Spider-Man Romances In Animation - A Retrospective
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I realise the Spider-Man movies arenít animated, but to me, Spider-Man 2 is still the very best the character has been ever been portrayed and I never could resist an opportunity to praise its unparalleled brilliance.
Now, as a straight man, I find romantic comedies to be insipid wastes of times which do little other than treat males like complete idiots whilst the ladies sit and marvel at the pathetically predictable plots and characters so paper thin they make Kiera Knightly look overweight. Spider-Man 2 could be described as a romantic comedy, only it dares do something different Ė the male is the central character, not the girl. Oh, itís also got a guy in a costume and the most whoop ass fights scenes you ever did see. Unless of course, you were one of the 6 people who actually managed to stop picking Spider-Man 3 apart enough to actually sit down and enjoy the damn thing!
Times are much tougher for the trouble teen the second time around. His best friend is still harbouring a series grudge against Spider-Man for killing his Father, his Aunt is being forced out of her home and Peter Parker canít seem to move forward with work, his studies and his relationships because of his responsibilities as Spider-Man. Oh, and he is infatuated with the girl he dumped at the end of movie one. One of, if not my favourite scenes in the movie is after Peter's birthday party (which is attended by an whopping 3 people!) as Peter and MJ catch up, just like old times - how awkward they both feel and how thier feelings are still getting the better of them despite how hard they try to hide them.
Realising that Spider-Man is ruining every aspect of his life and despite his years of service to the city, no one has any appreciation for Spider-Man either, he begins to question whether or not Spider-Man is worth the hassle. Then comes the straw that broke the camels back Ė after missing MJís play, she gets in a mood and announces that she will be marrying John Jameson, son of J. Jonah Jameson, Fearless Publisher Of The Daily Bugle. He decides thatís it, heís had enough. After an imaginary conversation with his late Uncle Ben, he decides that he needs to live his own life.
Uncle Ben: Of all the times we talked of honesty, fairness, justice. A lot of those times I counted on you to have the courage, to take those dreams out into the world.
Peter: I can't live your dreams anymore. I want a life of my own.
Uncle Ben: You've been given a gift Peter, with great power, comes great responsibility. Take my hand son.
Peter: No Uncle Ben. I'm just Peter Parker. I'm Spider-Man no more. No more...
We then cut to a brilliant montage of things finally going Peterís way with Raindropís Keep Falliní On My Head and he attempts to reconcile things with MJ. He doesnít have to be Spider-Man anymore, so he figures, why not? John Jameson is why not, Peter. His attempts to patch things up didnít go quite as planned, but at least they were speaking now. Of course, with Peter Parker being Peter Parker the guilt eventually returns to him and as MJ asks him the simple question ďDo you love me, or not?Ē and he lies, and tells her he doesnít.
I remember watching the teaser trailer that had this scene in awe. To have that and the debut of Doc Ock leering over them in his tentacles in just one scene made me want to see the movie there and then Ė it was utterly spectacular. I donít think Iíve seen a teaser trailer that good since. Astonishing.
Of course, he becomes Spider-Man again to save her. MJ learns that Peter is actually Spider-Man before he admits that he canít place her in danger again Ė Spider-Man is who he is and she canít be apart of his life, the risk is too great. Of course they eventually end up together and youíre glad to see the hero get his happy ending after spending the previous two hours getting kicked in the nuts by all those around him. Spider-Man 2 is one of those rare sequels that takes an already very good movie in the movie and improves it every single way. The story is better, the fight scenes are improved ten fold, and the characters are more defined and developed. Add that to a beautiful score, inspired directing and the best big screen supervillain ever and youíve got the best superhero movie ever made in my opinion.
Now that Peterís got the girl, where does he go from here?
Spider-Man 3 sees things finally going his way Ė heís happily dating Mary Jane, the city loves and he finally feels good about himself. As he tells us in the opening montage, his Uncle Ben would be proud. This unfortunately results in his ego getting out of control and he constantly boasts about how great everything is while his girlfriend is down on her luck because nobody appreciates her efforts on Broadway. Turnabout is a bitch, isnít it MJ?
With Peterís ego getting the better of him as he accepts the key to the city, he plays for the camera and letís Gwen Stacey kiss him ala his famous upside down kiss with Mary Jane from the first film, instantly angering MJ. He attempts to propose over dinner and actually manages to get the better of Bruce Cambell at long last as the waiter who is helping him pop the question. This is by far the best of the Peter/Cambell scenes, and even features one of the movieís best lines. As Peter hands the rings, the waiter clinches it in his fist and quips ďI guard it with my life!Ē with such a determined look on his face Ė I remember bursting out laughing in the theatre, while a few more sniggered at the line as the rest of the theatre turned around and give me a dodgy look.
As MJ leaves dinner because of ďthat kissĒ and Gwen is all over Peter he gets even crappier news Ė the man who murdered his Uncle Ben is actually The Sandman and heís on the loose. The real fun, romance wise, is when the symbiote bonds itself to Peter and Harry manipulates MJ into dumping Peter and gloats as he tells Peter he is the other guy she dumped him.
When evil Peter decides to give Harry what for stealing his girl, Peter realises that heís single again baby! Que a brilliant scene in which Peter tries to impress the ladies with his new found confidence and a James Brown backing, only to find he is resented by most of them. People have endlessly bashed this since the film was released, I think itís needless Ė I thought the scene was hilarious. He even flirts with Betty Brant!
After taking Gwen out and making a fool of MJ in the jazz club, he realises the error of his ways before MJ is kidnapped by Gwenís ex, Venom, who has bonded with the symbiote Peter rejected. Even with all the crazy crap going on in his life, the majority of it all seems to revolve around MJ. He and Harry inevitably team up to rescue her and the movie ends with them forgiving each other, but itís not quite the ending I bet either of them imagined. I hope Tobey and Kirsten are back for Spider-Man 4, with Tobey, I want him back because the man is Spider-Man, and Kirsten I want back because I donít think Tobey would do it without her.
Both Gwen and MJ will be appearing in the upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. Given how tame kids cartoons romances are these days (if even present) I wouldnít expect something spectacular. Hopefully theyíll do something special to make me have a change of heart!