I feel like one of the strangest and unfair portrayals of Aunt May throughout the history of Spider-Man was that of the woman scared of Spider-Man.
For a long time, in the world of comics, Aunt May was one of the people who thought Spider-Man was scary and or untrustworthy. This really seemed to last a long time. It would either come up or be ignored until needed for a story point.
It was only after Aunt May made a shocking discovery that she became a fan of Spidey…
Yeah, once she knew Spidey was Peter…all was good. The story where she writes a letter to the editor expressing her change of heart is actually a wonderful story. But May functioned solely to be a plot point for Peter. There were many reasons that she was fearful and could not know…but it always came down to how frail and generally weak she was.
And I just find the portrayal hard to believe. Aunt May raised her nephew for years, she and Ben were perfectly capable and loving stand ins for Peter’s parents. Peter is the man he is because of the influence of Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Yes, it is Uncle Ben’s words at the heart that drives Peter…but it was both Ben and May that taught Peter right and wrong.
And I find it hard to believe such a weak, fearful and frail person could have managed to raise someone who puts their life on the line for strangers. This is one of those areas where Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Clark Kent/Superman meet. They are the product of their environments. They are who they are because of their parents. Not in spite of that parenting.
It would have been nice if May got to be shown as a source of Peter’s strength from day one, instead of an impediment for it. Spider-Man exists in part because of her…the idea that she would be frightened of Spider-Man is silly. I noticed in the Sam Raimi movies, May gets over her concerns about masked vigilantes quickly, becoming the voice of Peter’s conscience. It is May who speaks to the importance of Spider-Man in the second film. May recognizes heroism in those movies and has no fear of it.
Raimi gave us the Aunt May we should have had the whole time.
So, we get to the first Marvel film to have it’s entire series with the singular vision of a specific director. Raimi did a good job with the first one and a spectacular job with the second film. It still stands as a high watermark for the superhero film genre. Three is a bit more…complicated. There is a Spider-Man comic for Marvel to publish. The Complicated Spider-Man.
We open with Peter telling us just how awesome his life is. He has a hot girlfriend who is successfully performing plays, school is going excellently, he has money. It is here where we get our introduction to Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is apparently doing pretty well in school herself. Peter runs into Harry at MJ’s play. Peter is contemplating proposal, especially after a night of star watching with MJ. It is a fun use of powers in the scene as they lie next to each other in a giant web. Unknown to Peter, a meteor crashes near by and a black goo crawls out…it appears to have some sentience, as it leaps onto Peter’s scooter.
We get introduced to Flint Marko, played by the talented Thomas Haden Church. He has escaped prison and snuck into his home. In a nice bit of back-story, he has a daughter whom he loves very much, and the crimes he committed were to try and help her. Raimi was very good at finding human connections for the villains in all three films. You could sympathize with their motivations. On the other hand, There is Harry Osbourne…who is becoming a cartoonish revenged obsessed guy. I get that they want us to see him as a tragic figure…becoming his father, whom he always wanted to please. But it seems he is suddenly a technology genius he never was in the previous films.
Seriously…not the Amazing Spider-Man? Not Spectacular Spider-Man?! Despite the blandly titled Spider-Man 2…I sensed a trend for Marvel Movies.
The nice thing for the creative team was that they were not saddled with telling the origin story. Instead, they were free to jump right in to start a new stoy. And jump in they do-to Peter struggling to make ends meet with a job delivering pizzas by scooter. Realizing he is running out of time for the delivery, he switches into his spider-duds and swings through the city. He still fails to make the delivery on time…resulting in a chewing out from his boss. We find out that while he still pines for MJ, she is engaged to J. Jonah Jameson’s son (an Astronaught). Aunt May has fallen on hard times. Peter and Harry’s friendship is strained, as Harry has become a vocal anti-Spider-Man type after seeing Spider-Man deliver his dead father to their penthouse. His friendship with Mary Jane is stretched because he seems unreliable and unsupportive of her dreams.
On the other hand, Peter is thrilled when he is sent to take pictures at a press event for scientific hero of Parkers- Dr. Otto Octavious (Alfred Molina). He is showing his new potential energy source. He also is showing off his “assistants”-a set of mechanical arms. The experiment goes awry (as scientific experiments are want to do) and Spider-Man jumps into the fray. Unfortunately, Otto is hospitalized and his wife killed in the turmoil.
The doctors find the arms fused to the Doctor’s body. The arms wake up and attack the hospital staff and taking the Doctor with them. Meanwhile, Peter is starting to have trouble with his powers, and is wanting to be done with Spider-Man. Understandably, he is tired about how much that aspect of his life interferes with the rest of his life. The arms apparently are driving Doc Ock a bit…crazy…he becomes obsessed with perfecting his experiment-not understanding that it is actually a destructive force.