Thursday, June 4, 2015

Recap: "Spider-Man" Part 3: Amazing Fantasy

And so, the Green Goblin decides to prolong the conflict, despite accomplishing everything he set out to do. Let's see how that works out for him.

Can't fault him for staying the course, I guess. He's been on a roll so far.
Night falls upon the streets of New York as our hero once again finds himself “happening” to run into Mary Jane. Well, that’s a lie. MJ’s mom told Aunt May about her audition who told Peter about it.

Mary Jane: “So… you just came by?”
Peter: “I was in the neighborhood. Needed to see a friendly face. …I took two buses and a cab to get in the neighborhood, but….”

Yeah…. Peter’s little crush on MJ is pretty dang obvious. And Mary Jane drops some hints in the following conversation that she knows about it. But for the time being, she’s staying with Harry, which I’d say is the correct choice.

"Name one thing he has that I don't have."
"Money."
"Two things."
"A smile that isn't creepy."
"...three things?
"A successful career after this trilogy."
"The Great Gatsby won an Academy Award, you know."
"Yes. Yes it did. For costume design."
They talk about how much it sucks when a soap opera tells you that you need acting lessons, and MJ runs off to go meet Harry for dinner, calling Peter “Tiger” for the fans at the behest of Avi Arad. Peter declines the invitation, but as a rainstorm starts a-brewin’, a couple of no-goodniks decide to follow Mary Jane down an alleyway.

Word of advice: If you’re a character in a comic book movie, walking into an alleyway is a bad idea. Somebody will always follow you in, either to rob you, rape you, assault you, or kill you so your son can become Batman. For best results, refrain from walking into alleyways until after the superhero starts appearing on the streets. And even then, pray to God that you’re not in the sequel where the hero decides to retire.

Anyway, soon enough, there’s a full-on rape gang standing at the ready in the pouring rain. Peter finds himself having to spring into action sans mask, but keeps his face hidden with quick movements and the rain obscuring everyone’s vision. With the bad guys soundly thrashed, Spidey zips away, puts his mask on, and returns upside-down on a webline.

Spider-Man: “You have a knack for getting into trouble.”
Mary Jane: “You have a knack for saving my life. I think I have a superhero stalker.”

To go along with your regular stalker. And they’re secretly the same person. On an unrelated note, I think I may have just gotten an idea for a superhero-themed psychological thriller….

Spider-Man: “I was in the neighborhood.”

Well, that should have given away the secret right there.

"Peter?"
"Yes?"
"...."
"I mean, who?"

Again, Kirsten Dunst brings this up in the commentary.


Kirsten Dunst: “I don’t think MJ’s that bright.”

MJ decides she wants to give her savior a little reward. And we all knows what happens next. The kiss. The big ol’ upside-down kiss. It’s become as much of a part of pop culture as, say, “Bond. James Bond.” Or the chestburster from Alien. It’s been parodied numerous times in the media, it’s been homaged over and over in the comics. And for good reason. This moment is classic Spider-Man.

"Action is his reward," indeed.
Of course, it was a b*tch to film because Tobey Maguire’s sinuses kept filling up with water. But I’d say it was worth it.

After Spider-Man swings away, we cut to the next day or so, where a building has found itself to be on fire. Spider-Man, being the titular hero, leaps in to save a baby trapped on an upper floor. The police rush over to arrest him, but they let him go so he can save someone else who’s still up there. Spider-Man makes his way through the upper floors until he finds the woman shrieking in terror. But it’s not a woman, it’s the Green Goblin.

Green Goblin: “You’re pathetically predictable.”

Green Goblin has arranged this most dangerous of meetings to ask if Spider-Man will indeed join him.

Green Goblin: “Are you in? Or are you out?”
Spider-Man: “It’s you who’s out, Gobby! Out of your mind!”

Who wrote that line, George Lucas? Kirsten Dunst once again takes a moment to make fun of it in the commentary. I’d actually say that about half of what she says in the commentary is just making fun of it.

In response to Spider-Man’s rejection, he throws a few razor bats in his direction, which Spider-Man dodges in slow-motion like Neo.

He moves like they do.
But even Neo got hit by some of those bullets, and Spidey follows suit. He beats a hasty retreat out of the building, and we cut to Norman Osborn later that same day. It’s Thanksgiving, and Norman is coming to Peter and Harry’s apartment for dinner. Aunt May and Mary Jane are also there, and May answers the door for Stormin’ Norman.

Norman Osborn: “Sorry I’m late. Work was murder.”

It probably literally was.

Mary Jane and Norman are formally introduced to each other as Spider-Man lands on the side of the apartment one floor up. Norman, Harry, and the others hear this and assume that Peter’s in his room and go up to see him. Unfortunately, Peter’s still in his Spidey-suit, so he finds a way to hide.

"It's a good thing I told them that 'gullible' was written up here."
They all leave except for Norman. When he finally turns his back to leave, a single drop of blood from Peter’s arm hits the ground in a very CGI splash. Norman turns around and examines the blood. When he looks up, Peter’s already out the window. A minute or two later, Peter enters the apartment with the cranberry sauce he was sent out to get. In a nice reversal, Peter’s wearing green while Norman’s wearing red and blue. Everyone soon gathers around the table and Norman Osborn does his impression of a Norman Rockwell.

Except Aunt May's hogging the spotlight.
As Norman prepares to carve the turkey, Aunt May takes note of the cut on Peter’s arm. Peter spins a yarn about a bike messenger hitting him, but Norman’s getting a mite suspicious. He decides to leave, to his son’s protests. Harry was very intent on Norman meeting Mary Jane and lets him know it. Norman, in turn, accuses MJ of being a gold digger. If you listen carefully, you can hear DaFoe raise the pitch of his voice into the Green Goblin range during this scene, implying that he’s not actually this much of a jerk, but his other personality took over the driver’s seat to make him leave and suit up.

When Harry doesn’t put up much of a rebuttal, MJ decides to leave, too.

Harry: “So just keep your mouth shut about things you don’t understand!”

And if Harry had said that to his dad instead of his girlfriend, we wouldn’t be having as much of a problem. And just maybe Thanksgiving could have been salvaged. I wonder if you can return cranberry sauce.

Later that night, the Goblin mask is perched on the corner of a chair, yelling imaginary plans at a distraught Norman.

Green Goblin: “Make him wish he were dead!”
Norman Osborn: “Yes….”
Green Goblin: “And then grant his wish.”

The plan devised is the standard plan after villains learn a superhero’s identity: Go after the family.

Green Goblin: “His heart, Osborn! First, we attack his heart!”

Like a vampire. So the Green Goblin terrorizes Aunt May that very night. As Peter goes to check on her after her subsequent hospitalization, all she can do is wail in horror about “those horrible yellow eyes,” cluing Peter in to exactly who must have been behind it.

All signs point to the android. Somebody call Dr. Calvin.
He stays by her side after she falls asleep, apparently overnight because he’s there when MJ stops by the next day to leave flowers and talk about how she’s falling out of love with Harry. And in love with Spider-Man. Peter brings up his Spider-Man photography and uses this to pull the old “I’m friends with my alter-ego” trick, which you’d think she’d see right through when coupled with the “neighborhood” line from earlier.

"Spider-Man?"
"Yes?"
"...."
"I mean, who?"
Peter gets to whip out the purple prose as he spins a yarn about telling Spider-Man what Mary Jane’s like. And it’s enough to get MJ to hold Peter’s hand… right as Harry decides to walk in. With black hair, because this was Franco’s first scene and he hadn’t dyed his hair yet.

This angers Harry enough to make him appear back home in the next scene. He hears maniacal laughter from upstairs and goes to check on his old man. When Norman appears, Harry tells him he was right about MJ. Why, he walked in on her and Peter holding hands! Norman promises to “rectify certain inequities” and hugs his son moments before the movie decides to add a jump scare for the sole purpose of startling the crap out of me as I was typing this very sentence.

Are we not supposed to see the obvious camera reflection in his eyes?
The jump scare, alas, was Peter’s nightmare. Poor guy was plumb tuckered after reading Proust to Aunt May. She’s awake and worried about how thin Peter’s stretching himself with all his obligations.

Aunt May: “You’re not Superman, you know.”

But before this remark can raise questions about the state of DC Comics in a world where Spider-Man is a real person, she lets slip that she knows MJ was here. And she tells Peter a story about his reaction when he first saw Mary Jane moving in next door.

Aunt May: “You grabbed me and said, ‘Aunt May! Aunt May! Is that an angel?’”

Seriously, George Lucas. Quit messing around with the script.

Peter: “She’s still his girl.”
Aunt May: “Isn’t that up to her?”

No, it’s up to Joe Quesada.

Aunt May tells her nephew to stop being a little creeper who watches her from afar and just talk to her about how he feels. But in a nicer way. And when she tells him that everyone else knows how he obviously feels, this flips a switch in Peter’s head and he goes to call Mary Jane to make sure no crazy villains have kidnapped her. But when Green Goblin answers her phone, there’s really only one explanation.

Mary Jane wakes up on the Queensboro Bridge while the Green Goblin steals a sky tram by blowing up the station. Spider-Man launches himself over with a slingshot made of webbing, and the Goblin gives spider-Man a choice. Save the girl of his dreams… or save a tramcar full of innocent kids. And to drive the choice home, one of the kids is played by Tobey Maguire’s kid brother.

Spider-Man goes for the third option and saves everyone. He catches MJ in midair, then loops around on a web to catch the tramcar.

Now, you might have noticed that the Green Goblin throwing Spider-Man’s girlfriend off a bridge seems a bit familiar. Well, you’d be right. This entire final sequence was based on the death of Spider-Man’s first comic book girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. I wrote one of my very first blog posts on the subject of her death, so you can check that out for information about the event as it happened in the comics.

(Shameless self-advertisement: Check.)

But as Spider-Man holds his true love and the tramcar full of kids above the river, the Green Goblin decides to use this opportunity to squash the bug. But luckily for our hero, the citizens of New York band together to throw things at the Goblin.

Now let’s talk about 9/11.

Sorry if I gave you mood whiplash, but I need to explain something for you young whippersnappers. 9/11 changed America. In some ways, America has never truly been the same since the tragedy. But one of the immediate reactions to 9/11 was a sense of uber-patriotism that engulfed the entire country. Flags were everywhere, U-S-A was chanted un-ironically, and there was that whole “Freedom Fries” debacle which we’re all pretty much trying to pretend never happened.

Ghostbusters 2, back in the 80’s, had a line saying that treating each other like dirt was every New Yorker’s God-given right. But in 2002, New York preferred to stand together. Which is admirable. In 2002, seeing the citizens of New York stand on a bridge and band together to throw stuff at the Green Goblin was something to stand up and cheer for. These days…

New Yorker: “You mess wit’ one of us, you mess wit’ all of us!”

It’s a little corny. But it sure felt good to see this happen in 2002.

The citizens of NYC manage to hold off the Goblin long enough for Spidey to get the tramcar and his girlfriend on a convenient barge. In retaliation, Gobby hooks Spider-Man to his glider and takes off into the city to reenact the thing that happened after he killed Gwen Stacy in the comics. The final battle.

They crash into the ruins of some kind of building and go through several walls so Tobey Maguire can wear a ripped mask to get more face time. The Goblin unleashes a beat down on our hero until he fights back with some improbably-spun webs.

Nope. Not how webs are made. And somehow, I'm not referring to the fact that they're shooting from his wrists.
But even then, the Goblin keeps hitting him. Of course, Green Goblin makes the biggest mistake any villain can make during the final battle and threatens Spider-Man’s galpal again. Peter musters the strength to fight back as the music swells heroically and he drops a brick wall on the Goblin before knocking him into another. After punching the Goblin a bunch more, Norman Osborn begs for mercy. Not the Goblin, Norman.
To Peter’s shock and horror. Norman explains the whole “evil personality” deal as he secretly activates his remote for his glider. When Peter refuses to buy what Norman’s selling…

Norman Osborn: “I’ve been like a father to you…. Be a son to me….”
Peter: “I have a father. His name was Ben Parker.”

He sets his glider to shoot forward and impale Peter. But Peter has that spider-sense and those super-reflexes, so he dodges it and it impales Norman instead. With his last words spoken…

Norman Osborn: “Don’t tell Harry.”

Norman dies in a near-perfect recreation of his comic book death.

Minus some purple prose.
Spider-Man obeys Norman Osborn’s final request and takes Norman’s unsuited body home to his son, but leaves before Harry can pull a revolver on him for the apparent murder of Norman Osborn. Peter comforts Harry at the funeral, even when Harry vows revenge on Spider-Man.

Harry Osborn: “I swear on my father’s grave Spider-Man will pay. Thank God for you, Peter. You’re the only family I have.”

I don’t think I have to point out the problem with Harry’s plan, here.

So obvious, a monkey could figure it out.
Harry walks toward the car he was so embarrassed of being seen in at the beginning, showing that he’s stepping up to take his father’s place. Hopefully, he won’t follow completely in his father’s footsteps….
Peter’s voiceover starts up again. This time, he’s lamenting the fact that everybody he loves has horrible things happen to them. In the film’s final moments, Mary Jane tells him she truly loves him, not Spider-Man. Sadly, Peter reluctantly rejects her. He’ll always be there for her, but in order to keep her safe, he must stay away from her. But as they kiss one final time, there’s the hint that she may have put the pieces together….

"Peter?"
"Yes? ...I mean, who?"
"Wait, no, I was right the first time."
Peter (voiceover): “This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? I’m Spider-Man.”

And the movie ends with an absolutely gorgeous sequence of Spider-Man swinging through the city before finally perching on an American flag. Because, once again, 2002.

But is that a problem? Is this movie, which strove so hard to be timeless, simply a relic of a bygone era in history? Simply speaking, is this move obsolete?

Let's review, shall we?

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