PCR past banners Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #224  (Vol. 5, No. 28)  This edition is for the week of July 5--11, 2004.

Book Review: “Totch - - A Life in the Everglades”
 by William Moriaty
"Super-Size Me"
 by Mike Smith
Spider-Man 2 Review
 by Andy Lalino
Bright House DVR vs. TIVO....The Grandfathers of Goth....TV Notes....Spider-Man 2 Review
 by Vinnie Blesi
Free Comic Day
 by Brandon Jones
It's A Bash, Dude!....Bush Speak
 by Matt Drinnenberg
This Week's Issue....The Greatest Ever....Get Well....Now The Song Makes Sense....Movie Notes....Screen To Stage....Meet The Beatles, Part 24
 by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Spider-Man 2 Review

I suppose you're wondering why a Crazed Fanboy proponent of '70s/early '80s genre like me is giving a huge thumbs up to a big-budget, CGI-fest like "Spider-Man 2". Well, just to prove it's not all about the '70s/early '80s, I'm stating that SM2 is a terrific motion picture.

I've been a big fan of Spidey since I was a little whippersnapper. I remember my mom taking me to Haslam's Book Store in downtown St. Pete where she'd get me the latest issues of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and even some high-priced collectible back issues. Spider-Man was one my favorite superhero, simply because he was more real than Superman (who could do anything) and Batman (who had every saving throw built into his utility belt). Peter Parker was the everyday nebbish with a lot of personal problems and insecurities - plus, as Spider-Man, his powers were limited but extremely cool.

So fast-forward 41 years later, from 1963 (the birth of Spidey) to 2004, when we finally have the computer technology to bring Marvel heroes and villains to life on the big screen. Sure, this could have been "Daredevil", a heartless hero film insecure with its own story and resorting to casting well-known names like 'Ben Afflick' and Colin Farrell to combat DD's lesser name-recognition. Instead, both the original "Spider-Man" and its sequel stand supreme over most other comic book adaptations due to its warmth of heart, reverence of material, and brilliant casting of the villains.

Most of you have no doubt seen the movie or have read the reviews (incl. Mike Smith's last week), so I'm not going to spend a lot of time re-hashing the familiar story. Tobey Maguire is back as Peter Parker, as is Kirsten Dunst. Sadly, both are miscast, which results in the most lackluster parts of the film. From frame one we are introduced to an avalanche of personal problems Parker has dumped upon him, yet Maguire's facial expressions never stray from his signature wide-eyed look, which becomes tedious after a while. When all is too much, it would have been neat to see him lose it.

I never bought Kirsten's "girl next door" ambience to the Mary Jane character. She's sweet as sugar, but physically is not Mary Jane Watson from the comics (for one thing, her head shape is all wrong), which for some reason has bothered me since the first film. A real bright spot is James 'Dean' Franco as "Harry Osborn". He may not resemble Harry from the comics, but makes up with an exceptionally good performance. Dunst's lack of appeal is a good contrast to Franco's who does wonders despite the lack of resemblance to the original character.

Hands (or tentacles) down, Alfred Molina is the reason to see SM2. In yet another casting coup, director Sam Raimi chose just the right actor to bring the villainous Doc Ock to life. Molina looks great as the overcoat-wearing, metal-tentacled Dr. Octavius, and provides a formidable foe to the webslinger. When Doc Ock shows up, hold onto your seat and enjoy the roller coaster ride, baby.

SM2 is filled with teenage angst, which works out pretty well. Some details were surprising (which due to spoilers, I won't reveal here), others did not make sense (if Mary Jane admitted to Peter that she loved him in the first film, why did Peter need to woo her with a book on poetry?). All the angst-in-my-pants details are nicely resolved in the end, but how they tackle future issues is somewhat uncertain.

Another element that makes the Spider-Man films stand out is Raimi's reverence for past decades (which really pleases me). Most other hotshot filmmakers would have made J. Jonah Jameson's editor's office look modernized and spiffy-clean. Instead, and wisely, Raimi chose to decorate the set as if it were the '50s or '60s with a glorious lack of computers and other modern gadgets. Contrast this with the "X-Men" films where every set looks like you could eat dinner off the floors. In one scene Peter Parker calls Mary Jane on a pay phone, when most other films would have used a cell phone. In another shot, Peter uses a dated-looking SLR camera (non-digital). Nice going, Sam. It's good to know not all films have to feature the latest technology from Panasonic or Nokia.

In a similar vein, I love the Osborn's opulent living quarters, which, as in the first film, always reminded me of a Hammer Films set. I also like the way they dumb-down Peter's clothing. Again, he could be dressed at least semi-hip, but opts to dress down in the blandest clothing imaginable. Even Peter's living quarters is a New York dump, as is Aunt May's cookie cutter home.

There's an interesting homage to Raimi's "The Evil Dead" during a surgery scene - which even includes a chainsaw!

Here's Crazed Fanboys' scoresheet:

Directed by Sam Raimi ("The Evil Dead")
Music by Danny Elfman
Cameo by Raimi regular Bruce Campbell
Cameo by Stan Lee
Special Effects by John Dykstra ("Star Wars")
Special Appearance by Willem Dafoe
Special Appearance by Ted Raimi

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics (unless otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.