Friday, May 10, 2002

Spider-Man





Christina and I went to see Spider-Man on opening night last Friday. It was a very enjoyable movie. Only once the movie had started did I realize just how familiar I was with the Spider-Man "myth". Because of this familiarity, I was particularly sensitive to the "liberties" taken in the making of the movie. First of all, having Spider-Man's web shooters be organic rather than mechanical was clearly a bad idea. I mean what's the point about making a big deal of Peter Parker's scientific brilliance if you're not going to have him use said genius to construct web-shooters? "Gee, I'm a science whiz. I think I'll get a job as a news photographer."

Beyond that, though, I can't complain too much. In the movie, he's at Columbia University when he gets bitten by the genetically-engineered spider. Looking through an old comic book history I forgot I had, I discovered he was on a field trip at some weird corporation when he got bitten by the radioactive spider. The venue wasn't important, and the switch in type of spider was probably a smart updating. Interestingly, in Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel's updating of the legend, he gets bitten in an Osborn Industries lab. I've read the first 20 issues of the new book on-line, and it's very well done.

So I guess what felt the most awkward about the movie was other "updating" -- stuff that seemed done to make it seem "hip". For example, Peter Parker is early on seen hanging out in a mall food court. It seemed to make Spider-Man seem "2002" (or, frankly, "1992"), rather than the timeless legend I had in my mind.

Well, as I mentioned, I had this history of Spider-Man (c. 1991) upstairs. Boy, did that disabuse me of the notion that Spider-Man was ever timeless. In the original comic book, at one point Harry Osborn gets strung out on LSD. At another point, one of Peter Parker's buddies comes back from 'Nam and starts having flashbacks. Comic books have always struggled to stay relevant to modern youth. In the old comic book, Uncle Ben lived through the Depression. In the new one, he met Aunt May after spending time on a commune. Times change, the details change, but the movie (and comic book) show that the story endures, and endures well. I'll be looking forward to the sequel.
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