Monday, July 12, 2004

Spidey: Saw it this past weekend, and was very happy to have seen it on the big screen.

Alex Ross' drawings at the outset which served to re-cap, during opening credits, the previous movie were really excellent, and so much more interesting than most of the inkers you see in various media. His drawings were a bit less photo-realistic than what he usually produces, but he manages to convey so much in his static pictures, that you are really moved by them.

The movie was a full two hours, and while there were a few dead spots, you were taken along for the ride quite nicely. Our protagonist, Peter Parker, is faced with the dilemma of being a superhero in an everyday world - from his outfit ruining his whites in the wash (didn't Aunt May teach him anything?) to the fact that it's really hard to go to class, do your homework, work a job, pay attention to the cute redhead, and, oh by the way, save NYC every 10 mins. Something has to give, and this instance, it's readily apparent to Mr. Parker that it's the tights and mask.

In a very funny manner, Sam Raimi (the director) shows Peter's new life without the webs to be a breath of fresh air. So much so that Peter even enjoys having to wear his glasses again, because he'll walk into things without them. He can iron his pants, read his assignments, and even take the time to woo his beloved.

Oh, but then this guy with the 4 metal arms gets in the way. Villains are always the most fun to play, but they invariably suffer from our mental comparisons to the source material, and from the fact that they're really just one-note portrayals: take over the world. Alfred Molina does a very good job of showing his transformation from altruistic scientist, to deranged, if conflicted, meglomaniac. It's just that, well, the point of the movie is Spiderman, and there just isn't enough film to focus on the other side of having super-human powers.

That said, you get to see all kinds of scenarios for Peter Parker and/or Spiderman to shine, from using your powers to deliver pizzas, to being helpless and literally lifted by the hands of a grateful citizenry, even as they realize that "he's just a kid."

In the grand scheme of superhero movies and/or television shows (non-cartoon variety), Spidey and Spidey-2 are the best. The first Batman was excellent, but it has suffered from disappointing inconsistency ever since (they can't even keep the same Bruce Wayne from pic-to-pic). X-Men is also excellent, but being more of an ensemble piece, you don't get the introspection you find in something like Spiderman, as you have to spread the focus over 6-7 different characters.

There are some really great stand-alone moments too: J. Jonah Jameson as played by KK Simmons is simply everything you could want and more. You relish every scene that he has, and fortunately, the producers/director gave him more scenery to chew (in a good way). The montage showing Peter during his first day without his "spidey sense", with "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" as the score, just brings a smile to your face.

Really, this is a thinking-person's superhero movie. It nails just about all its landings: faithfulness to comic book, great, great special effects and action, real characters doing unreal things, malevolent villain, and a central theme of being true to yourself, no matter how odd that may feel. It's worth the $8.50; even my wife thought so.

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