In the wake of the controversy of the variant cover of Batgirl #41, I have discovered many articles. One link lead to a headline posited by a (self-identified) feminist Twitter activist who’s name was blocked on the screen-captures. She said, “Show me the cover where Batman is the Victim of the Joker… Show me Batman helpless, stripped of all agency.” This was followed by several followers posting what they thought met that request. The only one that I thought came close to the Batgirl cover was one of Batman #674, showing Batman tied to a chair with a power drill being wielded threateningly by the (off-panel) Joker, in vaguely the direction of Batman’s genitals. This still doesn’t equal the Batgirl cover to me on a few levels: 1) Batman has agency, his facial expression is fierce there, defiant—He is still fighting. 2) The Joker is only implied and not shown, we are actually made to side with the Joker as the angle forces us the viewer to see things from the Joker’s perspective. 3) The Joker has never sexually assaulted the Batman—He has sexually assaulted Batgirl/ Barbara Gordon, in the pages of 1988’s “The Killing Joke”, which the cover in question was referring directly to. (For more Batgirl, Batman and the Joker, please redirect to our Batman Hoodie category.)
So to me, this all begs the question: Does the Joker want to rape Batman? We know next to nothing about the Joker other than that he’s a violent psychopath who is locked in a mutual obsession with the Caped Crusader. Even in the Joker’s own short-run series or when referred to by other villains, most notably his sidekick/ not exactly girlfriend Harley Quinn, he is oddly non-sexual, at least when immediate pain and power are not involved. And in the Killing Joke, he didn’t rape Barbara, and he didn’t know she was Batgirl, he just shot whoever answered the door and got lucky: it was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, whom he then stripped naked while she bled out and took photographs of her to show to Jim later, in order to torture Jim, not to do anything with Barbara.
The Joker in films is often depicted as sadistic, delusional, deeply narcissistic and more than a little… Effeminate. The idea of the “Gay Serial Killer” is an unfortunate reminder of old prejudices we still see in cinema, most often in Film Nior, which Batman has it’s roots firmly in. In 2008’s “The Dark Knight” Heath Ledger won an Oscar© for playing the most infamous nemesis as a spooky, kooky, sometimes dressed-in-drag anarchist who tells Batman: “You complete me”, arguably the most quotable line from a romantic comedy in the 20th century.
Backing up for a second, the first cover in the thread that I mentioned wasn’t Batman and the Joker, but Batman and Harley—A female Joker who is less threatening than the real thing. She has Batman tied up on the floor, his bat-manhood shoved toward the viewer, and it’s still not about her threatening him, sexually or otherwise. It’s about making Harley Quinn a desirable object in the foreground for the assumed white-hetero-male demographic, and about making Batman a fetishized self-insert wish-fulfillment character. The viewer is supposed to say, “Yeah, I’d let her tie me up anytime. Crazy chicks are great in bed.” It’s not about Batman at all, and it’s not about him being threatened with sexual assault, because the person who commissioned the cover or who drew it decided, consciously or subconsciously that women either don’t or can’t be a sexual threat to men, at least not if the woman is hot enough.
But nobody is saying that Batman wants the Joker to tie him (or anyone else) up. Nobody ever saw Batman stripped naked, without his cowl and cape and armor, bleeding and violated and unconscious at the mercy of someone who was doing it in order to say… Emotionally harm Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. Batman has endured great horrors and losses, he’s that kind of Hero, he’s dark and he’s human and he comes from tragedy, but he’s not a woman. And yes, men can be, and unfortunately are raped and sexually assaulted, by both women (of all levels of attractiveness) and by other men. But women are sexually assaulted a great deal more often, and usually by men who are close to them—not strangers in alleyways with weapons. Women in comic books are harmed so often in order to get an emotional response from the Male hero that writer Gail Simone started a website about the trope: Women in Refrigerators.
Back to the Joker: it has been posited that during the death of Jason Todd, the Joker takes a sexual pleasure either from the brutality of Todd’s murder at his hands itself, or simply in molesting Todd’s unconscious/ dead body (off-panel) after the fact. Does the Joker get off on anyone’s pain, or does he get off because he knows he’s indirectly causing Batman trauma? Or because Todd was a pretty teenage boy in tights? Maybe all three. Also, on Batman: The Animated Series, especially in films such as “Mask of the Phantasm”, the Joker laughs hysterically, even euphorically whenever Batman causes him physical pain, even imminent death. This can be interpreted as more than just common madness—The Joker is aroused by Batman beating him, conquering him, physically overpowering him and having to give in to Batman’s darkest desire: to finally kill the Joker. There is undoubtedly something psycho-sexual there.
How do I answer my own question here? The Joker doesn’t much care for sex, and he gets off on power and abuse, regardless of whether there are sexual overtones or not. He may desire a sexual relationship with Batman, but it doesn’t come off as one where he wants to particularly assert himself. He is playing a game with Batman, and playing chicken with Death, hoping he can get the Dark Knight to go off the rails and break his one rule. There’s the same sexual tension between the Joker and Batman that someone with a car-crash fetish has when they don’t hit the breaks, or a storm-chaser goes through when getting too close to a level 5 twister: the Joker wants to lose himself in Batman, and in so doing, have Batman be lost as well. (Joker Poster – “Bats” can be found with our other Posters.)
In that case: nice try with those covers, but no cigar. Batman doesn’t lose anything from the Joker winning some of the time, because that is not representative of the relationship that they have as characters. Barbara Gordon was dealing with PTSD from her encounter with the Joker when I last read her, and rightfully so. I think that’s what the woman who had her Twitter handle but not her picture erased was trying to say: there is a double-standard in how female super heroes are treated vs. how male super heroes are treated in comics. You can’t show me a cover of Batman being reminded of that time the Joker took his power away—because that never happened to Batman. But it did happen to Batgirl, and in a Batman book.
DC was my first comic book love, starting with Catwoman Year One on a grocery store spinning rack when I was about 9 years old. The women of the “Bat Family” have continued to enthrall me over the years, but around 2012, I stopped and dropped many of my formerly favorite titles due to changes in tone, direction and creative teams. Feminist dynamo was fired, then re-hired, then voluntarily left the Batgirl title, and things haven’t been the same since. I made no secret of the fact that I’m no fan of Dan DiDio’s practices as head of creative at DC or of the New 52.
I wanted to have something nice to say about DC and feminism—I met Babs Tarr, the current artist on Batgirl, and San Francisco resident, and she seemed really cool. But I don’t like the book any more than I did before and I don’t buy it, or any other DC titles anymore. They’re boring retreads of continuity with constant re-branding instead of hiring actually diverse creative teams. And anytime I’ve seen Batgirl in the news, it’s because of some new, unfortunate decision.
I read the Killing Joke a few years ago, and it’s a great book, but 2 things it is not: It was never meant to be in main Batman continuity, and it was never about Barbara Gordon. This is why making it the focus of the “Batgirl #41: Joker Variant Cover” was a bad idea to begin with. The cover showed a terrified Batgirl with blood-like makeup smeared over her face as the Joker threatened her in a sexual manner with phallic handgun. The sexual assault overtones are enough to make this inappropriate for a cover in a Teen or Family aimed female-led comic, but the fact that it isn’t about Barbera or the batsuit at all made it way over the top, making her an object, de-powered. Girls and women are not props to be used to evoke feelings in men, and especially should not be depicted that way in their own books.
I didn’t watch a lot of the movies that were nominated for Academy Awards this year, but I did recently watch Birdman. Was it the Best film I saw this year? Sadly, no. That dubious honor goes to the LEGO Movie. But I’m not a member of the Academy, so what do I know? Birdman was however worthy of praise, and far and away the weirdest movie I saw in the last year.
(Batman T-shirt from our Batman Hoodie collection.)
Michael Keaton, whose Birdman costume was molded from his own body form of over 20 years ago when he played Batman, did not win the Oscar for Best Actor. In fact, none of the nominated cast of Birdman won their respective statues, despite being front-runners and hailed with tons of praise by critic and fans alike. Were they robbed? Yeah, maybe.
Birdman is a funhouse mirror play-within-a-movie about a former blockbuster success star who made superheroes mainstream now a relic of his glory days, slipping ever more into madness and trying to prove he’s more than the gruff voice behind the mask, even if he doesn’t believe it himself. It’s kind of like if David Lynch directed Magnolia, and it was supposed to be a family comedy of errors. It was funny, but less funny ha-ha and more funny-weird. Spoilers: you get to see old Batman beat the sissy slapping crap out of former Incredible Hulk, so that’s great.
“You know what they say about those ‘Fake Geek Girls’ don’t you?”
“Yeah, that they don’t exist.” –Dialog with a vendor at APE 2014.
I started collecting comics when I was about nine years old. Catwoman (DC) and Sam Keith’s the MAXX (Image) were my first loves, (Catwoman “Kitten With a Whip” from our Batman Hoodie collection) but as I grew up I found many more comics and graphic novels to collect, obsess over and love. The argument could be made that I was a geek because I had an older brother who was also a geek. It would be wrong, but it could be made. I went to Magic the Gathering tournaments, played tabletop RPG’s and knew maps in Zelda because of my brother, but I would have found comics all on my own. My tastes in them never matched at near 100% with my big brother’s anyway. Before long, my friends and family stopped giving me Barbie’s and cosmetics and began giving me art supplies and comics. I wasn’t ever just there as a passive spectator: I wanted to contribute.
In this series, I’m going to discuss the female characters represented on the page (in many forms) and the women who work behind the scenes in the comics industry. Some I admire, some I hold in disdain, mostly I just want to write about what I know: Chicks dig comics and these days, sisters are doing it for themselves (and for male fans).
But why is Destiel a thing? Or JohnLock? Or just everything about the character of Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman and star of both Doctor Who and his own spin-off show, Torchwood: why are gay (or bi or pansexual) men in fiction so appealing to straight (or bi or pan) women?
Sure, there’s something to be said for positive and diverse representation of sexual minorities in fictional worlds, especially Sc-Fi or fantastical ones, but that doesn’t seem to be where the vast appeal stems from. Straight men understand the idea of “lipstick lesbians” or of hot girl-on-girl action, but somehow we’ve evolved into a world where homosexual male subtext is the norm in genre fiction, especially if it wants to do well with both men and women. ( Iron Man T Shirt from our Avengers category, because Steve/Tony/Bruce Banner is my OT3).
But there’s a harsh side to that edgy ideal; fandom has dubbed this most dubious honor the dreaded “Queer-Baiting”; meaning to bait a gay/ bi/ pan/ questioning audience with stories full of sexual tension between supposedly straight (invariably male, with some exceptions such as Once Upon a Time and female detective shows) characters between them, only to never deliver sweet, sweaty cannon satisfaction. This is the story teller’s version of having one’s cake and eating it too: you get a straight audience that won’t be offended or scared off because of an unwillingness to see what’s there, and hook a periphery demographic of hip young queer folks with sexy, flirty, funny guys (and gals) in ambiguous situations.
Well do this plus and minus style ok?
Plus: It’s a Disney production production rather than a Lucas Arts one.
I have had my issues with the Mouse but have more or less turned around in the last few years. Films like Wreck It Ralph and Guardians of the Galaxy have reminded me that the thing Disney does better than anything else is make good films. When they focused on dopey princess stories it was easy to deride them but since they have stepped into my preferred genres I have to say I like what they do. They know how to please both fans and non fans and most importantly respect a license, keeping idiot writers and directors from marking up a beloved character like a dog urinating on a tree.
Minus: George Lucas is still listed as a writer.
The irony of listing the creator of Star Wars as a major detractor is not lost on me but if there were ever a war crimes trials for nerds Lucas would have been lined up against a wall and shot for Jar Jar alone (right next to Joel Schumacher and anyone associate with the production of the Host. Batman image courtesy of the comic book t shirts). He wrote the basic treatment for these films and is somehow listed as the writer for the credits so I am really afraid he is going to be all over this film like a sexual predators DNA at a crime scene.
Again for all that it wasn’t irredeemable. The courtroom scenes were cool and in spite of playing cartoon cliches both Downey and Duvall delivered solid performances, as did the rest of the cast. The mystery of what happened was intriguing. If you could fast forward through anything not involving the case you could see a really cool 20 minute short.
The story. Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a high priced defense lawyer who learns that his mother died. He goes back to the one horse town he grew up in and has to deal with his ornery father Judge Joseph Palmer. The Judges worst enemy gets run down and the Judge is charged with murder (Judge Death image courtesy of the comic book t shirts category. Sorry but I couldn’t resist). Hank has to defend the Judge in spite of the fact that Joseph really doesn’t seem to care and also has to deal with about 100,000 other sub plots that rise to the surface to clutter up the screen.
So worth seeing? Meh. Depends on your inclination. If you are a fan of Robert Downey Jr. maybe. If you have a really poor attention span and like the idea of 25 After School Specials packed into one movie sure. However if you were hoping for an in depth drama or crime story with a concise story that ties up all its loose ends give it a pass. It’s not Gran Torino or Sleepers. It’s not even the Incredible Burt Wonderstone. I can’t say it sucks, but I can say it disappoints in it’s mediocrity. 2.5 of 5 Phasers.
the Infamous (and mediocre) Dave Inman
And of course, the torture of Vlad having to suffer from awful temptation, eventually giving in to his thirst and thus falling from grace? Remember that part that was grossly implied might be significant in the trailers and for about 10 minutes in the movie? Well, somehow he only feels the thirst when he is with his wife, not when he is out on the battlefield literally killing 1,000 men and surely covered from head to toe with blood. Did not a drop hit his lips? Then, because there is no way a major protagonist could ever be a truly bad guy he has to suck the blood of his wife after she freely offers it him in order to save his country. Oh, thank god. We were a stones throw away from seeing a character make a morally ambiguous choice there. I was in danger of actually being interested for a moment, but the writers managed to prevent the audience from falling into that hole by filling it with safe, innocuous BBQ flavored styrofoam packing peanuts. Bon appetit!
My final issue is the fact that in the first half of the film Vlad manages to kill 1,000 Turkish soldiers by himself. At that point he fell into the Superman trap in that he was so powerful his ability to fight got boring. There is no struggle to be had unless someone manages to find some Kryptonite (or in this case silver) and like I have said about Superman and Kryptonite, if Dracula is faced with someone who has covered a 20 foot circle with silver coins why doesn’t he just stand 30 feet away and throw a 50lb boulder? (Or in Supermans case a few miles away and burn Lex Luthors arms and legs off with heat vision? Heat vision image courtesy of the comic book t shirts category) When nothing short of deus ex machina will slow down your hero he gets really boring. Also how is it Vlad has to look at obscure texts to learn about vampires but everyone else seems to have taken a college level course on it and written their doctoral thesis on ways to kill vampires?
Anyway, a brief recap. The Sultan of Turkey wants Vlad the Impalers son and 1,000 other Transylvanian boys to be his slave soldiers and Vlad has to ask the local vampire for the power to stop him. If Vlad can not drink blood for three days he wins his mortality back (um, is that really winning?) but naturally runs out of time and has to suck his wife dry. Bad PG-13 action ensues and somehow this film managed to throw out a fishhook baited to catch a sequel.
For all my complaints it wasn’t painfully bad. Luke Evans did the best he could with the lines he was given and there was a story. Pacing was good and appropriate for the story and the old vampire scene was pretty cool. Dracula did not ever glow in daylight and most of the vampires looked pretty gross. If the area of classic story/fairy tale reboots could be considered the Dachshund races of movie making as compared to the real dog track of practically every other movie type out there then this film would definitely be the fastest Wiener dog. Of course the issue of vampires being romanticized was pleasantly ignored for the first 87 minutes of the film only to rear it’s very ugly head in the last 5 when the producers dug deep into our pockets for sequel money but still. Not horrible.
So worth seeing? Sure, why not? It’s stupidly entertaining (like most modern movies to be perfectly honest). The only way you will feel ripped off is if you think you are going to see a horror film. This is a medieval super hero action film that borders on fan fiction as written by sweaty teenage girls. There is no horror to be had here. I think this movie is safe enough for a date as long as she doesn’t want to have her IQ challenged (or half her IQ challenged). Nothing will be gained from having watched this film, but on the other hand nothing will have been lost.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Have you ever been hanging out with a little kid in a group of adults and he makes a fart joke that just happens to have the perfect timing and words to be hilarious and the entire group bursts out into raucous laughter? At that point you can do nothing but look at the kids parents in sympathy because you know that for the next 12 years or so that kid will do nothing but fart jokes, ever looking for that magical humor lightning to strike twice and probably lead him to a future career as tow truck driver, mall security guard, or writer of a bitter and acerbic movie review blog. Basically if it doesn’t involve flatulence he will no longer think it funny just because a bunch of moronic grown ups laughed at a joke he made at age 6.
That’s pretty much what I see happening here. Robert Rodriguez teamed up with Frank Miller and came out with a mind blowing movie that was lauded for it’s camera work and noir heritage. Since whenever he’s not doing a film like this or Machete he is doing films with titles like The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl one can only imagine he is very hungry for a repeat of that adulation and as I pointed out in my review of Machete Kills he is of the “humor and excitement through repetition” school of movie making it makes sense that he would be totally cool with doing essentially the same movie with a few new characters in it. The problem is the original Sin City was mind blowing for it’s originality whereas this film ends up feeling like you just watched a really well done documentary on a subject you are already very familiar with.
Not that it’s bad. If you loved the original Sin City and found yourself wishing it would go on for another 102 minutes your dreams have come true. Also if you are a fan of Cool World-esque cartoonish camera angles, black and white, and gravel voiced monologues forgetaboutit. If you feel guilty because every year you skip the Film Noir festival at the Castro Theater you could probably fill up your artsy dark movie tank and dash off into the night like a pretentiously mysterious Spanish gentleman in a romance novel.
Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does whatever any other crappy comic book based movie can!
There are certain franchises that I have what can only be described as a dysfunctional relationship with. Like an abused spouse I get beaten and belittled, yet come crawling back in the vain hope that THIS time things will be different and the abuse will magically stop.
Spider-Man is exactly that kind of franchise and I have to say it might be time for me to give up on the relationship. Like most relationships the first few months were great (in this analogy represented by the original Tobey MacGuire movie) but had slipped down a steady slope of mediocrity and canon abuse. Each movie has a few points that are fun but the fun elements steadily diminish leading us to this remnant, representing the least fun movie of the franchise. I dread whatever they come up with next. I can only assume a movie so unfun that it sucks the fun out of the movies playing in the theaters adjacent to it.
(image courtesy of the Comic Book t shirt category)
If a few years ago you had told me that one day I would be rooting for Disney I probably would have either laughed or punched you out for impugning my integrity. I have always had an adversarial relationship with the Mouse that started at a security related issue in the Haunted House ride back in my childhood and has grown ever since (in 1987 I went to Grad Night at Disneyland with all of my high school “friends” who ditched me in the first 30 minutes, leaving me wandering the “happiest place on Earth” miserably by myself for 8 hours straight like a lost soul. The contrast was mind bending. That is one of the many childhood traumas that makes me the well adjusted adult I am now). In film in the past I have found them oppressive and formulaic, with little redeeming artistic value. As I work in the licensing industry Disney is a name spoken with fear and dread as they will literally hang you from a tree with a barbwire noose if they catch the slightest whiff of copyright infringement (even on images that should have been public domain 50 years ago).
Yet when shown what they have done with most of the Marvel movies I have to say they are really, really good. Spider-Man needs to be rescued from Sony by the lesser of two evils. When comparing this film too the infinitely superior Captain America: the Winter Soldier the contrast is startling. On paper the two movies should be at the same level. They are both sequels. They are both based on iconic Marvel super heroes. In fact Spider-Man is more beloved and has a richer backstory than Captain America. They both exceeded two hours in run time. So why then does this movie suck and the Winter Soldier rule? In fact rather than just list all the things I hated in this film let’s do a comparison, shall we?
1. Three times the villains =/= three times the fun. There is a weird belief in bad comic book movie making that adding more villains will automatically make the movie better. Joel Schumacher (one of the most hated men in the nerd world) proved that concept Batnipple wrong with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Villains are fun when they are developed like the heroes and have a personal axe to grind. Each time you add another one to the film you cut the amount of time one can spend on character development, making each one in turn that much more uninteresting. The good movies treat villains almost as importantly as the heroes. Sometimes more so in that you can have a team of heroes but only one villain (Magneto from X-Men, Khan from TWOK, Darth Vader). By adding more villains to this film you take away from the value of each one, resulting in a sum that is less than the individual parts (having Paul Giamatti speak with a Russian accent and hate Spider-Man for getting him arrested earlier is not an automatic good villain. What is this, the Rocky and Bullwinkle show?). Disney wisely opted to go with one great villain. These guys went with a bunch.
2. Have a linear plot without too much to distract from the story. I checked a bunch of other reviewers for this film and the most common joke made was something along the line of “What a tangled web they’ve weaved” or the like. Winter Soldier, while addressing some interesting social issues and having a couple of cool plot twists, had a story that did not verge off into Magical Tangentland every ten minutes. This movie is about what happened to Peter Parkers parents, how he got his powers, how another guy loved and felt betrayed by Spider-Man, Peter haunted by Gwen Stacy’s dead father, his romance with Gwen, Harry Osbourne dying of something and needing Spider-Mans blood, Harry Osbourne haunted by feelings of failure from his father, OsCorp business politics, Spider-Man being abused by the media, Aunt May keeping secrets from Peter, Aunt May’s feelings for Peter, and Harry feeling betrayed by Peter. The film has six different writing credits and it shows. In fact it looks like each one wrote about 20 minutes without ever talking to or meeting any of the others. Also can someone give Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci a job watching paint dry or something? How many crappy scripts are they going to ruin before the literature police show up and arrest them? For the record they did both Star Treks, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, and Van Helsing. I can totally see why they are the best choice for a film with a $200 million budget.
3. Ease back on the romance. Ok, in the comic book I was always more of a Gwen Stacy fan than Mary Jane and love was always a part of Peter Parkers life but jeez, how much of this film is going to be taken up with freaking Gwen Stacy, her option to move to England, her romance with Peter, and the whole thing. I am for sure a fan of Emma Stone and like looking at her on the screen but I’m here to see Spider-Man fight some guy, not watch the two of them eat ice cream. Notice that in Winter Soldier the romance was touched upon and then let rest easy in the background, secure in it’s knowledge that it had contributed just the right amount to the story.
4. No kids. Look, if we learned anything from The Phantom Menace it’s that kids in sci fi action movies suck. They generally suck as actors (not always but often), they take you out of the fantasy of the film into a legitimate concern for their safety (movies like this require suspension of disbelief, something that is hard to do when you see kids on the screen), and rarely add anything to the film. Do the producers really think that more kids are going to want to see this film because some eight year old is on the screen? Kids don’t want to be other kids in a Spider-Man movie. They want to be Spider-Man.
5. Treat the canon with SOME respect. I know I go off on this all the time, but every time you think it might be a good idea to go off canon in the interest of making the movie do something it really shouldn’t take a day to think about it and at the end of the day punch yourself in the balls really hard. If the canon change is worth a punch in the balls go for it. If not stick to the story as written. The fact is the best comic book movies try to stick to the comic book.
6. Don’t give any of your characters back stories that suck. You know, the nerdish guy who had some kind of accident and gained super powers has already been done. He’s called Spider-Man. The Electro back story was as tepid and lame as humanly possible. The whole Harry/Norman Osborne story sucked. They didn’t even bother with Rhino. If you had focused on one villain you could have had more time to develop something more interesting but that’s neither here nor there.
8. Avoiding the temptation to make your cast into a joke. This may or may not be petty but the director of this film is no joke named Mark Webb. Prior to getting on board with the new Spider-Man franchise he had directed absolutely nothing of note. This is purely speculation but I would be willing to bet at some point while considering who to put in charge of this someone at Sony said “This guys last name is Webb! That is fate! Also he must be a huge expert in Spider-Man with a name like that. The fans will love it!” and then proceeded to do more coke. Notice Winter Soldier did not hire a guy named Anthony Shield.
8. Soundtrack. Regular readers might recall me saying I never even notice soundtracks unless it is painfully obtrusive and annoying, and I will just say I haven’t “noticed” a soundtrack this painfully obtrusive in years. It was like sitting in the window seat on a plane and the guy next to you is a 300lbs homeless fan of garlic. The music used in this film would have embarrassed the creators of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica. Again, I never even noticed the soundtrack from Winter Soldier.
I could go on. Bottom line is in my opinion Sony should just sell the license back to Disney and let them make great movies instead of mediocre convoluted BS. Once I am done flagellating myself for coming down in favor of Disney I will feel a lot better about that statement.
The story. There is a lot of potential spoiler material so I am going to go easy on it (also it was so complex I am having a hard time keeping it in order). However a good amount will sneak into this so SPOILER ALERT. Skip ahead to the stars. Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield-the Social Network, I’m Here, Unscripted) starts things off by stopping a hijacking of a truck carrying plutonium (which we are told in one of the lamest plot devices ever is both radioactive and explosive. While the explosive part is sort of true it is not going to blow up like the movie implied. Also plutonium is a solid on this planet, not a liquid. Bad science makes me mad/sad). The hijacker is Paul Giamatti (Saving Private Ryan, Private Parts, the Illusionist) who will later resurface as the Rhino.
While saving the plutonium Spider-Man also saves Max Dillon (Jaime Foxx-Collateral, Django Unchained, Ray), a nebbish electrical engineer working for OsCorp. Max becomes obsessed with Spider-Man and is his biggest fan. Spider-Man goes back to Peter Parker and his college graduation with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone-Crazy Stupid Love, the Croods, Gangster Squad). They break up for some reason (I think Peter was too worried about her getting hurt and she was pissed off because she’s a big girl and doesn’t need protection? Given that her father died in the last movie 10 feet from Spider-Man I would think his concerns might sit more heavily with her than that, but whatever).
Meanwhile Norman Osborne (Chris Cooper-The Patriot, Adaption, the Muppets) locks down his Father-of-the-Year award by telling his son Harry (Dane DeHaan-Chronicle, Lawless, Kill Your Darlings) how disappointed he is in him and also that Harry is soon going to die of the same ill defined genetic disease (not sure what they called it or if they even gave it a name. For the purposes of this review I am going to call it Shmerpes). Norman dies (without becoming the Green Goblin) and Harry takes over, dealing with internal corporate politics (fascinating, really) before the first symptoms of his Shmerpes kicks in.
Gwen works at OsCorp and meets Max on an elevator. Max’s boss tells him to stick around and work when the entire company is going home over the death of Norman. Max has to perform a high tech repair (known as plugging two cables together) and has an accident where he falls into (oh God I wish I were kidding) a tank filled with mutant electric eels, turning him into Electro.
(You know, a guy gets bitten by a radioactive animal and gains the animals powers has already been done. He’s called Spider-Man. This is just lazy writing all around.)
So Electro comes out and is attacked by cops and beaten down by Spider-Man. Meanwhile Harry is desperately searching for a cure for Shmerpes and discovers the fact that Peter Parkers father Richard was working with Norman on some mutated spiders but they were all destroyed. For some reason Harry thinks this venom is a cure and also that Spider-Man must have gotten his powers from these spiders. (Oh, yeah. Radioactive spider venom now has healing properties (cough cough Wolverine cough cough).)
So Harry asks Peter to ask Spider-Man for some of his blood in order to cure his Shmerpes but for some reason Spider-Man knows more about his blood than the entire OsCorp research team and tells Harry that the blood is too dangerous (um, Harry, Peter’s best friend, is dying. What does Spider-Man think the blood is going to do? Make Harry double dead?).
Things go haywire from there. Harry loses control of OsCorp and busts Electro out of the facility where they are torture-experimenting on him (?). They get the company back and Harry discovers that the guy who took over had the spider venom all the time. He takes some of it at gunpoint but it combines with his Shmerpes to do something bad (?). He more or less collapses and only by sticking himself into the Green Goblin suit (it just happened to be lying around) can he survive. Everyone decides they hate Spider-Man for assorted ill defined reasons and wreaking the whole city is worth getting revenge.
Action was pretty good. They definitely captured what it’s like to be and/or fight against Spider-Man. Two stars. Visuals and special effects were great. I really liked the look of Electro and the big fight scene between him and Spidey was awesome. Two stars. I really liked Dane DeHaan as Harry Osbourne. He really brought as much heat as he could to the film. One star. As a purist I should probably hate the new Rhino suit but honestly I loved it. Extremely cool. I also loved the new Goblin suit. Too bad we never got more than three minutes of either of then. Two stars. Emma Stone is very easy on the eyes and played her role well. One star. If you don’t feel the need for character development and a coherent story this film is fun. Two stars. Total: ten stars.
The black holes.
Too many villains dammit. Give me a bad guy to get to know and sink my movie going teeth into. One black hole. Way too much going on in the story. One black hole. Way too much romance. Do we really care that Gwen is considering moving to England so much that we have to go with her on her interview? One black hole. The whole parents sub plot and his fathers part in creating Spider-man was also totally unnecessary and stupid (actually those three last words describe most of the sub plots). One black hole. Massive plot holes. How is it spiders created by Richard Parker are still alive to bite 14 years later? How did he get a secret lab built in an abandoned subway platform? Did OsCorp build it? If so why did they not come get all his research after he betrayed them? How is the lab fully functional and spotless with biological samples in Petri dishes 14 years later? How is it Peter and Harry are best friends when they haven’t seen each other in 8 years? The list goes on. One black hole. Going off canon in really stupid directions. One black hole. Bad science. One black hole. The soundtrack felt like I was wrestling Shmoo and lost. Smothering. One black hole. Total: eight black holes.
A total of two stars, and me once again frustrated with what could have been. The potential of this film was great but instead they just did the typical Hollywood design-by-committee pap. When I look a this film and the convoluted yet horribly simplified story, the massive special effects, and the lack of real character development I realize that it was clearly made with overseas audiences in mind. This sort of thing will go over great in China. Should you see it? Sure. It’s fun and it’s Spider-Man. However will you want to see it a second time? I do not. Bottom line I am eager to see Winter Soldier a third time but given the prospect of seeing this one again I’d rather watch Tobey MagGuire on DvD. For me that is the mark of a good or bad movie. Date movie? Sure, why not? I don’t think this will get her pants off but it will not keep her pants on, if you get my meaning. Bathroom break? I think the scene with Peter discovering his fathers lab is totally disposable. Either that or any of the scenes with Aunt May. In the comic she was the most boring part of the story and nothing in this film improves upon that. At 142 minutes you will probably need a break somewhere.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to get something else watched soon. In truth I saw this Thursday night and have been putting off writing it. I know when I find myself reading old blog posts in order to correct grammar errors I really don’t want to write it, and the mundanity of a franchise I used to love does not fire my enthusiasm. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review here, or send me an email if you have off topic questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also join the dozens of followers I have on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Thanks and have a great night.
“The Infamous Dave” Inman