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Spider-Man 2: A Blowjob Movie

Written by: Erik Myers, special to CC2k


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This film will blow you(r mind).

Spider-Man 2 is a Blowjob Movie.

How’s that for an opener…?

For the uninitiated, allow me to explain with one extremely long sentence. You see, a Blowjob Movie is one that asks nothing of you, that keeps your ass firmly connected to the seat while it sits in front of you and services you–with a mischievous grin and a twinkle in its eye–for two hours, sometimes caressing, sometimes frantic, until, at last, after you’ve climaxed with excitement, you stumble out in giddy afterglow, a stupid expression on your face, and the knowledge that it’ll be some time before you have another experience even remotely similar. The Blowjob Movie is as infrequent as the oral sex that inspires its name, and therefore, all the more enjoyable for it. This, True Believers, is Spider-Man 2.

Like the comic book the story hails from, Spider-Man 2 is less a sequel than a continuation of a larger storyline, a soap opera in tights. While the first film evoked the Lee/Ditko years (despite the inclusion of the “Death of the Green Goblin” epic from Gerry Conway’s run), Film Two reeks of the Romita era, circa 1967. All the magic of Marvel’s first glorious decade is captured here, and many classic stories are incorporated. As a result, it’s hard to give a simple plot synopsis without covering all the subplots as well.

It’s been two years since the events of the first film, and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to balance his dual lifestyle. No matter what he does, the poor guy can’t catch a break. He’s fired from his shitty pizza delivery job. His non-Spidey photos are rejected by Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). He can’t pay his rent. His studies are slipping. His friends are feeling pushed away. His aunt is about to lose her home. With all his fantastic abilities, Peter still can’t seem to escape the destructive effect that superhero-ing has on the personal life, and yet he’s bound to play the heroic role because of the guilt his beloved uncle’s death has imprinted on his psyche. The resentment Peter feels toward Spider-Man initiates a gradual decline in his powers, as his eyesight worsens and his spider-powers become erratic and undependable. Despite his best efforts, Peter can’t escape the suffering he unintentionally brings to those he loves, let alone manage to do simple things like not fuck up the laundry.

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Peter Parker, in the act of screwing absolutely EVERYTHING up.

As in the comics, his chief concern is his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). Left destitute and alone, May Parker has had to pick up the pieces since the death of her husband, blaming herself for his murder in a completely irrational—and yet wholly realistic—way. She struggles to be a rock for Peter despite how little she has. While the sequences featuring Aunt May in the first film felt like obligation, she becomes a major player in Spider-Man 2, and several of her scenes are among the best in the film. There’s a truly poignant bit where May forces Peter to take a twenty dollar bill for his birthday that she can’t afford to part with, and the performances from Maguire and Harris raises a superhero-sized lump in the throat. When he loses said money to the unsympathetic landlord of the hovel he rents (and can’t afford), the sacrifice and generosity on May’s part becomes all the more heartbreaking. Later, in one of the most emotionally riveting scenes in any movie this year, Peter shares his darkest secret with the old woman; but the words that remain unspoken speak the loudest.

No matter how hard he tries, he fails. In the first film, Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) was an unreachable object, someone he could never have due to his shyness, his nerdiness, and the fact that she never gave him a second look. Now, despite the fact that she loves him for who he is, she’s still an impossibility for Peter, as the shadow of Spider-Man falls over any hope of a romantic relationship. Crime is everywhere in a city like New York, making it hard for a costumed adventurer to show up for Broadway plays and birthday parties in a timely fashion; and when Mary Jane’s big break arrives in the form of a major role in The Importance of Being Earnest, Peter misses the show, being first delayed by a high-speed chase and then by an obnoxious usher (played brilliantly, as always, by Raimi regular Bruce Campbell). No amount of apologizing can make it up to MJ, who thinks Peter’s an uncaring jerk; and to top things off, she’s deciding to move on with her life, accepting a marriage proposal from John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), the son of Spidey’s publishing nemesis. So what’s the guy to do? He can’t risk endangering Mary Jane or any other loved ones by revealing his secret, a revelation that, if shared, could bring a score of supervillians down upon them.

As if Spidey’s ability to ruin Peter?s love life isn’t bad enough, the friction between he and Harry Osborne (James Franco) is beginning to take its toll on their collapsing friendship. Harry, for both of you who haven’t seen the first film, is the son of Norman Osborne, aka the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), whose death Harry has placed firmly upon Spider-Man’s webbed shoulders. The fact that Peter is Spider-Man’s official photographer hasn’t escaped the younger Osborne, who, descending steadily into an alcoholic meltdown, has committed his father’s fortune to 1) expanding the Osborne empire, and 2) squashing the masked adventurer Harry condescendingly calls “The Bug.” Peter can’t tell Harry the truth about his father’s death lest he reveal his own secret, effectively destroying whatever relationship that still exists between them.

But Harry has other matters to deal with, as well. His inherited company, Oscorp, is funding the mad scientist-y projects of Otto Octavious (Alfred Molina), a genial fellow with big plans to Serve Mankind With Nuclear Fusion. Using four robotic tentacles attached to his neurological system, he unveils his newly-created energy source, but when it becomes a giant, metal-eating ball of fiery chaos (how’s that for comic book writing?), the good doctor winds up with the tentacles welded to his spine. Having lost his home, his laboratory, his wife, and his reputation, the newly-christened Doctor Octopus begins robbing banks to afford construction of a new fusion reactor, one that will allow him to perfect the failed experiment. The problem (aside from the obvious bank robbing) is that the inhibitor chip built into the tentacles has been broken, giving the artificial intelligence that has bonded with his body almost complete control. Octavious, we realize, was killed in the lab explosion that gave him his new appendages, and that Doc Ock is someone else entirely. He retains enough of his former self to understand the need for his botched experiment’s success, but his actions in achieving that goal are now based upon the secondary personality that the four arms encompass. His goal for the betterment of his fellow man becomes a matter of injured pride, and all who stand in his way will be destroyed. Like Peter Parker and Spider-Man, Otto Octavious and Doctor Octopus are two distinct identities, and yet the superhuman personality all but strangles the mundane alter ego.

The fact that Ock was, in his former life, a hero of Peter’s, adds another layer of angst; and in a sequence that perfectly brings The Amazing Spider-Man #50 to life, Peter literally trashes his Spidey persona. To paraphrase the issue in question, he decides it’s time to put away his toys and become a man. Yet an Octopus still looms over the horizon, one whom an emotionally unsteady Harry sics on Spider-Man; and in doing so, willingly betrays Peter Parker to satisfy his lust for revenge.

Gone is the whimsy of Film One. Characters we know and love are placed in new emotional environments, and are forced to grow and evolve accordingly. Unlike, say, the Batman franchise, the status quo is no more the same at the end of this story than it was at the last. This is the strength of the character and his adventures, and why he is, without a doubt, the best-written and most emotionally involving comic book hero of them all. Sam Raimi couldn’t have done a better job.

In-jokes and cameos abound. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker) got a name-reference in the first flick, but here we meet the peripheral character that fans of the comic will immediately recognize (as well as anticipate more of in Spider-Man 3). There’s an incredible Aunt May In Jeopardy! sequence that’s pure Stan Lee (complete with a Stan Lee cameo, no less); two (!) big Unmasking Scenes (Amazing Spider-Man #12, anyone?); and plenty of references to the 60s cartoon (the street singer being the most obvious, the final shot of Spidey swinging being the least). Many classic plotlines have been reworked to create a new (and wonderfully cohesive) narrative, containing dozens of very familiar moments within an entirely new story. This isn’t Brian Michael Bendis and his abhorrent Ultimate Spider-Man— this is a marriage of nostalgia and original storytelling. It’s absolute magic.

As much as I have to credit Raimi himself, this magic would have been impossible (or at least substantially different) with a different cast. Tobey Maguire is Spider-Man. He’s quicker with the quips this time around (something missing from the first film), but even when in costume, there’s still that nerdy vulnerability (the scene with Hal Sparks in the elevator is a perfect and hilarious example of this). There’s twice the drama in Spider-Man 2, and Tobey gets some real moments in which his conflicted nature is perfectly telegraphed without a single line of dialogue. Maguire almost had to drop out of the sequel due to back injuries (catch the in-joke when Pete smashes his tailbone during a fall), and while the rumored Jake Gyllenhaal would have been a more than acceptable substitute, it wouldn’t have been the same. Many actors tried their hand at Spidey in the various animated versions (to say nothing of the very bad live-action series from the 70s starring Nicholas Hammond with a dead squirrel stapled to his head), and with maybe one exception, none of them found the balance between the very different Peter and Spider-Man personas. Maguire has done this magnificently. One can only hope that once his three-picture deal is up he remains with the franchise.

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Doc Ock’s arms are either trying to crush Spiderman, or make love to him.

Equally impressive is Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus. Many fans complained about the Goblin costume from the first film, and while I think it might have been translated a bit better, Willem Dafoe’s performance made the character. This time, Molina not only has the charisma, but the look. His Doc Ock is threatening and sadistic, and yet we can’t help but feel for him, to sympathize with his predicament and hope that he finds a way out. The FX guys chose to use practical effects whenever possible, and with the exception of digital manipulation in wide shots and big action sequences, the tentacles Molina wears are controlled by four puppeteers (giving each arm a unique personality, and even a specific gender), allowing the actor to incorporate their performance into his own. The result is stunning, and much of Molina’s strength comes from this old-fashioned approach in a CG world. Ock’s motivation has been radically changed from the comics, and incorporates a healthy dose of the Venom character (symbiosis and dual personality); but while the deviation may enrage some fanboys, I found it broke the character away from the standard Mad Scientist Who Wants To Rule The World routine. Molina is Doctor Octopus.

The other actors are top-notch. Kirsten Dunst, while still the weakest link (like most heroines in Comic Book Movies), has added a new layer of vulnerability to her Mary Jane performance, removing much of (but still not all of) the Lois Lane-style Useless and Perpetually Captured Heroine Syndrome. J.K. Simmons once again brings J.J.J. to life in a way never before dreamed of, and Rosemary Harris’ scenes as Aunt May add important emotional resonance to an already charged story. Cliff Robertson has an unexpected cameo as Uncle Ben in a scene that plays off of his most memorable moment from the first film, and his reappearance—albeit brief—is moving, particularly in how the segment is staged.

However, the real supporting star is James Franco, whose character arc is following the classic Osborne legacy of the comics; and the final sequence with Harry, contemplating his revenge, manages to create a cliffhanger that challenges The Empire Strikes Back in terms of coitus interruptus. May 2007 is a long way off.

There’s so much to say about this film, and my ramblings can’t begin to cover it all. The special effects? Extraordinary. Doc Ock is a marvel (pun intended) to behold. Spider-Man, so astonishingly well-realized in the first film, becomes even more amazing (pun also intended) this time around, his webslinging a graceful ballet of impossible tricks that stun the viewer with their realism. The aerial battles between Spidey and Doc Ock are fantastic, and their confrontation atop a speeding train is Oscar-worthy. As impressive as the train sequence is, though, its conclusion—featuring an unmasked Spider-Man unconscious and at the mercy of the passengers—somehow transcends the previous spectacle.

If there’s one flaw in the film, it’s Danny Elfman’s score, which still sounds like rehashed Batman (which is to say that it sounds like everything else he’s written). There’s not one hummable bar of music, but when it’s playing over a montage of Alex Ross paintings (he who is the Alan Lee of the comic book universe), one can be forgiving.

Be a kid again. Get caught up in the magic. It feels good to enjoy a movie as much as I enjoyed this one, and I’m sure that I’m not alone.

And one final word: if anyone spoils the ending for you—and you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it—send me their address. I’ll personally kill them for you.

 

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Author: Erik Myers, special to CC2k

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