Dear Sam Raimi
Dear Mr. Raimi,
Last evening, I attended a midnight screening of the première of Spider-Man 2. I arrived at the theater full of optimistic glee and peanut M&Ms. Three minutes into the film, both were expended. Sam, I won’t sugarcoat it: the movie sucked hard.
For one thing, it was a gag-driven slapstick comedy, which surprised me, because I thought it had to do with superheroes. I was wrong. The first two acts showcase a guy in a funny suit slipping on metaphorical banana peels while zigzagging from one stupid plot point to another. There were pratfalls aplenty, really cheap gags, a schmaltzy musical montage, and a couple of shoddy puns for good measure.
I was under the impression the great writer Michael Chabon had something to do with the story. If that turns out to be true, please relay to him a message from me in the form of an uppercut to the jaw. The story quickly leapt and bounded over the constraints of earthbound logic: Dr. Octopus tries to impress everybody with a public test-run of nonspecific “fusion”—a process which, if successful, creates an ever-expanding black hole in a lab without so much as a sneeze guard protecting its spectators—and completely glosses over his little side project of bionic, mind-controlled, Swiss Army spinal tentacles that, when they go haywire, become self-aware.. I’d think the scientific community would be slightly interested in that invention, instead of a growing ball of fire that doesn’t work and has no actual purpose anyway. Even I know how to invent an all-consuming fireball, Sam. All it takes is an aerosol bottle of hairspray and a Zippo. Also, how come every time somebody mentioned the process of fusion, someone in the background had to ominously call out, “Oooh! Fusion!”?
Continuing down the slippery slope of slapdash storytelling, Spidey’s powers wax and wane without any explanation; Aunt May’s house is still under foreclosure at the film’s end; and Harry Osborn, Spider-Man’s greatest foe, keeps the hero’s secret identity a secret for no reason other than the possibility of a third movie. How many third-graders were involved in the making of this film? Did anybody ever even read a comic book before? Not for loyalty to the source material—just as a model of a cohesive narrative structure? At least the funny books have the decency to provide some bullshit pseudo-scientific doubletalk to explain plot holes. (“Unstable molecules,” continuity-erasing time warpage, etc.)
Crap storytelling aside, I’d like to point out the acting, editing, and dialogue were on par with any episode of “The Dukes of Hazard” during that season where two other rubes rode around in the General Lee because Tom Wopat and John Schneider asked for too much money. Every character spewed uncloaked summaries of the film’s plot, morals, and themes. Every cliché in the cliché store was bought in bulk. Every single line of dialogue was a clunker, and you somehow managed to evoke cornball performances from formerly talented actors. Dunst acted like she didn’t want to be there—she looked frumpily exhausted, like she was too hungover to make it to hair and makeup before each scene—and twice I caught her accidentally call Peter Parker “Gyllenhaal.” Molina was O.K., but I really pictured Roy Orbison in the role of Doctor Octopus. Even dead, his corpse would’ve delivered a better performance than that that creepy hack Willem Dafoe. Dude looks like a pedophile sniffing modeler’s glue.
The pictures all looked pretty, but the words were all insultingly stupid. Every scene with dialogue instead of action made me feel angry, confused, and a little gassy. I left the film wishing I had a functional, but not proficient, knowledge of a foreign language so I could watch the film dubbed. Understanding the gist, but not the nuances, of Italian or Portuguese, I bet the flick would be pretty good.
Damn your soul, Raimi. On a Blockbuster shelf that includes horrible comic-book adaptations like Batman and Robin, Daredevil, Howard the Duck, Return of Swamp Thing, Barb Wire, Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher, and the eventual Catwoman, your movie still stands out as a stinker. I hope they expel you from the Director’s Guild of America for dragging cinematic mediocrity down a notch.
So fucking dismayed,
P.S. Congrats on the one-hundred million undeserving dollars I’m sure the film’s raked in already. Please spend fifteen of those bucks on a decent haircut.