SF elements

comic book mutant spider powers

2002 / DVD


This is a competent translation of the Spider-Man comic tales to film. Tobey Maguire is convincing as the nerdy action hero, Peter Parker, transformed by the bite of a genetically engineered (rather than the original radioactive) spider, Willem Dafoe makes a good Green Goblin, the plot swings easily between action scenes and the ones, and the special effects are good.

Like all such translations, it does suffer from the large amount of back story that gets crammed into the first film, but here it is spread through the film rather than lazily being all up front. I find it curious that the writers feel the need to put in all the backstory for newcomers – after all, soap operas manage to bring in new viewers all the time without having the first half of each episode as recapitulation. Gradual revelation is much more interesting.

Rating: 3.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 1 January 2003

2004 / DVD

Spider-Man 2

[Spider-Man outside a window] After a rather slow start, this leaps into slam-bam action as Spidey tackles Doctor Octopus, an originally mild-mannered scientist driven mad by his four artificially intelligent prosthetic tentacle arms. A traditional occupational hazard for scientists, that. The tentacle SFX are great, with the terminal pincers doubling as menacing snake heads (and even, I’m amazed to say, having a faint, equally menacing, Rod Hull Emu resonance!)

[Spider-Man without a mask]

There’s a bit of a slow central portion, too, as Peter Parker’s life disintegrates, so he decides to be “normal”, and ditch the secret hero career. That idea doesn’t last, of course, and soon he’s web-spinning again, much of the time with his mask off, it seems: now his “secret” identity is known by a train-car full of passengers, his greatest enemy (Son of Green Goblin), and Mary-Jane.

Room for a sequel, then.

Rating: 3.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 30 December 2004

2018 / cinema

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
[Peni Parker, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Miles, Spider-Peter-B, Spider-Man Noir]

Miles Morales is a nerdy kid, sent off to a high powered school, but who prefers producing graffiti art with his shady uncle. One time, he gets bitten by a spider, and starts manifesting strange abilities. On returning to the place, he finds Spider-Man (Peter Parker) fighting KingPin over a huge accelerator; Parker hands Morales a data stick that can close down the accelerator. The accelerator has opened a rift in the space-time continuum, and several alternate parallel universe versions of Spider-Man fall through. Morales must gain control of his spider powers, and work with the other spiders to close down the accelerator before the universe is destroyed.

I confess when I started watching this, I didn’t know it is an origin story, and that there is a new Spider-Kid on the block. That means I probably missed some in-references. But even coming to this relatively cold, I still found it hugely enjoyable. It takes a while to get going, as Morales’ pre-bitten character is established. But the film is clever, and knowing, and funny, and moving, and self-referential: every Spider-character gets an increasingly funny origin-narration; Peni Parker and her robot are drawn subtly differently in anime style; there’s a Stan Lee cameo; Spider-Noir’s monochrome character is drawn using different sized black dots to make shades of grey; the tingling spider-sense seems to be of use only to detect the various other Spider-characters; Aunt May’s response to the various alternate Spider-beings is priceless.

I’m not sure about the message on studying: Morales has to work hard at his new school, where all the kids are bright, but to learn how to use his new powers, he seems to only need to want hard enough, and spung, he gets perfect control. No 10,000 hours of practice needed for super-hero skillz, it seems.

[Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Peter-B, Spider-Miles, Spider-Gwen, Peni Parker]

I did some surfing after watching the film, and discovered all these Spider-characters pre-exist in the literature. So I hope there are more films in this multi-verse: having a larger cast of the “same” super-hero riffing off each other gives very rich possibilities.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 2.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 14 December 2018