Movies That Hate You: Spiderman 2

Bitten by a genetically engineered spider almost a year ago, Peter Parker has been trying to save the city as Spiderman, but his life as Peter Parker has been suffering tremendously.  After failing to make a delivery to an important client, Peter is fired as a pizza delivery boy, and has been struggling to pay the rent on his apartment.  In college, his grades are suffering greatly, and he has to interview and write an essay on Dr. Octavius, or he will fail his science class.

He has a surprise birthday party, but his best friend Harry still hates Spiderman and takes it out on Peter.  It is here that he finds out that Aunt May has received an Intent to Foreclose letter from the bank, and laments her giving him money.  Outside of the Parker home, Peter and Mary Jane talk, and Mary Jane tells Peter that she is in a serious relationship now.  He does promise to check out her play and dresses for it on the day of the show, but he stops an armed robbery and is too late to make the curtain call.

Heading into a more depressed state, Peter changes into Spiderman to escape the sadness, but his web powers start to give out.  Spiderman walks home.  The next day, he meets with Dr. Octavius and his wife Rosie, and they seem to have a very loving and stable relationship.  He takes some advice from Otto and Rosie, and tries to reconcile with Mary Jane.

The next day, Peter heads to the experiment and Otto uses a new invention that would allow him to create and control the fusion experiment.  Unfortunately, the experiment goes out of control and Peter changes into Spiderman to try and stop the experiment from destroying the city.  Unfortunately, the experiment kills Rosie and Otto Octavius and Peter becomes more depressed.  At the morgue, however, Otto is revived and he kills all of the medical staff at the autopsy.

At the harbor, Otto laments his failures, but soon descends into dementia by deciding to rebuild the fusion reactor.  The next day at the bank, the Parkers are denied a loan to cover the remaining mortgage on the house.  Before they leave, Otto Octavius, now nicknamed “Dr. Octopus” by the Daily Bugle, robs the bank.  Peter changes into Spiderman again to fight Doc Ock, but his powers start to give out again.  A battle ensues, and thanks to some timely intervention by May Parker, Spiderman manages to save the day, although Dr. Octopus escapes.

That night, covering a high society ball, Peter is accosted by a drunk Harry Osbourne, and gets into an argument with Mary Jane.  Things hit rock bottom for Peter when he sees who Mary Jane has been going out with – Major John Jameson, accomplished and celebrated NASA astronaut, who proposes to Mary Jane.  Mary Jane accepts.

Later, having changed into Spiderman, Peter swings through the city, but then his powers give out again.  And this time, all of his powers start to fade.  He has a conversation with his conscience in the form of his uncle Ben Parker, where Peter decides to give up being Spiderman.  He dumps his costume in the trash and walks away.

Over the next few days, Peter’s life seems to take a turn for the better.  His grades have improved, he gets along with everyone better and he seems to be enjoying life more.  He ignores a kid being robbed, however, and while he did manage to see Mary Jane on stage, they are still not very friendly with each other.  Desperate for advice, Peter turns to his Aunt May, but he reveals to her that he was an unwitting accomplice to the death of her husband.  May leaves Peter in the dining room.

As Dr. Octopus continues to build his new fusion reactor, Peter continues his new civilian life.  He comes across a building fire, and rushes in.  He saves the life of a small girl, but finds out that there was a second person trapped who died.  When he gets back to his apartment to lament some more, he is visited by the landlord’s daughter.  They share a piece of cake and milk, and she gives him a phone message from his Aunt.  He finds that she is moving to a smaller apartment building and gives him some advice.  Peter takes that advice and tries to jumpstart his powers once more, with no success.

Later that day, he meets up with Mary Jane, and they share a happy moment, before being assaulted by a flying car.  Dr. Octopus kidnaps Mary Jane, and Peter recovers his costume from the Daily Bugle.  Spiderman and Dr. Octopus have a battle across the city, and after reaching his power limits to save a trainload of passengers, Spiderman is taken by Dr. Octopus to Harry Osbourne, who wanted to kill Spiderman himself.  Harry learns that Spiderman is actually his friend Peter, and Peter gets Harry to tell him where Dr. Octopus is.

Spiderman shows up just as Doc Ock is starting his experiment and the two of them fight once more.  Spiderman defeats Dr. Octopus, but cannot stop the experiment.  He appeals to Dr. Octopus to destroy the fusion reactor, and Mary Jane finds out that Peter is Spiderman.  Dr. Octopus stops the reactor, and Peter rescues Mary Jane.

Some time later, a marriage ceremony starts, but the bride, Mary Jane, has left John a Dear John Letter.  She shows up at Peter’s apartment and the two of them kiss.  Peter changes into Spiderman and goes out to fight crime.

Analysis:

As I said before about the Spiderman franchise, the main character is not much of a hero in the traditional sense of the word.  His selflessness is more out of guilt that his family was killed by a stranger that he let go in the middle of a robbery.  Finally shamed into action, he now goes around saving people, mostly (according to the movie) pretty girls from smarmy bad guys.  But since he can’t even make goo-goo eyes with the girl he really wants to be with, he spends most of his time complaining.

What’s Wrong With This Movie?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s wrong with Spiderman 2 can be summed up to this character:

If you only remember this pose and forget the fact that he holds the rank of Major in the USAF and a NASA Astronaut, then the movie succeeds in its primary objective.

In order for the movie to work, this was the character that needed to be fleshed out.  We spent the previous movie watching Peter and Mary Jane dance around each other – with Mary Jane even declaring her love for Peter at the very end.  Now, we get one movie in, and Mary Jane has completely dumped Peter…and the question should be, “Who is Major John Jameson?”

From the little bit that the movie deigns to be of importance, we learn that John Jameson is a NASA astronaut, has been dating Mary Jane for a while, and has seen her play 5 times.  He is also, apparently, nothing more than a jock.

Consider the requirements to get into NASA are among the most stringent you can find, reducing Major Jameson to a simple jock is rather disconcerting.  Although, for Marvel Comics (especially in the movies) Military Contagonists are nothing more than jocks (see also: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer).

Unfortunately, since the movie spends so much time focusing in on Peter Parker’s incessant whining about his situation, we don’t learn too much about the man who held Mary Jane’s heart for a time, except that he is apparently unworthy of it.

A Whining Hero:

Peter at his window, giving Keanu Reeves and Hayden Christensen a run for their money in the "What am I Supposed to Be" mid-movie whine. Next time, bring some cheese, too.

I’ve made mention in discussions that Peter Parker/Spiderman was supposed to be Marvel’s version of Clark Kent/Superman, except with fewer powers and more “problems.”  Both work at a newspaper in a New York City, both have women whom they’ve give everything to be with, and both have to deal with a secret identity while holding down a civilian life.

But this is where their similarities end.  Many of the laments that Superman has had stem from not being able to answer every call, or perform every rescue, or save every person from a disaster, no matter how powerful he is.  In other words, even in the throes of despair, he has to be reminded that he can be too selfless.

Peter, on the other hand, whines far too often about not being able to do what he wants.  When he finally puts a psychological block on ALL of his powers, he enjoys a civilian life, but still has to face the lament of not being able to do what he wants because he volunteers his non-powered self to save a little girl from a fire.  He then hears that another person died in the same fire and we’re back to inner lament again.

This movie takes much of its story structure from Superman II, and even then this commentary proves itself to be true:  Superman/Clark Kent attempts to regain his powers to save the world; Peter Parker doesn’t regain his powers until the woman he wants to be with is in personal danger.

30-to-1 odds that Peter Parker would not have lifted a finger to stop Doc Ock’s new fusion reactor until it was far too late if Mary Jane hadn’t been kidnapped.

Women as Props:

This is only one of two things women do in Spiderman films. But the women in this franchise do this A LOT.

Any woman with appreciable screen time do nothing but serve as some kind of impetus for the men in these movies.  Rosie Octavius is introduced as Otto’s wife, only to be killed in the experiment which creates Dr. Octopus.  Mary Jane – and her relationship with John Jameson – was supposed to provide a barrier for Peter Parker to climb.  Ultimately, however, this cheapened Mary Jane and Peter in the end.  May Parker was supposed to be the woman who supported Peter until the very end…except that she was only there to provide Peter with his bottoming out moment when he finally told her the truth of the night her husband was killed.

Mary Jane about to get the fastest suntan in the world. At least she waits until the Villain kidnaps her before she starts her screamfest.

I should also mention that May Parker was kidnapped by Dr. Octopus at the bank, and Mary Jane would also be kidnapped by Doc Ock later in the film.

In any case, however, Rosie Octavius, May Parker, and Mary Jane Watson all get to perform Faye Wray impressions in this film.  While May Parker and Mary Jane get minor moments of “agency,” all of them are still nothing more than props.

This is the other thing that women ARE allowed to do in Spiderworld: Gawk as the hero swings through the air.

Women without much appreciable screen time, on the other hand, are left to do nothing more than either scream like Faye Wray when Doc Ock shows up, or gawk at Spiderman lovingly when he performs a rescue.

Please also take note that while women serve in First Response (Police, Fire, and EMS) units around the world, there are none in the New York City of Spiderworld.

There is one other woman of note, and that is the young Japanese violin player who plays a rendition of the 1960s Spiderman cartoon theme.  There are no other women of color with any appreciable part in the movie.

Conclusion:

Relationship issues are the order of the day for this movie.  The Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson/John Jameson conflict was not well fleshed out, mostly because the script spends too much time on Peter Parker and his inability to be brief.  Women in this film are nothing more than props for the guys to play with.  J. Jonah Jameson’s role as a contagonist was completely downplayed, which is sad considering that his son should have played a larger role in the story.

This movie, in the end, was a disappointment.

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3 Responses to Movies That Hate You: Spiderman 2

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  2. Pingback: Movies That Hate You: Superman 2 | Loose Cannon

  3. Mike Dexter says:

    That last screen grab is the one I was betting you’d have in this tear-down. Seriously, did the conversation go like this?: Audition models, hot chicks in your condo, any hot- hot chick. But be sure she has a great rack. I mean GREAT. Cuz we’re gonna find two babes with the greatest racks you ever saw…and put ’em side by side-those racks- and shoot all four of those funbags from below like when you look up at a stripper or are going down on a chick just to put this scene over the top! Because it’s gonna be the best reaction shot you ever saw for 1.3 seconds on film. OH! And let’s show one of the chick’s belly buttons. Like I said- so it’s like you’re down there on her!
    So in short: BOOBS! Great meeting, everybody.

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