Monday, February 19, 2024

Madame Web (2024)

Movie of the year movie of the year MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Madame Web is one of those movies I didn't know they made anymore. I laughed many times in this movie, but not once after an intentional joke. Any good performances are buried under the detritus of weird lines, awkward editing, and awe-inducing plot connections.

The film stars Dakota Johnson of Fifty Shades of Grey fame playing Cassandra Webb, whose mother was researching spiders in the Amazon right before she died. The specific spider she was researching was one that for no explainable reason gives everyone it bites superpowers, so of course the man she hired for security on this research expedition shoots her and takes the spider. Don't worry though, there's a tribe of Peruvians called Las Arañas (or something) that all dress like Spider-Man and have spider powers, who try to save Cassie's mother's life by having one of their magic spiders bite her, but she dies birthing Cassie anyway. In present day, Cassie works with Ben Parker (?!??) as an EMT and after almost drowning at the scene of a car accident starts having psychic visions of the future. Her visions start to coalesce on three teen girls who are being hunted by Ezekiel Sims, the aforementioned spider-thief who thinks these teens are gonna kill him because he had a dream about it. Things go on from there.

Cassie is supposed to be a socially awkward weirdo I think, but instead comes off as a robot who has a quiet contempt for every person around her. Her interactions with the three teens (who are destined to become Spider-Women because sure why not) mostly consist of yelling and strained silence. Based on a single sentence uttered by Julia Cornwall (they changed her name from Carpenter for some reason) the police have branded Cassie a kidnapper and nobody tries to rectify that situation for the whole movie. Despite this, Cassie easily flies to Peru to "find answers" later on in the film with no apparent issues.

The Teens are boilerplate, Julia is the bookish shy one, Mattie Franklin is the rebellious skateboarder, and Anya Corazon is the science nerd. They really don't do much except bicker a little bit and follow directions after Cassie yells at them. The glamor shots in the trailer of all three as Spider-Women come from short flash-forwards at the beginning and end of the movie, so we don't see them actually being superpowered because I guess that happens later.

But you know who does have spider powers?? Ezekiel Sims is the best part of this movie. Not because I think they did anything well with him, no no no. Ezekiel dresses like discount Kaine and can kill people with his poison touch, but he mostly just gets hit by cars. For a reason I cannot fathom, every single line he says is rerecorded. There are times that his lines don't match his mouth movements even though one must assume it's the same guy saying the line as when they filmed it. The kicker is: They don't even sound good! It's getting to Tommy Wiseau level of ADR, where every line is detached and uncanny.

Speaking of which, that's where this flick shines. You thought the "He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died." was a stilted line with a worse delivery, but believe me there is far more treasure in there. It's funny that they felt the need to take that specific line out of the movie, but left in where Cassie says, "I don't have a neuromuscular disorder." with the same tone as someone denying they're wearing mismatched shoes. Sometimes I repeat to myself, "The girls? The girls have powers? In the future?" I can't possibly list them all, they blaze by like an entire fireworks show going off at once, you're still goggling at the first one before five more fill the gap.

Now there's no way of verifying this unless some actors decide to spill, but it seems like they added a bunch of extra scenes to reiterate things you should already have figured out. You get the backstories of each of the teens twice, the same scenes of Cassie's mom (who was in the Amazon researching spiders right before she died) and it's confusing because it's alongside the repetition they do to show Cassie is experiencing visions! But at the same time there's stuff buried in the movie like they want nerds to analyze it like the first Iron Man movie. So like the Parker family is in there. Emma Roberts plays Mary Parker, Peter Parker's mom, who is pregnant with little Petey, though they never ever say that the child will be named Peter. They only mention the name "Parker" once, even though Ben is Cassie's only friend and Peter's birth is the catalyst for the climax. Is it drilled into your head that the fireworks warehouse on the docks (sponsored by Pepsico) is a deathtrap no less than four times, but the fact that Peter Parker's birth happens in this movie is some kinda Agatha Christie caper for you to figure out.

Now I'm gonna spoil some things because who gives a shit. At the end Cassie is blinded after getting hit in the face by some fireworks after she beats Ezekiel. They go to great pains to show you that she has become blind, with the gray eyes of movie blind, a big bandage over her eyes in the hospital, and sunglasses in the final scene. But also in that final scene, Cassie is suddenly in a motorized wheelchair. She has become paraplegic? I think? I have no idea why. I watched this fucking movie twice because I was sure that I missed something. The only possible explanation that exists within the movie is that Cassie does, in fact, have a neuromuscular disorder, only it skipped the first few decades of her life and caught up with her after she got blind.

There's just so much in this goddamn movie. I haven't even started on Las Arañas and how they all paint themselves red and cover themselves in web patterns and that means Spider-Man is appropriating the culture of this Peruvian tribe of spider men. Or that it didn't even need to be a science spider that bit Peter because there just exists a superpower granting spider, which is great unless you shot a pregnant woman to get one because then you are cursed with dreaming of three hot women in spandex killing you. (Where's the downside?)

It's great. I love it. Make more, please.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Ultimate Spider-Man (2024) #1








It's been a long time since I've read a comic. Superior Spider-Man happened and it made me so fucking mad that I didn't want to give any of these cretins money for their stupid bullshit ever again. And based on the reactions to the current Amazing Spider-Man run, I wasn't wrong. But then buzz started about a new comic. A new line of comics. They were doing another Ultimate Universe. That seemed a little trite, but they announced Jonathan Hickman was the architect, a writer renowned for his long-term planning and exquisite writing. I was intrigued. Then, the cherry on top. The new Ultimate Spider-Man would star a Peter Parker as an adult, already married to Mary Jane. And I was sold. It's no small feat that this made me drive over to my old comic shop for the first time in a decade and ask for a subscription. So I guess we'll check it out.

Comic Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #1

Now, I didn't read the two preceding comics for this universe, Ultimate Invasion or Ultimate Universe. All I know is what the blurb told me, and that's that Peter Parker didn't get bit by no spider because of The Maker, and he's like mid-30's now.

The issue is really about setting up the world our Peter lives in. It's a far cry from the original Ultimate comics where we pretty much knew what was gonna happen, e.g. Peter gets bit, Uncle Ben dies, crime fighting. So Peter is around 35 years old, married with two kids, Richard and May, and he works at the Daily Bugle with... Uncle Ben??

So yeah, I could go over every little change between this and the classic universe but you can read the comic for yourselves. The main point is: Tony Stark (who is a teen now I guess) gives Peter Parker the spider that was supposed to bite him, that apparently The Maker had locked in some science vault. Peter struggles with the choice to accept it. He's hesitant to make a change, scared to blow up his life, but his life so far has felt hollow, like he was supposed to be something but never did.

After reassurance by Mary Jane, he takes the spider out of its vial, and it bites him.

So as I said above, I bought this because it had a married adult Peter Parker, I didn't read anything preceding this so I didn't know how different it would be. I appreciate the choice to make Peter powerless until he's like 35, and furthermore make the powers a choice he made. Think about current Amazing Spider-Man right now. In an attempt to keep Spider-Man "relatable" they've turned him into an unmarried shmuck who can't keep a job, keep any friends, or form any stable relationships at all. He routinely finds himself having trouble with situations he handled as a teenager. ASM is just spinning its wheels, too afraid to do much of anything with Peter's character, just holding him in stasis. But this comic is the first time in a long time that I relate completely with Peter Parker.

He's aware something has been taken from him, he knows there's a big piece missing from his life. When the original Ultimate Spider-Man was made it was about a teenager who gained tremendous power, the kind I dreamt of when I was in high school. He faced a world that had grown cynical and compromising, adults who wanted to railroad him into their way of thinking. It resonated with me, especially when I started reading Amazing Spider-Man, who had just sold his marriage to the devil and was flailing through stories of wildly varying quality. So now, when all hope seems lost, we have another Ultimate. A Peter who's been around for a while, who's used to keeping his head down, given the power to make a change.

It's only been one issue so there's only so much I can say. This sets up a lot of potential, like what will becoming Spider-Man mean for his family? There's important things at stake now, instead of just an elderly aunt who honestly should have died years ago. J. Jonah Jameson and Ben Parker are setting up a new newspaper, what will it be like if Ben has it out for Spider-Man? There's a whole universe of possibilities in store, and I can't wait to read it. If this ends up anything like the first Ultimate Spider-Man, we might get some grownup Peter Parker in adaptations again! No more high school!

I have only two conditions:

1. He cannot shave his beard.