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Wednesday, June 30, 2004


The Passion of the Spidey

Spiderman 2 is *not* the best superhero movie ever made. The once, and still champion, is 1980's immortal geek classic Superman 2. Kneel before Zod!

But the last 45 minutes of Spidey come close, real close- closer than that car flying over Peter Parker's head in the cafe. Imagine the most perfect comic book ever brought to life with a billion dollars worth of special effects, full of every plot twist you wish a Hollywood director had the balls and know-how to put up on screen. A subway train is trashed, innocents are flung through lower Manhattan like rag dolls, the hands on a gigantic clock are used as missiles, lives change and even Kristen Dunst's nipples get a good deal of screentime. Without giving away too much, that should be a good approximation of the film's third act.

It's too bad the first two are such a dull slog. Raimi, maybe in an effort to achieve Ang Lee's failed goal with The Hulk, attempts to dramatize these comic book characters and haul them up to the level of Shakespearian tragedy. Instead of Pepsi and Macy Gray, the film is clogged with literary product placement for authors like T.S. Elliot and Oscar Wilde. At one point, Raimi even breaks out a can of Christ-imagery.

Yup, Christ-imagery in a Spiderman movie.

No matter how talented the cast and crew, can a comic movie every receive the sort of respect given to something like Citzen Kane or...Forrest Gump? Doubtful but Spiderman 2 tries its damnedest to swing onto the same pedestal. The cast struggles to make Oscar-caliber performances out of, well, cheesy comic book dialog. Shots of Spidey swooping through rush hour take a back seat to a huge batch of subplots. The movie stops just short of tossing a cross on Tobey Maguire's shoulders but burdens his character with just about every dillemia imaginable. Despite being able to do everything a spider can, he can't quite juggle school, taking photos for the Daily Bugle, an elderly aunt, problems with "emissions," his feelings for MJ, a pizza delivery gig and his night job. Being a wise-cracking superhero isn't as easy as it was back in good ol' 2002 when he just had a gernade-tossing billionare to deal with.

Spiderman 2 buckles under one personal crisis too many and even leaves a few of them unresolved. The film is too long by 20 minutes and a few moments don't make much sense (what's up with the cake scene?). Screentime devoted to Parker's everyday woes should have been used to flesh out his new enemy, the incredibly flippin' cool Dr. Octopus.

At the most, Doc. Ock. gets a grand total of 20 minutes on the screen. He goes from sane scientist to conflicted supervillian at the drop of a fusion experiment gone wrong. Making way for Parker's endless sighing, Ock takes a back seat and doesn't get a chance to raise hell with all those nasty metal tentacles until the film's finale.

It's too bad that Spiderman 2 suffers from the same identity crisis as its protagonist. Should it be a superhero flick or an everday, average tearjerker? The movie is a summer movie trapped in the body of an coming-of-age drama. Regardless, the initial wait in tedium line is well worth the blazing fast roller coaster waiting on the other end. As mentioned earlier, plot twists fly and lives change at the end of the film. This isn't your typical, episodic superhero potboiler. At the screening I attended, people in the audience were actually crying. Go ahead and name the last comic book movie that did that.

Daredevil doesn't count.

The first hour and twenty minutes: C. The last 45: A+.


OK, I was hoping to catch the movie at the Newberg Drive-In. I made a mistake and failed to note that it was actually playing at the Cameo Theater. I stood in line with a group of students from nearby George Fox University. Given all the Jesus hat tips in the film, maybe they were on a field trip [rimshot]. As we were all waiting for the box office to open, a car drove by with a guy's bare butt hanging out of an old Chrysler. Someone in the back seat screamed "SPIDERMAN! SPIDERMAN!" as they passed.

The Cameo is an ancient movie palace where the ushers still wander up and down the aisles during screenings with flashlights. After bitching about this endlessly prior to the start time, the freshman undergrad next to me broke out a canteen full of stolen rum. He didn't share.

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