Why do people love Spider-Man?

Not the character. I know why people love the character. I’m not pants-on-head retarded or anything. No, I want to know why the hell the first Spider-Man movie is so fucking popular. Why it made infinity billion dollars at the box office and why I keep hearing the media say things like “Iron Man: Better than Spider-Man?”. I should fucking hope so, because in spite of the rest of the world loving that movie a great big huggie bunch, I LOATHE Spider-Man.

Now, let me put this into context. I don’t want you all to think that I’m just some kind of monumental elitist fan boy prick who has a chainsaw up his ass because the film failed to meet my impossibly high standards or that I’m holding it accountable to some ridiculous pieces of minutia which are of importance only to the hardest core of comic book aficionados.

I’ve always been a big fan of Spidey. Ever since I was little. Spidey has consistently ranked in my top 5 Super Heroes of all time. The list hasn’t changed much in the past 22 years honestly. While characters jockey for position, the core has remained the same for the majority of my conscious life, well, the majority of my conscious life where in I cared about such things, so starting around the age of 5 roughly. The illustrious five, as it stands today, are:

5. Superman

4. Batman

3. Spider-Man

2. Green Lantern

1. Iron Man

Back before Spider-Man came out, Spidey held the number one slot. So much so that I actually found myself employed by the number one Spider-Man movie news site on the web, http://www.spidermanhype.com which has since evolved into www.superherohype.com. I also had my own Spider-Man site which, along with Spidermanhype, was featured in an issue of Entertainment Weekly back in the day. It was my own personal dream casting of the film, and I’m proud to say that I pegged Toby Maguire as Spider-Man a full year before Sam Raimi was even brought on board to direct. Everyone said I was crazy too, shows what they knew.

So, now you get an idea of where I was. I LOVED Spider-Man. I desperately wanted the film to be awesome. I wanted to love the film. I was excited that Raimi was directing, I was thrilled that Tobey was Spider-Man. I had high hopes for Willem Dafoe as The Green Goblin. Sadly, as more and more details surfaced about the film, the less enthusiastic I became. I remained hopeful though. I clung to the belief that I was judging everything out of context, and that once I saw the film as a whole, everything would be better.

Everything was not better.

The film is a mess. The characterizations are poor, the dialogue is repugnantly hammy, the editing is poorly managed and the plot is wafer thin. This isn’t to say that there aren’t moments in the film, there are. There just aren’t enough of them to make the film good.

One of my main problems has to be the treatment of the Green Goblin, Spidey’s number one villain. I was against his inclusion in the first film from the beginning. I felt (and still do) that the Green Goblin was far too important and too complex a character to crammed into a film that’s already bogged down with the origin of our hero.

I was strongly in favour of Doctor Octopus (who was brilliantly realized in the 2nd, highly superior film) as opposed to the Goblin because Doc Oc requires so much less back story and isn’t nearly as important to the Spider-Man mythos as Green Goblin. And I was right. Green Goblin is terrible in this movie. He’s dull and one dimensional and looks like a reject from the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.

My other major problem is dialogue. One of the defining attributes of Spider-Man is that he’s funny. He’s a smart ass. He makes fun of the bad guys while he’s kicking their asses. He’s sharp and witty. But not in this movie. In the movie Spider-Man is boring as fuck. They did better in the sequels, but in this first film, it’s embarrassing.

Then there’s the personal interactions, which are laughably bad. There are 2 scenes I can point to as being particularly poorly handled: Peter and MJ’s moment in aunt May’s hospital room, and Peter and MJ’s moment after Norman Osborne’s funeral. Both of these scenes go on well after where any competent scriptwriter would have ended them. Painful.

Why am I even going in to all of this so many years after the release of the film? Because it pisses me off when I see this train wreck being held up as some kind of gold standard by which we should judge any comic film coming down the pipe. I can list 5 movies far more deserving of such praise, in no particular order:

1. Batman Begins

2. Blade

3. X-Men 2

4. Spider-Man 2

5. Superman

Each of those movies is eminently more deserving of being made the benchmark by which adaptation success is measured. So, stop asking “Will Iron Man be as good as Spider-Man” because the real question should be “is it even possible for Iron man to be WORSE than Spider-Man?”.

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~ by Pagz on May 1, 2008.

4 Responses to “Why do people love Spider-Man?”

  1. Spider-Man 2 was clearly the best. I’m biased on Spider-Man because he’ll be my number one until the end. I love my friendly neighborhood spidey.

  2. You know what was a better movie than the first Spider-Man? Splash. Oh, and Mars Attacks. I would also rather watch Bird on a Wire, Kindergarten Cop, Rocky V, movies with Joe Piscopo, movies featuring David Spade, movies based on SNL skits like Stuart Saves His Family and It’s Pat…

    I could go on like this for a long time. Point being, the average film is better than Spider-Man and in fact, the below-average film is STILL better than Spider-Man. If Spider-Man were an album, it would be Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – unmitigated obnoxious crap that made boffo billions of dollars mainly because people are twits who cannot put their pants on without great mental exertion and think Michael Bay films are high art.

  3. Pagz, while I share all your beefs about the first Spider-man film, uber-geeks like us are in the minority on this one. The media have a responsibility to be objective and unbiased (and here they’re actually doing it), acknowledging the overwhelming critical and commercial success of Spider-man and using the film as “the benchmark by which [comic book] adaptation is measured.” The fact is, Spider-man remains the 2nd highest-grossing superhero movie of all time (bested only by Spidey 3), and is the third highest-rated among professionals in the media.

    Of the films you offer as more appropriate to hold up as a superhero standard, Superman is more highly regarded among professional critics (despite that absurd and poorly conceived last-minute conclusion), but made significantly less than Spider-man — less than HALF, even — and thus isn’t as likely to be considered the benchmark for success. What’s more, the film’s reputation is somewhat hampered by its critically- and commercially-inferior sequels. (The same is true of the X-Men, Batman, and Blade films, none of which were as highly regarded or commercially successful as Spider-man anyway.)

    Like it or not, the Spider-man films have proven far more consistently popular than any other comic book franchise, both critically and commercially, and that’s what the media really means when they use subjective terms like “better” — they’re measuring popularity with statistics, and that’s the only objective approach available to them.

  4. I guess. The problem I have with that idea is that it has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with popularity. As most of us are aware, popularity ≠ quality. In fact, it is often a mind boggling inverse relationship, thanks in no small part to that section of the populace ‘lovingly’ referred to as “the lowest common denominator”.

    Probably the most often cited example of popularity trumping quality would be Titanic. A terrible movie that latched on to a few key demographics that had money to burn and a distinct lack of taste, the most prominent group of which was the adolescent girls and young women. Disposable income, a thirst for ‘romance’ and a near fanatical infatuation with Leonardo Dicaprio spelled big bucks at a box office tat saw them return again and again, dragging with them friends, boyfriends, family members and anyone else who would give in to there incessant prattling about the film.

    This of course doesn’t take into account the remarkable timing of the film which arrived in one of the slowest movie season I can recall, nor the power of media perception which certainly did its part to dupe the rest of us into thinking Titanic must be a worthwhile flick.

    I would suggest that a better and more reliable gauge of quality would be sites like http://www.rottentomatoes.com where a large number of reviews are gathered and tallied to produce a rating on the quality of a film. Once again though, we run into the problem that so many of these reviews are either funded by the studios (Peter Travers anyone?) or are written by know-nothing film “critics” working for their local community paper, who have neither the qualifications nor the interest to critique films based on their actual merits. These are the critics that represent the lowest common denominator, the ones who can be wowed by a suitably large explosion. You’ll see their ilk a lot on shows like good morning America, or other “breakfast news” programs. They come on, sound jazzed about a movie for a minute and thirty seconds and then leave.

    Alas, there really is no truly objective way of separating quality from popularity. So I will continue to be pissed at the media for pretending Spider-Man was anything besides what it was, a lame duck with a few nice feathers.

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