By Chris Campo
Continuing the Spider-Man reviews leading up to his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, here is the sequel to the smash hit Spider-Man, appropriately titled Spider-Man 2. To some, it's one of the best superhero movies of all time, and rightfully so. This movie is spectacular. Not only does it perfectly capture the fun comic book roots of its sorce material, but it also respects its characters to move past what comic book films are today, a whole decade before they were so huge. While my nostalgia puts the original Spider-Man in my all time personal favorite films, Spider-Man 2 is simply one of the very best comic book films we have, nostalgic or not. It may not be a perfect movie, but it is the perfect Spider-Man movie, and that's a damn good thing. This review will contain spoilers, so if you have not seen Spider-Man 2, please, for the love if god, treat yourself to it, then come back.
The film follows Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) and his constant battle of balancing being a superhero and a regular guy. Down on his luck with the love of his life Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), and loosing the trust of his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter is faced with who he really is. Despite considering stopping, he still has to be our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a scientist and mentor of Peter, believes he has an invention to change the world, but when his experiment takes a turn for the worst, his four mechanical arms gain their own consciousness and assist Octavius, now Doctor Octopus, to finish his work, no matter who, or what, gets in the way.
The best thing about Spider-Man 2, other than everything, is its focus on its characters. The film finds Peter Parker losing his powers, his friends and his job, he's slipping in his classes, he's dirt-broke and the poor guy even forgets his own birthday. The script puts away a lot of time to build Peter and his relationships with the vast character list in this film. The emotional edge to this film isn't like most comic book movies where you get an emotional scene here and there (including most Spider-Man films), it's the whole thing that's emotional. Its almost a straight drama, and this choice was very wise. No other comic book movie will allow you to get this close to it's main character. Its a sequel that has the character go through an actual arc, not just another adventure.
The film isn't called Peter Parker 2 though, it's called Spider-Man 2, and the Spider-Man scenes, including everything from his flipping to his swinging, are breathtaking. Spider-Man is established almost instantly in the hilarious pizza delivery scene, and every action scene tops the next. The car chase, the bank heist and the train scene. That train scene is the best action scene in a Spider-Man film, and it's one of my favorite action scenes of all time. It's always moving (literally) and the variety of thrills keeps the legnthy scene fresh, all the way up unil the extremely tense and emotional finale.
As for the villain this time around, it's Doctor Octopus, and he may just top the Green Goblin. His motivation is clear and present, and his look is insanely cool. The character is even responsible for one of the most memorable scenes of the whole trilogy, the terrifying hospital scene. As well as that, he's given a believable relationship with Peter and his origin sets up Oscorp, doing it better in a subplot than the Amazing Spider-Man did in two films. He's damn near everything you want in a villain The final set peice is emotional as hell and the stakes are notably higher than in the first film, but it's still about the characters. It's a heart-stopping sequence and Octavius' death is extremely satisfying, resulting in a fantastic finale.
Speaking of the finale, that's where we finally get a payoff to Mary Jane's subplot. Here, she finds out Peter is Spider-Man. It's one of my favourite scenes in the whole film, although I do think a lot of the Mary Jane plot isnt all that great. The character is much more interesting this time around, but there's still a few aspects of her that I couldn't latch onto, especially the plots involving her marriage and job. It's all necessary for setting up the finale, and her inevitable relationship with Peter, but it drags down the film a tad. However, I would certainly take this over damsel in distress any day of the week.
Even Harry Osborn is given a lot more to of this time around. He has a grudge against both Spider-Man and Peter and while it's a fun subplot, it ultimately is responsible for the film's greatest sin: setting up Spider-Man 3. The arc should've ended when Osborn finds out that Parker is Spidey, and I guess the series should've ended at this film as well. I can't really hold a grudge though, setting up a bad sequel doesn't take away from how great this film is.
The humor is Spider-Man 2 is a highlight. It's subtle, with so many little moments making me laugh so hard, like when the only two things in his closet are a business suit and his Spider-Man suit. Also, the big comedic bits are great, the elevator scene being the funniest scene in the whole series. And goddamn, J. Jonah Jameson is even better here than he is in the first film. I always forget just how good his lines are. He says so many outlandish things, and every time he's on screen I get more excited than I probably should.
Another person that absolutely needs mentioning is Sam Raimi, as his style is all over this film, just like white on rice. His style and direction can really be felt here, even more so than the original. He feels so confident with everything, especially the tone, and almost every decision on his part works. He's brilliant behind the camera and his talents shine. This film wouldn't be what is is without him, and for that, I am forever thankful.
Overall, Spider-Man 2 is a juggernaut of a film. It's character driven, exciting, touching, funny, and directed brilliantly. It' s everything you want it to be and more. It's the quintessential Spider-Man film, for now. We'll just have to wait and see what Marvel has to offer next.
By Liam Alexander
Ah yes, we’re nearing Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, and being the DC fan I am, we thought it’d be a good idea to take things back a little bit to the film that started the 21st century DC film craze, Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan’s revival of the caped crusader, a pivotal shift in the way comic book films were going to be perceived by the general movie going audience. Gone were the days of goofy fun, over the top villains and nipples…god…damn…BAT NIPPLES (Sorry, Batman and Robin does things to me). Say hello to a seriously serious crime drama, because that is what Batman Begins is, a crime drama…with a guy that dresses up every night like a bat. It may sound like it can’t really work, how could it work? The last time we saw Batman on screen was way back when Arnold Schwarzenegger was blasting ice puns right in our face. How could this film possibly work? But oh boy, it sure does with Christopher Nolan, Warner Bros & DC cooking up the first true masterpiece of comic book cinema all the way back in 2005, and it's the best revival of a character since Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction…I had to.
Batman Begins is the origin story of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), better known as Batman. The film follows Bruce from a child, developing his fear of bats and witnessing the brutal murder of his parents in the back alleys of Gotham, his training with the league of shadows all the way to his first act of saving Gotham city from a poisonous toxin attack as Batman. This already separates Batman Begins from every single live action batman film before it. We actually truly care and understand the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character within the first 20 minutes of the film, setting Bruce up as a prisoner in an unnamed camp, a trainee under Ra’s (Liam Neeson) mentorship and a broken human. That is something that Christian Bale excels in for the entire trilogy and especially this film, he understands that Bruce Wayne is really a facade for Batman, they’re separate characters and he plays them to a tee. Bale is the most complex and yes, I’m going to say it, BEST, Batman to ever hit the silver screen. He’s believable as a playboy billionaire, a broken man and a crime fighting bad ass… however, that could change come March 24th.
The film delves into Bruce’s training with the league of shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul. Liam Neeson absolutely kills it as Ra’s, and we don’t even know that he is Ra’s until later in the film, but he plays the wise and skilled master so well. He is one of the antagonists of the film, as well as Scarecrow, who is played exceptionally by Cillian Murphy. That is one of the major major reasons why Batman Begins and Nolan’s Batman Trilogy transcend and stand above many other comic book films, the villains. Neeson as Ra’s and Murphy as Scarecrow are fully realised characters, almost being complete parallels of Bruce Wayne and Batman, that is what makes them so compelling. Think about it, Ra’s and Batman both want to sweep the streets of Gotham, to make it a better city, they both have similar goals, but are on opposite sides of the same coin (yes that was a two face reference, more in The Dark Knight review). Batman just wants to do it with a little less deadly hallucinogenic poison. This provides amazing drama between both characters, allowing Ra’s to break out of the simple conventions of the “villain” and become something much more, a character who just thinks he's doing the right thing.
Now, let's take a look at the real heroes of this film (yes that was a Deadpool reference in a Batman Review, calm down Liam), director Christopher Nolan and co-screenwriter David S Goyer. Both Nolan and Goyer rejuvenate life back into the Batman franchise with a film focused more on story and characters then explosive action. Christopher Nolan brings the darkness, mood and grittiness that has always been sitting there in the comics just waiting, begging, screaming, to be put on screen and he just does it so well. The mess that is Gotham City is captured beautifully by frequent Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister, who relishes in the darkness of the film. It all feels real, tangible, like this could actually be happening somewhere in the world as I type this very sentence.
Nolan brings insanely good performances from the leads, as well as the supporting characters, including Michael Caine as the soft and caring Alfred Pennyworth, who helps Bruce every night is brilliant, Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox, who infuses some great moments of dry humour as he knows something is up with Bruce’s “strange” requests, and my god, whoever thought of Gary Oldman as the only good cop in the city, Jim Gordon, is a genius. He’s one of the best characters in the film and plays so well with Batman. When Gordon has to operate the Batmobile, I laugh every time at his reaction of its power, and when he utters the line “I gotta get me one of those” it's so, so good. Christopher Nolan constructs a film that not only works exceptionally well dramatically, but it’s also really entertaining. That is great filmmaking.
Now, you couldn’t have possibly thought I'd talk about Batman Begins without mentioning Hans Zimmer’s and John Newton Howard’s superb score, could you? Zimmer and Newton’s score for Batman Begins is brilliant. It encompasses the darkness, the epic moments and the tragedy of the character and the world, and it does what any great film score should do, go mainly unnoticed, but elevate the scenes to a new height when it is used. Zimmer and Nolan are probably one of my favourite cinematic relationships in Hollywood. My favourite track from the Batman Begins score is probably ‘Corynorhinus’, it’s exceptional and emotionally charged. Zimmer’s score’s for Batman only get better from here (hint hint The Dark Knight).
The ending to this film is one of the greatest teases ever, the joker playing card made me squeal the first time I watched the film and still does every time. With Batman Begins, Nolan brought back the caped crusader to all his glory. He gave the movie goers and the fans the Batman they deserved, it’s treated seriously and is first and foremost a great crime film, superhero second. It’s impact on Pop Culture and cinema is profound, Batman Begins may just as well be the French Revolution of Comic Book movies, but wait until my next review of Nolan’s 2nd Batman film, the Renaissance of superhero cinema, THE DARK KNIGHT. Ah yes…history references in a Batman Begins review, gotta love it.
By Chris Campo
Spider-Man is without a doubt one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. After 5 films and 2 franchises, people still went nuts when it was announced he would finally join the Avengers in this summer's Captain America: Civil War. Why? Because Spider-Man has always been a fan favorite for comic fans and movie fans. Anticipating his appearance in Civil War, I feel it's time to talk about all 5 Spider-Man films. Sam Rami's 2002 film based on the character is one of the first comic book films people really attached to... and for good reason.
Spider-Man follows the story of Peter Parker (Toby Maguire), a nerdy, yet brilliant, high school student. After a spider bite on a school feild trip, Peter learns he has aquired the powers of a spider. After the death of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), Peter suits up in red and blue as Spider-Man to use his powers for good. Soon, however, he must face the evil Norman Osborn (Willem Defoe), who's flying around as the villainous Green Goblin, as well as facing the challenges of growing up along side his best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), and long time crush, Mary Jane-Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
Spider-Man is one of my all-time favorite films. It was when I was young and it still is. Its not the best Spider-Man film, it certainly has its flaws, but it's probably my personal favorite. I adore it. It not only has a special place in my heart, but also a special place in comic book film history. The effects are revolutionary, the style is quirky and the characters are relatable. It's damn near impossible not to love this movie. This film is just so well made and the love I have for the character, the cast and the crew is incredibly tangible.
Toby Maguire, in my opinion, is the best Peter Parker so far. While I think Andrew Garfield embraces Spider-Man better, Toby is pitch perfect as Peter. He's relatable and believably geeky. All the performances are great, though. Willem Dafoe is utterly brilliant as the evil genius Norman Osborn. He's chillingly creepy and a really, really good villian, and while the design of his costume is rather bad, Green Goblin is probably my favorite villain from all the films. I wish I could say that either the lead protagonist or the lead antagonist were the standouts of the film, but easily the best performance in this movie is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He steals every scene he's in and he's extremely funny. It's probably the single best casting for a character in a comic book film.
The action in this film is beautiful, too. Director Sam Rami uses such a variety of ways to film action, making every action set piece memorable in a different way. Nothing is as impressive as the train scene in Spider-Man 2, but it's still breathtaking, in particular the final fight, which I'll keep spoiler free. It's this final fight that's so well done, though, starting with a suspenseful sequence on a bridge, followed by an absolutely brutal final confrontation between Spidey and the Green Goblin. It's so unlike the CGI fests we get today in literally every single comic book film. It's a simple fight that's ten times more personal and satisfying than a huge battle or insane set peices.
This film also has a ton of heart. Whether it's heartbreaking or heartwarming, the film knows how to make me emotional each time I see it. The death of Uncle ben is earth shattering, and devastating for both Peter and the audience. Also, the film is quite charming, with many scenes making you smile and laugh. It truly feels like a journey and despite it being about a man with the powers of a spider, it feels human and real. I get goosebumps and emotional during the film's final scene probably every time I watch it.
It would be a disservice to the film to not mention the music. Wow. Some of my favorite music ever composed for film, Danny Elfman's score is just as iconic to me as the Star Wars or Jurassic Park theme. It's hard to imagine these films without it, and I doubt the film would be half as impactful. It's beautiful music, for a Spider-Man film or not. Out of all the Spider-Man scores out there, the music in this film is certainly my favourite.
I won't let the nostalgia get to me, "Spider-Man" has its issues. For one, as I already mentioned, the Green Goblin suit is just goofy. Maybe it would've passed in the 90's, but this film is 3 years after the 90's. Also, there's some scenes that are just odd, like when the Green Goblin throws a grenade that turns people into skeletons, or when Peter hides from Norman and Aunt May by sticking to the ceiling. Its a cute scene, but it just seems like they would obviously see him. Also, I know it was true to the comic, but Mary Jane is an awful character. She's a weak, cliché female role who is also a damsel in distress, which is a signature of her character, but doesn't quite work. Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man fixed everything about Spider-Man's love interest.
To sum up, Spider-Man is one of my all time favorite films. It's charming, action packed, beautiful and fun. It's really easy to see why Spider-Man is a fan favorite character based on this movie alone. The film itself may not be perfect, but it's perfect enough for me.
4 1/2 Stars