What Jenny's Reading

{October 1, 2010}   I know that movies aren’t books, but…

Okay, so I’m cheating on two different levels here. First, this is a movie review, not a discussion about books. Second, I wrote it a few years ago, so it’s not even current. But hey, it’s my blog, so why don’t you join me for a trip down memory lane? I promise at least a few chuckles (unless you love the Spiderman movies, you’ll probably hate me if that’s the case). So, without further ado, here we go:

This movie recap is brought to you by my unflaggering devotion to Topher Grace’s body of work (who will apparently soon be starring in a biopic called “When Good Hair Goes Bad”), the word “stupid,” and an eight dollar movie ticket.
So my friend Misty and I went to see the new Spiderman movie this past weekend. And it was just so…very, very odd, that I wanted to share some of my observations. If you’re intending to go see the movie, please don’t keep reading unless you want to know how it all ends. Also, please keep in mind that it’s been almost a week since I saw it, and that I didn’t see the second movie, so you’ll have to forgive me if I miss some “extremely important” plot point, get stuff wrong, or leave things out. I didn’t take notes while I was watching or have any kind of recording device in the theatre (because, you know, illegal).
All right. With those disclosures out of the way, the first thing I remember is some Broadway show that Mary Jane, Peter Parker’s girlfriend, is in. It refuse to call her M.J., because it is a stupid name. (If your name is M.J., I’m sorry. Because you have a stupid name!) It apparently consists of her singing—badly—on a giant staircase. I don’t think it was really Kirsten Dunst singing, but I don’t know for sure. We get to find out how great Peter Parker’s life is going, even if he’s convinced himself that he’s in love with this badly-dressed chanteuse. Top of his class in school, cute lab partner, takes pictures of himself for a living, blah blah happy good life hero all that.
To get the plot moving, we watch Peter and Mary Jane hanging out in a park, suspended from a giant web and cooing at each other. Obviously at some point she figured out that he’s Spiderman, but I didn’t see the second movie and I barely remember the first, so maybe she’s always known. I don’t know and I don’t really care. What is wrong with Tobey Maguire’s eyes? They look seriously red throughout the entire movie, as though he hasn’t been sleeping well. I know his girlfriend just had a baby, but jeez, get some Visine, that’s what it’s for! Maybe the red eyes are just shorthand for “emo,” because God knows there was a lot of emo in this movie. Anyway, so they’re chatting and looking at the stars, and one of those stars falls down to earth. They don’t notice, but we viewers get the benefit of seeing icky black stuff, like tar, propel itself across the ground and attach to Peter’s scooter-thing.
There are a couple of actions sequences that follow this. The first is with Peter’s former BFF Harry. He blames Peter-Spiderman for his father’s death and attacks him with all the Goblin gizmos. If you don’t want to hear about Harry’s father, don’t watch the movie, because that’s pretty much all he talks about. And you know that shot from the promos, with Peter falling through the sky, grabbing for an engagement ring? Yeah, it’s here, and it’s completely hilarious. In the end, Harry’s the one who’s injured. Peter, being a good friend, takes him to the hospital, and they find out that he’s lost a lot of short-term memory. How convenient! So now he doesn’t remember about Spiderman or his father or anything, and they can be BFF again. The second action sequence introduces us to Eddie Brock, Jr. Eddie is out for Peter’s photography “job” (as it’s freelance, I don’t see what Peter’s so concerned about) and is apparently dating Peter’s lab partner. Since I know nothing about the villain character that Eddie becomes, I assumed that he was “dark Spiderman” or something, and thought it was funny because Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace slightly resemble each other. (My sister, upon learning that both these guys are in the movie: “Oh, that’s just TOO CONFUSING.”) Although I think that Topher is cuter than Tobey, even with the stupid bleached blond hair he’s sporting in this movie. Actually, you know what his hair reminds me of? When I was about 21, I decided that I needed to be blonde. My natural hair color is very dark brown. Instead of, say, going to a colorist and being told that blonde was a bad color on me, I decided to just bleach the crap out of my hair. Well, I ended up not with blonde hair, but ORANGE. Like, Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch cereal box orange. And that is what has apparently happened to Topher. Topher is having my coloring crisis, circa 2000. SAVE YOURSELF, TOPHER!!!! No good can come of it!
Ahem. Sorry. Bad bleach jobs tend to give me flashbacks. So, Spiderman saves the girl and gets the key to the city. Mary Jane gets a bad review and gets fired, and walks around in a lot of bad, ill-fitting clothes. What was up with wardrobe? I know Kirsten Dunst often wears strange things in real life, but why was her character buried in boring button-downs and ugly skirts? Also, why is she doing that eighth-grade move of tucking her shirt in, then blousing it slightly over the top of her skirt? I always thought that move was for people who want to camouflage their hips, and Lord knows, Kirsten Dunst needs no help in that area. It just makes her look dowdy. Peter tries to propose to her (this is a funny little sequence that you can tell they actually wanted to be funny, as opposed to all the other stuff I laughed at that they probably wanted me to take seriously). I think we’re supposed to be seeing Peter as letting his ego get away with him. Mary Jane runs off because Peter was kissing another girl (at that ceremony for giving the key to the city). Mary Jane takes comfort in Harry, but NOT LIKE THAT. Well, they kiss, but that’s all. Harry has a conversation with his father’s ghost and remembers everything, but doesn’t tell anyone that his memory’s back. Then Eddie tries to steal Peter’s “job”, resulting in an ultimatum from the editor that whoever can get a picture of Spiderman committing a crime will have a staff job. This will be important in a few minutes.
Because there aren’t enough villains in this movie already, there’s a subplot involving an escaped criminal whose name I can’t remember. I’m going to call him Lowell, because he’s played by Thomas Haden Church. And try as he might, Oscar nom or no, I can’t look at him without wondering where he’s hiding the coveralls and bad blond wig. So Lowell escapes from prison and goes to his family’s house and steals a really ugly shirt. Seriously, what’s with the bad clothes in this movie? We find out he has an estranged wife or ex-wife, and a sick young daughter. His daughter gives him a locket with her picture in it. This locket will spend a lot of time on screen, so get used to seeing it. Every once in awhile, Lowell will pull it out of his pocket or find it tangled in his fingers and gaze at the picture sadly. But for now, Lowell runs from the police and enters a “particle physics testing facility” (…I know). Of course he ends up in the actual experiment, because Lord knows that no self-respecting scientist would bother to control the environment around his experiment or, I don’t know, cage it in something more powerful and criminal-proof than a fence. Lowell dematerializes, and discovers that he now has the power to become a cloud of sand at will. He still has the necklace, though. His clothing apparently underwent a molecular change as well, so we are spared naked Lowell. He goes on a rampage, I think to steal money for his daughter’s treatment, and runs afoul of Spiderman. Except Spiderman can’t capture him, because he’s, you know, a cloud of sand.
Harry, having recovered his memory, becomes the annoying daddy’s boy that we all remember so well. He also attacks Mary Jane and makes her break up with Peter on threat of death (for Peter). It’s actually a sad little scene, with Peter trying to ask her to marry him and her finally claiming there’s someone else and running away. Harry, however, blows his cover as amnesiac BFF when he claims to be the man that Mary Jane was seeing on the side, and gets a really stupid evil look on his face that Peter sees.
Peter is sad then, and lies down on his bed. We see that black gunk from all the way at the beginning of the movie glom onto his suit, turning it black. So Peter becomes evil, which causes no end of strutting, pelvic-thrust dancing, cookie eating, and creepy emo hair. Oh, and black eyeliner, because a sure sign in movies and television that someone’s gone evil is black eyeliner. As a proud member of Kohl Nation, I resent this implication. And I guess the lesson this movie is trying to teach us is that dancing and makeup are evil. What is this, Footloose? It’s really, really stupid. Oh, and Eddie ends up with the staff job, except with a fake picture. Emo-Evil-Peter rats him out and gets Eddie fired. Also, Peter steals Eddie’s girl, or appears to have stolen her, or she may not have been Eddie’s girl at all. It’s all very confusing. Then Peter fights with Harry, both the yelling kind and throw-each-other-into-walls kind. Harry ends up with a facial disfigurement. Peter then decides he might as well destroy his other relationship, and deliberately hurts Mary Jane’s feelings and accidentally punches her. This is what’s known as “bottom of the barrel,” my friends. If this was a story about drug addiction, Peter would’ve just woken up from a three-day binge, covered in his own vomit. Gross, but true.
Peter decides he doesn’t want to be evil anymore. He ends up at a church with his black Spiderman outfit on, in the bell tower. Coincidentally, Eddie is down in the chapel, praying. He asks God to kill Peter Parker. I know I shouldn’t have been amused by that, but I was. Anyway, Peter’s pulling off the black tar stuff, and it’s not easy, so he knocks into the bells. The black stuff starts to freak out and ends up deciding that Topher Grace is a better host than Tobey Maguire (seriously, wouldn’t you think that too? Creepy alien goo for the win!). So now Eddie is evil, except we don’t see any black eyeliner or weird dancing moves this time. Eddie teams up with Lowell, and they decide to kill Spiderman. Oh, and it’s also revealed that Lowell was the one who killed Peter’s Uncle Ben (ha ha ha—do you think he was able to afford that teeny diamond ring because of his rice fortune?), so Peter tries to kill him. Sorry, this happened while he was still Emo-Evil-Peter. Like I said, I don’t really remember the first movie, so I don’t know if this is a retcon or if it’s possible.
Well, Peter finds out that Mary Jane has been kidnapped (for her purpose in this movie is to be rescued—oh, and wear bad clothing) and strung up by the black tar stuff. I was confused about Eddie’s powers, was he like an evil Spiderman creature with web powers? Or could he just control and multiply the gunk? Also, where did the gunk actually come from? You know, never mind. I don’t really want to know. So anyway, Peter gets out his regular red Spiderman suit and drops in on his BFF Harry to get some assistance in rescuing Mary Jane. Harry sends him away. Then Harry’s manservant, or valet, or whoever the hell this old guy is, comes in and blabbers on and on about how he KNOWS FOR A FACT that Harry’s father killed himself, not Spiderman/Peter killing him. He bases this on having washed out the wound; apparently he’s positive it came from Harry’s father’s own blade.
Not only is this explanation stupidly contrived and alarmingly convenient, it makes no sense. I mean, I know enough about how this superhero thing works to know that, had Spiderman killed him, he would’ve done it in a kind of self-defense. So I’m not questioning the facts. What I have a problem with is the way they were revealed to Harry. I mean, no offense to this old guy, but how does he REALLY know? Does he have a degree in forensics? Did he spend his formative, pre-butlering years with CSI? Is the sword the mystical kind that can only be wielded by its owner, kind of like Excalibur? Couldn’t Harry have finally gotten around to looking at the autopsy report that had “cause of death” listed as “self-inflicted sword wound”? Or maybe, since Harry apparently hero-worshipped his father, couldn’t he have known all along but been unable to come to grips with it? I guess I’m asking for depth in a comic, but still. It was really, really irritating. Oh, and stupid.
So Peter runs off to try and save Mary Jane. We get appropriately stupid commentary from reporters about what’s happening, as if we weren’t seeing it for ourselves. Peter gets into trouble when Lowell and Eddie tag-team him, and just when you think all is lost, Harry shows up to save the day! Aw! I knew those two crazy kids could work it out! They make eyes and congratulate each other on being so cool while poor Mary Jane is hanging hundreds of feet above them, having jumped out of the car as it fell and now clinging to…maybe some of the black gunk? Or a web from Spiderman. I can’t remember. The point is, while the boys are busy chatting, she almost dies. Forget him, Mary Jane! He’ll always put Harry before you! How much more proof do you really need? She does eventually get saved, and the boys go back to fighting. It’s a pretty cool action sequence, but the gist is: Lowell disintegrates (but doesn’t die, we’ll see him in a sec) and Peter figures out that the black gunk doesn’t like bells. He finds sets up a cage of metal poles and causes the black gunk to jump off of Eddie. Peter then blows it up, but Eddie stupidly jumps into the blast, trying to save the black stuff, and is killed. Then, Harry gets—stabbed, or something. I can’t remember by whom. Point is, he falls basically to his death, and it takes so long for Mary Jane and Peter to get to him that I’m honestly amazed he’s still alive when they do. So, Peter and his BFF get their teary goodbye, and Harry dies, even though there were probably DOZENS of ambulances on the ground beneath them, and Peter could’ve very easily spirited Harry down to one of them to at least try to save his life. That was kind of stupid. I mean, why not at least try? I hope that, if I’m ever injured and close to death and people I love come upon me, they don’t just sit there and go “You’re going to be okay” while crying photogenically. No, I’d rather they haul ass to the nearest hospital, thank you very much! Nobody ever saved a life by sitting around and talking about it!
So then, Lowell. Or maybe this happened before Harry died, highlighting the absurdity of just, you know, leaving your friend to bleed to death. Lowell and Peter have this conversation about Lowell having killed Peter’s uncle. Apparently it was all an accident, or something, and Lowell needed money to save his daughter. We see the locket again. So then Peter…forgives him? And, even though Lowell is bad and committed crimes and all that, he’s allowed to drift away (literally) instead of being forced to pay for his actions. The message there, I guess, is if you’re sorry enough for the things that you did, you don’t have to pay for them. We don’t see Lowell or his daughter or his ugly shirt again. What a waste of a subplot.
In the end, I guess Peter and Mary Jane get back together. Peter goes into her new job, where she’s a jazz singing waitress. Even though Peter had gotten into a fight there and was kicked out when he was Emo-Evil-Peter, and probably banned from ever coming back. Nobody questions it. Also, Kirsten Dunst’s singing voice in this scene is much nicer than the one used at the beginning of the movie. I don’t know if either was actually her, or if they were the same person doing the voice, but it just sounded a lot better at the end. So anyway, Peter draws Mary Jane off the stage and they dance, and I suppose it’s all very romantic, but all I could think was, “Nobody’s noticed that she stopped singing?”
And after it was all over, my friend Misty turned to me and said, “I think watching that made me stupider.” Sums up my feelings fairly succinctly. I think we’re all a little stupider for having watched it.


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