Like many a sci-fi geek, I grew up on Marvel Comics. I became aware of Spiderman when I was four when I received a Mego Spiderman doll as an Easter present and even though I wanted Batman, my brother explained that Spiderman was better because he could shoot webs out of his hands. When I had the chicken pox at age six, my mom checked out Stan Lee’s The Origins of Marvel Comics for me to read while I convelesced. Every day during that time, I would spend all day reading and re-reading that book. I liked Jack Kirby’s art in Fantastic Four #1 and in Hulk #1, I’d read the other origins and liked them fine, (except Dr. Strange,) but it was the Origin of Spiderman in Amazing Fantasy #15 that was the dessert, the reason I kept my puffy eyes glued to the book. I was fascinated with Steve Ditko’s crisp, skinny version of Spiderman, the dark inks on the blue portion of the costume, the smaller eyes, the tighter webs, the web armpits –he looked different from other heros and different from the other Spiderman renderings I’d seen. And of course, I thought the basic premise of the origin story–nerd gets powers but is too proud to stop a thief and so his uncle is killed by that thief — was vibrant, colorful, memorable and sad. There was something identifiable and easy to understand about the Lee/ Ditko work– at least to my six year-old mind.
So flash-foward to June of 1982. The majority of comics in my relatively small collection were Spiderman— but on a fateful day as summer began, I bought Amazing Spiderman #230 at the local drug store. Written by Roger Stern and drawn by John Romita Jr, Spiderman has a showdown with Juggernaut and it just about kills him. It was the greatest single comic I’d ever read, non-stop action, tense and heroic stuff, where Spidey just won’t quit even though he’s getting the crap kicked out of him. And the art! I thought John Romita Jr and Jim Mooney drew and inked Spidey so he never looked more inispring and cinematic. Romita Jr. took the basic Spidey look from his father, but made it more muscular and with more dynamic movement. Plus, as I was starting to see in other issues (chiefly in an issue where the Black Cat “dies” after she and Spidey’s first love affair, and in another with the Vulture where he’s in physical therapy) Roger Stern could really write. He made Spiderman’s personality and private life detailed, dramatic and funny. But the issue with the Juggernaut was a standout– clearly defining why Spiderman was the best comic book hero out there.
So over the course of the next two years I bought Amazing Spiderman on a monthly basis and it never disappointed me. Roger Stern fleshed out the characters so well that they all mattered to me– even third stringers like Ned Leeds. And when Peter Parker had his usal money and girl troubles they felt deeper and more important than usual. During that two year run, Stern essentially acknowledged how lame the Tarantula was as a villain and had Spidey make light work of him only to have the Tarantula take a serum that turned him into a monster. He brought in a legitimate sense of mystery with the origin of the Hobgoblin.
And he treated us to an interesting and almost plausible origin of the Vulture, who was hiding out in a retirement community. In an issue where Peter quit school, Mr. Stern managed to create a funny and exaspserating sense that one is waiting endlessly in line with Peter as he’s sent all over campus getting signatures.
I stayed with the comic right until Spidey came back from Secret Wars wearing the famous “Black Costume.” (not very forward thinking of me, I admit) but I was offended that they changed the costume and gave it powers, plus I was closing in on fifteen years old and thinking I was too old and cool for comics. So I stopped reading for awhile. Then in the late summer of 1986, I bought an issue of Web of Spiderman drawn by Marc Silvestri and inked by Kyle Baker and the art was so awesome I started collecting again. (though I couldn’t help but notice that the story was really weak, a rip off of the Most Dangerous Game) At that point, I decided to spend some of my summer job money and subscribed to all three Spiderman titles. I got the wedding issues and “Kraven’s last Hunt” and had the all-hallowed Todd McFarlane issues about Venom but while sometimes a comic or two would jump out as okay, I actually thought they were pretty crummy.
Todd McFarlane’s art, while unique, made everybody look jug-eared and like they were made out of playdough and David Michelinie was a nowhere near the writer Roger Stern was. He turned Spidey into a vapid, whiney little coward who rarely fought to the finish and often seemed to give up and be just fine about it. So in college, I gave up on Spiderman. The stories just weren’t intersting anymore and it was really occurring to me that comic books, no matter how well-drawn, were a teenagers medium. Soap operas for boys.
Then I received as a gift a boxed set of paperbacks of the original Lee/Ditko books. I started reading them with my tongue in cheek, but still, the power of the Ditko art brought back that cozy feeling of lying in bed for two weeks of no school with chicken pox, reading Spidey all day. And I re-fell in love with that era of comic books, the Leave it To Beaver era, with scenes where popular Liz Allen admonishes dumb lug and bully Flash Thompson for picking on Peter And when Flash says, “What gives, why are you defending that bookworm?”, Liz retorts, “Peter is a DREAMBOAT!” It was a simple time, with fun simple stories that still managed to be entertaining and charming. After that, I said, “Damn all convention!’ started collecting back issues again, while the Ditko comics were way out of my price range, I caught up on the Black Suit saga and many of the issues around that period. When I joined the work force, occasionally I would check in with Spidey, just to see what they were doing with him, and I collected random issues with Pete’s Parents, “Maximum Carnage” and the “Clone/Scarlet Spider” chapters. All of that was not so good, reeking of desperation, but sometimes the art was interesting.
So I write all this to let all my readers know that I understand Spiderman and the various eras of his character pretty well. I had enough of a background on the character’s history to be utterly frustrated that Sam Raimi’s films couldn’t even reach the emotional depths of a comic book– a comic book that was neatly gift-wrapped and delivered to the screenwriters with the best origin story in all of comic-dom, a great, funny hero, fairly cool villains, Hot chicks! Heart-wrenching romance! What makes it worse is that when I first saw the full trailer, it seemed like Raimi and company got everything right.
The cinematography and art direction seemed to have the proper realistic yet comic book-y feel, Tobey McGuire looked to be a good-enough Peter Parker. I thought Kirsten Dunst was a fine choice as Mary Jane. Wilem Dafoe, he should’ve played the Joker, but sure, he’d be a good Green Goblin, I guess. (Not like anyone even thinks about the character outside comic book conventions.) It looked like it was a Hollywood home run in the vein of Superman The Movie. Then it opened and the reviews were unanimous it was a fun-filled, exciting film with heart, they said. I was really looking forward to it.
Well, it stunk. At this point, I won’t say it ruined my life or anything, because most movies stink these days, but what I can’t understand is why EVERYONE liked it. It was a bad movie with sitcom writing and character development. Really, nowhere in the film did the characters do what anyone in real life, heck what even the 2-D comic book characters, would do or say. I’d say nearly 95% of the choices made in that film were dead wrong. AND FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, THE @#%$ING STORIES WERE ALREADY WRITTEN FOR THEM!!
So, let’s back up. I’ve always been a bit blah about Sam Raimi. While Evil Dead 2 was great fun and he knows how to point a camera, Darkman, while sort of interesting, was basically forgettable. A Simple Plan? That was an unbelievable film about a small-town, responsible Jimmy Stewart type lying and killing people and doing bad things just for money. Well, guess what? Jimmy Stewart types DON’T kill people over money and surely they don’t shoot their brothers in the head because it will let them off the hook. Nice, normal people don’t do things like that. They help family members in need even at the cost of their own lives. And the whole time Raimi’s saying, “What would you do, John Q Public? What would you do in this situation? You see how even good people can be corrupted by MONEY!!!?” Uh, well, you’re character isn’t good. He’s dumb. Why’d the same basic idea work in No Country For Old Men? Because the guy who found the money wasn’t introduced as likable and trustworthy and established in the community, nor the brightest bulb to begin with. Plus, the moment in the A Simple Plan where Bill Paxton decides to kill a guy for the money happens way too soon in the film, it basically shows you that our main character is a heartless moron who isn’t thinking things through. So, A Simple Plan showed me that Sam Raimi is fairly inept when it comes to character motivation and development, which really came as no surprise since his prowess was with camera work and effects.
So while most nerds were whooping it up about Sam Raimi being hired to direct Spidey, I was wary. Despite the derring-do and the web-slinging, Spiderman is about the characters. Then I learned the (credited) writer was David (LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK) Koepp. Well, that really got me scared. He wrote one acceptably good film, The Paper, because he used to be journalist, so in his element, his writing was fine. (Notice how the J.Jonah Jameson stuff is the only stuff that comes alive in the Spidey films. ) But he seems to have this thing for T.V. endings, (The Trigger Effect) and precocious kids who are children of divorced parents and he ALWAYS writes them like they’re on a sit -com. With groaners like those in Panic Room : Q: “Where’d you learn morse code? A: (smirk and shrug) “Titanic.” I’m guessing he’s been a divorced single parent that over-indulged his kids and was fascinated by all that they learned from watching films and tv shows written by him. Get out in the real world, KOEPP! In War of The Worlds, Koepp’s 8-year old and a fifteen year old characters cry to dad Tom Cruise BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE FOR DINNER IN THEIR OWN KITCHEN?! ??? Where, you know, in real life, the kids would be so hungry and thirsty after an alien attack that they’d just go to the fridge and start eating? This guy wrote a whole g–damned scene about something that just wouldn’t happen except, I guess, in David Koepp’s and Steven Spielberg’s house. @*&%ing Hollywood types. So, anyway, yeah, not a big fan of David Koepp’s writing. And yes, I know several writers worked on Spiderman’s script so when I rail on it, Mr. Koepp gets the blame but it’s aimed at everyone who didn’t see this through.
The choice of composer didn’t thrill me either. Of course Danny Elfman was going to get hired as he did a number of Sam Raimi films up to that point, but I’ve never been a big fan of his, except for his score for Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. His music tends toward monotonous bombast. Ultimately, he didn’t do a bad job with Spiderman’s themes, but it’s all basically variations on his Batman score and not that hummable.
So the credits start and immediately, I get that feeling I’m in for a disappointment. The music is Batman meets Men In Black, and doesn’t seem to have any definition. And the CGI webbing and dark backgrounds seem small, mysterious, quasi-gothic like Batman. Spiderman is bright and cheery and metropolitan. I would have liked titles webbed in the air over swooping shots of New York, basically like the last shots of the film WITHOUT Spiderman in comped in? Wouldn’t that have been cool and much more epic?
So the film begins and we find our heroes on a school bus. Where are they, Nebraska? Does any urban teen, let alone a high school senior, ride a school bus in this day and age? You wanna single Peter out as a loner and the king of the nerds? How about a High School dance or in the school yard before the field trip if you MUST have a school bus in the film?
And right off the bat, Raimi and Koepp get MJ and Peter’s relationship irritatingly wrong. Next door neighbors and childhood friends have a familiarity that a subtle director would clue into, but no Raimi and Koepp come from “The Facts of Life”/Diff’rent Strokes school of character development where no one on screen ever acknowledges what one sees or says what they would honestly say or do in any given circumstanc. So, sure, MJ can be aloof and not quite nice to Peter, but you know, I attended high school with a female childhood friend, whose family history and lifestyle I was completely in the know about. And even when we got older and she got popular while I didn’t, we still shared that bond and still acknowledged each other, albeit cooly. I would imagine, MJ would say “Hey, Pete,” in any number of ways, none of them enthusiastic, so we can understand that they have a childhood next-door neighbor history. The script itself says that Peter first saw her when they were six years old, the implication that they’ve known each other and probably played together from time to time as kids. What’s with Peter’s fear of talking to her? That seemed like pure television. Even the geek-y Ditko comic book Peter Parker had no problem trying to date girls that were out of his league. And again, since Spidey has a great wit in the comics, you could show that wit with Peter’s exchanges with MJ, the one person he can be himself around.
Okay, major gripe number two about this Spiderman movie. Peter et al didn’t need to graduate High School. High School kids are the majority of movie audiences, Peter was in high school for years until he graduated in the comics, why the impatience to bring Peter and Harry together for the college years? The film is so impatient to get to the big climax and nonsensical big emotional scenes, that it just keeps hurrying along without properly fleshing out the details.
Meanwhile, the film shows Harry and Norman meeting Peter Parker in front of the science museum and Norman immediately likes Peter and becomes a sort of father figure. Again, television writing. I didin”t buy it. It would have been just as easy to establish that Norman knows Peter already and they both share a healthly love and obsession with all things scientific. Fairly easy to show a shot of Harry feeling resentful, if that was even at all necessary.
Okay, so I’m watching the film and I’m feeling nervous. The rhythm’s off. So we get to the spider bite: The tour guide announces that there are FIFTEEN spiders in a tank. Fifteen Spiders that can change a guy into mutant super powered spider person just existing side by side?
Um. Why did she say fifteen?
Why not an experiment with a single solitary spider that dies soon after and the scientists can’t possibly be aware of how Spiderman came into existence? It doesn’t have to be radiation that powers the spider bite, since sure, that would only kill Peter and I understand why that detail was updated, but for the life of me, in the movie, I didn’t understand how Peter got his powers. And if these 15 spiders exist wouldn’t someone else become Spiderman down the road? And wouldn’t the lab techs figure out who Peter was who was, since MJ announces so dramatically that there are only 14 Spiders left in the tank. And well, after there’s a guy spinning webs all over New York, wouldn’t the scientists be like, “Wooh! Find that godd$%&@ spider! We’re gonna make billions!” And okay, blockbuster lovers, I know, it’s only a movie, but hey! It was only a comic book and it worked fine without the mention of 15 Spiders for forty years. All that update did was create questions in my head when none were needed. I would buy that a spider got mixed up in some genetic experiment and bit Peter before it died — THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND.
Now, you could’ve killed two birds with one stone and had the class touring Osborn labs due to Harry’s attendance at Midtown High and Norman’s underlings are experimenting with these Spiders to perfect their performance enhancers and this one spider escapes and Peter becomes Spidey. So this way Norman’s hot for Spidey’s true identity and once he learns it, he manipulates Peter into thinking he’s just a good guy looking out for a kid whose uncle got killed. But, of course, in reality he’s trying to find how and why Peter changed into Spiderman without any side effects, etc. and Harry hates all the attention Pete gets and you know, you have a real sense of why people are acting and saying the things they do.
But back tot the film that is: We go to Norman’s lab and the film tries to show why an uptight but basically normal guy like Norman would want to test his serum to become the Green Goblin. The comics had it right, Norman was a psycho and very secretive about his knowledge and his alter ego. No one was aware of what the hell he was doing. That seems a lot more realistic than the head of the company going into a chamber in full view of his partner and basically acting like a convenient plot twist. These Raimi Spiderman movies, I tell ya, they’re the emotional equivalent of Universal Theme Park Stunt shows. Ya know, rather than properly develop a character and story arc, simply cram it in with no logic whatsoever, just a nod to the comics history, and explain everything away in the effort to get to the big set piece.
And of course, the Goblin costume looked plain awful. As everyone says, it was a Power Rangers costume. Plus, why hire Wilem Dafoe, the guy with a scary Goblin face already and then hide it with a static, motionless plastic mask? Couldn’t he just have showed up at that stupid Macy Gray festival in a goofy, rubber, but face-hugging Goblin mask as a joke — let’s face it, no matter how you update a costume forr a guy called The Green Goblin, in broad daylight, flying around in that phallic hat and stupid outfit and you’re gonna hear, “Nice outfit, fag! ” from the mouths of New Yorkers. The Goblin outfit in the comics was pretty silly, so why try to hide it? The way to make the Green Goblin scary is to embrace the silliness. So as Norman gets more and more psycho and keeps getting beaten by Spidey, he starts really digging the mask and talking to it and his outfit becomes more garrish and the mask slowly becomes the face he prefers.
Okay, so back to Peter. He wakes up after the Spider bite and he’s muscular and he has a BIG DICK. So it’s okay, girls, he’s cool now. Lame. Anyway, he runs down the stairs and flips over the wall at the landing, a nice touch, then he goes outside and we’re treated to another pointless time waster of Petere working up the courage to talk to MJ. He follows MJ after she gets yelled at by her pop and he’s saying to himself,” …gee…uh….do you know me…. I’m Peter Parker, star of the hit sit-com ‘Saved By The Bell’…” I’d have simply had them walk to school together and she’s all, “Hey, Pete, where are your glasses?” and notices his blue eyes and how he seems different. And then his spider sense tingles and he saves her from getting hit by a car or something not too revelatory, like websbing a tray in the cafeteria then sommersaulting and sending Flash twenty feet across the hall. AND BY THE WAY, DAVID KOEPP! You beat up the toughest guy in school, sending him twenty feet down the hall, people don’t say, “You ARE a freak, Parker. ” They @#%&ing leave you alone and kiss your ass so you don’t do the same to them. Get it? This is supposed to be New York not Bel Air. And Mary Jane wouldn’t say, “You really freaked us out.” She’d say, “Man! I never knew you were such a tiger!” (Get it? Tiger! The nickname she has for him in the comics. So you know, it doesn’t sound like Kristen Dunst’s saying “Miningfroophuckbuckarucking” every time she awkwardly shoehorns “Tiger” into a line of dialogue.) And in my ideal version, I would’ve swiped the Barbara Hershey shot from Barry Levinson’s The Natural, where we see MJ’s eyes go from Flash on the ground to Peter, the new hero. but then again, my version wouldn’t have Peter beating Flash up so awesomely where anyone with a brain would say a few weeks later, “Hey, Parker, I know you’re Spiderman, dude! The way you dragged that webbed tray across the floor, and jumped over Flash, you gotta be Spiderman!” (Not that anyone in this film series has to even guess since Peter’s always showing his face to anyone who will look.)
Okay, so now Peter wants a car to impress her and compete to with Flash and that leads us to the Wrestling Arena. A whimsical throwaway in the comics where masked Peter handily humiliates a wrestler by heaving him on his back and crawling up a column becomes an overlong, overblown and irritating Wrestlemania sequence that kills the inherent drama of Spiderman’s origin. Irritating, because, number one, it was way too big, I kept thinking where do you have huge arena sized crowds for amateur night? In the comics, it seemed like a neigbhorhood gym type affair and he’s spotted by the talent agents, who says, “Hmmm… this masked character may be the gimmick I’ve been looking for…” Not genius, sure, but heck it worked. Two, this is the first of many scenes where Sam Raimi’s laziness and indecision is evident with regards to Peter’s powers. Peter can send Flash across the floor, can plow into billboards with nary a scratch yet for some reason he’s facing a Wrestler locking him in a cage match and he’s scared? And not only that, when he kicks the wrestler, the wrestler only gets stunned? I’d have had the wrestler fly into the cage, out cold and the fight’s over. And finally the creme-de-la-creme of my irritation: Who the hell’s gonna try to hustle money from somebody who just beat your tough guy, your bread and butter to a pulp and not say, “Geez, buddy! You’re the strongest and fastest, you and I are going to be RICH!!!
Pure David Koepp. That whole “Letting the thief get away” sequence made me realize I was going to hate the rest of the movie. They had the momentum and didn’t use it. The origin story of Spiderman is about hubris. And they dropped this entire important portion of the Spiderman story to make room for all the unnecessary crap that wastes the audience’s time in the middle of the movie.
The logical progression based on the comics story line would be that Peter becomes the cage fighter and starts heaping in the money and is now becoming sorta popular, and, as in the comics, the promoter insists on the mask angle to keep the mystery. And as I expected when I saw the preview of Peter in his home made Spidey outfit as compard to his fancier Spidey movie outfit, he gets a cool rubbery, fancy Spiderman costume because he has the money to get all the materials. Because he’s a rising star with the need for a fancy costume.
In my ideal version, Peter is looking at Ferraris and MJ really starts paying attention to him and you know, Peter’s all about himself and heck, I’d even have a scene where Peter reveals to Uncle Ben that he’s Spiderman and how they’ll have so much money and never have to worry again. (Since we had all that exposition about Ben being 68 years old and unemployed that didn’t really have any pertinence.) . So Uncle Ben’s advises, “Watch it Peter, with Great Power comes Great Responsibility” and Peter sort of agrees but basically says what he thinks in the comics, “Everybody’s crapped on me my whole life except you and Aunt May. The rest of the world can hang for all I care.” And presto, a few scenes later, Uncle Ben is dead, killed wherever, where the guy Peter let go is the culprit, but NOT immediately after Peter lets him go. You could cut to a Norman scene there. I understand why they made that choice in the effort to save time and to show that Peter’s desire for revenge had an immediate effect, but it took away what made the comic so unique. (And you know, critics these days keep parroting some hair-brained idea about origin stories being boring and once they’re out of the way, now you can tell your story. WRONG! Any story is boring if you’re not invested in what’s going on. Spidey’s origin is one of the best comics ever with as good a twist as say, the 6th Sense. It needed at least an hour to be done right. Impatient bastards. Just dying to get to the explosions. )
Peter didn’t set out to stop criminals, he wanted money and had a taste of the good life. Meanwhile, if they had a montage of Spidey on all the NY late night show doing his routine, you have him doing what the comics so effortlessly did in one page, showing how the world is learning who he is and is amazed by him. So then one can include in the montage scenes of J. Jonah Jameson and Norman and M.J. and even Flash, all involved curious about WHO Spiderman is? Then! When Spiderman stops the criminal and learns his crushing lesson, you have the built in idea that people know who he is and can be either scared or impressed that he’s turned from showbiz to crime fighting. Which could lead to J.Jonah Jameson’s mistrust of his motives. But no, here’s Sam Raimi robotically sticking in a Man on the street interview scene before Spidey is properly introduced.
Also, another important wasted opportunity, there was a nice bit of retrohistory added to the comics where MJ saw Peter leave his house dressed as Spidey on the night of Uncle Ben’s murder. There’s the romantic angle that would’ve added real weight to Peter and MJ’s love affair. So, in my version, which is Marvel comics version that worked pretty well, it’s Spidey who flirts with MJ, and she’s kissing him, knowing full well who he is and why he’s Spidey, but keeps him at arm’s length when he’s Peter because as she soon figures out firsthand, it’s too complicated with villains kidnapping her and whatnot. That would’ve been a welcome twist on the hero’s secret identity jazz. Where he doesn’t know the girl knows. The comics had it right, again. The girl has the burning crush, not the guy, but since she’s doing the right thing, she can’t let him now how much she loves him. Seems the female audience would eat that up.
But no, in the Raimi film, in the effort to have important scenes like the Thanksgiving dinner where Norman learns Peter’s identity even after he’s gassed him and tied him up and DIDN’T yank off his @$%*ing mask, (Nice one, Raimi) they rushed through any of the developments that would’ve made logical sense as well as properly introduce their character as a hero. The movie went from Spidey’s killing the criminal to a terribly timed and edited montage of everyone on the street saying “Spidey’s great!” “He’s a menace!” , etc. Again, an example of that patented Raimi/ Simple Plan Impatience.
Superman had the awesome, suspenseful introduction to our hero with Lois in the Helicopter, where you’re screaming for Clark to turn into Superman. Raimi’s so tone-deaf, he swipes the idea but adds it after the man on the street introduction so we don’t get the tension of Spidey’s main entrance as a full-fledged hero. And Raimi’s rescue scene is overstuffed with the stupid silly looking Goblin and Macy Gray and Tim Burton Batman balloons and all sorts of distractions like, “Hey, if the Goblin can throw bombs and disinegrate people, why is he bothering with other weapons? He already won the fight because now all he has to do is disintegrate Spidey with his disintegrating bomb.” And “Why weren’t Harry and MJ disintegrated with the rest of the Board?” Or at least MJ’s leg. That would’ve been guytsy, eh? Half the movie where MJ is an amputee? And again, The Green Goblin basically beats the crap out of Spidey in this scene. WRONG, RAIMI! Spidey should beat the crap out of the Goblin, in any cool fashin, like for example, webs him off the glider and and throws him against a wall, and so Norman goes back and increases his serum and you know, starts going stark raving mad in the effort to increase his strength. I learned this in college acting class. RAISE THE STAKES! Plus, there’s a crowd of people fleeing in terror, but no sense of it clicking in the public’s mind of just how awesome Spiderman is. Why? Because there were no long shots of the action from the crowd’s P.O.V.
And so after the scene as it played in the movie, I say to myself, ‘”Gino, I says, “Gino, that was a lousy scene, with clumsy action.” Sam Raimi, the kinetic camera, cartoony action guy CAN’T do cartoony action. Who’d a thunk?
And the film just keeps getting worse and worse, with horrifying time wasters. The Goblin trashes the Bugle and puts Spidey to sleep with gas? BOR-ING! Where’s Spiderman’s Spidey sense there? Wouldn’t it have been better to have a chase through the buildings of NY and actually use some of that CGI that Sony paid for? It could’ve ended any way with Spidey captured AND UNMAKSED, of course. So then we can understand why Wilem Dafoe just doesn’t slit Spidey’s throat at that moment. And I must add that the scene with Wilem Dafoe and Toby McGuire talking to each other in costumes on the roof made it painfully clear why Mr. McGuire is constantly taking off his mask in the subsequent films. Comic book masks and costumes are bad for actors. A smarter director would’ve simply aped the iconic Romita panel of Peter unmasked and tied up in the Goblin’s hide out with Norman revealing who he is. Then all that “JOIN ME!’ monologing would’ve made sense and seemed less like a Power Rangers episode. Norman could reveal to Peter who he was and how they’re two of a kind and should take over the world. ‘(Use “The rest of the world can go hang for all I care line” see.. clever…and it ties into the responsiblilty lesson.) And you know, in the film, Norman is pissed just because Peter won’t join him. There’s no plan to steal the Gold in the reserve, there’s no turning everyone into goblins, nothing. The Green Goblin’s big idea is to have Spiderman join him and I guess hurl bombs at people who piss him off. THERE’S NO PLOT TO THIS MOVIE!
Okay, I’m going crazy here writing about this damned film, so last gripe. Peter’s in the hospital telling MJ what he tells Spiderman about her. And it’s a weird, long and totally TV sitcom monologue about he looks into her eyes and goes absolutely bananas and thinks of the best things in life… and some other baloney that I bet good money David Koepp wrote, begging MJ to deliver her “You’re really freaking us out, Peter” line. Who the hell says stuff like that in comics let alone real life? Plus I’ve always hated in all superhero comics, movies, t.v. shows etc, where our alter ego is saying, “Ahem! I’ve talked to Spiderman and he promises he’ll be at the charity ball.” To which the logical response is, “Uh, yeah, Mac, how do you know that? Are you Spiderman?” Wouldn’t a guy trying to keep a secret identity try to play down his association?
Okay, one more gripe. The climax.
The Goblin does the ‘Lady or the tiger’ bit on the GW Bridge, saying, “Should I let fall the woman you love? or drop these kids?” First, there’s no reaction shot of MJ, saying, “Spiderman? You love me?” Peter, is that you?” But more importantly, Spidey does something impossible for even a superhero. The goblin drops both Mary jain and the cable car full of kids and Spidey catches both , in sequence on opposite sides of the bridge as if one falls slower than the other. Uh, here’s the thing about physics, you can’t jump down faster than something’s falling. Movie people ALWAYS forget this. It’s like when Michael Bay made a cable car explode in the Rock. , I all know how the thick neck jocks clap their ass off at that kind of illogical stuff, but me, I hate it. (And don’t get me started on the physics of a flimsy glider being able to propel upward, lugging a fully loaded cable car.)
So anyway, it seems the clever way a deep thinking science nerd like Peter would’ve gotten out of the situation is by simply webbing The Green Goblin’s hands to the cable and the Goblin’s feet and/or Glider to the bridge, so the Goblin’s stuck to both. But if that isn’t dramatic enough, for all the above mentioned football loving morons who flock to action movies , who MUST see women dangling and falling and catching cables impossibly (because they’re greasy and full of steel splinters) and sliding down them and then falling again but to safety by improbably catching the side of a boat at a hundred m.p.h. in every action movie they watch, well, Spidey could’ve still webbed the Goblin’s hand to the cable as it fell, forcing the Goblin to save one of his sets of prisoners. That way he could save M.J., put her back on the bridge, and then go after the Goblin and the kids. And frankly, there’s a fine example of cold-hearted Sam Raimi again, having Spiderman save MJ first.
Finally, Norman and Peter finish off the film on a crummy Doctor Who set. (Where was the chase between buildings, you cheap bastards?!) And there’s none of Spidey’s patented Spider-sense charged dodges and leaps. And you gotta which wonder what uninspired stunt show meathead choreographed this crap? The Matrix was three years before this film. If I was Sam Raimi, my stunt coordinator would be from Honk Kong or at least a total Spidey nerd so there would be some grace and ballet to the fighting and not just two clowns in rubber suits slowly punching each other, like they’re in a Godzilla movie.
And sorry, but I have one more complaint about the idea that Spidey just brings Norman back to his bed and doesn’t inolve the cops. Leaving Harry to assume what happened. (Which just becomes more and more preposterous as the movie series continues with Harry acquiring the Green Goblin powers but not saying, “Oh, I guess my dad deserved to die, since he was $!%$ing hanging my ex-girlfriend and those kids over the ocean and trying to kill Peter,” then the Butler coming in and saying he cleaned the wounds. Say, anyone ever heard of a coroner?) Plus, where’s MJ to come to Peter’s aid saying, “Harry, I would’ve died if it weren’t for Spiderman. You shut up about him or I’ll never speak to you again!”
Anyway, there it is. Spiderman was a massively disappointing flick. Soon after I saw the movie, I talked to a guy who had worked for Marvel comics and bored him endlessly with these gripes and he just didn’t see it and kept boasting of the film’s success. It was like trying to explain to a gung-ho McDonald’s manager at a McDonald’s convention why their food is so awful. “BUT AMERICA IS EATING IT! BILLIONS AND BILLIONS SOLD!” And with that last shot of Spiderman by the American Flag, it was a painful reminder that the Spiderman film embodied everything wrong with American blockbusters. We’re really just becoming a stupid country that isn’t offended by illogic. And even the Marvel people weren’t bothered that a film couldn”t improve upon or even adapt the dimensions of a 2-D comic book. ‘Nuff said.