Thursday, June 21, 2012

Newsflash: Twilight didn't invent the female-driven blockbuster and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man was primarily about romance too...

As expected, the initial wave of mostly positive reviews for The Amazing Spider-Man have partially involved a form of collective amnesia. Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph called the film 'a superhero film for the Twilight generation' and states that Twilight was the first blockbuster to target women and The Amazing Spider-Man is the first superhero targeted at females, a theme that a number of critics have implicitly or explicitly stated in their critiques.  Both of these things are false of course.  Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy was primarily a romantic drama stretched over three films.  The web-slinging action beats and occasional super-villain squabbles were less important than the ongoing love story between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.  Kristen Dunst was as much of a main character as Toby Maguire, especially in the somewhat underrated Spider-Man 3, and the romantic arc was the main narrative throughout the blockbuster trilogy.  And as for the second claim, it's like Titanic, Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and Avatar never happened.  But in an era where no one remembers a damn thing and everyone is too damn lazy to look it up, Marc Webb is now getting the credit for basically inventing a female-skewing superhero film and Twilight is now presumed to be the only reference point for blockbusters that were popular with women.

It annoys me that Robbie Collin and a few other critics don't remember a movie that came out five years ago. But what really irritates me are all the other bloggers unthinkingly repeating the meme without bothering to point out that it's bullshit, but instead thoughtlessly quoting said line as if it's factual.  We all damn-well saw Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3.  We all blabbed about that upside-down kiss in the rain, that spectacular train fight, and that goofy dance sequence.  We could all recognize Danny Elfman's theme within a few notes and we all have strong opinions about the individual films and the series as a whole.  So when the Amazing Spider-Man filmmakers try to sell us on the idea that their film is new because it has practical web-slinging (Spider-Man), a sympathetic father-figure villain (Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2), a female lead who is a full-blown lead character (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 3), a super villain who is somewhat beside the point (Spider-Man 2), and an emphasis on romance over action (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3), we shouldn't just sit quietly and not ask that follow-up question.  Like political journalism, the company line all too easily becomes conventional wisdom without anyone on the sidelines bothering to question it or rebut it with simple factual corrections.

I don't have any qualm with how Marc Webb and company choose to sell their movie.  And this rant has *nothing* to do with the apparent quality of the reboot, which I'm seeing next Friday morning.  But this is a longtime problem in the industry, with so little real journalism taking place that studios can just sell a lie without fear of being called on it (yes, just like in politics).  The advocate/politician has every right to make whatever outrageous/false statements they desire and it's the job of the media to call them out on it.  It goes both ways too, with various writers simply repeating conventional wisdom (King Kong was a flop, The Dark Knight was a pro-Bush 9/11 parable, everyone hated The Phantom Menace, etc.) with few challenging them and even fewer bothering to actually research said claims before making them in the first place.  Thus Sony gets to sell the idea that The Amazing Spider-Man is totally different from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy for reasons that actually make it all the more identical to Spider-Man trilogy and no one really calls them out on it.  It may be a minor carp and a personal pet peeve of mine, but it speaks to a larger problem about the quality of dialogue in the entertainment journalism realm.  So don't be surprised if Warner Bros. tries to sell you on its Batman reboot by saying "it's totally different as it's a Bruce Wayne-centric crime drama set in a real-world environment!".  And don't be surprised when no one bothers to raise their hand and ask the next logical question.

Scott Mendelson                    


Ekpookwong93 said...

From the reviews I'm reading I get the impression that critics are saying this because due to Webb's background in romantic comedy (500 DAYS OF SUMMER) the central romance is far more convincing and prominent than it was in the previous SM movies or indeed in most recent blockbuster flicks.

bulldog said...

And I would wager that if any part of Spiderman resembles Twilight, then watch Spiderman fans revolt in droves.

Samuraispiders said...

Not all romances are like twilight. The amazing spiderman movie is like twilight but sams is not.

sosgemini said...


PB210 said...

Might as well post this here, as this reminds me of how chastity does not stay intact in adaptations:

Superman II: after depowering, they have sex in the Fortress of Solitude (what would Doc Savage say?); although many people appreciate that Christopher Reeve tried to bring humanity and kindness to Superman, I usually do not think of Superman having pre-marital sex, though, to present things fairly, they do not present it as treating the other person as an object; the offspring of this tryst appeared 25 years later in a sequel)

Batman: Vicki Vale has sex with Bruce Wayne (as Ms. Kingsley points out, it does not fit with how messed up psychologically he stand to have him "get to first base" so fast)

Daredevil: Elektra and Daredevil had sex, right?

Iron Man: He has sex with Christine Everhart

Green Lantern: Shown waking up with a woman in his bed, memorably tells her "there's water in the tap"

Any others? I guess they throw these scenes in to prevent the films from feeling too childish, as happened with the 1996 version of The Phantom (who remained celibate, even though in the comic strip, he and Diane Palmer eventually marry) or the G-rated 1975 Doc Savage film (Doc Savage did not use his Fortress of Solitude as a substitute for the backseat of a chevy-he mentions that he spurn all advances due to a past incident where someone threatened a fiancee)

Gary Wintle said...

Garfield's Peter Parker seems much less Beta than Maguire's, who was in turn much less down-trodden than in the comics.
The bleakness of Peter Parker's life
The Spider-man comics were on a certain level, about Peter Parker's endless struggle, and how, even with the powers of Spider-man, he always ended up a loser.

But a down-trodden Beta male is not appealing to female audiences, so that aspect is toned down. Peter Parker, in the movies, is rarely more than a bit perturbed.


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