I was just reading a ten-year-old review of Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man 2 this morning, and in so doing I asked myself, “Is there anyone in the world right now who would rent or stream this film now, ten years after? What kind of soul cancer would you have to have to say to yourself, ‘Hmmm, what should I watch tonight? Something I haven’t seen in a while. I know — Spider-Man 2!'”
Does it bother anyone in 2014 that within the CG-driven, comic-book-adaptation realm, almost nothing has changed since ’04? If anything the things that were underwhelming or dispiriting or soul-suffocating about Spider-Man 2 have metastasized. One reason is that some of the kids who were 16 or 17 when Spider-Man 2 came out have grown up to be zombie development guys, agents, producers and studio execs.
“Visually Spider-Man 2 has that handsomely produced, big-studio pedigree thing, and content-wise it’s obviously more of a searching, emotionally mature film than the first Spider-Man was,” I wrote. “The emphasis is on feelings and internal conflict over action and spectacle, which is why the critics, for the most part, have been wetting themselves.
“Except most of the critics I’ve read haven’t really admitted what it actually feels like to sit and watch Spider-Man 2.
“That’s a fairly important issue, I think, so I feel obliged to report that as I watched it on Monday night, I gradually dissolved into Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. After a while I stopped hearing Alvin Sargent`s first-rate dialogue (which was also worked on by Michael Chabon). I heard only Sonny and Cher singing ‘I Got You, Babe’.
“Spider-Man 2 is another dutifully made, technically immaculate, minimum-security Danbury State Prison movie (i.e., you’re allowed to go out into the lobby and pace around and make phone calls while it’s showing), because it’s the same old comic-book superhero shite.
“I felt the first twinges of boredom only a few minutes in, I swear.
“For the 37th or 38th time since Richard Donner‘s Superman 2, which opened 25 years ago, I tried to go with the story of an emotionally pained and conflicted super-hero, his difficult relationship with a very admiring girlfriend over coming-clean, what-kind-of-boyfriend-can-I-be? issues, and a brilliant scientist gone beserk over some personal/professional tragedy and transformed into a somewhat deformed, maniacal villain.
“I also tried to deal with still more CG power-punch combat scenes between the hero and the Big Baddie (i.e, Alfred Molina‘s Doctor Octopus), and yet another big, sonically-shattering, wreckage-causing finale.
“Didn’t we just do all this with Hellboy?
“Hear this clearly: Spider-Man 2 is about absolutely nothing except Amy Pascal and director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and all the rest of the slicksters wanting you and me to buy tickets this weekend so they can get tipsy off expensive champagne and buy cool vacation homes and laugh even more loudly than usual at each other`s jokes.” Sidenote: Spider-Man 2 earned $783,766,341 million worldwide.
“Sargent’s script elevates the material, yes — this is the way movies like this should walk and talk — and Raimi makes it all take off and glide through the clouds and then in for a safe landing like a veteran pilot with good sensitive hands. But Spider-Man 2 is still a tinker-toy thing assembled by people totally cowed by the how-to instructions from the same old dog-eared pamphlet.
“Curses to the comic-book-worshipping GenXers for subjecting movie-lovers to perhaps the most slavish and repressive adherence to trite genre formula in Hollywood history.
“If and when a Nuremberg movie crimes tribunal is ever convened, an awful lot of cool directors are going to be sitting in the dock wearing dark shades and doing their best to make light of their relentless kowtowing to cheeseball comic-book storylines.
“If this ever happens, I will not be Richard Widmark‘s hard-line prosecutor in Judgment At Nuremberg. I will be Spencer Tracy…the kindly folksy judge who is sympathetic to the defendants (and certainly respectful of their resumes) but also capable of looking the facts square in the eye and making a tough judgement if necessary.”