Saw the film last Wednesday morning, Pops had to run my Granny up to San Antonio to the hospital for a check-up and I was going to have to wake up early in the morning… Traditionally… I don’t do this. The site and the people I work with tend to keep hours like those that suck blood from virgins, but this was SPIDER-MAN 2, so I downloaded a digital MP3 Alarm Clock for my computer and set it to go off at full volume with Johnny Weissmuller’s classic TARZAN yell… the result? I vibrated 5 feet above my bed in abject terror of being trampled. An outstanding alarm.
After that – it was get ready for SPIDER-MAN 2… other than the typical shower, dress and piss routine, this meant… picking up one of my numerous Spidey toys and one of my Doc Ock toys and clash them together giggling. As Quint and Kraken showed up, there was a sense of giddiness, but I was by far, the most possessed.
As we got to the theater, I sat there looking at the blank screen going, “Play play play play play play!”
You see… The pre-release hype had me. I absolutely love Sam Raimi’s movies. Everything I knew about this one pointed towards him evolving from a cult filmmaker with a quasi-polished style… to being a master storyteller with his style intact. COOL! Ebert claiming “Best Superhero Movie Ever!” didn’t really do anything for me, cuz I didn’t really know if Ebert even really knows what that means. Was he considering UNBREAKABLE, or was he just considering the realm of comic book superhero films? Did he specify? I hadn’t seen his review yet, just heard the quote.
As the lights began to dim, my eyes widened and I was heard to say, “YESSSSS!”
Some hideous horrendous Tim Allen / Jamie Lee Curtis Christmas Dumb Comedy Trailer plays and I had ZERO patience for it. If I see a trailer before SPIDER-MAN 2, I want it to be EPISODE 3, SKY CAPTAIN, BLADE TRINITY and/or BATMAN BEGINS! This thing being placed here, just made me hate it more than I regularly would.
Finally – the flipping comic pages MARVEL logo pops up, and we’re off…
The opening titles are made up of Alex Ross paintings recapping the key moments of the first film and instantly I was reminded of the power and difference of comics and film.
In comics, an artist has the ability to capture a single moment, the best moment, the best 24th of a second to convey the power and intention of what could have been the point of a second, minute, hour, day, week, year or lifetime of a character or story. The control over that second is absolute… the look on the face, the atmosphere to a brush stroke, the posture, the angle, the surroundings… everything. A comic artist has to choose these moments quickly, usually… and that’s why most comic artists’ work ends up suffering under the regimen of tight schedules and deadlines… but this is Alex Ross… the man that has given new definition to comics and a new dramatic realism to the world of heroes and villains. I believe, his opening credit artwork is entirely better than the first film. He makes it feel in the past, epic and tragic. He told the story of the first film in just a few paintings… but conveys everything from the first film with so much more power and grace. I was in love.
As the final image graced the screen and the brushstrokes gave way to life… the film that followed exceeded the power of those paintings and showed what cinema can be that comics never can. Complete.
SPIDER-MAN 2 is alive and breathing. It isn’t just the whiz bang of the fights… it’s the little moments, the relentlessness of Parker’s misery. How tragically overwhelmed it is to be a hero trying to be everything for everyone, but himself. This is Peter Parker, like Jesus being whipped by life everywhere he turns and at his greatest moment of heroism, I’ll be damned if it isn’t a crucifix moment. In the Ditko/Lee days of Spider-Man… the boy couldn’t catch a break… he never could win at life, so he’d escape into the mask… win by being a bully upon crime. He’d use faster and smarter quips than his life-side adversaries like Jameson or Flash Thompson… He was still Peter Parker in his calm Spider-Man moments, but in a fight… he became the best in what humanity backed against a wall can be… he gives it everything he has… heart & soul. Raimi has captured THAT Spider-Man. He’s captured not the pretty boy Spider-Man in nice digs, but the Peter Parker overwhelmed by that which over-whelms so many of us… LIFE. He lives in shit, puts up with shit, piles shit on himself and then beats the shit out of shit and there’s always too much to flush. He can’t save everyone and somebody unfortunately usually gets hurt, and for him… it is always his fault… if only he had… ya know the tale, the what if hell of life.
The film just bristles with energy… When it’s funny it is DAMN FUNNY, When it’s exciting it’s tremendously exciting, When it’s heartfelt you’ll feel every beat. This film has the kinetics and humor of Raimi’s EVIL DEAD 2 married with the heartache and feeling of A SIMPLE PLAN on an impossible level of production and artistry that simply can not be faulted by these eyes. For me, this is perfect. A perfect adaptation? Not really, not for someone that knows every line and every 4 color tone of the originals… This is actually something entirely different. It leaves the limitations of comics behind – giving weight, sound, movement, soul and life to something only dreamt about for a lifetime.
All those times watching Doc Ock clash with Spider-Man I never once imagined just how breathtaking it could really be. The Clock Tower to the Elevated Train Combat sequence could very well be the single best fight in cinematic history… and my personal favorite two fights are: King Kong vs the T-Rex and Errol Flynn vs Basil Rathbone in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. This fight is magnificent… truly something I’ve never seen before. Watching Molina play Ock is a dream… He tends to play him small and centered letting the tentacles overact brutally for him. If you watch his face, he’s a fighter that isn’t betraying the blow… he’s surgical like a six armed Ali fighting the most graceful fighter that has never lived, Spider-Man. The tentacles each are characters brimming with individual intelligence and cold cunning. Everything that I felt was wrong about the MATRIX RELOADED semi-sequence is done to perfection here… It’s Gods fighting with humanity in the grip… Those people on that train… They’re powerless, insignificant in their ability to sway the outcome or even the direction of their own lives. If not for the kid playing dress-up hero… they would neither be in danger or be able to even think about being saved. The fight has weight, character, urgency, meaning and power. The culmination… perfection.
As great as the fight is, it isn’t the best thing. What is best about this film for me is Tobey Maguire… If I didn’t care so goddamn much about his character, his situation, his dreams, his pains, his frustration and his exhaustion… That fight would mean nothing. I want him to win so bad, so bad. But he’s Spider-Man… a perpetual loser hoping to make a difference one battle at a time… He’s Balboa, leading with his head… punished time after time… Not for money or glory or position in life… but because of guilt, a guilt that can’t be lifted no matter the confession… It’s there because he is special, because he does have these powers and what is the price of not being the man he can be? He’s terrified of finding out, and it’s that mixture of fear and guilt swinging and fighting, putting forth some bravura to hide the terrified panic of a young man trying to win against impossible odds. He’s Spider-Man.
I can go on for hours about this film… about the Russian Waif Chick and the Pizza Thief… About J. Jonah and mirror’d visions to frighten us all. I can write and weep about how wonderful Aunt May’s moving speech is and how painful and honest Pete’s confession is. About cameos and characters, Easter eggs and gags. I could write a sonnet to Kirsten Dunst, whom I adore… and I could talk about pricks that control the doors in our lives and about over-eager landlords and late homework and dreams crushed and on and on and on and on, but frankly… Discover it for yourself, I know you will and you’ll be so much happier for it.
I saw this film and I felt more alive, more thrilled and more happy than I have in ages, and my life my friends… my life fucking rules, I’m living my dreams, I wake up every morning humming tunes and giddy. It’s just this movie is cooler than all that. This is seeing something I’ve read my whole life realized and imagined by a mind I’m genuinely in awe of now. Huzzah Raimi, Huzzah!