Resin Heroes

Mark Bagley The Amazing Spider-Man #379 cover






Punisher Saturday: Mark Bagley and P. Craig Russell The Amazing Spider-Man #357 cover






Clayton Henry Spider-Man 2099 drawing






Web of Spider-Man



Let this sink in for a minute — it’s been 15 years since the first Spider-Man movie was released. That first film was something the fans of the comics had been waiting years to see. Originally announced in the 1980s as a low-budget film, then a film James Cameron was set to write and direct after Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the 1990s, rights issues kept Spider-Man from the big screen for years until those details were finally ironed cumulating with a film directed by Sam Raimi and writer by David Koepp finally making it to the big screen in 2002.

Raimi on the set of Spider-Man

Now he seems like the obvious choice, but Sam Raimi as the director of a Spider-Man movie back then didn’t make a lot of sense. Personally, I was excited to see what he could do with the character. I knew Raimi from previous movies and figured that if given the opportunity to bring his kinetic style of action to the character Spider-Man might be really interesting. But to most Raimi seemed like a wildcard.

Back in 2002 Raimi was mostly known for the blood splattered Evil Dead movies and had received a bit of critical acclaim for the 1998 movie A Simple Plan. But otherwise nothing in Raimi’s resume, other than perhaps the Darkman movie, seemed to indicate that he was the right person for the Spider-Man job. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the reason that Raimi got the job was because no one else wanted it.

I’m not saying that there was no director in Hollywood in the early 2000s who was pining for the Spider-Man directing job, but I am saying that back then when superheroes were an unknown quantity I don’t think major talent would have been lining up for the job of directing a comic book movie. Looking at the top grossing movies of the year 2000 the year the first X-Men was released, they were, wait for it, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then Cast Away and then Mission: Impossible II. X-Men didn’t even crack the top five highest grossing movies of 2000, it was eighth at around $160 million.

Now $160 million might seem like a lot of money, but these days that’s what a successful movie might do in a weekend, not its entire run. So back then a Spider-Man movie seemed less like a slam-dunk no-brainer for a director to take than something that had a lot of negatives with not a lot of positives attached to it in a time when comic book movies were openly derided.

But, surprise-surprise, Spider-Man made over $100 million dollars in its opening weekend, more than $400 million overall, and went onto become the highest grossing movie that year.

Which, of course, meant sequels. Spider-Man 2 would follow in 2004 and while it made less than the first was still an improvement on the original in terms of character and story. Even the third movie that came out in 2007 while the weakest of the bunch was the highest grossing movie that year.

Ironically, Marvel created the Spider-Man character but sold the movie rights to the character years ago so that character technically exists outside the Marvel movie universe. So Spider-Man was the biggest superhero of the early 2000s, Marvel technically didn’t have anything to do with the big-screen version of that character.

After the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, two The Amazing Spider-Man movies would reboot the character to a more darker version of the Peter Parker universe beginning in 2012. Funnily enough, while those movies would make a combined $1.4 billion at the world-wide box office they were considered failures by the fans, hence the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie out July 5.

Starring Tom Holland in the title role who originally appeared in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War as the character, this Spider-Man, while still not officially a part of the Marvel universe kind’a is with the inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. in the Tony Stark/Iron Man role on loan from the Marvel movies. This time, Spider-Man along with Iron Man, whom I think will be in less of the movie than trailers indicate, must do battle with the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) who wants to do really bad things to NYC.




Direct Beam Comms #77



Movies

On sci-fi and loneliness: Passengers

Passengers is part of a larger sci-fi trend of film and TV focusing on just one person. Before in similar movies and series, that “one person” was the only one because of some plague or natural disaster like in I Am Legend or The Quiet Earth. But the modern take on this is that this “one person” isn’t the last person alive, but they’re alone and are marooned by themselves none-the-less. Movies like Moon had the only person Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) being the sole-occupant of a lunar mining station, Gravity had Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) as the only survivor of a Space Shuttle mission who’s trapped in orbit and The Martian had Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as an astronaut left behind on Mars who must survive with only duct tape, plastic wrap and his wits.

In all of these movies humanity is still alive and well back on the Earth but the main characters are so separated from us they might as well be the only person alive.

In Passengers, the last man is Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a passenger on a shiny space-liner taking thousands of hibernating passengers from the Earth to a new colony world. But because of a glitch Jim awakens from this 120 year journey a bit early — 80 years too early in fact. And since he’s the only one awake and since there’s no way for him to go back into hibernation Jim has to face the reality of spending the rest of his life living alone on this ship.

While Jim is utterly alone on this ship he’s surrounded by thousands of pleasantly slumbering passengers all around him and a robotic bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) to talk with. But Arthur has a robotic personality to match and isn’t much company and Jim slowly begins to lose his mind from loneliness as he reads the computerized biographies of the other sleeping passengers. After falling in love with the backstory on another passenger Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), Jim decides to awaken her too, blame it on the same glitch that woke him so they can live happily ever after together on this luxury-liner of the stars.

Or so he hopes.

Passengers is a good movie, if full of plot-holes. From the idea that a company would spend untold sums of cash to build a spaceship that’s like a 5-star hotel that’s but is only designed to be used a few months every 240 years or so is ludicrous. Also ludicrous is the idea Aurora has (get it with her name “Aurora” or Sleeping Beauty) of becoming the first writer to journey to this new colony world and back to write about what that experience is like. Except doesn’t the crew of these ships do that all the time? Plus, once Aurora arrives back on the Earth she’d be a 240 year old anachronism who’d be totally out of date and out of step with the realities of that civilization. Let’s put it this way — if someone from 1777 turned up in 2017 they would be the story. People would be interested in what it was like to live and work 240 years in the past rather than what the trip was like. Or even that Jim wouldn’t look to awaken a technician who might be able to put them back to sleep…

I’d be lying if I said the style of Passengers wasn’t anything that had been put to screen before. The ship of Passengers the Avalon, in and around which all the action takes place, from the inside looks like a 5-star hotel staffed by robots. There are some interesting futuristic bits and pieces here and there, but for the most part style-wise Passengers looks much like every other sci-fi movie of the last five years — very slick and very computer generated. The one thing that is different is the actual design of the outside of the Avalon that looks more like a twisting piece of modern art than a traditional-looking spaceship. But that only goes so far from separating this movie from the pack.

Passengers is good, but it’s not a movie that’s going to expand the genera. There’s really nothing new about the plot of Jim being the last man and facing the future alone but somehow finding companionship — which is what happens in every last man story. But it’s not bad either. I thought on the whole Passengers was a very interesting movie from the last man standpoint if not that unique.

Aurora: He woke me up. He took away my life…It’s murder!

Gus Mancuso: You’re right, Aurora. But, the drowning man will always try to drag somebody down with him. It ain’t right, but the man is drowning.

Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

TV

Castlevania teaser

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1940: Rene Auberjonois, Odo of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1953: Colm Meaney, Chief O’Brien of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1985: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock opens in theaters
  • 1990: Total Recall premiers
  • 1996: The last episode of Space: Above and Beyond airs
  • 1991: The TV series Liquid Television premiers