comic relief by having them played by actors who’ve grown puffy and cartoonish? In Batman it was Commissioner Gordon; here it was Robbie Robertson.

    — 18 July 2004 at 8:27 am (Permalink)

  5. Rose says:

    Robby, thanks. I’d forgotten that, and I’ve never had much desire to rewatch Spider-Man 1. Of course, that just means I’ll be annoyed because I hate the petulant-rich-kid-who-gets-kicked-out-of-all-schools trope, but there’s just no pleasing some people.

    And Josh, I didn’t think the Earnest strained credulity at all, although I’m not sure if it’s making some kind of subtle commentary on Dunst’s acting skills. As for Ursula, I realize I have no room to complain when Marvel itself thinks the best name for any old Russian is Piotr Rasputin! (As an aside, was St. Ursula run by the Ursuline nuns, or was it just the church’s name? I’m a product of the Congregation of Divine Providence and the Sisters of Notre Dame, myself.)

    And I’ll act as the synthesis of this argument and say that my problem may have been the weird disconnect between the over-the-top humor and over-the-top solemnity, each of which were goofy in its own way. So it left a sort of goofy movie, but an unbalanced one.

    As far as why secondary characters turn to caricatures, I assume it has something to do with selling superhero movies to adults. If you can give adults humor they consider at all sophisticated or at least really funny (this is the Shrek phenomenon) they’ll put up with the preachy bits and watch it themselves and gladly bring their kids. And if this means inserting humor inappropriately, well, that seldom seems to be a problem.

    — 19 July 2004 at 12:16 pm (Permalink)