Hangin’ With The Big Boys.
Great Scott! They’ve done it right! From the web-woven opening credits to the last strains of the cartoon theme as the copyrights roll, SPIDER-MAN joins the pantheon of underpanted heroes whom the movie forum has portrayed as mightily as their bulging quadriceps (at this movie’s release date, that being only SUPERMAN and BATMAN – the OG’s, the goodfellas, the Super Best Friends).
It’s always a dice-throw re-forging well-loved characters; Spider-Man’s new movie franchise ambassador had to win over audiences in his first 5 minutes screentime – sweeping the field for lowbrows and hardcases alike – or go the way of Leno-chinned Nicholas Hammond, the vacuous, Gilligan-hairdo nerd of the late-70s TV series, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, which was as exciting as swallowing chalk. Tobey Maguire, running late after his bus, browbeaten by schoolmates, and lamenting in voiceover his teen-boy problems, was a winner right outa the gate! For a younger generation unversed in the “reality-based” predicament of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, this was a refreshing take on superheroics; not all of them fall from the sky in rockets, or are millionaire playboys – ironically, Tobey Maguire wins us over simply by being an Everyman!
As Parker, Maguire exudes that perfect mix of ingenuous Nice Boy-ishness that falls easy prey to achingly good-looking chicks (who are evolutionarily programmed to bleed those suckers dry), and as Spider-Man, Tobey shows us that not all heroes were Born To Do It; that easing into the role is every bit psychological as it is physical. The movie opens with him questioning “who he is” (the eternal misfit query that keeps psycho-analysts in high-thread-count bedsheets), and wraps with him stating, “Who am I? – I’m Spider-man!” an affirmation carrying the power of realization that to turn the tables on the achingly good-looking chicks, just reach down and grab a nut.
In his previous film roles, Tobey came perilously close to becoming either Freddie Prinze Junior or Jason Biggs. Thankfully, this outing has unmired him from that buttcheeks-exposed-lowbrow-laughs career track; yet, though his credits run the gamut of boring movies (THE ICE STORM, WONDER BOYS, PLEASANTVILLE), Tobey’s acting skills have always been apparent and, unlike Freddie Prinze Junior, I have never wished for ten minutes alone in a room with him, just slapping his face as hard as I can.
In the 60’s comics, Parker was bitten by a “radioactive” spider – in this movie, it is upgraded to a “genetically-mutated” spider, reflecting each era’s fears and misunderstandings. The decision to have Spider-Man internally generate his webbing seems more rational now, than his creation of web-cartridges in the 60’s. It always intrigued me why Stan Lee (Spider-Man’s creator) balked at the webbing aspect, giving his young hero super-strength, an inexplicable “spider-sense” and even the power to walk up walls (which is impossible in this world’s gravity; the ability for insects and arachnids to walk on walls has little to do with how sticky their appendages are, but rather volume-to-surface-area ratio and the correlating force of gravity per square inch), yet no endemic webbing – a spider’s trademark. Spiders spin their web via spinnerets located anally, so did Lee consider this and veto it? – though any movie featuring a hero generating web from a butt-spinneret would probably have to cede to new ratings codes, such as, “Silky Fecal Issuance” or “Disturbing Anal Visual,” or “Christ, Is He Doing What I Think He’s Doing?”
An exhilarating feature of this film was the web-swinging (non-existent in the soporific AMAZING SPIDER-MAN TV series, due to its technical difficulty). Movie technology has lent literal wings to stunts and visuals which were impossible in the days of Adam West running around a pier with a Wile E. Coyote bomb over his head, or Reb Brown decimating the legend of Captain America throughout that ineffectual doink of a movie. Truly this is the era to make films of “super” heroes, for only now can movie-makers convey a superiority that George Reeves could never achieve by lying on a table and being chroma-keyed onto a swishing skyscape. (And I’ve got two words for Nicholas Hammond scurrying up the side of a building: suspension cables.) Not only are the headrush web-swinging sequences in SPIDER-MAN technically seamless, thanks to legendary effects-man, John Dykstra, the athleticism displayed by the stuntmen and/or CGI composites is awe-inspiring. Aficionados may lament the CGI jerkiness to the man-spider’s swinging – but this nonhuman factor somehow only enhances the arachnoid element in this spider man. It’s a letdown, yes, knowing that Tobey is not even onscreen when Spider-Man is barreling along, but it’s better than watching “crooks” with pencil-mustaches shooting at George Reeves with their hats on, while he poses arms-akimbo-legs-apart, then crushes their guns like the movie-clay models they are. (Bullets bounce offa him, yet ever wonder why he ducks when they throw their guns at him?)
Comic artists put Spidey through rigorous contortions on the far side of yoga, his slim figure complying to action lines which would seem impossible to emulate in reality – but here, in three dimensions, motoring, rollercoastering, was this amazing spider-man in bodyswerving full-motion – momentum, inertia, gravity accounted for, swinging in free-fall, pushing off walls with running feet, loosing another web-cable to follow another violent arc – and assuming all those positions that you thought only a Baywatch bim and three tubes of lubricant could force you to achieve.
So…Tobey accounted for. Now who better in this planetary system to play Spider-man’s greatest arch-nemesis, the Green Goblin – than Willem Dafoe? Face carved from crazy and body ripped like Jesus in crucifixion pose, Willem owns this role, as the Green Goblin owned the tormented id of Norman Osborn, his businessman alter-ego. Like the first (Keaton-starring) BATMAN movie, the makers of SPIDER-MAN make the same mistake in killing off the bestest, baddest villain in what is surely merely the first installment of a major franchise. The Green Goblin (who appears in countless Spider-Man comics as an incessant bane to Parker’s attempts at leading an unassuming life) meets his death by movie’s end… when we all know that there is yet so much cheese to be mined from Willem. Like Jesus, I wept.
James Franco, as Dafoe’s barely tangible son and Peter Parker’s almost-incorporeal pal, Harry Osborn, phoned in his role on a cellphone that kept cutting out. In the comicbook world, Harry Osborn wildly grabs the party reins when his father is incapacitated by Spider-Man, and becomes the second Green Goblin. By movie’s end, Franco, in a valiant attempt to become three-dimensional, vows that Spider-Man will pay for killing his dad, but I don’t think any of us can visualize the fey Franco carrying the torch of Divine Wicked that came so rapturously naturally to Willem. Probably the biggest crime this wisp of smoke could perpetrate would be to join a boyband and pretend to be The Hard One.
At the heart of this movie is… well, “heart.” Raimi did not skimp on characterization, playing hard the emotional ties between Norman Osborn, his son Harry, Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst’s Tits. The unflowered romance between Parker and Kirsten Dunst’s Tits fuels the story, yet is not so overpowering that Willem can’t get in some good old-fashioned diabolical cackles and throw exploding casaba melons, precipitating web-slinging action to save damsels in tight dress.
J.K. Simmons (renowned That Guy, following in the unlimelighted footsteps of R. Lee Ermey, J.T. Walsh and T.T. Boy – never noticed how many That Guy’s have initials instead of first names…) hilariously dominated the role of J. Jonah Jameson, Chief of the Daily Bugle newspaper (even his character uses initials!), who wages a literary vendetta against Spider-Man for the sake of newspaper sales, and also delineates between libel and slander for the next time we want to confuse someone into being insulted and paying us for it.
Can anyone deny the integral role played by Kirsten Dunst’s Tits?; ubiquitous, delinquitous, nasty-perky, herky-jerky, firm yet forgiving, relentlessly real, cruel but fair. Iridescent, flame-red locks, throaty delivery, heart-glowing smile, yet camera unable to focus on anything BUT those mounds of necessity, those pillows of slavery. When walking home from work, in adhering to Hollywood protocol, Kirsten Dunst’s Tits takes the darkest possible alleyway during a rainstorm and wears no bra, and is subsequently attacked by wiggas, in order to be rescued by hero, as denoted by said protocol. Spider-Man has the advantage that most of us who wear sunglasses indoors gainfully employ: behind that mask, we know what he’s looking at! After impressing her by kicking white-rapper butt, he hangs upside-down passively, allowing her to ease his mask off his mouth, in the same manner she would ease dark-nylon stocking from betwixt milky thigh. With rain streaming down his roundish head and delineating her pinkish curves, they lock lips in a tongue-roving, erotogenic, nerve-jangling, storm-driven kiss, rivaling easily the heat of Scarlett & Rhett in GONE WITH THE WIND, or Rourke & Basinger in NINE 1/2 WEEKS, and even Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine in DEATHTRAP. The subliminal metaphor was not lost on this disciple of heady foreplay: Fear, Sweat, Violence, Surrender. And all of it – wet! The Human Procreation Arc.
An outstanding Movie Compleat, though I would be remiss in my role as sage, prophet and topless dancer were I not to mention the film’s one small shortcoming: a sudden characterization-wrap-up which should have realistically been saved for a sequel, if it should have been used at all.
In the last five minutes of the movie, Kirsten Dunst’s Tits unexpectedly profess undying love for Peter Parker – this sotto voce affirmation, as arousing as it was, has to be questioned if we are to retain an ounce of dignity as MEN. For we must ask, was Kirsten Dunst’s Tits professing her love for Parker only because she had run out of options? Let’s examine: She’s thrown the leg over a jock in high school, and a rich guy in post-teens. Norman Osborn’s summation of why Kirsten Dunst’s Tits was with his rich son – for the money – is proven correct when she leaves him. If she was never really attracted to him (as proven by her juvenile game-playing throughout their short relationship), what did she see in him that prompted her sexual congress with him in the first place – his inherent spinelessness and wraith-like quality? Their lovemaking must have been downright cephalopodean. (N.B. cephalopod – animal with no backbone.)
It still beats me how women have the audacity to vilify a man who accuses them of being shallow – whilst they are being shallow. Here is a female character who dated a jock and a rich guy – if either one of their personalities was “right” for her, she would theoretically have stayed with them without any thought to money or looks or status – yet, ultimately they were not “right” for her – which means that the months she spent with each of them must have been for a reason other than their personalities. To wit: the jock’s status and sexual prowess and Harry’s looks and money.
Suddenly, she rationally assesses that “Peter has always been there for her”? But that’s not love, as defined by Hoyle…is it? “Love,” as you’ve been indoctrinated to believe, is not meant to be that rational; you don’t compile a pros-and-cons list – you either DO IT, you’re either IN IT, you either EAT IT… or you don’t. Peter Parker was definitively in the Friend Zone with Kirsten Dunst’s Tits. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: once you’re in the Friend Zone – you’re there for Life! After enough lost opportunities, you become the Geek Whose Chance Of Getting Into My Panties Are As Improbable As Yngwie Malmsteen Playing Something Listenable. It is sudden jolts of unreality like this that lead us to realize why “love” is a myth; why the Disney-propagated illusion of “finding love” is a lie; why the fantasies of “being in love” and “loving someone” are as intangible now as the first time some teen bim said it to you and confused you into taking her roughly from behind.
This too, is a caveat to all the young dobies who believe the “moral” of those final few minutes: that being the beige Guy Next Door will get you laid if you bide your time in the Friend Zone. No. It won’t. We, as the audience, saw Peter’s web-slinging bravado, but to Kirsten Dunst’s Tits, Parker merely groveled and adenoidally apologized and was a peripheral character in her middle-background for years, except for the scene where he bested her jock boyfriend – but for a woman who looks like Kirsten Dunst’s Tits, obviously that’s all it takes to get her juiced – as proven by the fact that she was dating the jock in the first place. What else are we to presume? (Oh, they’ll crow about misogyny and giving Respect to them and how they’re not shallow, yet put a shiny stone on their fingers – a non-utilitarian trinket, dug from the earth and given imaginary value – and watch them get teary-eyed and open-thighed…)
Speaking of open-thighed, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet album (when it careened to the top of the charts in the early 80s, making millionaires of five young taut-buttocked lads from the underprivileged climes of Jersey), gave dorks and douchebags false hopes in the same manner, inspiring a nation’s untalented nerds to Aquanet their hair and learn to enjoy the womanish feel of spandex against their thighs, in the vain hopes that they too might score all the bikini models they could eat and all the sports cars they could drive into swimming pools. But when the dust of the 80s cleared, we were left with a bunch of untalented gronks facing bankruptcy who looked like transvestites.
So too, movies which play on the emotions of the Geeky Guy give him false hopes that he too could be more than a ninety-pound doormat. But a word of advice, Pasty-Boys – don’t take on the school jock, cos he’ll invariably beat you senseless in front of the very babes you are too afraid to ask out. The relationships you forge with people whom you are regularly in close proximity with, pretty much remain that way throughout your life, as anyone who has attended class reunions will attest. Once a nerd, always a nerd. Rarely does one coalesce the brute force of will to steer the boat against the current. The only way to reinvent yourself is to isolate yourself from all the social factors that molded you into the person you never wished to become. That’s the lesson that I hope Geeky Guys will take from this essay…that, and the fact that Bon Jovi had a bitchin 80s ‘do.
And if you still want to cling to the fantasy that a Pasty-Boy can score a vermilion goddess if his Love is True, you’d better pray that somewhere out there, there’s a radioactive ferret with your butt-cheeks’ name on his teeth.