Wednesday, 13 January 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Part 2 - Along Came A Spider

I decided to watch the two Spider-Man films tonight after the news this week that Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire have left the franchise due to ongoing " creative differences" and that Sony plan to do a reboot of Spider-Man in 2012.
Initially I was bemused by the idea, after all it's been less than 10 years since the first film was released, but have decided to rewatch the films to see if isn't such a bad idea...

437 - Spider-Man - 3 stars
A very entertaining but deeply flawed movie.
The standard superhero trilogy goes as follows; first film - good, second film - brilliant, third film - crap. And Spider-Man is no exception, why do you think that number 3 isn't on this list!
The first film is normally let down by having to deal with the origin story, therefore not leaving much time for other plot lines to develop and major action sequences to take place.
Yet this film succeeds in capturing the origins of Spider-Man, from Peter Parker getting bitten, discovering his powers, the death of Uncle Ben, "With great power comes great responsibility", yadda yadda yadda...
Sam Raimi's visual style is perfect for the story, as you get a real sense of how it must feel to swing around New York City.
Casting is good with Maguire being suitably geeky as Peter Parker, Willem Dafoe chews scenery as the Green Goblin and J.K. Simmons IS J. Jonah Jameson.
Small faults lie in some dodgy CGI, a bad Power Ranger costume for the Green Goblin (which highlighted the problem having your main characters completely behind masks thus losing some of the expression and emotion in the performance), that last-minute post 9/11 scene on the bridge "you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us" and Kirsten Dunst is too much of a wet blanket as Mary Jane.
But these were all minor quibbles in what is otherwise a great start to the franchise, as proven by this being the first film to ever take over $100 million in one weekend, thus providing CPR to the genre that had flatlined following Batman & Robin.

411 - Spider-Man 2 - 4 stars
One of the best superhero films of all time that improves on the original in every way.
The cast are more comfortable in their roles, the CGI is much slicker, and more importantly Sam Raimi has been let of the leash artistically, allowing for much more of his trademark style in the picture e.g. the 'birth' of Doctor Octopus in the hospital being an homage to Evil Dead 2, and Bruce Campbell gets a fantastic part as 'Snooty Usher' who has the priviledge of being the only person to defeat Spider-Man in the series!
Alfred Molina is excellent as Doctor Octupus (even though from reading the comics I always imagined Elton John playing Doc Ock), leading to a terrific set piece on the train.
The story has a lot of depth to it, the first superhero film to truly look at the struggle of being a hero whether it is sacrificing work, life, and love... and amusingly how being a superhero can effect one's 'performance' as Spidey comes under stress he is unable to shoot the white webbing from his wrists ;)

After the mishandling of Spider-Man 3, a reboot isn't really that bad a prospect, especially if they do a Dark Knight-style take on the story, but that might not sit well with the potential of 3D filiming opportunities which the character of Spidey is screaming out for some web action flying out at the audience.
The key will be finding the right director who is able to put their own stamp on the saga but with enough backbone to challenge the studio on the problems that surfaced on the third movie (i.e. too many villains).
To put my tuppence worth into the argument, I would love to see Edgar Wright direct with Joseph Gordon Levitt as Peter Parker.

Days remaining - 245 Films remaining - 323

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