Archive for sam raimi
I made this the other day…
I am contemplating taking on inexpensive commissions. Like $20 tops (for full color images). Looking to make some extra cash.
Or maybe that is me being silly… you can see some work here.
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.
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.
The anticipation for a James Cameron Spider-Man went from drool to ridicule after Titanic. Some were fearful he would use Leonardo DiCaprio (and while he is a pretty guy, I think he would have found a way to be a convincing Peter Parker-the guy can act). But ultimately, the idea of a Cameron Spider-Film faded away.
There was some surprise when it was announced that Spider-Man was in the hands now of Sam Raimi (at the time still getting recognition for critical fave a Simple Plan). Raimi, unlike Singer with the X-Men, was a fan of Spider-Man, especially the early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era. Raimi held promise, based on his genre fueled past, and his films, such as the two Evil Dead sequels suggested he would be a good choice for making sure Spidey kept his wise-cracking ways.
The reaction to Tobey Maguire seemed mixed. Many thought he was an effective choice for nerdy Peter Parker, but I recall some people complaining-ironically-that he was too uh…dweebish. Kirsten Dunst of course caused nerd panic because Mary Jane Watson has red hair. Because you cannot change hair color with dye or anything.
The film itself is in the same trap as many that came before it-including X-Men. The first film is all about the beginning. It is more set up. Which is a shame, because right out of the gate, they go for Spidey’s most famous nemesis, the Green Goblin.
Spider-Man begins with a visual trick (the same trick we saw in Drew Barrymore’s Never Been Kissed. Yeah, I saw it. SHUT UP!!!!) where we are on a bus and Peter suggests that you might not notice him…and then you see Maguire chasing the bus. We get it established pretty quick that Peter is a science nerd, with no real friends outside of Harry Osbourne (James Franco). Harry is handsome and looks like the kind of guy Peter would like to be. But Harry’s frustration is that his father, Norman Osbourne (Willem Defoe) seems prouder of Peter Parker than his own son. He thinks Peter is a gifted young scientist and wishes Harry were more like him. Peter has a huge crush on Mary Jane Watson, the girl next door. His parents are dead, so he lives with his Kindly Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris).
One of my bigger gripes about the path of modern horror films is that the rise of a memorable monster in the slasher genre has resulted in a tendancy to make the victims of said monster/killer so annoyingly unpleasant, that you kind of root for the monster/killer to succeed.
This is not entirely new. Many horror films over the decades would have one or two characters who functioned as natural villains that persecute the central hero. And their mistreatment of others often resulted in their demise. But now, almost anyone who dies is a relentless jerk. The charactes tend to be inhumanly selfish, greedy, amoral and willing to disgard people like trash. Even the heroes. Whether it is a movie like Valentine or the recent Friday the 13th remake, characters either are so light in presentation (vague druggie/nerd, cool guy, jock, hot girl, etc) as to make no connection to the viewer or such a terrible cad (verbally/physically abusive, cheater, rapist, etc) that the adience does not care to root for him.
I think this is one of the things that I liked most from Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. Alison Lohman’s Christine Brown is a likeable, if mousey, character. She is introduced to the audience listening to a self help tape to encourage property speaking. She is struggling to move forward in her job as a loan officer in a bank. We soon learn from her boss (David Paymer) that while she is a good employee, she may tend to being to sympathetic to the sorrier cases. She is hoping to advance into an open management position that her boss makes clear is for the person willing to make the tough choices.
Which leads to a dilemma in which Christine finds herself in for the story. When an elderly woman (Lorna Raver) enters and asks for her third extension so as to not lose her home, Christine makes the tough call. The old woman put’s a curse upon her. But the thing is, the curse is hardly equal to the crime. Christine’s choice is also an understandable one. It’s not done out of evil or malice. And it makes her sympathetic. You want to see her avoid the terrible fate that awaits her.
It is rather funny to me that a movie that could have gotten away with making Christine an awful and unsympathetic character, simply on the basis of being a gore comedy, instead went the route of making the punishment far worse than the crime. Drag Me To Hell works simply as an over the top horror comedy in Sam Raimi’s absurdist style. But it is extra icing that you get to fret and worry about whether or not you lead will be successful or not.
Many filmmakers would have taken the cheap and easy route of making her far less sympathetic. Sam and his brother Ivan chose the better and more interesting path. A path I would like to see visited a bit more in the genre of horror.