erik lundegaard

Superheroes posts

Monday May 05, 2014

Ranking the 5 Spider-Man Movies

The first Batman movie came out in 1943 and we got the fifth one in 1992—49 years later.

The first Superman movie came out in 1948 and we got the fifth one in 1981—33 years later.

The first Spider-Man movie was released in 2002 and here we are with the fifth film—a mere 12 years later. Time keeps speeding up. Are we getting tired yet? Do we have franchise fatigue? A little. Speaking for myself anyway.

But, as I did with the Batman movies and the Superman movies, now I do with the Spider-Man movies: rank ’em from worst to best.

Worst (5) and best (1) are easy. But there’s a good debate to be had in the middle.

5. Spider-Man 3 (2007) 
One of the worst ideas in any superhero movie is the “evil” version of the main character, and “Spider-Man 3,” following the lead of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, goes that exact route. It also creates a pretty tepid version of evil. Superman in “Superman III,” you’ll remember, rights the Leaning Tower of Pisa, gets drunk in a bar, and sleeps with a blonde. That’s about it. Peter Parker? Kinda the same. He struts down the street like Travolta, styles his hair like Hitler, and makes an ass of himself at a bar. He also has the Russian girl across the hallway make him cookies. With milk. But that’s not nearly the worst part of this awful, awful movie. Spider-Man’s psychological motivation to fight crimeand it’s one of the best in comicdom—is based upon the fact that he let go the man who later killed his Uncle Ben; that if he’d cared enough to stop the dude in the first place, Uncle Ben would be alive. What does “3” do with that? It actually makes someone else responsible for the death of Uncle Ben. I can’t begin to state how incredibly wrong that is. It’s as if Bruce Wayne found out that all this time his parents have been alive and hanging out in the Bahamas.

Spider-Man 3: hitler haircut

4. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The point of most of our stories is this: What does the guy want and how does he get it? So what does Marc Webb’s Peter Parker want? In the beginning, he wants to find out about his parents but never does. Then he wants to bring Uncle Ben’s killer to justice but doesn’t do that, either. Then he wants a girl, particulary Gwen Stacy, and gets her, but she has to do most of the heavy lifting. Plus he promises a dying Capt. Stacy to stay away from her. Which he doesn’t do. But he does act like James Dean from time to time. As if that’s a thing.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Andrew Garfield, subway

3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
It’s not as bad as everyone is making it out to be, but it’s not quite good, either. It’s got great fight scenes and great smart-ass patter out of Spidey, but it’s overlong and unnecessarily convoluted. It’s as convoluted as the number of screenwriters it has: four. Was this movie fixable? Maybe. Lose the Richard Parker storyline, give us less Hamlet-like dithering on the Peter-Gwen romance, emphasize Harry more. Maybe lose Electro. Not only does his story not resonate, it pushes Green Goblin to the side. Which is like putting Baby in the corner.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2. Spider-Man (2002)
It’s a pretty faithful adaptation—one of the first. Tobey Maguire is your Steve Ditko-era Peter Parker, though a little sweeter, and with the ability to shoot webs out of his wrists rather than out of homemade web shooters. He calls the Green Goblin “Gobby” and M.J. calls him “Tiger.” Our hero is happy as Spider-Man and unhappy as Peter Parker, and that’s pretty much how it works. Hell, they even improve upon the origin. In Amazing Fantasy #15, when the petty thief runs past Spider-Man, we recognize that Spider-Man’s refusal to help is the act of a selfish jerk. Peter’s not us here; he’s other. In the movie, the petty thief rips off the wrestling promoter who has just ripped off Peter Parker. “I missed the part where that’s my problem,” the promoter tells Peter when Peter complains. This allows Peter, 30 seconds later, to throw the words back at him. “You coulda stopped that guy easy,” the promoter complains. “I missed the part where that’s my problem,” Peter tells him. Here’s how good that is: When I first saw “Spider-Man” in 2002, some moviegoers, who obviously didn’t know where the story was going, actually laughed. They’d been trained to expect put-down quips from their action heroes, and this was a better quip than most. The laughter is indicative. Peter’s not other here; he’s us. Thus when the horrible lesson is imparted, it’s imparted to us, too. With great power comes great responsibility. It’s a lesson our culture doesn’t deliver much.

The death of Uncle Ben

1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
It’s based upon one of the classics of the Silver Age of Comics, Spider-Man #50, “Spider-Man No More!,” written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita and published in July 1967, in which our hero, tired of losing as Peter Parker as often as he wins as Spider-Man, dumps the Spidey costume in a back alley and gets on with his life. The filmmakers internalize this dilemma—he doesn’t reject his powers, he’s losing them—but it’s all in his head, and it’s all because he’s denying the love he feels for Mary Jane Watson. So it goes. The movie’s battles up and down the skyscrapers of Manhattan are still thrilling 10 years later, the superhero pieta inside the elevated train is still touching, and we get one of the great reveals in superhero movies. From the Scarlet Pimpernel to Zorro to Superman to Spider-Man, there’s been a girl. The girl loves the hero but dislikes, or is disappointed in, or doesn’t even acknowledge, the hero in his secret form. It’s the classic love triangle of superherodom and a solace for unrequited lovers everywhere. I.e., she rejects the nerdy me (Clark) because she doesn’t see the real me (Superman). She rejects me because she fails to see what’s super in me. The superhero love triangle plays upon our deepest, saddest fantasies. And here, in one scene, the girl finally gets it. The disconnect is connected. The two men become one. 

Spider-Man 2

What about you? How would you rank  them? 

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Posted at 06:32 AM on May 05, 2014 in category Superheroes
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Friday May 02, 2014

Spider-Man is Here: Obey

Last week, in anticipation of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” I rewatched the second installment of Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man” trilogy (review up soon), and during the opening credits, as they panned in and out of actors' names, this flashed on the screen as a portion of lead actor Tobey Maguire's name:

Spider-Man: Obey

Good thing I'm not a conspiracy theorist.

Reviews of “Amazing 2” are less than amazing—worst ever for the two franchises. Worse than “Spider-Man 3”? I'll believe that when I see it. Which I believe will be tonight. 

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Posted at 05:20 AM on May 02, 2014 in category Superheroes
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Monday April 21, 2014

'Yankees Suck': A Message from Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

With “Amazing Spider-Man 2” on the way, is it time to ask the question that the first “Spider-Man 2” suggests? Namely: Do the Yankees suck?

Here’s the guy who finds Spidey’s outfit in a garbage can and brings it to J.  Jonah Jameson. He winds up selling it for a measly $100:

Yankees fan who finds Spidey's outfit in garbage

And here’s the guy on the elevated train who helps carry Spidey back, in pieta fashion, after his epic battle with Doc Ock. He’s also the one who says, “He’s ... just a kid. No older than my son.”

Mets fan in Spider-Man 2

He’s also the last one to let go of Spidey when Doc Ock returns to finish him off.

Mets fan in Spider-Man 2

So is it better to be a Mets fan than a Yankees fan in the Spider-Man universe? Do the Yankees suck according to Spider-Man? In the series, Yankee fans can always point to this in their favor. But Peter Parker did grow up in Queens, which is where Shea Stadium was and Citi Field is. And he is an underdog. 

One wonders how the rest of the Spider-Man universe divides itself up. Norman Osborne probably had a suite at Yankee Stadium. He probably gladhanded with George Steinbrenner. Kingpin? Yankees, totally. Flash Thompson? Yankees again. J.J.J. should be rooting for the Mets (Daily Bugle/Daily News) but the Yankees sell newspapers, so he's probably going there. Robbie's probably a Mets fan, though, if not an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Maybe he's still loyal to the Dodgers. Quietly, though, the way he's loyal to Spider-Man. 

We'll see how the baseball caps line up, if they line up, in “Amazing Spider-Man 2” in a few weeks. 

UPDATE FROM A COMICS FAN: “Spidey is canonically a Mets fan in the comics. Glad to see that the movie got that right!”

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Posted at 06:52 AM on Apr 21, 2014 in category Superheroes
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Thursday February 20, 2014

Fantastic Four Reboot: The World's Youngest Superheroes

The cast for the Fantastic Four reboot was announced yesterday, and, looking at the picture below, it took me a while to piece together who was who.

Sure, Sue Storm. But initially I thought Jamie Bell, with the ears, was Mr. Fantastic. Maybe because he looks older? And if Kate Mara is Sue Storm and Michael B. Jordan is Johnny Storm, one of them has to be adopted, n'est-ce pas? Unless Mr. or Mrs. Storm remarried. Or we're all colorblind like Stephen Colbert.

the new fantastic four

Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny.

But my main thought was everyone's main thought: Wow, they're young.

I know. It's Ultimate Fantastic Four, in which our heroes are young.

Even so, they're young. Kate Mara, at 31, is the oldest. She was was born in February 1983. Jamie Bell came three years later, in March 1986. Both Jordan and Miles Teller were born in 1987: Feb 9 and Feb. 20, respectively. Which means Mr. Fantastic is actually the youngest of the Fantastic Four. No gray temples for you, buddy. It also means we have another British actor, Bell, playing a quintessential American superhero, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing. Wotta revoltin' development.

But at least they're all good actors. And it's directed by Josh Trank (b. 1985), who didn't do poorly with “Chronicle.”

Besides, it couldn't be worse than the previous “Fantastic Four” movies, could it? Could it, Fox Studios?

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Posted at 10:26 AM on Feb 20, 2014 in category Superheroes
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Thursday December 05, 2013

What's a Nice Jewish Girl Like You Doing with a Magic Lasso? Gal Gadot Cast as Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot, Miss Israel 2004, and an actress best-known in the states for playing Gisele in the three most recent “Fast & Furious” movies, has been cast as Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder's upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” movie—the belated attempt by Warner Bros. and DC Comics to replicate the huge box-office success of “The Avengers” movie.

But better get those bullet-proof bracelets up, bubelah. It didn't take long before fanboys were taking potshots. These are simply comments on Can't imagine what it's like over at Twitter:

  • a skinny chick with not the hint of muscle tone... good choice
  • i prefer megan fox to be the wonder woman
  • was still hoping Gina Carano might get cast
  • an Amazon Princess shouldn't look like she's starving to death...
  • Crap choice ... and isn't that girl to [sic] skinny?

I believe “skinny” is code for something.

At least there was this response:

  • The problem is that Zack Snyder is still going to direct it

Agreed. Oy. 

Gal Gadot

Gal pal, Amazonian princess.

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Posted at 08:59 AM on Dec 05, 2013 in category Superheroes
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard