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Spider-Man 2 review

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It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks in the world of fandom, in particular the latest Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. My expectations are sky high, and I hope the movie can live up to the great run of previous MCU movies as well as live up to the fantastic standards set by comic book movies this year, with all of them being brilliant.

So, to honour the third incarnation of Spider-Man on the big screen, I’m looking back at not only my favourite comic book movie, but one of my favourite movies in general: Spider-Man 2. In my opinion, this is also the finest sequel ever made.

What’s so brilliant about it? Simply put, it’s the story. The story of Spider-Man is simple: a cocky teenager is given powers through chance and through events such as the death of his uncle he learns to use his powers for good. This is all set up in the first film just fine, but it’s in this movie where the themes of the character come into play. In Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker is struggling between his superhero identity and his normal life. He fights crime at night but loses focus on the things that he cares about such as Aunt May and Mary Jane. It’s a simple but captivating dilemma: should Peter give up his responsibility as a superhero to be happy or should he continue his superhero life because it’s the right thing to do even if he can’t be truly happy? This dilemma is at the heart of the film and is the main reason why this movie is amazing.

It’s all in the subtlety of how the story is told. While I love The Dark Knight, I feel the themes are a bit “in your face”. The characters often break the flow of the movie to discuss the themes at play, which is fine, but Spider-Man 2 addresses its themes in a more subtle manner and maintain a strong pace throughout. This is helped by the humour (especially J Jonah Jameson), the comic book esque direction and colour pallette (one of my few flaws with the MCU is how the colour palette is the same greyish tone throughout, except for Guardians of the Galaxy) and the camp factor. It’s an inherently cheesy movie but I feel like it has to be: it’s a movie about a guy dressed in red latex fighting a guy with giant mechanical arms. I feel like comic book movies have to be cheesy, which is why I’m glad DC is embracing the inherent silliness of their comics in Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad after the grim tone of their previous movies. The key to avoiding a completely camp disaster is to have heart and a sense of direction, which is what Spider-Man 2 has.

J Jonah Jameson is the. Best. Character. Ever.

There are so many standout scenes, most of them not action scenes. Even a simple scene like Peter admitting to Aunt May what really happened the night Uncle Ben died have so much impact due to the background behind the characters. My favourite scene is Peter’s vision of Uncle Ben convincing him to keep being Spider-Man, which Peter refuses to do and throws the costume away. It’s a marvellous scene because it perfectly captures the themes of the film, which is Peter abandoning his promise after Ben’s death to ensure no one else has to suffer the same way he did. By abandoning his powers, Peter is also throwing away what Spider-Man stands for.

There’s also Aunt May’s speech about ordinary people having the strength to do extraordinary things as well as the scene where Harry Osborne learns of Peter’s secret identity. Harry is another strong character in the film and his journey builds brilliantly on the ending on the first film and sets up the third. Even though he isn’t the focus of the film, he still gets an arc, which is another strength of the film-making every character feel real.

The best character next to Peter (Spider-Man isn’t in the film much, but when he is it’s brilliant) is Doctor Octopus. An incredibly one dimensional character in the comics (he’s a mad scientist and that’s about it) is turned into a very complex, fleshed out villain. I wouldn’t even call him a villain, as he’s just misguided. He just wants to continue his experiments and the death of his wife drives him to madness and he turns to crime to help continue his research. This is why his sacrifice at the end of the film is important, as he realises the error of his ways. A fantastic villain who complements the themes of the movie perfectly, as whilst Peter is struggling with his double life, Doc Oc has embraced it. This is another aspect of older comic book movies I wish more recent ones would embrace, and actually have a compelling antagonist.

I haven’t even talked about the action yet. As I’ve mentioned, the action in the movie is not the main focus, with the action scenes being there to further the story forward. That doesn’t stop them from being fantastic though. Spidey and Doc Oc’s brawl at the bank is fantastic but the ultimate action sequence is the train battle near the end of the second act. After powerful character moments, compelling dialogue and a brilliant story which details Peter’s struggle to return to normal life, Peter Parker dons the suit once again to battle Doc Oc for a second time. The experience of watching the scene is nothing short of breathtaking, as it’s literally a comic book battle brought to life. I can’t describe the brilliance of this scene, so I’m just going to put the scene here and you will see for yourself. It’s the best action sequence ever put in a comic book movie and it’s so awesome the final fight in the old clocktower feels underwhelming in comparison, even thought it’s still good. The only other times I’ve felt this giddy whilst watching a comic book movie is the Avengers fighting each other in Civil War, and the only other action scene that gives me this amount of satisfaction is the Battle of Minas Tirith in Return of the King.

Overall, Spider-Man 2 is what I would call a perfect movie. It sits comfortably in my Top 10 favourite movies of all time and is the finest comic book movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard that Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film, and while I’m sure it’ll be awesome, I don’t feel like anything can top the genius of this movie.

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My favourite Marvel characters

Today I will finally watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. With this, plus the fact that on Wednesday it was National Superhero Day, means I think it is time I stated which characters from Marvel comics I like the most. But, since I don’t want to leave out DC, I’ll quickly list my favourites from it-

  • Batman
  • Martian Manhunter
  • Aquaman
  • The Joker
  • Deadman
  • Mr Freeze

So now, let’s dive into the world of Marvel, starting with the God of Thunder…

  • Thor
Thor by xploitme via Flickr.

Thor by xploitme via Flickr.

My favourite Avenger, Thor appeals to me because he is so alien and yet so human. Not only does he possess great strength, he is also a hero through and through. He is one of the most heroic superheroes I have seen, willing to follow orders from lesser beings like Captain America and Iron Man and putting his life at risk for the safety of his friends. Despite this, he is still incredibly funny and has awesome powers, with a giant hammer called Mjolnir and the ability of summon lightning. He started out as a brash and immature god who used his powers to his gain, but thanks to Odin and the Avengers he learns to be a person who helps others. It also helps that I know bits of Thor’s mythology and the Norse gods, so he automatically appeals to me.

Let’s not forget he says one of the coolest lines in comic book history…

“Ultron. We would have words with thee.”

  • Captain America
Captain America punching Hitler. Image by Rick Marshall via Flickr.

Captain America punching Hitler. Image by Rick Marshall via Flickr.

Before The Winter Solider I didn’t think much of Captain America. Afterwards, I loved him. Captain America is the true leader of the Avengers, and it also helps that he is completely awesome. Whether he is a soldier, an Avenger or a spy, Captain America is a great character. He is stuck in a time which he is unfamiliar with and has grown and evolved in the 70 years since World War II. This would drive a normal person insane and upset, but Captain America chooses to push his emotions aside and fight the evils which still threaten the world. He is a strong person and it is easy to see why the Avengers choose to follow him. The true development for me though was in The Winter Soldier, when he uncovers a government conspiracy and discovers that he is truly out of time and that he is irrelevant as the world has moved on. It’s this, plus him being completely amazing at fighting which made him one of my favourites.

  • Magneto
Magneto by Bill Toenjes via Flickr.

Magneto by Bill Toenjes via Flickr.

My favourite comic book villain is the Master of Magnetism himself. What is fascinating about him for me is his motivations and goals. He wants to allow mutant kind to live in peace, but to him that means destroying humanity. This makes his rivalry with Professor X incredibly interesting. They don’t hate each other and they want to achieve the same goal in the end, but they each have different ways of getting about to that goal. His backstory of being a Holocaust survivor means he is perfectly justified in his reasoning as he is tired of persecution and hate. His powers are amazing, as he can turn a paper clip into a deadly weapon or the metal inside a person into floating balls, which he can then turn into a disk. He is my absolute favourite villain in any medium.

  • Ultron
Ultron by sly_3 via Flickr.

Ultron by sly_3 via Flickr.

I only really became aware of Ultron when the movie was announced, and upon some research and reading I discovered my second favourite Marvel villain. Like Magneto, his aims and reasoning for his actions make sense because of who he is. He was designed by Hank Pym (Tony Stark in the movie) as a peace keeping force, yet was not programmed to have human logic. As a result, he believes the only way to ensure world peace is to destroy all life. It’s flawed logic but it is justifiable. He also has a massive God complex, believing himself to be indestructible and above all life, leading him to create the Vision as a weapon and as a way to prove his might.

So they are my four favourite Marvel characters. I also like Spider-Man but he isn’t in my absolute favourite characters list, despite Spider-Man 2 being an amazing film. I also love the X-Men, but they are a group and I wanted to focus on individual characters for now.