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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Spider-Man 2.1

He we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, as I watch a tasty treat of a film on home media, and then blog about, because what else am I going to do on Sunday afternoons?  Watch sportsball?  I'm going through Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy right now, and we get to the extended edition of the best one, Spider-Man 2.  This is in my original notes at May 18, 2014.  

Continuing what I started, it's time to move on to the greatest of the trilogy, Spider-Man 2!  The second film always seems to be the best in a superhero trilogy...my logic is, now that the pesky origin story is out of the way, the filmmakers are free to actually tell an original story and actually delve into what makes these heroes tick.

Of course, a sequel to Spider-Man was never in doubt.  Spider-Man was the first film in history in make $100 million in its opening weekend.  And for a villain, Sam Raimi had his heart set on Doctor Octopus.  And who could argue?  One of Spidey's most famous villains, and those animatronic tentacles of his are just so cinematic.  Fun trivia fact:  the very first thing filmed for Spider-Man 2 was the Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus fight on top of the train.  Spider-Man came out in May 2002, and they filmed that fight scene in June of 2002.  There was no script yet, but Raimi knew that a fight between the two on top of a runaway train would be the best place to showcase their powers. 

Another fun trivia fact:  New York City actually got rid of their elevated train system in the early 1970s, so the entire train fight was filmed in Chicago.  They say, if you a New Yorker, the entire scene sticks out like a sore thumb. 

And who should play Doc Ock?  Well, it's long been mentioned that Sam Raimi wanted is frequent star Bruce Campbell to play Dr. Otto Octavius.  However, the studio vetoed that, seeing as to how Campbell had a very memorable cameo as the wrestling ring announcer who named Spider-Man in the first film, they were afraid that having Campbell play Doc Ock would confuse the poor audience.  "Wait, the wrestling announcer is a nuclear physicist?  This totally strains the credibility of the film!  Now, back to watching a man with the powers of a spider climb up walls."  People were surprised when Alfred Molina signed on to play Doc Ock.  Despite being a renowned character actor, he hadn't done very many event pictures.  By his own admission, the only other event picture he'd done before Spider-Man 2 was his brief role as Indiana Jones' guide in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  But he was inspired choice, and he plays the role well. 

This is another situation where I have to clarify which version of the film I watched.  Spider-Man 2 is the only Spider-Man film to date which was gifted with an extended edition.  We heard rumors of an extended edition as the film was getting readied for its DVD release near the end of 2004.  In early 2007, as the hype for film #3 was starting to ramp up, it was finally released as Spider-Man 2.1.  It's 8 minutes longer, and seeing as to how it was on the Blu-Ray alongside the theatrical version, I figured it was time to see what was new and different in 2.1. 

A few of the things I noticed:
  • At Peter Parker's birthday party in the beginning, Peter and Harry Osborn have a conversation about Harry's growing hatred and obsession with Spider-Man.
  • Mary Jane has a scene with one of her girlfriends where she's already expressing doubts about her upcoming marriage to John Jameson
  • An alternate take of the infamous "awkward silence in an elevator with Spider-Man and a random guy" scene.  In the alternate take, there's a lot more dialogue where the random guy reveals himself to be an ad exec and starts pitching merchandise ideas to Spider-Man
  • The fight scenes between Spider-Man and Doc Ock are extended
  • And, the craziest one, after Spider-Man's discarded costume is turned into the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson wears it and runs around his office pretending he's Spider-Man. 
Actually, watching it again this afternoon, it occurred to me that Harry Osborn's character arc in the first and second films is the absolute perfect way to portray Venom in the franchise.  In film #1, Peter Parker and Eddie Brock/Harry Osborn are good friends, but near the end of the film, a rift starts to form.  In film #2, the rift widens, as Eddie/Harry's hatred of Spider-Man begins to grow, leading to a resentment of Peter Parker and how he's always taking Spider-Man's picture.  In Spider-Man 2, Harry's resentment is intensified as he blows up at Peter because MJ chose Peter over Harry, and how his own father preferred Peter as a son figure.  And then, at the end of film #2, Harry discovers the Green Goblin lair.  Replace that with Eddie Brock discovering the symbiote AND THAT'S EXACTLY HOW YOU HAVE TO DO VENOM!

Let's go back to that train fight.  I still think that's one of the best action sequences put to film in superhero movies.  Raimi was right in that it's a perfect showcase for Spidey and Doc Ock's powers. 

That being said, it's also kind of amazing how Doc Ock kind of disappears for the middle portion of the film, as the focus of the film shifts to Peter's faltering powers and his difficulties finding balance between his life as Peter Parker and his great responsibility as Spider-Man.  That's truly the heart of the film, as Peter struggles to find that, well, work and home life balance, pretty much.  That's always where these films get so beloved:  when the focus becomes the characters, and not the special effects extravaganzas. 

Hands down, this is still the best Spider-Man film.  Many regarded it as the best superhero film until The Dark Knight came along 4 years.  Yup, about the only thing that ruined the film for me was when I saw it in the theatres.  I saw it with a friend and she mildly embarrassed me when she burst out in laughter at the mega-romantic ending where Mary Jane goes running to Peter.  She laughed because she thought Mary Jane's dress was U-G-L-Y. 

She did dig Michael Buble's cover of the Spider-Man theme for the end credits, though, so there's that.

So from the best in the franchise, where do you go next?  Well, when you reach the top, there's no place to go but down.  Spider-Man 3 next.

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