Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Return of Spidey

Went to see Spider-Man 2 yesterday and would have written about it then but subject to my new resolution, no playing before doing important things. Or, at least, some important things. (Got to start somewhere, haven't I?) So, since I slept most of the evening (due to a late night the night before), did some obligatory cleaning (not my idea), and then went to bed again, I never got to the important stuff, so I never got to the Spidey post.

This isn't really a review, since I a) am not going to rehash the whole film, b) miss too many important things when I watch movies to be a discerning reviewer, and c) don't care.

I loved it. I was really afraid it would just stress me out and depress me with all the angst over Mary Jane and everything, so going in I was a little worried. See, I'm perfectly happy for the hero to get beat up or even go through painful inner turmoil. Preferably both. I have my limits but in my (possibly sadistic) way I enjoy these things. What I don't like is public humiliation. I didn't grow up watching especially brutal or graphic stuff but the things I have seen usually don't bother me exceedingly. You know the movie scene that really affected me? In "Power of One," when one of the older kids spit on the main character, PK. I've never been slapped in the face, but it was almost like getting personally slapped in the face. No, I think worse because what was so awful was how degrading and humiliating it was. The first Spider-Man, while I enjoyed it, was slightly painful, what with all the humiliations and embarrassments Peter had to go through. Maybe it says something about me as a person, but I loathe watching public humiliation.

I don't mean I can't stand anything uncomfortable or embarrassing. I don't like watching it happen in real life, but in a story I think I can handle a certain amount. But what drains me in a movie--stresses me out--is watching lots embarrassment or--worse--outright humiliation. If it's on TV, I might end up switching away--to something more wholesome and relaxing, like someone getting beat up.

So I was expecting the same sort of thing--maybe worse--for Spidey 2. I'm not sure if this movie was less humiliating for Peter (while still being painful in a way that made its ultimate resolution more satisfying) or if it's just that the ending made up for it for me. At any rate, it was also peppered with jokes that made you think about what it would really be like to be Spider-Man. I loved these for the realism they added to the film and Peter's life.

All that to say, I came out of the film in an old-fashioned good-movie-euphoria. When I was a kid, we didn't go to the movies lots. When we did, the dark theater, the lights dimming--it was a magical experience, to use a cliche entirely seriously. Nowadays we watch movies more often and I'm afraid it may be fun but I really don't get that sense of "magic" anymore. Probably 'cos I go often enough that the sense of mystery and rare adventure just isn't there. Occasionally a movie will leave me euphoric. I don't think that's happened in a couple of years, even with Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, X-men and all the other Scifi/Fantasy movies that have come out in that time. I liked all those movies, but I can't remember getting a high out of any of them. Maybe a little one with some of them. I think Azkaban came close.

I guess as much as I liked all those movies, this is the one that most got under my skin. It takes more than pure entertainment to make a movie stay with me; it takes that rare magic formula--good movie-making plus characters and situations that touch me and inspire me, or at least give me a little hope. Before you beat me, let me say that I think all of the above mentioned had that, to greater and lesser degrees. Or, at least, good enough to fool me. But either I'm undergoing amnesia or this is the one that most got under my skin; the one I could best relate to right now. As corny as it sounds, Spider-Man 2 gave me a little bit of hope. I'll defend that statement in another post, since this one is getting so long.

So, finally, my "list"--er, ok, two of the main reasons I liked Spider-Man 2. Here be Spoilers.

1) Spider-Man wasn't Superman--er, I mean he wasn't perfect. "Ordinary" people could help him. They had this in the first movie, when the people he was trying to save (in the subway car thingy?) threw rocks at the Green Goblin and told him to leave Spider-Man alone. They had it in 2 in what I think for me was the most moving scene of the movie, when Peter, unconscious and unmasked, was carried over the heads of the train passengers he'd just saved and gently laid down on the floor and they saw him face-to-face for the first time. ("He's just a kid. No older than my son.") Which makes me think to myself: there may be bad guys out there, but there are also good ones. Big--and small, like the two little kids who then came up to him after he'd woken up and offered him back his mask. ("We won't tell.")

2) MJ had a backbone. Now I was never a fan of Mary Jane. I didn't watch the cartoon regularly, but when I did, she got on my nerves. I didn't like her much better in the first movie. In this one, she didn't get on my nerves as much. She was just "okay." Until she started showing some good sense I couldn't ignore.
a) When Pete said he'd changed, she didn't go flying back into his arms. It took her some time to think about it.
b) She didn't go all "Charlie's Angels" and beat up the bad guy, but she did try to sneak up on him and hit him upside the head. More guts than I've probably got.
c) She saved Peter in her own way. Peter thought he had to either be Spider-Man and save everybody all the time or be Peter Parker and turn his back on other people. While I think a little balance in his life might've helped in this respect (you can't save everybody), MJ's gift to him was that, even if you do think you have to be there for everybody, you don't have to give up everything, or go it alone. Probably my favorite line of the movie was hers: "Isn't it about time somebody saved you?" It was also nice to remember that while we girls may not be much in the beating-up-villains department (I'm talking real-life here), we can "save" (or at least help) other people in our own way.

So here's to MJ and all the other unknown, part-time heroes of the world.

(Not to diss Pete...)

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