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10 Years Later, Spider-Man 2 Is Still The Perfect Superhero Movie

Even in a world of MCU’s and DCCU’s, Sam Raimi’s superhero masterpiece remains as good as it ever was.

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Even in a world of MCU’s and DCCU’s, Sam Raimi’s superhero masterpiece remains as good as it ever was.


We are living in the golden age of comic book movies, and you don’t have to be a genius to notice that trend; the news cycle is endlessly dominated by the likes of DC and Marvel, and the highest grossing film of the year at the time of this writing is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is based on a, you guessed it, comic book. Yes Hollywood is dominated by the comic book movie but, honestly, that wasn’t always the case. The genre explosion of comic book movies (and specifically superhero stories) only really began in the early 2000’s when Marvel joined the Hollywood fray, and introduced a big budget superhero that wasn’t Batman or Superman to the masses — they, along with Columbia Pictures, brought the world Spider-Man. And from the very beginning, reactions to the web heads first live action adventure garnered widespread attention — it opened with a gigantic $114 million take which was, at the time, the highest opening weekend for a film ever. It was clear to Columbia immediately that they had something with this whole Spider-Man character, and they made the swift decision to bring back all the principal cast (and director Sam Raimi) to do another one, Spider-Man 2. And, believe it or not, that film came out exactly 10 years from today, on June 30, 2014. In the decade since we’ve seen a ton of comic book movies hit theaters, some good, some bad. But in my mind at least, none has been able to top Spider-Man 2. Because, when you get down to it, Spider-Man 2 is the perfect superhero movie and pretty much a staple of blockbuster filmmaking for this century.

And, also, one of my personal favorite movies of all time. That last one doesn’t sound nearly as snazzy and doesn’t have the words “best” or “century” in it, but is equally true — I love Spider-Man 2 to death and, when I was reminded early last week that today would be its tenth anniversary, I simply knew I had to write something to commemorate the event. Because, as that opening endlessly implied, we’ve seen so many superhero stories in the past decade that the merits of Spider-Man 2 aren’t nearly discussed as often anymore. But since its the film’s first big anniversary, I figured now would be as good a time as any to delve back into the impact this film had on the superhero genre, and its impeccable quality overall. But to do that, I knew one thing — I would have to watch the movie again.

And that’s kind of terrifying to me. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen Spider-Man 2 countless time, and for a time knew the whole thing beat for beat. But’s its been years since I’ve had the time to re-watch the sequel, and I was afraid that (as with all films that cross the decade old mark) the movie wouldn’t have aged as well as I would hope. After all, in a universe where we have close to a half a dozen superhero movies opening months apart from each other, and some of those superhero movies in question feature multiple heroes all teaming up in a grand franchise, would I still be as wowed with Spider-Man 2 as I was in a pre-The Avengers world? A pre-The Dark Knight world? Nothing would have broke my heart more than for this film to lose some of its magic over time…but thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that predicament. Because this film not only holds up extraordinarily well, but pretty much outshines its newer, sleeker competition in almost every way.



One thing the film does oh so well, and far better than other modern superhero movies do really, is its main villain. I’m so used to comic book movies now where its the norm to stuff in as many villains as possible, and its so damn refreshing that Spider-Man 2 only has ONE main villain for our costumed hero to deal with. It also helps when the villain is as good as Doctor Otto Octavius is here, played expertly by the great Alfred Molina. Compared to pretty much all the villains of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (a.k.a. the bastard stepchild of the Spider-Man franchise), he’s a god send: he’s well performed, has clearly defined motivations, and a killer design to boot. But best of all, he’s probably the most sympathetic comic book villain ever. Molina does an incredible job of making you feel for his character, and his story of redemption is far more interesting than your standard villain fare. That wasn’t always going to be the case even in the early production of the film, but it was really Sam Raimi (and writer Alvin Sargent) who decided to go in the more emotional direction with the character — and sequel overall.

Which is something that the film does a mighty fine job with — the emotional core of the Spider-Man story and, hell, the superhero story in general. This is a film that takes its time with its character moments, and isn’t just about seeding future storylines for the next films in the “Universe” or having a 45 minute scene of destruction porn. In fact, I would argue my favorite moments of Spider-Man 2 are the smaller ones: scenes like Peter’s tearful confession to Aunt May about what really happened to Uncle Ben on the night of his murder, or the subway car full of pedestrians catching the unconscious Spider-Man shortly after he saved all of their lives. I don’t cry at movies because I don’t have a heart, but to this day, scenes like those make the circuits in my chest that control the pumping of my blood swell with emotion. The feelings I get watching this movie are emotions I feel watching no other superhero movie, or summer blockbuster in general really.



Not to say that Spider-Man 2 is a straight tearjerker: it has its fair share of superhero action moments, and scenes that I personally would put as some of the all time greats in terms of action — after all, have we had a more dynamic and fun to watch fight scene in a blockbuster than the Doc Ock/Spidey fight on the train? I would argue no, and the fact that its followed by the aforementioned emotional scene just shows how delicately Spider-Man 2 balances its character moments and superhero action beats.

Not to continue and harp on modern superhero films, but I feel like in this day and age, no other comic book movie takes its time to have a five minute monologue scene about a big character confession, or sequences in which we see the main hero struggle with having to pay his rent, make an appointment, or just live a satisfactory life. The struggles of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2 only make the rest of the superhero experience all the better, and I really wish more films now a days would take the time to explore the human element of superhero stories, rather than just what place it will have in the films leading up to the next big team up. Look, I love Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And I love The Avengers. But they simply do not do what Spider-Man 2 does — tell a compelling story not just about both a man in mask fighting crime, but also a man without a mask struggling through life. For me at least, it makes for a legendary combination.



Before I end this I want to leave things off on a bit of a personal note. I’ve blabbered on about this film being a touch stone in the superhero genre and being an amazing piece of filmmaking, and I honestly have no idea how you reading this might feel about that. All I can speak to (as always) is my personal experience, and to be quite honest, I think Spider-Man 2 might be the most important film I ever watched in my life. Before I saw Spider-Man 2 I was a casual movie goer, a young kid who saw movies for nothing more than a little goofy fun to have with some friends. But after my viewing of Spider-Man 2, something changed within me — my love of filmmaking came to life. I wanted to know how a scene like the Doc Ock surgery sequence or the aforementioned train fight was created, how the magic of movies could present to me this image of a man flying through New York on webs and make me buy into it completely. I wanted to know everything about the film and, ultimately, that made me want to know everthing about film in general. I watched all the special features on the DVD’s, listened to the commentaries even (I’m pretty sure the Spider-Man 2 commentary is the first film commentary I ever watched). The sense of pure joy and wonder that I felt watching Spider-Man 2 made me interested in filmmaking as an art, one that ultimately blossomed into a love of the medium overall, and a desire to work in it in any capacity I could. I would go so far as to say that, without my love of Spider-Man 2, I would have never become infatuated with film as I have, never would have gone on to create Geek Binge later on in life. All over the internet, you hear people talking about the first time they saw Star Wars, and how the experience shaped them into a lover of film. For me, and I’m sure many others of my generation, Spider-Man 2 is that film.

We’ve seen a ton of great superhero movies in the decade. The Incredibles was a beyond entertaining and stylistic adventure. The Avengers was a genre risk that somehow turned out to be one of the best blockbusters of the past few years. And The Dark Knight was a superhero film that simply transcends the genre, to the point that calling it a straight up “superhero movie” seems almost inaccurate. But for me at least, Spider-Man 2 is the PERFECT superhero movie, and one that represents everything I love about the genre as a whole. Happy 10th, Spider-Man 2. There’s nothing else out there like you…and I seriously doubt there ever will be.



I leave you now with this track from the film’s score entitled “At Long Last, Love,” which closes Spider-Man 2 out. It’s probably one of my favorite pieces of film music ever, for what it’s worth. Danny Elfman used to be so good, guys. SO GOOD.

-Matthew

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol’ ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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The Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse Teaser Trailer Creates One Hell of An Eye-Popping Debut

Sony’s Animated Spider-Man movie looks better than expected, thankfully.

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Well, if you can say anything about Sony Pictures, it’s that they tried. Sure, that phrase is likely going to be engraved on their headstone a decade from now, but it doesn’t make it any less true — Sony is going through every single one of their brands, digging through them endlessly for any ounce of blockbuster potential they may have. It would be almost impressive, if it also didn’t seem so creatively empty.

But, hey, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, no one in the goddamn world is itching for a Mobius the Vampire Movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. Even something born out of needless franchising can be a work of artistic value. And there’s no two men you don’t have to tell that too than Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

The pair have been able to turn creative bankruptcy into brilliance for years now, and Sony recently set them loose on the crown jewel of milked-dry brands: Spider-Man. Together the pair wrote the script for a Spider-Man movie that would be created by Sony Animation (who the duo worked with on the Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs films) All we knew about the project for a while now was that it would involve the character of Miles Morales (played by Dope’s Shameik Moore.) But with the film coming out next Christmas, Sony decided that now would be the best time to give the film its first grand showing.

And what a showing it is. Though the trailer is brief, and honestly doesn’t tell us a lot about the finished product, it being simply a “teaser” probably helps. We don’t get a lot of strictly “teaser trailers” anymore — those have unfortunately morphed into the far less gratifying “trailer teasers,” whose distinction is actually super important so, shut up, YOU’RE the crazy one. But brevity is the sole of marketing (that’s the quote, right?), and it’s pretty impressive how the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse teaser trailer comes in, establishes exactly what it is, and exits in style.

“Style” being the key here. While I was worried an animated Spider-Man film would end up looking like a boring computer generated, flat mess, Into the Spider-Verse actually looks pretty great. It has a very unique look, one that is clearly trying to emulate the look of a comic (like most animated comic book movies), but also throwing in static backgrounds and 3D character models. Hell, it even seems to cut inand out of stylized 3D to flat comic art when it wants to, which could be pretty cool (if not overused.) The movements even have a little bit of stop-motion jitterness going on (ala The Lego Movie.) This might seem like too much for one animated Spider-Man movie to handle but, at least in this initial tease, it seems to work for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Story wise, we only get a brief introduction into what is going on, with the “Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask” providing most of the grunt work. It’s a bit of an out there pitch for a Spider-Man movie, and I do have to wonder if the finished product might end up suffering from indeed having too many spidermen. But if the main complaint of your movies existence is that it makes too many competing Spider-Man uses all at once, why not lean into the complaint, right? Once again, Lord and Miller got great results out of doing similar with 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie. Why not Spider-Man?

And really, like all the movies they make, my trust in Lord and Miller is what has me on board. The pair have yet to let me down with anything they have gotten their hands on, and though they aren’t directing the movie (that honor goes to animation vets Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti), they are producing and writing the script. And with their time recently getting cleared up, I’m hoping their influence is all over this thing. After all, in Lord and Miller I trust.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse might end up being a desperate bid to squeeze ever dollar out of Sony’s cash cow…AND it might actually be a pretty good movie, at the end of the day. After all…in Lord and Miller I trust.


Also published on Medium.

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Alita: Battle Angel Trailer – James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez Made A Sci-Fi Blockbuster Together, And It Looks Weird As Fuuuuuck

The first trailer for this manga adaptation is…something, all right.

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For as long as I’ve been reading about movies on the internet, I’ve been reading about Alita: Battle Angel. The live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga is the definition of “long-gestating” — in fact, James Cameron first announced his intentions to make the film as a follow-up to Titanic in freaking 2000! Yes, the year 2000, with no numbers or anything! That puts its rough time in development at 17 years, which is insane really. Cameron always said it was a project he would get to at some point, but then a pesky little thing called Avatar got in the way, and the project got put on the backburner. Again, and again, and again. Seriously, just take a look at the film’s Wikipedia page — the “Development” tab is one hell of a roller coaster.

But now, nearly two decades after Cameron first expressed interest in making it, Alita: Battle Angel is a real thing…although its form is not quite what we were promised initially. Since Cameron made the decision to devote the rest of his life to making 6000 Avatar sequels, the writer/director finally made the executive decision to give the project to someone else. That someone else ended up being Robert Rodriguez, who finally got the film into production last year. And now the first fruits of that labor have arisen in the form of the Alita: Battle Angel trailer…and it creates one hell of a first impression, I’ll give it that.

Is it a good first impression though? Honestly…no. While I love the concept behind this, and appreciate the ambition of what Cameron and Rodriguez are trying to do — oh boy, there’s something spectacularly off about everything in this film.

Most of that weirdness can be directly attributed to the Alita character, who is one distinct looking main character. Appearing like an anime character come to life, Alita has the classic huge anime eyes, and overall looks absolutely bizarre. And, sure, that’s reasonably part of her character — she isn’t human, so should look a little bit off. But the problem isn’t that she doesn’t look like a normal human: it’s that she looks like a cheap CGI construct of a creature, moving around freely in a cartoon world with reckless abandon.

I tend to not like to using this comparison as it feels awfully insulting to video game, but there are complete shots of this trailer that do indeed look like a CGI cutscene — or even worse, Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. From the beginning, Cameron pitched this film as being very CGI heavy. Hell, he even conceptualized the Alita character as a completely CGI created character back in the mid-2000’s which, at the time, was a pretty nuts thing to even imagine. But now we live in a time where fully CGI characters are commonplace, and quite a lot of them end up looking pretty great when in action.

But Alita does NOT look great, at least in these trailers, and it’s not just the huge ass eyes either. Just the way she moves is off-putting, and the way Alita’s entire face looks grafted on to her body makes her a distracting presence every moment she pops up. And, honestly, I’m going to put most of the blame on this lack of graphic fidelity directly on the hands of Robert Rodriguez. The dude is at his worst when using an abundance of computer-generated imagery, mostly because he doesn’t seem to care whether or not any of it looks “realistic” — I honestly think he likes things to look ridiculously cartoony. I mean, have you SEEN images from The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl? 

*Shudder*

And, yet, he doesn’t seem to care. Ever since he started Troublemaker Studios, his go-to has been shooting everything he does in his garage, set against a green screen, style be damned. And well that’s “fine”on a Spy Kids movie (or even something like Sin City, which is so heavily stylized it can paint its rough edges in a pretty noir coat), it absolutely does not work on a $200 million dollar, would-be sci-fi epic. Say what you will about Avatar or James Cameron, but even with his love of computer-generated imagery, he remains a perfectionist to his core. Avatar NEVER looked cheap or even overtly cartoonish, at least not in the same way Alita: Battle Angel so far looks.

Then again, Cameron’s perfectionism is probably what kept us waiting nearly 20 years for this movie in the first place. Maybe what it needed was a Robert Rodriguez, who will bang out a film in a year and consider it a win if things look “good enough.” But, once again, Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez working on a scale he never has before. And from what I see so far, I’m not so sure it’s him playing to his strong suits.

I’m still interested in the movie simply due to Cameron’s involvement (and his script, which he co-wrote with Laeta Kalogridis), but I feel like this is a project that’s already doomed from the get-go. It’s a super niche adaptation, and a costly one at that. And though I will never claim to speak to the masses, I can’t help but feel that if I’M creeped out by what I see, the mainstream will be even more turned off. It also doesn’t help that the film has very little star power to speak of: I love Christoph Waltz as much as the next guy, but he isn’t going to put asses in seats here. Jennifer Connoly has also been off the A-list for a very long time, and Mahershala Ali, well great, is still very much an up-and-comer. It’s a decent cast for a film fan, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly bankable one.

But, ultimately, it’s all about the feel of the movie here, and this trailer does a rough job presenting anything but a feeling of “WTF did I just watch?” There might yet be a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure in Alita: Battle Angel, even when watching through that mode. But if the old saying about the eyes being the window to the soul is accurate, then this movie has one FUGLY soul at its core.

Alita: Battle Angel will hit theaters right in the middle of next year’s summer fray: July 20, 2018. Good luck to it there, I guess — my gut can’t help but feel like this one is going to be another Ghost in the Shell level disaster for Fox, but maybe some cautious optimism could do me some good here. After all, I should know better than to doubt the power of James Cameron at this point. And who knows: maybe audiences will be hypnotized into buying a ticket by the horrifying uncanny valley that is Alita’s soul-sucking bug eyes? I’m sure that’s what Fox is hoping for, at least.


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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer – Really? This Is The Best They Could Come Up With?

Well, at least it has Jeff Goldblum.

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Like many other folks on the internet, I was not a fan of 2015’s Jurassic World. It was not the worst movie ever (and, hell, probably isn’t even the worst Jurassic Park sequel), but it was still pretty far from “good” in my mind. And it is a movie that my opinion has only lessened on the farther away I get from it — never a good thing, really. So, for that reason, I was clearly not SUPER PUMPED for its sequel, next summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But even then though…really, Fallen Kingdom? Is this all you got? Is this really you putting your best put forward to get people expected? Cause it’s weak.

The above trailer has been (EXTREMELY ANNOYINGLY) released in piece meal over the past week, but the full thing landed last night during Thursday Night Football. And, as a trailer, I will say it’s not terrible — it is well edited, and certain parts of it look good, at least visually. Then again, the section in which the volcano is exploding and Chris Pratt is (rather ridiculously) running down the mountain looks pretty bad, so clearly the visuals here are a bit of a mixed bag.

But what concerns me more about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t so much the look, but the plot. Honestly, it seems pretty unspectacular from what we can see of it so far, with the “rescue mission” to save the dinosaurs from an exploding volcano feeling like a rather lame set-up for more dino action. For what it’s worth, making sequels to Jurassic Park was always a difficult thing — the original very much feels like a “standalone” adventure, with pretty much every follow-up feeling like an inorganic way for Universal to milk people’s love of the first movie. Finally they landed on an interesting concept for a sequel in Jurassic World (what if the park actually opened, and then bad shit went down?), and proceeded to squander the opportunity by introducing a lot of other dumb shit (invisible dinosaurs, trained raptors, etc.) But even that undeniable “fresh start” for this accidental franchise wasn’t enough to propel this into a new set of stories.

…But that of course wasn’t going to stop Universal, who made over a billion dollars with Jurassic World, and were going to continue the series no matter what. And if this trailer is any indication, there hasn’t been a ton of thought put into making this sequel work — any reason to go back to the island, even a dumb one, is all Universal was asking writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connoly to come up with. And they shrugged, came up with the first idea that popped into their heads, and cashed their check.

Even putting the plot aside, the character motivations are already pretty irksome. One of my main issues with Jurassic World was the way it treated the dinosaurs, specifically Chris Pratt’s “pack” of trained raptors. The last thing I am looking for in these movies is some emotional bond between our leads and the dinosaurs, but that seems to be ALL these movies can come up with for why these humans keep doing dumb things. This is especially a problem because the Jurassic World series wants to have its cake and eat it too — they want to instill the idea of the dinosaurs being creatures who humans can bond with, but also want to create a Jurassic Park movie in which dinosaurs try to eat everyone. That contradiction is what gave birth to the stupid hybrid dinosaur (who was the REAL villain, you see), and I’m sure will lead to even dumber “upping of the stakes” in this one.

I’ve kind of lost myself in a pile of rants here that don’t really have much to do with the trailer itself, but that just goes to show how little this trailer convinces me that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is something worth caring about. Jurassic World just did such a poor job of rebooting this franchise in an exciting way, that I find myself apathetic to following it up. For instance: who gives a shit about those stupid-ass transportation pods again — they weren’t cool the first time, and I’m not looking forward to our heroes being bobbed around in an aimless CGI blur for half the movie, screaming their heads off as a way to present terror, but not having anything scary actually happening. Give me a colorful jeep any day.

Seriously. Fuck. Those. Pods.

Hell, this is the kind of trailer that can’t even make JEFF GOLDBLUM a promising sight. It’s just him spouting out standard Ian Malcolm lines (MEMBER “LIFE FINDS A WAY?”), and it’s lame that all we really see of him is in a courtroom, giving some speech. Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions, but something tells me from this trailer that he will be an outside influence on the action, likely appearing towards the beginning in a couple of exposition scenes, but disappearing once our main characters return to Isla Nublar.

You know, our main characters, one of whose name is Owen. I completely forgot that, since it meant so little in the first film. And don’t even ask me the name of who Bryce Dallas Howard is playing. They’re both lame characters only marginally bumped up by the actors playing them, and to say I have no interest in seeing them on continued adventures is an understatement. Then again, I could say that about this whole damn movie in general, with this trailer doing absolutely nothing to convince me this might be an improvement over the first. And without the intriguing premise to support him, my expectations are pretty damn low.

At the very least, that whole stupid “MILITARY DINOSAURS!” thing has been tabled…for now, at least. Giving guns to dinosaurs is Universal’s mechanical spiders, for some reason. One day they’ll get their stupid, stupid, stupid dino soldiers though, and once that happens, I’ll 100% know this series is no longer for me.


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