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July 06, 2004 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-07-06

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A1RT S

michigandaity.com/arts

TUESDAY
JULY 6, 2004

SPIDEY SENSE-ATIONAL
SAM RAIMI PERFECTS COMICS-TO-CINEMA CONVERSION

By Hussain Rahim
Daily Arts Writer

Fans and critics alike were so
eager for a Spider-Man film that
perhaps they were a bit too laudato-
ry in their assess-
ment of Sam i i
Raimi's ("Evil Spider-Man
Dead") treatment 2
of the classic At Quality 16I
comic book. But Sony Pictures
with "Spider-Man
2," the highly-anticipated sequel to
2002's well-received adaptation,
whatever superlatives are showered
on the film are justified.
Con verting
comic -

books to movies is a delicate opera-
tion. Filmmakers must sift through
decades of back-story, choose from
dozens of outlandish villains and
remain true to the hero's core princi-
ples and character. Purists must be
appeased with the inclusion of
minute details - fans protested the
first Spider-Man because he didn't
use mechanical web-shooters -
while the story is streamlined and
made accessible for mainstream
audiences. And since nearly every
comic-book-turned-movie is intend-
ed to function as a franchise, film-
makers have to maintain the
open-ended, serialized feel of a
comic book without presenting
audiences with an incom-
plete story.
Of course, thorough
characterization and
quality plot devel-
opment have to
fit in some-
directors half-
ass the con-
ve r siohn
a process,
vaie wers
are left
with such
cipebltian
waste as the Bat-
mran chise.
~ Film sequels can
have a slight
s\ advantage over
m one-shot ven-
tures because,
in terms of
publicity and
experience, they
hit the ground run-
Sning: Once director
SBryan Singer worked
the bugs out of the film-
making process, "X-2: X-
Men United" showed
a vast improve-
4ment over the first
X-Men movie.
The mak-
ers of
S"Spider-

Man 2" learned quickly, building
off the positive aspects of the origi-
nal while dropping many of the
negatives. The special effects have
tightened up, and the rooftop web-
swinging looks much more realis-
tic. The more organic look of
Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina,
"Coffee and Cigarettes") replaces
the detestable Green Goblin
(William Dafoe, "Finding Nemo") of
the original. The kinetic, fast-paced
fight scenes exilhirate audiences.
During the opening credit
sequence (animated by famous
comics artist Alex Ross), the key
elements of the first movie are
refreshed, and the film shows the
train wreck that has become Peter
Parker's (Tobey Maguire, 'Seabis-
cuit') life. Peter is constantly on the
cusp of unemployment and eviction,
all while flunking out of college
and slowly running out of friends.
Anxiety from his civilian life is
causing performance problems as
Spider-Man, while his association
with Spider-Man alienates those
around him. All this leads Parker to
question his raison d'etre as New
York City's web-slinging protector.
Hollywood drama and grand-
standing be damned, it's a good
move for everybody that Tobey
Maguire reprised his role as Spider-
Man. His everyman pathos is the
key to this franchise, and his per-
formance is something that can eas-
ily be taken for granted in a film
where the whole can seem much
greater than the sum of its parts.
J.K. Simmons ("The Ladykillers")
is an absolute scene stealer as iras-
cible newspaper editor J. Jonah
Jameson, and Aunt May (Rosemary
Harris, "The Gift") is given touch-
ing emotional relevance in Peter's
life.
With a lot of early adolescent
angst behind it, "Spider-Man 2"
captures the true essence of
Maguire's character better than the
first film. Director Raimi portrays
Peter as a perpetual loser-cum-com-
mon man who just happens to be a
wisecracking super-hero as well.

Stare deeply into my poor dialogue.
Happily, for "Evil Dead" fans, cult
hero Bruce Campbell gets consider-
ably more screen time, and Raimi
has fun with his horror origins.
Raimi makes sure to capture the oft-
overlooked humanism of New York-
ers as the city's people defend the
vigilante Spider-Man from a villain
yet again.
Maybe even more so than the
"Lord of the Rings" trilogy, this new

installment of the Spider-Man fran-
chise represents a new benchmark in
filmmaking adapted from literature.
In-jokes and specific references
abound to keep fanboys happy -
Spidey creator Stan Lee even makes
a cameo. For everyone else "Spider-
Man 2" provides dramatic, exilhirat-
ing movie magic that appeals to
diverse audiences - and a film like
that is pretty hard to find.

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