Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

SPOILER WARNING: I spoil pretty much the entire damn movie. Proceed with caution.

I have been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan since as long as I can remember.

I definitely remember having a Donatello doll when I was a child. My cousin and I loved the show and used to act it out (SHUT UP WE WERE 4 YOU’VE ALL DONE THE SAME OR YOU’RE BORING!!!!!). I watched the 80s show religiously and it would explain why I grew up with such a weird, irreverent sense of humour.

Artist's rendition of me as a child (or, more likely, as an adult
if I had the money for a costume like this)

It was hard to escape the show, in fairness. It probably has the hugest marketing brand this side of Hello Kitty. It got on everything from fruit pies to basketball mascots (seriously, there’s a toy line where the Turtles play basketball). They had a (terrifying looking) rock concert, they had three movies and the cartoon itself lasted 10 years, which is an amazing lifespan for a Saturday morning cartoon.

Considering we now live in a world where nostalgia properties rule the galaxy (of cinema. The Cinema Galaxy?) at the moment, it was kind of inevitable that we’d get another attempt at a live-action Turtles movie. What’s amazing, really, is that it took this long for them to try. I can put that down to two things:
  1. It probably went through all that bullshit a lot of Hollywood movies did (no, I didn’t look into its production history. No, I don’t particularly care to, either).
  2. Nostalgia. People who grew up with the Turtles are now adults themselves (or overgrown manchildren, such as myself), and they probably even have kids themselves. Now they have an awesome thing to introduce to their children in a new, modernised form.

A possible third reason is that Nickelodeon were smart with their branding. After they acquired the rights to the Turtles from Eastman and Laird, the creators, they immediately went into producing a TV show. Which has been airing since 2012 (btw, this show is awesome and if you’re a fan you should be watching it yesterday). Now, not only do we have nostalgic fans going, but we also have younger kids who love the new show following suit.

Seriously, though, WATCH THIS SHOW!!!!!!!!

And you know what? That’s pretty damn awesome. Seriously, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that has entertained fans of all ages going onto 30 years now. I mean, when I heard Michael Bay was producing it, I had probably the same reaction that most fans did:

But at the same time I shouldn’t push my beliefs and views of the Turtles onto new interpretations of them because they’re situated in a very particularly time with a very particular incarnation. And who am I, a guy who’d only really respond to the 80s version of the show, to dictate how this new direction should go? That didn’t stop people from complaining (and man, did they complain!), but 
this is a new TMNT for an entirely new audience.

The reason I’ve given you this (nearly 500 word) intro is to basically point out this is coming from a biased perspective. I am a fan of the series. But my views should not be forced onto you and, more importantly, your kids. If you have a child that enjoyed it, that is great. It warms my heart that a series I grew up with is still entertaining and wowing 4-year olds even to this day, and it’s up to them to find the version of the Turtles they love. Because I have mine.

Now, with that out of the way, what did I think of this movie? To be honest, I did not hate it. I didn’t love it, either.

(with apologies to Film Critic Hulk)

So I guess I should explain this. No, this isn’t the abysmal embarrassment most fans were expecting/hoping it to be, but it’s far from a great movie. It’s forgettable, at best.

Let’s start with what it does right, and that is the Turtles themselves. Now, while it’s incredibly annoying that they don’t appear until 20 minutes into the movie (more on that later), they get their personalities down perfectly. Every actor suited their character perfectly, except sadly for Johnny Knoxville as Leo and Tony Shalhoub as Splinter. Interestingly enough they’re the only cast members who didn’t provide the mo-cap for their characters either, so make of that what you will.

Outside of that, they get the personalities down perfectly. While Michelangelo can be a little grating and his crush on April is *really* annoying, they feel like the characters from the various shows. They feel like the Turtles I grew up with (well, Raphael is different, but he’s only the goofy sarcastic guy in the 80s series, so I was used to that).

Now, I’m in the camp that thinks they look pretty awful. I like that they have different signifiers like marks or extra paraphernalia outside of their masks and weapons (something the 2012 show did), but they’re so cluttered that it really makes it hard to look directly at them. It’s like your mind goes to several different parts just to figure out all the shit they’re wearing. Plus, they’re freaking huge! Like, way, way too big. I didn’t realise the mutagen also gave them ‘roid rage!

I'm sorry, Donnie! I still love you. YOU WERE ALWAYS MY

So, I guess that’s damning with faint praise. What about the rest of the cast? Well, I’m not a huge fan of Splinter’s actor (no offense meant to Shalhoub-I’ve heard he’s a good actor, he’s just not good in this role), but he also looks freaking terrible. Like, really bad. He’s not in the movie all that much (they knock him out halfway through the movie and forget about him until he’s convenient for an emotional moment), so it’s not a huge detractor.

The supporting cast are pretty solid. Will Arnett plays the main comic relief, Vernon, who’s very different from his 80s series counterpart, but insanely likeable because he’s Will Arnett. Frankly, he’s probably too good for the role he’s given. William Fichtner is brilliant as the sub-villain Eric Sacks (more on him later). Whoopi Goldberg has a really random role as April’s boss and she’s only in two scenes (I heard she did the movie for her daughter, but seriously, she’s Whoopi friggin’ Goldberg! Give her more to do).

Nope, didn't forget about her. And yes, the fact
that her coat is a reference to the jumpsuit
is really cool

Obviously, the biggest star (and point of contention) was Megan Fox as April O’Neil. When I first heard she was cast, I had to eye roll and automatically dismiss this movie because I’m really cool like that. The first trailer didn’t help any, as she didn’t even talk! So, when watching this…she isn’t bad. She’s clearly trying, and she does get some pretty decent moments. I don’t think she’s the right fit for this role, though; she lacks the feistiness and charisma. And that could work if they were self-aware of it. At the start of the movie, she’s complaining about getting all the shitty ‘happy happy’ new jobs and not digging her clearly hungry claws into serious reporting work. That’s a great character arc; someone who fits into the ‘Morning A.M.’ personality, but wants more job satisfaction.
And then she loses her job and her eagerness to be a respected reporter is ignored outside of one throwaway line at the end of the movie.

Seeing as this happens, I can safely spill one of the biggest issues with this movie; it takes forever to get going! As the arc they were building up for April is ignored once the Turtles show up, nothing really happens in the plot outside of Sack’s introduction and his connection to April (more on that later)…until the Turtles show up. I have no problem with them building up the Turtles’ introduction if there was something going on in the movie that had any relevance after they showed up. You could have cut from the animated intro (that was pretty awesome, I have no real complaints there) to the scene where April and Sacks meet each other, throw in a bit more dialogue about how April wants to ‘make a difference’ as a reporter and pretty much lost nothing. Even for a dumb little kid’s movie, that’s not how you engage an audience and tell a story. That’s filler.

Thankfully, after the hilariously all over the place fight scene in the sewer, the movie picks up steam until the wa-haaaaay too long climax with Shredder on the rooftop. Once the plot kicks in the painful expository scenes get dialled down a lot and the film keeps a lot of momentum going until the end. There aren’t a lot of great character interaction moments, but you’re never bored.

I guess that brings up the next issue: the fight sequences. They’re choppy, terribly edited, confusing and usually in the dark so you have no clue what’s going on. They’re so hard to follow and keep engaged in, I usually just switch out until they’re over. Which is a shame, as this is the Turtles we’re talking about! A cartoon with an 80s animated budget kept me more interested than a big-budgeted Hollywood film.

That doesn’t mean the action scenes aren’t well done, however (yes, I consider them separate). There is that amazing sequence where the Turtles rush down the sewers which is engaging, fun and gets across their skills as ninjas so well (and ends on a fart joke. Kind of sums up the movie as a whole). And, of course, the hill scene which is energise, surprising and so much fun. Both these scenes incorporate the camera’s inability to sit still to great effect, so they get a thumbs up, to quote a film critic much, much better than I am.

It also gives Donnie the chance to be the bad-ass :)
Come on-overdone slow motion and all, you cannot deny
how cool this moment is.

One more aside about the direction. The director of this movie is Jonathan Liesbsman (not Bay, he only produced it). I’ve never seen any of his other movies but, judging from the critical reaction, and this film, he’s not very good. You can tell a lot about a director’s talent by how they handle exposition scenes. They must be a pain to shoot and keep interesting (no matter how good your dialogue is, and good Jesus the dialogue in this movie isn’t good, basic direction for a dialogue-heavy scene is one way to kill your movie stone dead). The talking scenes in this movie are terrible, and so completely lifeless, it’s not only obvious that the CG characters aren’t in the scene together, I begin to question if the human ones are even together, as well.

Finally, I get to our villains of the piece. It is so goddamn obvious that the guy they cast to be Shredder (who does great in the role, he’s subtly intimidating in the three scenes he’s in) was not originally meant to be him. His scenes look like they were filmed in post, with the actors rushed in to read their scenes and leave, and he dubbed over dialogue meant for Eric Sack’s character. Now, I get why they changed this, and I respect it. Whitewashing is not something I adhere to, and this movie is not good enough for me to ignore it if it happened here. But this new Shredder is so lazily thrown into the scene, it’s amazing they even cast the guy and just had the Hulk Shredder go without dialogue (though I guess that would just make him a henchman, which also isn’t good). This also explains why Sack’s gets the lamest villain ending this side of Wormtail from the Harry Potter movie series.

Yes, this thing looks ridiculous. Like, GLORIOUSLY ridiculous!

With that out of the way, I just have one more point to make because good lord this thing is long. The villains’ plans make absolutely no sense. To display this, let me use a list because I love lists:
  1. So Sacks and Shredder want to rule New York and get rich by infecting it with a major disease and then curing is using the mutagen. Okay. How do we know that will heal them? The only time we see it heal anyone is Splinter, who already has the mutagen in his blood stream. These two are acting like they know it will heal them, which doesn’t really add up. These turtles weren’t mortally wounded when they were experimented on, they just grew into Sumo wannabes.
  2. For that matter, why not use Splinter? He clearly has the mutagen in his body (he wouldn’t have grown otherwise), and he’d be a hell of a lot easier to catch than 4 massive turtles. Or are you trying to tell me the physiology of reptiles is closer to humans than the physiology of a rat?
  3. How strong is this virus? If it’s too strong, you’ve just wiped out New York. If it only kills a few, or act like a virus does, you’ve still made New York a quarantine zone that nobody will be able to enter. You can’t rule an empty city, either way you’ve just doomed this place to death.
  4. How do you know the mutagen will cure people?
  5. Do you not think that people will put two and two together and realise the virus came from your freaking tower?! This gets even dumber when Shredder tries to just drop the damn thing to release the virus.

There are probably more things, but frankly I’m probably thinking too much about it. Maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much if the movie didn’t take itself so freaking seriously. Despite the jokes and the pop culture references (if you have a problem with those, what TMNT show did you watch?), it’s got this serious tone that just isn’t offset with goofy craziness like the ’03 cartoon was. But alas, the plans were likely dumber in the 80’s cartoon, so what do I know?

So, that’s my opinion on the movie. Is it good? Not really. Does it matter? Probably not. I doubt the TMNT movies I grew up with were very good, but I still love them. If kids love this film, that’s all that matters. And if they just keep that winning formula and familiar personalities, I could see kids really gravitating towards this franchise (and yes, it’s getting a sequel).

Leave Casey Jones out of that one, however, and words will be

I didn’t like it, but it’s not for me. I don’t think it’s a spit on the face of the franchise, so really that’s all that matters. This is a new Turtles for a new generation, so let’s just hope the kids of tomorrow embrace the heroes in a half-shell.

That rap song at the end of the movie sucks balls, though.



-The score for this is ‘generic superhero theme #19,835. Until the fight with Splinter and Shredder, where it goes…Gladiator.

-Because people will kill me if I don’t mention it, yes, the elevator scene is hilarious. It doesn’t fit the tone of the movie at all, but it fits the tone and personality of the Turtles. It is, easily, one of the best moments in the movie.

-The actress who played Karai (Minae Noji) is really good. I wish they had given her more to do in the movie. I love that she’s older, too.

-For the record, the actor who played Shredder is named Tohoru Masumune and he is also really good. I find it deeply ironic that people were complaining (rightly) about the whitewashing of his character when it became clear that Eric Sacks was supposed to be him, and yet he’s one of the very few Asian actors to portray the character (one of the others, James Saito, also played him in the live-action movies).

-Loved the little nods and callbacks to the previous shows. My favourite was probably hearing ‘Tonight I dine on turtle soup’ in Japanese. It’s the little things in life.

-Cynic that I am, it does touch me when I hear the Turtles call Splinter ‘dad’. I even found Raph’s speech really sweet, if a tad contrived and overwritten.

-Seriously, why hire Whoopi Goldberg and only put her in 2 scenes?!

Next time: Would you believe that a man could fly?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Spider-Man 3 (2007) - Movie Review

(check out my reviews of the first and second movie while you're at it!)

SPOILER WARNING: I spoil pretty much the entire damn movie. Proceed with caution.

Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi (screenplay/story), Alvin Sargent (screenplay only)
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons
Released: 2007

I really didn’t want to hate this movie. Like, really.

And you can accuse me of just wanting to be a contrarian. Like, I only want to like it to go against the grain. But there are a lot of people out there that give this movie a fairer pass than most people have. Seeing as I’m pretty much reviewing this to basically cover the entire trilogy, I was hoping I’d find something to connect to this movie that others haven’t!

And it’s not like I haven’t gone against the grain on opinions of movies before! Just to use comic book examples, I actually don’t think the X-Men: The Last Stand or Green Lantern are that bad! Hell, I actually quite enjoyed Elektra (moreso than Daredevil, anyway) and the first Fantastic Four movie (despite the hilarious miscasting of most of the key players in the latter). Don’t get me wrong: none of these films are masterpieces by any regards, I just think people judge them too harshly.

I also wanted to like it because, let’s be real; what the hell can I say that everybody and their grandmothers hasn’t said negatively about Spider-Man 3? What can I bring to the proceedings of the dislike people already have of this movie that nobody else can? I really can’t; like I said, I’m mostly reviewing this movie for completion’s sake.

So, if you haven’t guessed, to say I didn’t care for Spider-Man 3 is a bit of an understatement.

Sorry, Sad Peter

What exactly doesn’t work about it? The answer is pretty simple and well covered: the movie is bloated with extraneous stuff! We have the Black Costume, 2 new villains that need to be fleshed out and explored, continuing plot threads like Peter and MJ’s relationship and Harry’s descent into villainy. Aside of that, we have a subplot of Peter letting people’s love of Spider-Man get to his head, the introduction of Captain and Gwen Stacy, the revelation that Sandman was the one who killed Uncle Ben and, of course, we need appearances of the series’ mainstays like the Bugle staff, Aunt May and the obligatory Bruce Campbell cameo.

I hope you find 'French Waiter' stereotypes funny, folks!

Now, this is a lot to cover, but it doesn’t necessarily need to sink a movie. X2 had about as much story, but managed to remain balanced and consistent. Hell, the movie is over 2 hours long, so it has the time to try to flesh this stuff out. The problem is that it doesn’t flesh it out!  Most of the new elements are either rushed or quickly ignored for the most part. Gwen Stacy, who was set up to replaced Mary-Jane in case Kirsten Dunst chose to leave had they continued the franchise, is basically a plot device for the stupid dancing. Sandman comes in and out of the movie at its convenience. Eddie Brock gets a ton of focus, but is pretty much ignored and rushed into ‘villain’ as soon as Venom comes around. None of these plot threads are well fleshed out or have a lot of weight.

One great, and insanely annoying, example of this is Harry’s ‘arc’. After two movies of build up and development, we get one fight between Peter and Harry 20 minutes in and Harry hits his head and gains amnesia. Ignoring the fact that this is the laziest storytelling device in the history of story, it really only serves to put Harry out of commission until the plot needs him to come back in. There’s some awkwardly forced implications of a love triangle, Harry gets his memories back, blackmails MJ into breaking up with Peter (HEY, MARY JANE, WHY NOT TELL YOUR SUPERHERO BOYFRIEND YOU’RE BEING BLACKMAILED?!?!?!?!), he convinced Peter she left him for him, let’s Peter know through a look his memories are back (why?!), Peter puts him out of the movie AGAIN for about 20 minutes, his butler tells him stuff he should have told him in the last movie and saved us a lot of grief (seriously, Harry’s butler was the true villain of the Spider-Man saga), this completely makes him do a 180 and he sacrifices his life to save Peter.


Keep in mind that all of this takes up, like, about 20 minutes of the movie. It’s so lazily rushed and is an insult to the great story they’ve been building for the character throughout the three movies. This lack of structure and cohesion completely sinks the movie. Say what you will about the first two, they had very straightforward focuses and their plot progressed and developed naturally. The second one was particularly airtight as the plot seemed to evolve with Peter’s story, allowing everyone to have their moments and concise development around his story.

Another problem is the lack of a concise theme. While the Raimi Spider-Man films aren’t exactly deep and philosophical, they usually had an overarching theme that ran through it. The first movie was pretty basic ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. We saw that with Peter rising to the occasion and Norman falling. The second movie is how this hero can inspire people. Again, rise of Peter after he loses faith in it, fall and rise of Otto and just simple fall of Harry. This movie seems to be overcoming the darkness within and not letting it consume you…I guess? This would be paid off if Peter’s ego over being Spidey was more fleshed out or the costume was more focal earlier on in the movie, or even if the Sandman’s story…ended, but it’s clearly not as consistent as the first two were. It fails to get some basic tenants of storytelling right!

The villains? Well, everyone knows the amazingly awful job they did with Venom! Topher Grace’s Brock is a hard character to get a grip on. Is he supposed to be the slimey, smooth-talking opportunist who shows Peter up only for Peter to make him lose his job (due to his own corruption, but that’s pretty in-line with his comic book counterpart, so there you go), or mentally unhinged? His relationship with Gwen is ill-defined and pretty creepy. He’s obsessed with her after one date (and yes, like the love triangle, this goes nowhere). He takes Peter’s nonsensical ‘Find religion’ comment seriously and asks God to kill Peter! It’s such a weirdly written character. And, of course, Venom is underused, they didn’t need to keep pulling his face back and they took all the menace out of his character. I know Raimi really didn’t want to use Venom but the studio played his hand, but while you have him, you might as well try to make him more compelling!

What's worse is that his design is actually pretty decent

Sandman, however, fares much better. Thomas Haden Church is an excellent casting choice. Not only is he note perfect looks-wise to his comic book counterpart, he gives the role a lot of nuance with very little action. The birth of Sandman scene is beautiful in every level: editing, pacing, effects, lighting but especially music (yes, the bird thing is dumb, but everyone complains about the bird thing, so…yeah, we all know it’s dumb). The effects on the Sandman are amazing and still hold up; they’re fluid and natural, rarely ever feeling like an effect (though, obviously, sometimes they do). And that’s about it. He’s in the movie so little that it’s hard to create a bond with the character. Like Peter’s ego boost, there’s the potential for a good story here, it’s just squandered by a bloated script and very little time allocated to the character. The retcon with Uncle Ben is appalling; it absolutely robs Peter of all the guilt he has to do with his uncle’s death and does nothing to add to the story outside of making Peter angry enough to rush the black costume story later on.

Oh, yes. The infamous black costume story. Let me just say this straight out, it’s incredibly goofy! Peter does not look cool, dangerous or menacing throughout the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ scenes or the dance at the club. He looks like a dork! And the fact that people are taking him so seriously is laughable. Nobody would take this dweeby guy so seriously, they’d likely just beat him up harder! What’s even worse is that both Harry and Sandman are out of commission by the time this story roles around, so there’s nothing to break up this awfulness and the movie stops to a screeching halt with only half an hour left! What’s worse is that we get some pretty great stuff with Peter’s attacks on Sandman and Harry (Tobey Maguire sells the hell out of angry Peter instead of dorky ‘dark’ Peter), and even the scene where he confronts Brock, that if they had just not gone for laughs (Sam Raimi’s amazing inappropriate comedy strikes again!) it really would have played a lot better despite how late into the movie the story is started.

And, being honest, all of this could be okay if it wasn’t such a drag to watch! Due to the odd pacing issues and how badly handled the villains are, not a lot really goes on in this movie. It seems to primarily focus on Peter and MJ’s boring romance that doesn’t get much better here. A lot of the characters that added life to the last movies, like May and Jonah, are pushed to the sideline and get borderline cameos and the plot starts and stops so much that it’s impossible to get engaged with any of this. It doesn’t help that the tone is all over the map; unlike the second one, it cannot find a decent balance between drama and fun and usually screws the pooch on both. It just makes it even harder to keep engaged and seriously hurts the movie.

If I have to give a gratuitous compliment, though, it’s that Mary Jane is not noticeably bland or annoying in this movie. Whilst her sour reaction to Peter trying to be supportive over the review is a bit much, I kind of see where she’s coming from and the movie seems to make her more of a person. Her argument with Peter after he kisses Gwen (and oh man was that out of character!) was extremely appropriate and it’s probably the best acting Kirsten Dunst does in the three movies. So yeah. If nothing else, this movie finally kind of made Mary Jane work. By making her a little superfluous in this chasm of a plot, but take what you’re given!

So, is there anything I liked about the movie, without it being ‘this character didn’t annoy me’ or ‘this so nearly worked and stuff about it is great’? Well, the fight scenes are probably the best of the trilogy. Seriously, the fights in this are so well choreographed and shot that they keep you engaged and excited when they rear their heads in this bloated mess of a movie. While they have their individual problems (what is up with the score for the Peter/Harry fight at Harry’s house?!), they’re energised and the best example of Raimi’s talents as a genre filmmaker. Also, it’s probably the best the effects have looked in all three movies. And, despite how jumbled their stories were, when Tobey Maguire and James Franco were allowed to act in this movie, they were pretty damn good! I really believed their chemistry and friendship and it did help through the painful amnesia stuff.

Seriously; damn great effects work in this flick!

Outside of that, this movie is a trainwreck. Horrible screenplay with very little engaging or fun dialogue, plot threads that are wrapped up in underwhelming or rushed ways, too much going on, characters routinely ignored or shoved aside and just a really depressing way to end this trilogy. I’ve said my piece on it, I doubt I’ve said anything that others haven’t said, this movie is not misunderstood or better than people give it credit for. It’s just a mess and it’s such a shame that Raimi never got to make the fourth installment to hopefully 
redeem whatever happened in this movie.

Still, it’s not like they kept the same bloated, incoherent filmmaking for the new serie-

Oh, yeah…

Rating: 4/10

This poster is, admittedly, pretty awesome

Random observations:

-Stan Lee cameo: he stands next to Peter and mumbles some weird stuff about superheroes or something. You know a movie is bad when even the Stan Lee cameo doesn’t work…

-Bruce Campbell cameo: he’s the ‘French’ waiter who helps Peter set up his proposal for Mary Jane. As fun as it is to see Bruce Campbell having fun, they really milk this joke.

-No Spider-Man quips. Not a one. I guess that brings our total quip counter to five for three movies. Hell, despite my complaints about Amazing Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield at least made me laugh in parts!

-This was Cliff Robertson’s (Uncle Ben) last movie. He sadly passed away in 2011. Robertson brought a warmth and calm, everyman wisdom to the character that was quite endearing. May he rest in peace.

-You know what would have made Venom work better? Make him Jonah’s son from the last movie. He’s been established as an astronaut, he could bring the symbiote goo to Earth like he did in the 90’s animated show and he has a reason to hate Peter as he 'stole' his fiancée. I mean, it would cut Eddie Brock out of the picture, but Eddie Brock sucks as a character so I don’t see the issue here. But no, we get weirdo Eric Foreman and a tacked on rivalry storyline. Wonderful.

-No Jonah quotes as he’s barely in the movie. The stuff with him trying to stay calm and the buzzer joke were pretty funny, though.

-Also, I know Norman Osborne frequently suffered amnesia until his death in the comic books, but what you can get away with in the 60’s is a little bit more liberal than what a writer can get away with in 2007. Also, as stupid and cheesy as it was even then, it served a function of keeping Norman as a recurring character after he was revealed to be the Green Goblin for the next decade or so. Harry’s amnesia only served to keep him on ice until the 2 hour movie needed him.

-What’s even worse is that I think Harry’s Gobby costume is probably the best looking Green Goblin we’ve gotten on the big screen. And believe me when I say that isn’t saying much…

-Speaking of costume, I always hated the design of Spidey’s black costume. I mean, it looks fine and real, just like his original costume, but it’s a dark version of his original costume! Say what you will about the black costume, it at least looks different! (okay, it’s based on the design of one of the Spiderwoman costumes, but it still looks different!)

This is a different costume

This is Peter modding his suit

-Can we ban Sam Raimi from putting dancing scenes in a movie? I’d sign it in a heartbeat.

-I’m stopping here because even my random observations is just bitching.

Next time: I’m talking a bit of a break while I finish my Masters. I have reviews planned for my return, however, so stick around! All three of you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Spider-Man 2 (2004)-Movie Review

(be sure to check out my review of 2002's Spider-Man right here)

SPOILER WARNING: I spoil pretty much the entire damn movie. Proceed with caution.

Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Alvin Sargent (story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Michael Chabon)
Starring: Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons
Released: 2004

Sequels, as a rule, don’t tend to be as good as the original.

Now, of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Some have stated that The Godfather Part 2 is a better movie than its predecessor. Now, personally I would put them on par at best, but I can certainly see why people praise it so highly. Terminator 2 and The Empire Strikes Back are also considered superior to the original movies and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Overall, however, these are exceptions rather than the rule. There are certain genres, however, where this golden rule is broken. One of them being superhero fiction.

Okay, not ALL superhero sequels...

This mainly seems to be that the original movie is usually so seeped in ‘originitis’ that the sequel is allowed to expand on the characters outside of their set origins and actually allowed to explore them. Movies like X2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Blade 2, Thor: The Dark World, Superman II and The Dark Knight are considered by many to be superior to their original films. This rule seems to fall flat on its face when we get to third movie territory (the only exception to this I can think of is Iron Man 3), but it really does look like that superhero sequels seem to trump the originals a lot of the time. This definitely applies to Spider-Man 2.

I’m not gonna mince words here. I love Spider-Man 2. It is, without any shadow of a doubt, a huge improvement over the first movie. There is so much to enjoy about this movie; the direction, action, pacing, script, character development, how it builds off so well from the plot of the first movie without ever feeling too grounded to it and it manages to get more serious and introspective while still keeping that sense of fun and adventure.

Parts of that do have to do with a lot of returning elements. One is the cast. While Tobey Maguire never exactly embodies the role like he should, he does handle the arc Peter goes through with grace and sincerity. The scenes after he gives up being Spider-Man starting with the awesomely perfect ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head’ are really well performed and easily some of Maguire’s better and more subtle acting throughout the trilogy. He really does look different when MJ comments on it, it’s really well done. I’ll talk about the rest of the cast later on.

Sam Raimi’s direction is still fantastic. He gives New York such a freeing, dizzying joy as he really hits on that old school comic book aesthetic, but is still not afraid to put his own, darker stance on the franchise. Not only is the tone noticeably darker throughout with a lot more shocking visuals and scenery, the scene where Doctor Octopus wakes up is honestly the stuff of nightmares. No music, harsh cuts, incredibly unnerving and frantic pacing with sound designs that will almost chill you to your spine. It’s a bit of a pity that it does not fit with the tone of the rest of the movie, but damn is it a fine sequence!

Props to Raimi for getting the 'Spider-Man No More' aesthetic down so perfectly, as well

Part of this improvement of visual scope is the vastly superior visual effects. One of Spider-Man’s major problems was its effects. They have either not aged well or they were slightly unfinished (the fly is still really fake looking!). I don’t know if it’s the higher budget (60 million, even in Hollywood terms, is a BIG raise!) or the fact that technology really improved in the 2 years, but everything feels so flowing and natural. Spidey’s web-swinging feels a lot more realistic and the visuals in the fight scene and the solar ball from the fusion machine look amazing. Not every effect holds up (the movie is about 10 years old now), but it's still a great looking movie

As does the writing. I’ve mentioned in my Spider-Man review that David Koepp, while knowing how to make an entertaining romp of a film, didn’t seem to be as adept at writing dialogue or pacing very well. Alvin Sargent was brought on board for this sequel, and will continue to script the series until Amazing Spider-Man 2. This was easily his strongest script and it falls together so well. Its pacing is perfect; there’s always something going on and there’s always something being developed onscreen.  The dialogue has wildly improved. It’s witty, it flows and it feels a lot more natural and human. The way Harry and May talk to Peter makes them seem like genuine people instead of roles they have to play, and J. Jonah Jameson’s dialogue is freaking sparkling in this film (seriously, the majority of his dialogue will be the focus of the random observations section!).

And thus, internet history was made...

Since I brought them up, both Harry and May have my favourite arcs of the movie. They’re not largely focused on and they are mostly used to flesh out Peter’s story, but they each have wonderfully structured stories behind them that build off the previous movie perfectly and get great pay-off. May Parker feels the full blunt of losing her husband and the financial strain that puts on her life. Her reaction after Peter tells her about his involvement with his death is heart-breaking and Rosemary Harris owns every scene she is in. Every sad tear and melancholy look is played with such pathos. Her speech is one of the best in any superhero movie, bar none.

Harry Osborn? Easily the best he is throughout any of the movies. James Franco owns every scene he’s in and really turns Harry into a fully, 3-dimensional character. He’s a man who’s crippled by an emotionally neglectful father and a huge inferiority complex. He struggles in vain to make a company to match his father’s, even go ahead of it, only to see it all crush down. His confrontations with Peter are venomous and well played and, when he find out that Peter is Spider-Man, it’s one of the best cut shots in the entire movie. Everything dies down and he’s utterly stunned by what he finds behind the mask. There is also, of course, his final scene. The movie takes him from tortured best friend to damaged anti-villain to full-fledged villain, all fuelled by the ghost of his father (Willem Dafoe is easily more menacing here than he was in any of the previous movie). It’s one of the best parts of the movie, and it makes what happens to his character in the next movie so dispiriting in hindsight.

I cannot wait to hugely disappoint you, father!

The actual villain of the movie, Doctor Octopus? The best portrayals of a villain in these movies yet! While he’s not completely accurate to his comic book counterpart (I never really cared about his wife, either), Alfred Molina is suitably intimidating and menacing in the role. He really does get across a man being controlled and warped by a machine so well. The arms are amazing in terms of their effects and still hold up well. I love that they almost have separate personalities of their own and the operators got them doing individual tasks. Its little traits like that that really make the character come to life, like one arm giving Ock a cigar and lighting it for him.

This brings us to one of the most celebrated scenes in the entire franchise: the train fight. In short; everything about this scene works. The build-up from when Peter takes his costume back from the Bugle until he runs into Ock is well paced. The set designs and interactions with the environment around them is really well timed. The action is well staged and it's one of the few times in the Raimi trilogy where Spidey actually thinks his way out of a situation. Him webbing up the sides of buildings and using his body to slow down the train is so perfectly heroic that I fail to think of anything he’s done in the movies comes close to it. The way the citizens react to him, the way they respond to him and the way they defend him is touching and really well earned. 

The way Ock casually pushes them away when they try to defend Spidey is also pretty funny

What’s even better is that he loses! The injuries sustained from the train means that he’s easy pickings for Ock to take back to Harry. Even at his best, even when he pushes his all, sometimes he fails. But that’s okay, because all the good he did far outweighs the fact that life can rain down on him at times. It’s a perfect sequence and it embodies so much of the character that it’s probably a good jumping off point to discuss what I don’t like about the movie!

Honestly? Not a lot. There is a point where the action just kind of dies. It’s shortly after the hospital scene with Ock and it only really picks up for me again when Spidey gives up the costume. It’s nothing huge, it’s just a second act lull that a lot of movies go through and, compared to its predecessor, it doesn’t exactly kill the pacing stone dead. I also felt the bank scene was a bit too goofy, even for Raimi’s Spider-Man standards. Though, while I’m here, hi, bank teller Joel McHale! Guess those community college fees need to be paid some way…

God, look at this kid! He's like if somebody crushed Abed and gave him pocket protectors!

Also, some of the comedy doesn’t really come off right. Not so much the dialogue, most of it is snappy and funny without coming across as too acerbic or try-hard. It’s more in the physical or set-up humour. Peter falls a grand total of three times in this movie! It borders on the point where you question whether his spider strength would even keep him alive at this point (though, the scene where he goes ‘I’m back! I’m back!’ falls and painfully says ‘My back, my back’ is absolutely hilarious!). Scenes like the landlord’s daughter burning something on the cooker (actually, every scene with her is odd) and with Spidey and that guy in the elevator just feels too contrived. I think the movie works better comedic wise when it doesn’t try to force it: when it comes out in the dialogue and character interaction.

I do, however, have a major complaint about the movie: Mary-Jane Watson. Despite Kirsten Dunst’s best effort to bring life out of the character, she really isn’t interesting and, what’s worse, she comes off as kind of unlikeable in this movie. She’s really passive-aggressive and seems to use her boring-as-all-hell boyfriend/fiancé to jab at Peter. I’m not trying to put Peter on a pedestal or anything. There’s a lot of anger Harry’s way for how he acts and I completely understand why he’s so annoyed at him. Mary Jane just seems to be making too big a deal out of little things and it’s mostly because we never get her side. They made her too perfectly boring in the last movie and do so little to justify how her character acts in this one that it’s impossible to see why she’s so angry at Peter. Also, their scenes are still tedious and the actors have no chemistry whatsoever. It really drags the movies down because she’s such an important part of them, it’s a shame that they don’t seem to work as a couple at all.

They even close the goddamn movie on her! Though I like that she's frowning: probably realised running out on your fiancé like that on your wedding day was kind of a dick move...

With that said, I’ll end this review on a positive note, and the best thing about this movie: its message. At the movie's core, Spider-Man 2 is about the inspiration taken to better ourselves. Where this comes from and how hard it can be to hold onto it. The movie doesn’t make it easy for Peter; he hurts and neglects everybody in his life, sullies his work and his education in order to be this hero. When he finally gives it up, he’s briefly content. He slowly realises, however, that Spider-Man does not just enrich his life: it enriches everybody around him. Sometimes it can crush them (Harry), sometimes it can inspire them at the very last second (Doc Ock). Sometimes it will inspire a train full of people to defend an injured man against impossible odds. What's even better is that he gets a happy ending! He doesn't have to live in misery and self-sacrifice like the last movie: Spider-Man enriches his life, as well. Through the trials and tribulations of being a hero, Spidey does give him something good.

I love this movie for its characters, its plot, its pacing, its perfect balance of fun and darkness, its wonderful cast, its score, its direction, its effects; I essentially love it because it’s a very well-constructed movie. But I love it for more than that. It takes a character I love and plays him to show what exactly he can mean to people: to inspire, not just Peter, his loved ones, or the people of New York, but for everyone to find the hero within them. That, in my opinion, is what a great Spider-Man story should do, and it’s what this one does in stride.

“I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”

Final Rating: 9/10

Random Observations:

-Man, that lady playing the 60's Spider-Man theme is so goddamn cheesy! It's like if they had Peter have the song as the ringtone of his pho-wait...(there's also a hilarious callback to this later on in the movie).

-I didn't mention the score in the review (it's long enough as it is), but it's Danny Elfman at his best. I have nothing to add or subtract to it; it's just a great score.

-I loved the way they reintroduced Spidey. Slick, epic and to the point ("Woah! He stole a guy's pizza!")

-Cliff Robertson's brief reprisal of Uncle Ben is a really sweet moment, but it didn't feel really needed.

-Despite my complaining about the Peter/MJ romance, there are a lot of scenes I do find really sweet between the two. Peter 'confessing' that he's Spider-Man on the pay phone comes to mind, as well as them hanging off the web at the end of the movie.

-Seriously, what was up with that scene where the landlord's daughter gives Peter cake?

-I've praise Rosemary Harris enough in this review, but that scene where Peter wakes Aunt May up and she says 'Ben' in her sleep is really well done. Very subtle and real moment and Harris plays it so well.

-I guess I should mention that Dr. Curt Connors is in this movie! I mean, he never got the chance to be the Lizard, so...there you go.

-Also, while I'm on this, the ending with Peter pushing the building up being inspired by his love for MJ is a reference to the iconic moment in 'The Master Planner Saga'. Just felt I need to keep my geek cred up!

-More praise of Raimi's direction: that scene where Spidey catches the cop car in mid-air is so, so cool. I love the perspective and the reveal of it.

-As well as Joel McHale, Daniel Dae Kim (Jin from Lost) is in this movie. He's one of Ock's lab assistants.

-Bruce Campbell cameo #2: snooty usher that refused let Peter in to see MJ's play because he was too late. Campbell has since quipped that he was the only person to ever defeat Spider-Man.

-STAN LEE CAMEO!!!!!! During the bank scene, everybody's favourite comic book creator pushes a young woman to safety from falling debris! What a hero (I forgot to mention his cameo in Spider-Man: he's at the Time's Square battle where he saves a young girl. Dude has a habit of saving people in these movies!)

-Second movie, second burning building. Just thought it was interesting.

-Why is Ock trying to steal  money for his equipment? Why not just steal the parts? Who the hell is gonna go against the guy when he has those tentacles?!

-How to make me utterly geek out: put a chainsaw in a Raimi movie. Groovy.

"Courtesy, your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man" :)

-"T.S. Elliot is more complicated than advance science."
  Having read The Waste Land, I can't say I disagree...

-"Intelligence is not a privilege, it's a gift. You use it for the benefit of mankind."
  Wise words not followed by many people.

-*after Peter backflips over a car*
 Kid: "How did you do that?!"
 Peter: ' out. Plenty of rest. you know; eat your green vegetables."
 Kid: "That what my mom is always saying! I just never actually believed her!"
 This kid is a better actor than most of the extras in this movie.

-Spidey quip counter:
--"You forgot your change!"
--Ock: "You're getting on my nerves!"
   Spidey: "I have a knack for that."
--Total in movie: 2
   Overall total: 5

-And, to round this all off, quotes from J. Jonah Jameson!
--Betty: "Boss, your wife is on the line! She said she lost the cheque book.
   Jonah: "Thanks for the good news!"
--Peter: "Please, Mr. Jameson, is there any of these shots you can use? I could really use the money."
   Jonah: "Aww. Ms. Brant?"
   Betty: "Yes?"
   Jonah: "Get me a violin!"
--Jonah: "I'll give you 150."
   Peter: "300."
   Jonah: "300?! That's outrageous! Done."
--"It's all over town, Robbie. Gossip. Rumours. Panic on the street. We're lucky! Crazy scientist turns     himself into a monster. Four mechanical arms welded onto his body. Heh, guy named Otto Octaavious winds up with 8 limbs. What are the odds?
--Jameson: "What are we gonna call this guy?"
   Hoffman: Uh, uh...Doctor Octopus!
   Jameson: "That's crap."
   Hoffman: "Science Squid?"
   Jameson: "Crap."
   Hoffman: "Doctor Strange?"
   Jameson: "I like it! But it's taken. I got it! Doctor Octopus!"
   Hoffman: "But...uh...I like it."
   Jameson: "Of course you do. Doctor Octopus. New villain in town. Doc Ock!"
   Hoffman: "That's genius."
   Jameson: "What, are you looking for a raise? Get out!"
--Jameson (to Peter): "Where were you, photographing squirrels?! You're fired!"
   Betty: "Chief! The planetarium party!"
  Jameson: "Oh, right. You're unfired."
--"Caviar?! What, are we inviting the Czar?! Get some cheese and crackers, some of those little cocktail weenies!"
--"What? Flowers? You spend more on this wedding, you can pick the daisies off my grave! Go plastic."
--Jonah: "Call Deborah."
   Jonah's wife: "The caterer?"
   Jonah: "Tell her not to open the caviar."

Next time: what many consider to be the worst Spider-Man movie. Oh, joys.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Spider-Man (2002)-Movie Review

SPOILER WARNING: I spoil pretty much the entire damn movie. Proceed with caution.

I did not really care for the latest Spider-Man movie.

This poster IS pretty awesome, having said that

I won’t go into too much detail as to why as I might review that movie itself someday. What I will say, however, is that it made the fact that Sony want so desperately to force a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)-style franchise incredibly apparent to me and I do not think that is the right way you approach a movie. Say what you will about Marvel’s approach (they didn’t exactly go towards this project with “I don’t care if these movies never make money!” on their minds), but story and respect for these characters came first! So far, but again, another discussion.

With all that said, yeah, the rebooted Spider-Man series kind of took a big hit for me. With this newfound disappointment I turned to something I didn’t exactly take seriously or treat with much respect as time went on; the Raimi trilogy.

Why was that? Well, I guess Spider-Man 3 didn’t liven my spirits to the series. Also, time is a fickle thing. I have not watched these movies in years, and so they fade in my memory as ‘goofy’ and ‘silly’ because, hell, that’s what other people called them! Comic books were getting serious and adult and this kitschy, old-fashioned…not even decade old movies were just not cutting it, anymore!

The new movies were dark! Peter made jokes! He had a skateboard, and everything was real! I was totally taking a story about a teenager who got powers from a spider bite going around in a colourful costume and beating up criminals. Absolutely. Positively. Seriously.

But that was the old me. The me from 2 years ago. He’s an idiot who doesn’t know any better. He’s also an idiot who didn’t go through the onslaught of comic book movies that try way too hard to be taken seriously instead of being fun. Like the Raimi movies were! Full circle, people.

So, for the first time in forever (anybody mention a Disney movie is getting a slap!), I decided to sit down and watch the Raimi trilogy. Why am I doing this two months after Amazing Spider-Man 2 had been released and everybody has stopped talking about it by now? Because your mother. And I didn’t find time until now. So, let’s get on with it with the spider-powered teen’s origin story!

Spider-Man (2002)

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: David Koepp
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kristen Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons

I’ll spare you a plot summary of this movie and just get straight into it! What did I think of this movie, with the nostalgia goggles off? It’s good! In parts.

Peter looks concerned by this. Or possibly apathetic...

If there’s anything Spider-Man has going for it, it’s fun. The movie has such a breezy, light-hearted feel to it that is taken straight from the comic books. You feel Peter’s joy when he swings across the city, when he puts on the costume, when he builds himself up as a hero, etc.

Yet, it feels like it never goes beyond this. Peter Parker simply seems to be in this movie to become Spider-Man, set up his character and not really much else in terms of story concept. Which is fine; it’s an origin movie, that tends to happen. The problem is that it never really rises above that. It really does feel like it’s only there to set up Peter for greater stories ahead, unlike other origin movies like Iron Man or Batman Begins.

A lot of that has to do with the writing. David Koepp can make a fun, entertaining ride of a movie, but dialogue is not exactly his strong suit. Because of this, a lot of the dialogue feels stilted and forced; it just seems to be there to drive home the plot instead of build these characters and this world. The one exception to this is J. Jonah Jameson, played absolutely perfectly by J.K. Simmons. There’s a reason they haven’t tried to recast this guy yet in the new series, and he’s easily the highlight of the movie.

Plus, he has a cigar! How can you not love this guy?!

And the rest of the cast? They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Toby Maguire gets across the shy, introverted nerdy part perfectly, it’s just second nature to the guy. The scenes where he’s discovering his powers are really well done, as well. They’re well-paced and they get across a sense of fun and adventure. Sadly, we never get the sense that he grows with the character, even though it’s written to portray as such. He’s very stagnant and doesn’t really get across that he’s develop with his experiences, which is an issue that purveys throughout the movies.

The rest of the cast? James Franco is great in his role as Harry Osborn, even if the character is written as a one-note rich asshole with daddy issues. His scenes with his father are some of the best written stuff in the movie, however. Rosemary Harris is great as Aunt May; it’s like the character from the book was brought to life in front of our eyes. Cliff Robertson is really good as Uncle Ben, though he doesn’t get much of a character outside of “dies for tragic motivation”.

Kristen Dunst? Horrible! Even if they didn’t radically alter Mary Jane from the comics into a really dull ‘girl next door’ archetype, there’s no real passion or intrigue that comes from this performance. She really just glides her way through it. Now, I don’t hold Dunst at fault for this; she’s a really competent actress when given the right material (c.f. Melancholia). The fault really is in how she is written. She’s just a love interest and her and Peter have no real chemistry. What’s even worse is that so much of the movie holds on this relationship 

(“this, like any other story worth telling, is all about a girl.”), so the fact that these two are so boring together and Mary Jane is such a non-character really hurts the film.

This scene is great, though. Cheesy dialogue aside

And now we get to the villain. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin. Now, the Green Goblin is my favourite Spider-Man villain. Did they get him down right? God, no! Is he seriously, utterly entertaining? Any time he puts on his suit, he’s so egregiously over-the-top that I can’t help but find it funny as hell! Willem Dafoe is so naturally intimidating that the scenes where he’s not wearing the suit do really work in terms of making him a credible, dangerously unhinged threat (the Thanksgiving scene, one of the best in the movie, for example). Any time he has the suit on, however, it’s comedy hour. He’s got amazingly stupid lines, he has the ‘Goblin Ranger’ outfit on (seriously, why would the military want to fit their soldiers in that?!), and he hams it up so much that you can’t help but enjoy it. It doesn’t help that he wants Spider-Man to join him, which is up there with ‘poisoning the town’s water supply’ in terms of cliché villain plots.

"Can Spider-Man come out and play?"

One more point I wish to make in terms of the writing: the pacing of this movie can be a little strange. We get a lot, and I mean a lot, of exposition and set-up in the first ten minutes with no breathing space. We slow down a bit after some really clever parallels of Peter and Norman getting their powers (their running storylines are really subtly linked and it’s a nice touch), showing how Peter adapts to his powers and trying them out for the first time. After some decent stuff with Uncle Ben’s death, we rush the ultimate reveal of Spider-Man and setting up the Bugle, Osborn losing his job and all that scene and we slow down again and the pace stays pretty steady until the ending. It’s not a terrible point, and the movie is never boring, it’s just really strange how cobbled up the movie’s pace is.

So, I’ve harped on some negatives, so here are some positives! Some of the story beats are really well handled. Despite Uncle Ben clearly not having much in terms of a character outside of dying, the scenes where he does go are really effective. The scene in the car between Peter and him are great, both in terms of writing and the performances from the actors. Ditto the interaction between Harry and Norman. You really get a sense of their history with one another.

The direction is great, and really shows off the talents of Evil Dead director Sam Raimi. Everything feels loose and freeing and gives the whole movie a sense of energy. It also looks very comic book-esque, with a lot of colour and bright, recognisable imagery. It’s very clear this movie owes a lot to 1960’s comic books.

While most of the action scenes are pretty forgettable (they’re either effects laden or just not that long), the ones that work the best are the ones that incorporate more realistic fighting. The cage match and especially the final punch up between Spidey and the Green Goblin are masterfully done. The latter in particular is intense, brutal and incorporates a lot of Raimi’s sense of the macabre with the way it ends. The action would get better as the movies progressed, but for this movie it held its own pretty nicely.
The music is amazing (…no pun intended). Danny Elfman just created the definitive Spider-Man score in my mind. It’s what I think about when I think of Spider-Man (that or the 60’s jingle, but the former captures the character better). It’s as iconic to me as John Williams’ Superman score, John Williams’ Star Wars score, John Williams’ Jaws theme…basically anything John Williams writes, I guess. It’s a perfect, whimsical and captivating score and Hans Zimmer’s new one just does not compare.

Before I wrap this up, I want to speak briefly about the effects. They’re awful. Like, really, really dated. They thankfully got better as the series progressed, but some of them are so fake and so obvious that they ruin some otherwise impressive moments. The really cool moment where Peter discovers his ‘Spider sense’ for the first time is utterly ruined by how dated the effects look. That is not how a fly is supposed to look!

So, with all that, does the good outweigh the bad? Well, I think so! Even with a weak script, some poor effects and some weird pacing issues, it’s held up with a fun energy, a pretty decent cast overall and some great Spidey moments. Superhero movies owe a lot to this flick, allowing other studios to take risks with these properties and showing that these movies can be light and fun and turn a profit, unlike the more serious tone that Blade and X-Men took. It’s an extremely flawed movie, but with a visionary genius like Raimi behind the helm and managing to make these issues minimal at best, it’s a hell of a lot of fun and is certainly worth the watch. A good start for a great hero and his long, big-screen career

Rating: 6/10

Random observations:

-Norman: “A bit of a slob, isn’t he?.”
  May: “All brilliant men are.”
Must remember to use that the next time people complain about what a mess my room is…

-Why are Harry and Peter friends? It’s implied that it’s due to the fact that they’re both     social outcasts (Peter being a nerd and Harry being a rich kid in a public school), but Harry never comes across as someone who can look beyond the surface in a person. Also, he’s kind of a dick to Peter, especially the way the movie implies that he went after Mary Jane because he felt jealous over Norman’s attachment to Peter. It’s not a huge deal (and it could be explained in the later movie that I missed), but it’s weird to me. At least it makes more sense than their friendship in Amazing Spider-Man 2…

-Peter’s nerdisms, from his image to how people treat him, are so hilariously overdone that I’m amazed he didn’t wear pocket protectors and had asthma.

-Probably something I should have highlighted in the review, but it’s long enough as is: Peter and Norman’s relationship is really well done and adds a lot of drama and pathos to the movie.

-Man, how far did Peter run after that bus at the beginning of the movie? I know New York City is infamous for its awful traffic, but Jesus! I think Peter had latent mutant powers of superspeed before the spider bit!

-Bruce Campbell cameo #1: the ring announcer. I freaking love that he’s the one that gave Spider-Man his name.

-The montage revealing Spider-Man, while rush, was really well done. Raimi has a knack for taking overdone tropes and breathing new life into them.

-Let me lay out what apparently happened offscreen after Norman took the formula to when Harry found him in his office:
--in his delirious, insane haze, he found the lucidity to steal the glider and suit.
--he also managed to evade detection
--go from that lab with all his stuff to his house.
--hide said stuff somewhere.
--go up to his study after changing into his business suit.
--fall unconscious in his study where Harry found him.
--yet he never attempted to hide the body of his associate.
…makes sense to me!

-I’m keeping a “quipping count” for Peter, as I want to know for sure how many times he wise cracks in the suit. So far, I’ve counted three:
--“Nice suit, did your husband make it?” (to Bone Saw in the ring)
--“Well, beats taking the subway! Don’t mind us, she just needed to use the elevator” (to Mary Jane/strangers on roof after he rescued her the first time)
--“Hey, kiddo! Let mom and dad talk for a minute, will ya?” (to Jameson after Goblin crashes into his office)
If I missed any, let me know!

-I wonder if they ever got around to doing “The Night Gwen Stacy died” in the Raimi movies if they’d place it on the bridge. It looks like they used that option up on this movie’s climax!

-also, Peter, Mary Jane, I know Harry’s not the nicest guy, but do you two really have to make out at his dad’s funeral?! I mean, I get the sense that him and MJ were done by then, but it’s still a dick move to kiss your best friend’s ex when he’s just put his father into the ground, s’all I’m saying.

-I thought while watching it that they handled ‘Peter discovering his powers’ a lot better than in Amazing Spider-Man, in terms of how over the top it was and how obvious it is that this guy has, well, powers. Then it got to the lunchroom scene and the fight with Flash where I realised they’re just as bad as each other! I guess it’s easier to swallow in Raimi’s film because it doesn’t take itself as seriously.

Next time: the webhead’s first sequel and what many consider to be one of the best comic book movies ever made.