Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recap: "Spider-Man" Part 2: Great Responsibility

Well, maybe Spider-Man will actually appear in this part of the movie. Geez, I haven't seen a superhero show up so late since Hulk.

Well, except for Ant-Man. He was supposed to show up before The Avengers and was three years late.
The next thing we see is Peter jogging home in the darkness, so I’d imagine he was knocked out for a while after hitting that building. When he goes back inside, the kitchen is already painted and there’s leftovers in the oven. Next door, Mary Jane’s parents are arguing. Mr. Watson submits the thesis that Mrs. Watson should fetch him a beer. Mrs. Watson raises the point that Mr. Watson should get his ass off the couch. The whole thing devolves into a debate between the various schools of thought regarding dishes as Peter takes out the trash.

Mary Jane runs outside, having had enough of her parents’ dueling philosophies, and finds Peter. Mary Jane is more than a little embarrassed by her parents, but Peter tells her not to worry.

Peter: “Everybody shouts sometimes.”
Mary Jane: “Your Aunt and Uncle don’t.”
Peter: “They can scream pretty good sometimes.”

TMI, Peter!

He goes on to apologize after what happened at school, and the conversation takes a turn into post-graduation plans. Peter wants to be a photographer to work his way through college (which is actually laughably impossible, what with minimum wage being left in the dust by the rising cost of college). Mary Jane wants to act. Peter is entirely on board with this idea, having watched all the school plays she was in.

Peter: “I cried like a baby when you played Cinderella.”
Mary Jane: “…Peter, that was first grade.”

But Peter’s still convinced that Mary Jane’s got it in her.

Peter: “You’re gonna light up Broadway.”

A word of advice, MJ. Don’t take Broadway advice from the subject of Turn off the Dark.

Flash soon arrives with his brand new car, and MJ leaves to take a ride in her boyfriend’s new wheels. With new motivation, ends up browsing the used car section of the paper, passing over amazing deals on used classics like an Alfa Romeo or Healy for a nondescript car labeled “SPORT CONVERTIBLE.”

Wait, is that a poster of Elektra? Is... is Daredevil fictional in this universe?
He also finds an ad for a $3000 prize to whoever can last three minutes in an amateur wrestling ring. And because the ad calls for colorful gimmicks, Peter gets to work drawing in his graph paper notebook.

In the space of a single montage, he passes over designs resembling Stingray and the Venom suit in favor of a red-and-blue number, drawn in real life by Phil Jimenez.

Makes you wonder why the first costume he makes doesn't actually look a thing like this.
The next day, he practices shooting his webs in his room alone by himself, as many developing young men do.

Norman Osborn reads the Daily Bugle, specifically where it mentions that Oscorp could lose the government’s funding. Suddenly, he hears laughing emanating from all around him as the camera gets all Dutch angle-y. Back with Ben and May, Ben knows something’s up with Peter. He was always a good kid and it’s not like him to break a promise. So when Peter comes downstairs saying he’s going to the library, Ben offers to drive him there so they can talk.

Uncle Ben: “I need the exercise.”

Uncle Ben, you're a terrible liar.

When they arrive, Uncle Ben wants to talk, having apparently spent the whole car ride in silence.

Peter: “Oh, we can talk later.”

And I’m sure that statement won’t be subject to any dramatic irony later. Ben tells his nephew that he’s worried. He’s not doing chores, he’s up in his room all the time, and he’s causing trouble at school. In short, he’s finally acting like a real teenager. Uncle Ben ends up whipping out that oh-so famous lesson.

Uncle Ben: “With great power… comes great responsibility.”

Funny words coming from a 1960's Batman villain.
You know, Uncle Ben didn't originally say those words. They were in a caption box summarizing the moral of the story in Amazing Fantasy #15, but were later put Uncle Ben's mouth during the numerous retellings of the origin.

Peter isn’t entirely keen on receiving a lecture when he’s got places to be, people to beat up, so he snaps at Uncle Ben and goes on his way. He soon arrives at his destination, Madison Square Garden, where Bonesaw McGraw is dominating a wrestling match in the midst of the screaming crowds. Bonesaw McGraw is memorably played by the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage and the movie is far better with his inclusion. And it’s far far better with the inclusion of frequent Sam Raimi-collaborator Bruce Campbell as the announcer. The not-so-obvious joke here, for you non-wrestling fans, is that Randy Savage wrestled briefly under the alias of The Spider.

True story: When they brought Randy Savage in to ask which wrestling moves would look best onscreen, he demonstrated a piledriver on one of the producers.

Spider-Man heads to the line to sign up to wrestle Bonesaw for $3000, and I think this is a good time to talk about wrestling.

Wrestling, by and large, is staged. Not necessarily “fake,” but the outcomes are planned beforehand by writers based on what will not only be exciting but get you a large draw of screaming fans. Wrestling turned “fake” in the early 1900’s in order to compete with the more visually interesting sport of boxing. Jumping off the top rope, hitting guys with chairs, and all the other classic wrestling moves are both impractical and dangerous is the conditions aren’t perfect. Both wrestlers know who’s going to win before they even step into the ring and work together to make it happen in a satisfying manner, which brings me to my next point.

Wrestling requires teamwork. You have to know how to deliver your blows so that they look more painful than they are, and you have to make it look like the other guy’s hurting you, too. It takes a willingness to put yourself through pain, but not as much pain as actually trying to hurt each other.

We can infer from the contest to beat Bonesaw that this wrestling is not staged, because at no point are they told to go all “kayfabe,” as wrestlers say. (It basically means to play along with the pre-decided outcome and not break character.) This means no teamwork between opponents. This leads to the question of how legitimate this operation actually is.

I’m pretty sure that there would need to be some kind of drug-test, contract, injury waiver, or some kind of official legal work to wade through. Otherwise, this wrestling federation is little more than a fight club. And putting an ad in the paper would be breaking rules one and two.

Of course, ads calling for wrestling challengers is a real life practice called “hooking.” And the challengers are basically paid to make the champ look good. If a challenger decides to go off-script and try to win, then the champ would start cheating.

To summarize, it’s very doubtful that real-life wrestling would accept people from off the street. I mean, they don’t even ask if Peter’s 18 or older. And it’s not like the lady thinks Peter actually has a chance at winning here.

Check-In Girl: “You understand the NYWL is not responsible for any injury you can and probably will sustain in said event and you are indeed participating under your own free will?”

Actually, this lady looks familiar....

Oh my God, it’s Octavia Spencer! She ended up winning a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, a SAG, a Critics' Choice, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Help. And she writes the Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series.

In short, she is awesome.
Back with Bonesaw, he’s ready for his next opponent. Announcer-Man hypes up the next challenger as he makes his way over to the entranceway to the arena.

Announcer: “What’s your name, kid?”
Peter: “The Human Spider.”
Announcer: “’The Human Spider?’ That’s it? That’s the bestcha got?”
Peter: “Yeah.”
Announcer: “Ah, that sucks.”

So instead, he announces the kid as the amazing Spider-Man.

Be amazed.
The bargain bin WWE Divas insult him all the way to the arena as the audience throws popcorn and boos him. As he steps into the arena, the cage drops from the ceiling, much to the delight of a specific fan who yells “Caaaaaaage!” in unbridled glee. Peter tries to tell the people locking the cage that this isn’t what he signed up for, but they ignore him. Because in this reality, wrestling is a horrifyingly real blood sport.

When the bell dings, Peter jumps up onto the cage wall and stays there for a while, despite Bonesaw yelling at him to come down. In the comics, Spider-Man taunts the enemy all the time. But this doesn’t happen as much in the Raimi trilogy, mainly because of the actual difficulties of talking while running and jumping around. But we do get an example of the classic Spidey wit here.

Peter: “That’s a cute outfit. Did your husband give it to you?”

"I'm not entirely thrilled with the heteronormative implications of your jest, freakshow."
But Peter comes down to fight eventually, putting him within range of the folding chair that Bonesaw assaults him with. Because once again, blood sport. Then he gets handed a crowbar. And he’s about to pull a Joker, by the look of it. So Peter, lying on his back, resorts to kicking him until he goes down. As soon as Peter prevails, the crowd changes its tune and starts cheering their new hero, Spider-Man. But even though Peter became a wrestler for the money, it turns out that there isn’t much money in wrestling. The guy in the office with the money only gives him a single Benjamin.

Wrestling Promoter: “It said three grand. For three minutes. ‘Nd you pinned him in two. For that, I give you a hundred and you’re lucky to get that.”

Peter’s protests of needing that money go ignored, and he storms off in a huff as another guy walks in to try and get money out of this jerk. But the new guy has a gun, so he’s a little more persuasive. Peter hears the whole thing go down by the elevator. When the time comes, he stands aside to let the thief go free as revenge on the promoter for stiffing him. Peter exits the place feeling pretty good about himself and goes to meet Uncle Ben. When he gets to the right place, he finds a crowd gathered around an old man who got shot during a carjacking. It’s Uncle Ben.

The scene when the two of them see each other for the last time is downright heartbreaking. From the correct angle.

Angle 1: Utterly tragic.
Angle 2: Freakin' hilarious.
When it comes to crying on camera, Tobey Maguire is no Tom Hiddleston. But the rest of the scene works really well, despite Tobey’s crying face.

Peter overhears the cops say where they’ve tracked down the carjacker to, and he runs off into a back alley to change into his Human Spider Spider-Man outfit.

And soon enough, he's become the Spider-Man from the video game tie-in.
Yeah, the bit where he climbs up the wall and onto the rooftops looks really bad by today’s standards. But back in the day, they were able to pull a little joke on the studio heads by convincing them that it was actually Tobey Maguire doing stuntwork.

Soon enough, we return to the actual practical effects as he figures out how to shoot another webline in midair, letting him continually swing. And I’ve got to say, it’s pretty breathtaking in much the same way as the famous “Can You Read My Mind?” scene from Superman still is to this day. In fact, all the prolonged web-swinging is. Peter lands on Uncle Ben’s stolen car (which is actually Sam Raimi’s own 1973 Oldsmobile) and tries to subdue the carjacker, but a few bullets make that difficult.

The car chase ends as the carjacker crashes into a gate, and the carjacker runs into the abandoned port authority building. Spider-Man stalks him and bashes his head against a few windows before finally getting a good look at him. It’s the robber from earlier. The one he didn’t try to stop out of sheer spite.

Righteous fury emanates from Peter’s face as he twists the gun out of the robber’s hand. In fear, he steps back and begs for mercy, tripping over a pip and falling out the large window behind him.

You'd think there'd be some kind of manhunt to find the guy who apparently pushed a man to his death.
Peter escapes before the cops can find him, and pulls a Batman by sulking on a sculpture on top of the Chrysler Building. In a small, touching scene, he goes home to Aunt May and they hug. It really is a nice moment.

We then cut to the testing ground at Quest Aerospace, where the military brass arrives to see the test of their exoskeleton.

Stark Industries you guys ain't.
The test gets off to a good start, but a bogey flies in and takes out the exoskeleton as well as the nearby bunker. Looks like we won’t see a successful military-grade exoskeleton for about six years.

We then cut to graduation. Aunt May is very proud of Peter, and Stormin’ Norman’s even there to take a moment and tell his son that he’s proud. Before going on to obsess some more over Peter’s accomplishments. Harry walks away and finds Mary Jane breaking up with Flash Thompson.

"I don't need you. I've got a bright future as a male stripper."
Peter and May return home and have a moment together in Peter’s room.

Oh, hey, you learned how to cry on camera.
It’s another wonderfully quiet, understated scene where Peter can’t help but regret how he acted the last moment he ever spent with Ben before the shooting. Aunt May reassures him that Ben always knew Peter would go on to great things. And with that, Peter decides that it’s time to be the hero New York deserves. Time to embrace that great responsibility.

Now the editing is a bit weird here because all of a sudden, Peter’s fighting crime in his new, non-sucky Spider-Man outfit. You’d think there’d be a little more pomp and circumstance to his first costumed outing. Apart from the graduation scene. There’s a trailer that was pulled after 9/11 where a helicopter full of bank robbers gets caught in a gigantic web between the Twin Towers. A common theory is that this would be the beginning of this montage, but no one knows for certain.

The montage is intercut with reaction shots of New Yorkers giving their opinion on the new vigilante to the camera like a news interview.

Including a Lucy Lawless cameo.
After the montage ends, we see someone with an entirely negative view on the wall-crawler. J. Jonah Jameson, played by Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons. Okay, how many Oscar winners are there in this movie?

IMDb says three. Octavia Spencer, JK Simmons, and Cliff Robertson. Geez.

And yet, he keeps reprising his role on Ultimate Spider-Man, where there's less dignity than a Farmers Insurance commercial.
In all seriousness, though,  J.K. Simmons is J. Jonah Jameson. There’s a reason the character never appeared in the rebooted duology; ain’t nobody can top JK Simmons in the role. His voice, appearance, everything is absolutely spot on. And that’s evident from his very first scene, where he juggles talking to Robbie Robertson (Bill Nunn), “Hoffman” (Ted Raimi, the director’s brother), and Betty Brant, played by yet another person who went on to greater fame and fortune, Elizabeth Banks. It’s like everybody’s careers skyrocketed. Except for the leads….

Anyway, the hilarious scene (which these mere words can’t do justice) ends when JJJ decides that if Spider-Man sells papers he’ll exploit this as much as he can by drumming up controversy.  And since “Eddie” (a reference to Venom’s alter-ego) can’t get a clear shot of the new hero, he’ll offer a cash reward for any good pictures.

We then cut to Mary Jane exiting the diner where she works as a waitress. Peter meets up with her to see how she’s doing, and it’s not good. Hence the waitressing. She’s visibly embarrassed, but Peter tells her not to be. After all, Wonder Woman worked at a fast food place for a while. She tells him not to tell Harry, because he seems like a guy who wouldn’t want his girlfriend working as a waitress. Peter tries to play the sudden "girlfriend" revelation cool and offers to stop by and get some coffee from the diner some time.

Soon enough, Peter returns home to the studio apartment he and Harry will be living for the foreseeable future. Norman’s there, on his cell phone, back before that was a thing people were constantly doing. Harry notes that ol’ Pete looks pretty down, and Peter tells him that he lost his job at Dr. Connors’s lab. Thankfully, not because of any sort of lizardy incidents, but because he kept showing up late.

Harry: “Where do you go all the time?”
Peter: “Around.”

Norman finishes his call and asks Peter if he knows who Harry’s mystery girlfriend is, which Peter uses as an opportunity to twist the knife.

Peter: “Sorry, Harry hasn’t mentioned her.”

Harry changes the subject to Peter’s unemployment, and Norman offers him a really good job, which Peter declines in order to make his own way. Once again, Norman expresses just how amazing Peter is and asks what Peter wants to get into. And when Peter notices a certain ad asking for pictures of Spider-Man, he responds that he was thinking about photography.

That night, Spidey foils a robbery, making sure to show his good side to the camera webbed to a lamppost. He takes them to JJJ the next day, who dismisses them all as crap so he can talk Peter down to a low price. He tells Robbie to run one with the line “Spider-Man: Hero or Menace?” to Peter’s incredulity. But the deal is struck, and he goes to see Betty Brant to get his money. He flirts a tiny bit, referencing the fact that she was his first girlfriend in the comics, but it goes nowhere. After all, she’s waiting for Star-Lord to come along.

The future voice of Wyldstyle, in a role that wasn't represented in the Spider-Man Lego sets, ironically.
Over at Oscorp, Norman informs the Board of Directors that, in his own words….

Norman Osborn: “Costs are down, revenues are up, and our stock has never been higher.”

Norman is informed that this is wonderful news. And it’s also why they’re selling the company to Quest Aerospace. After the “incident” with the exoskeleton, they’ve decided to outright buy the competition, and they made an offer the board couldn’t refuse. The only catch is that Norman’s time is over. Quest doesn’t want a power struggle, so Norman’s being forced out. The sale will be announced after the Oscorp-sponsored World Unity Festival, and one of the board members takes a sip of his drink in what might be the most epically “F-you” sip ever sipped.

Like a million middle fingers. and they taste like Darjeeling.
We then cut to the festival itself, where crowds fill the streets and ethnic stereotype balloons fill the skies. And Macy Gray is giving a performance, so you know this was made in 2002. Harry and MJ are on the Oscorp balcony, and Harry’s disappointed that she didn’t wear the black dress to impress Norman.

Harry: “He loves black.”

Yeah, I think we’ll see what his real favorite color is soon enough. Peter, taking pictures below, suddenly gets a pang of spider-sense as something starts flying through the sky. Nobody knows what it is, but it turns some heads as it weaves through the balloons. Some kind of green-suited individual is flying the Oscorp glider through the skies, only pausing to throw a bomb or two at the Oscorp balcony. And with that, we get our obligatory Stan Lee cameo as he pulls a little girl to safety.

"Face front, True Believer! The creator of this world deems you worthy to live!"
There was going to be a longer cameo where he peddled sunglasses, but it was cut for whatever reason. Mary Jane ends up finding herself on the falling part of the balcony as Peter does his best Christopher Reeve impression.

Try to ignore the very obvious airbrushed muscles.
And the Oscorp Board of Directors is taken out by a different bomb that cartoonishly skeletonizes them. Harry decides to prove how useless he is by getting knocked out by falling debris, and our villain decides to show himself to Mary Jane as well as the audience.

Hoo boy, 2002.
Yeah. That costume. It’s ridiculous. And it’s mostly the mask. Not only does he look like Elgar from Power Rangers, but you have to ask where he even got the thing. I mean, Norman was shown to have an extensive mask collection, but this looks like it was made to go along with the glider suit from Oscrop. That's an odd little bit of synchronicity.

Spider-Man arrives to kick this menace in the face, sending his body to the ground and his glider into a balloon. The balloon sends a nearby structure in the direction of a small kid, so Spider-Man saves him. No biggie. Even though the kid totally could have run away from the collapsing balloon. Even Kirsten Dunst calls this out on the commentary.

Meanwhile, the green meanie has been beating up cops, so Spider-Man arrives to throw a punch, which the villain catches.

???: “Impressive!”

Whoever this villain is, he’s a darn good ventriloquist. I couldn’t even see his lips move when he said that. And I could see his lips. And not the green ones, his real ones.

He soon ends up back on the glider and opens fire with his guns and missiles. Through some aerial acrobatics and quick webbing, Spidey manages to rips out some important wires in the glider, driving the villain off.

???: “We’ll meet again, Spider-Man!”

Never change, movie. Never change. Spidey leaps into action to save Mary Jane from falling, and the two of them are soon swinging through the city. They land on a nearby garden rooftop next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and MJ has only one question for her savior.

Mary Jane: “Who are you?”
Spider-Man: “You know who I am.”
Mary Jane: “I do?”
Spider-Man: “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!”

"And certainly not anyone you actually know."
Later that night, Harry and Peter are back home in the apartment. Harry’s on the phone with MJ, and she keeps using the word “incredible” to describe Spider-Man. After the call, he apologizes to Peter about asking MJ out; he only did it because Peter never made a move. All Peter knows, though, is that whatever that thing that attacked was, somebody needs to stop it. It’s an important moment because it’s one thing for Peter to lend a helping hand to the cops. It’s another thing entirely when a threat comes along that only he can take care. The Green Goblin is his responsibility because only he has the power to stop him.

The next day, Norman Osborn is making himself breakfast with a whiskey bottle when he hears a laugh echoing throughout the room. Soon enough, he hears a voice and follows it to a mirror. He starts talking to his reflection, not asking him to change his ways, but just wondering what the heck has been going on. His evil side taunts him, explaining that Norman suspected all along what was making all these fortunate “accidents” happen.

Norman Osborn: “You killed them.”
Evil Norman: We killed them!”
Norman Osborn: “We?”
Evil Norman: “Remember? Your little accident in the laboratory?”
Norman Osborn: “The performance enhancers….”
Evil Norman: “Bingo. Me! Your greatest creation. Bringing you what you’ve always wanted.”

Actually, now that he mentions it, Norman Osborn has everything he set out to obtain. His contracts, his company…. Norman Osborn has won. So why will he keep going around dressed up as a green monster? Spider-Man.

Evil Norman: “Imagine if he joined us.”

Yep. He wants Spider-Man to join them so that together, they can… I don’t know, I don’t think they’ve thought it out that far yet.

"Then what do we do?"
"After Spider-Man joins us. What do we do then?"
"Uh... poison innocent civilians with laughing gas?"
"A bit Joker-y, don't you think?"
"Kill all the firstborn sons in New York!"
"Too Jewish."
"Become Director of a government agency?"
"That's just silly."
"Gollum! Gollum!"
Whatever their evil plan may be, JJJ is in his office laughing over the evil plot he implicated Spider-Man in by saying he and the newly-named “Green Goblin” were partners.

Peter: “Spider-Man wasn’t attacking the city, he was trying to save it. That’s slander.”
J. Jonah Jameson: “It is not! I resent that. …Slander is spoken. In print, it’s ‘libel.’”

Hands down, my favorite line from this movie right there. He shoos Peter out, and suddenly has an attack of instant karma when the Green Goblin attacks him and demands to know where the guy who takes the pictures of Spider-Man is.

J. Jonah Jameson: “I don’t know who he is, his stuff comes in the mail!”

Is he protecting Peter out of the goodness of his heart? Or just trying to make sure the guy who gets the money-making pictures doesn’t get offed? Either way, Spider-Man shows up to save him. Geez, Peter can change his clothes really fast.

Gobby hits Spider-Man with the sleeping gas and takes him away. A few hours later, Spider-Man wakes up on a roof top where the Goblin awaits to have a little talk. You know, chit-chat.

Just for this image, I will love this movie forever.
He tells Spider-Man the city will eventually hate him, because people are basically jerks. He tells Spidey that there are basically three ways this can go down.
  1. Green Goblin kills Spider-Man. 
  2. They fight each other over and over and over and over and over and neither of them get anywhere. 
  3. Spider-Man joins the dark side.
Green Goblin leaves Spider-Man with his thoughts to decide. And the next day, the Bugle prints a page one story about how the Green Goblin and Spider-Man attacked J. Jonah Jameson, which means that the Goblin’s words are starting to ring true. Things are not looking too good for our hero.

Coming up in Part 3! The night Gwen Stacy... was nowhere to be seen.

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