Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dig on This

A while back, the Nostalgia Critic did a list of the "Top 11 Dumbest Spider-Man Moments." Regrettably, I watched it again recently because I had forgotten.

Now, he's pretty fair in theory - he likes all three movies, and says that even though they all have these moments, they all have good moments as well. This is true, and this attitude is why I continue to watch and enjoy NC...most of the time. But his list in the end seemed to devolve into the general mindset of adult geeks expecting "serious business" out of something they really shouldn't be (oh yeah, Lucasfilm digs abound).

Now, a couple of points I actually agreed with to a degree (I understand the flags in the first one even if they were shoehorned, being after 9/11 and all, but the other two should really have not gone there). Some I disagreed with, but understood where he was coming from (I don't blame Venom fans for wanting more of him, but his limited screentime made sense and is hardly an objective flaw). But many I thought were missing the point and/or making a subjective issue objective (Never. Insult. Willem. Dafoe. As. Green. Goblin. In. Front. Of. Me).

His number one pick, though, threw me for a loop.

Now, for those of you who don't want to watch NC, this was his pick for Top Dumbest Spider-Man moment:

I remember when I first watched the Top 11 list a few years back, I was thinking:



This scene? You think this scene is dumb?

Not only dumb, but the dumbest?

You think it's...silly?

I mean, it's not like a poignant soliloquy or gripping action or anything, but...Comparing it to Wolverine doing the Can-Can?!"

The scene didn't have much of an impression for me aside from the decent performance, so I really wondered what was so objectionable about it.

Fast Forward to a few weeks ago, when I watched Spider-Man 3 again (my wife had somehow never seen it), and I had a revelation.

Mostly it was about the nature of so-called "Emo Peter" in general. I had never felt strongly one way or another about how Symbiote Peter was portrayed in the movie, but the fan backlash required I take a closer look. In the original comics, the symbiote was a space-vampire that sucked Peter's energy. But with the advent of Venom, it got retconned into the symbiote bringing out the negativity of the host. Most fans pictured him visibly tortured and hulking out as a result, but what we got was nicely subtler.

I think the "fan" nickname "Emo Peter" does not do justice to what's actually going on. He's not mopey or anything, far from it. The suit has turned him into the kind of overconfidant douche who thinks he's cooler than his is and treats people like objects. That's just the kind of dark side a person like Peter WOULD have. Hell, it's even foreshadowed in Eddie Brock's entire character in the first half of the film.

And if you don't see how this particular scene is incredibly important to this part of Peter's character arc, you clearly haven't been paying attention to the movie.

So "dig on this," to turn a phrase:

This is not the equivalent of Wolverine doing the Can-Can. This is the equivalent of Wolverine strapping Cyclops to a Clockwork Orange rig and forcing him to watch as Wolvie has sex with Jean Grey while Jean shouts out how horrible a lover and a leader Cyclops is inches from his face.

This is Peter stabbing Mary Jane in the back and twisting the knife for maximum pain.

Mary Jane's entire character arc through this film deals with her insecurity and the fact that Peter is just soaking up all the attention while being oblivious to the fact that her career is going down the tubes (completely unfounded I might add; her singing voice may not be very strong, but it's certainly beautiful). She lost her big break because the wrong people in the right places found her lacking, and she gets absolutely crapped on in the process. Now remember how she comes from an abusive household and maybe you have some idea of how she's feeling.

Now whether or not Peter truly believes she was complicit with Goblin Jr.'s little scheme, the negativity of the symbiote is ready to take some sweet revenge, and what's more fitting than taking another girl on a date (the girl he was accused of cheating on MJ with, mind) to MJ's new job as a singing jazz waitress, and completely and utterly upstaging her performance?

And upstage he did. Laugh all you want, but he had some good moves there. He completely commanded the room, drawing all the attention to him and overshadowing MJ - AGAIN - at least until in a moment of gleefully drinking in MJ's tears of pain he accidentally clues the entire joint in to what he was doing.

It completely fits, it makes perfect sense. The film has problems with what it chose to edit out of the story, but this...this is absolutely brilliant.


  1. I think Film Crit Hulk made a good point about this scene, which is that it's really the best part of the film, but because it's tonally inconsistent with the rest it sticks out for a lot of viewers and thus is what they pick on when trying to source their problems with the movie.

    (that comes from a very fascinating article on film criticism and "tangible details"- the little things people pick on when they can't quite source their actual problems with the film. Highly recommend reading:

    1. It's a fair point, but I don't think it's that inconsistant (plus he's talking more about the preceeding montage anyway).

      Plus, I disagree with his assertion that the film sucks. It's certainly flawed, mostly due to editing out important character moments in order to keep runtime and pacing, and those flaws keep it from being truly great. But it's still a solid entry and, on the whole, I find it far more engaging than 2 (which I also love, but "best superhero movie" it ain't).

    2. Put another way, he claims the villains don't have clear or interesting motivations, and that's just not true. However, one could be forgiven for missing some of them because many of the essential scenes were either cut completely or restructured in a way that lessened their impact. Venom's first meeting with Sandman, while "good enough" for getting the film where it needed to go, was originally longer and took place near a playground where Penny Marko was playing. That would have given Venom more of an edge and Sandman more of a reason to agree.

      It is a flaw, and a big one, but it's not a complete dealbreaker compared with everything they got right.

  2. Not a bad article IMHO. :-)
    Interestingly, your observation "That's just the kind of dark side a person like Peter WOULD have." reminds me of the opinion I have read one or two years ago: Even "Dark Side Peter" is not actually really cruel, a murderer etc. Peter is a good human being such that even the bad part of him is not bad.

    1. Oh, his bad side is certainly cruel, as the scene in question shows, but like you say it's not the extreme a more grizzled character might have.