The July Issus

Jul 21, 22:58 by John Frost
General comments about the issue...
Jul 22, 15:09 by Dawn Burnell
Bah! I *liked* Spiderman. I don't think it was a good bad movie, but then I was expecting a pulp comic book brought to life. I had to specifically turn my brain off due to the highly improbable (impossible) "science" of Doc Oct and the ever-changing physics of Spiderman's talents, but I think it was a good comic book movie. It wasn't meant to be a mind trip, it was meant to be fun. And I believe it suceeded there.

As for the DragonLance stuff, some good, some bad, some 'ohmygodIcantbelievesomeonepaidforthiscrap'. I would suggest reading some of it before deciding how bad/good it is. As a general rule. And I would also note that while I don't redline someone's opinion based on a "DRAGONLANCE ROXORS!", I do try to figure out what other interests they may have. Also, I keep in mind that DragonLance is geared toward 12-13 year old males, and AEgypt is not.

Jul 22, 19:16 by Soren Petersen
I'll go further than that. The Spider-Man movies are terrific--popular movie-making simply doesn't get any better. In fact, I'll put on my elitist hat and say that anyone who disagrees is a fool (OK, maybe they haven't seen them...).

What they are not, however, is science fiction. Sure, they use some science-fictional tropes, but it's window-dressing and taken exactly as seriously as it deserves. On the other hand, the important stuff in the movie--the continuing story of Peter Parker's coming of age, the superhero hijinx, the loving homages to the Lee-Ditko comics--is taken very seriously indeed and works brilliantly.

All that said, I agree with the main point of the article. Some things are better than other, and it is important to distinguish one from the other. But that applies to criticism as much as anything else, and it doesn't help your case to be so pompously, catastrophically wrong about Spider-Man.
Jul 23, 00:24 by John Frost
Spider Man!!!! Pleeease -- Toby Maguire pulling his mask off every time he turns a corner. That's Spider-Man??? I don't think so my friend. And in the first scenes where Doc Oct manages to walk on two legs with about 8,000 pounds of arms waving around over his head? pleeeease. And a fusion reaction sinking into the East River without so much as boiling the water??? I know the EPA has classified the East River as something other than water, but surely it will at least boil at 100,000 degrees.

Wait. Wait. I know. You're all just hot for Kirsten Dunst. Well, boys, I am too. It's nothing to be ashamed of. She's a hottie, and there's no two ways about it. Unfortunately, the relationship dynamic between the sexy Ms. Dunst and the hapless Peter Parker is just not creating any sparks. Maybe it's because -- in real life -- Ms. Dunst is about as smart a box of potatos. No, really. Go read her interviews. If that's her idea of grrrl power, I think she someone should sit her down in front of Tank Girl on replay until she sees the light.

Seriously, as far as comic book movies go, I thoughy the second X-Men movie (blood-bullets and all) was about 39 times as good as spiderman. But if you really want to see my wrath, wait for Keanu Reaves (ugh!) to play my hero John Constantine in Hellblazer. If the powers of hell were at my disposal, they would be actively ensuring that such an atrocity never saw the light of day.

But. I will. View. Some of it. Before. Deciding. How bad. How good. It is.

Jul 23, 07:50 by Dawn Burnell
I'll note that I'm female and I *HATE* Ms. Dunst with a mad blind passion for both her acting and personal dumbness.

But I still enjoyed the movie. Didn't think it was the best comic book movie ever, but it was good.

Jul 23, 21:34 by Soren Petersen
So if I read you correctly, Spider-Man II is bad, objectively bad, so much so that all persons of taste are morally obligated to take a public stand on the matter for three reasons: Maguire is wrong for the part; the science is bad; and Dunst is a bimbo.

So. In order:

I'm not sure what point you were trying to make re: Maguire. For what it's worth, I thought he was fine--perfectly convincing both as Spider-Man the super-hero who can't catch a break, and (more importantly) as Peter Parker the repressed nerd whose crippling guilt is destroying his life.

The Spider-Man movies tell the story of a man who develops superpowers after being bitten by a genetically engineered spider--if scientific plausibility is really an issue, then why did you bother to see the film in the first place? If you can get past the basic premise, then cavilling over Doc Ock's arms, and the fusion device in the river just makes you look really really silly.

I'll take your word for it that Dunst comes off badly in interviews, as I don't believe I've ever read one. However, now might be a good time to point out that she is an actress. That means she sometimes plays characters who aren't like her in real life. If it turns out that girl-next-door-making-her-way-in-the-big-city Mary Jane Watson is smarter and nicer than shallow-Hollywood-starlet Kirsten Dunst--well, that's what actors do. If you can't get past the tabloid BS when you're watching a movie, then I fail to see how that makes you more elite than those of us who can. (Anyway, I thought she was fine in the movie, and in fact had a great deal of chemistry with Maguire: desire isn't all swelling violins and eternal declarations of love--for some folks it's what you don't say, what you don't let yourself feel.)

One final point: I yield to no-one in my deep and sincere admiration for Kirsten--every time she appears on screen, my mind goes a little blanker and my jaw sinks a little deeper; my feelings for her are real and genuine and not at all creepy; if she ever moved into my neighborhood, I'm certain she'd go out with me once she got to know the real me--but to intimate that I would ever let all that affect my critical judgement is so ridiculous as to not be worth responding to. Now Julie Delpy, on the other hand...
Jul 24, 00:20 by Mark Hubbard
Good editorial JF, and there is nothing wrong with the elitism that you write of. There is just way too much crap out there.

Mind you, the half nekkid babes ... well, some aspects of pop culture have redeeming features :)
Jul 24, 01:04 by Thomas Reeves
Finally saw the first Spiderman a few weeks ago. I'd agree it wasn't great, but it wasn't that bad. True I'm glad I watched it on video with my little sister, instead of at the theaters. I am glad I saw it though. It's not literature, or fine cinema, but certainly not bad by comic book movie standards. It had fun moments.

I don't really know anything about Dunst and I'm not entirely sure that matters. Plenty of adequate to good actresses were basically loathsome or even stupid individuals. Sometimes I worry about supporting downright evil people when it comes to books or music, I don't think we're saying she's evil though, but anyway she got paid whether I watch her or not so what does it matter. As for her performance she did pretty well with what she had in the movie which ultimately wasn't alot as I recall. She seemed nice, loveable, and slightly pathetic which is how the whole Spiderman world works as I recall. She's not the next Katherine Hepburn, or even Audrey Hepburn, but I don't think the role really required that.

On the attractiveness thing yeah she's cute, but she's cute like a puppy dog or somebody's daughter. She's not like someone I'd get a crush on at this point in my life. In least not in that role.

As for Spiderman II it actually sounds pretty good from everyone I've heard. People whose opinions I respect too. The kind of people who enjoy Kurosawa, Tarantino, Orson Wells, the Cohen Brothers, Hitchcock, Bergman, etc.

Not everyone can be deep and profound all the time. One can enjoy Tarkofsky and silly action, live in both worlds as it were.
Jul 24, 19:28 by Alaya Johnson
I saw Spiderman II, and I don't know if I ever laughed that hard in a movie before. Really, I was about to piss my pants the entire time. Aunt May's little motivational "speech"--it was bizarre, did the writers want to make you believe that she *knows* her nephew is Spiderman? The movie made utterly no sense (I'm sorry, but a huge fusion reaction that looks suspiciously like a SUN not boiling the East River [it wasn't the Hudson? I wasn't sure.] is a bit more of a stretch to my credibility than the genetically engineered spider thing). Some of it had camp value, but I think some parts were meant quasi-seriously. And, of course, the absolute, hands-down, WORST part of the movie was the utterly unwatchable Ms. Dunst. I don't care how she is in real life; in that movie she was an unreasonable, idiotic, self-absorbed super-Bitch who elicited not one neuron-fire of sympathy.

And really, who WROTE that script? "Go get 'em tiger" ?!!Please, let me out of the theater so I can puke. And, as in the last movie, I deplored the syrupy "New Yorkers protect their own" scene (in this one it was the burly subway riders standing between Doc Oct and a battered spiderman, in the first one the New Yorkers lobbing trash at the Green Goblin when he captures Dunst).

Oh, but now that I've trashed the movie, I have to add that the guy who played the newspaper editor was just fantastic. Not just the highlight of a ridiculous movie, a really great character and actor in and of himself.

Just for the record, I don't believe that if you liked that movie you're just a hopeless peon with no sense of taste. There is a certain amount of "just not my cup of tea" that has to be admitted in this debate, I think.

Jul 24, 21:35 by Soren Petersen

"Go get 'em tiger" is something that the original comic book MJ (a very different character from the movie version) would say--in the movie it's a tip of the hat to the source material, nothing more. Of course, if you don't know that and it takes you out of the movie then that's a problem.

And I don't get "unreasonable, idiotic, self-absorbed super-Bitch" from the character either. The movie makes it clear that Parker has been breaking engagements on a regular basis for the last two years (of course he has an excellent excuse, but MJ doesn't know that). What we see on screen is simply the last straw. Yeah she loved him once and she clearly knows he's carrying a huge torch for her, but it's been two years--it's not unreasonable for her to get sick of waiting for him to make a move and decide to move on with her life.

As for the science, well, so what? Call it magic if it makes you feel better--that's what it is, no matter what words they use. [And I don't see where the "fusion" reactor--sheer nonsense that it is--makes any less sense than Spider-Man's origin. Even if you can make yourself swallow a genetically engineered spider transfering its abilities to a human with a single bite, ask yourself how it's even remotely possible that Parker can become inhumanly strong and agile overnight with so little physical change that a doctor doesn't see anything amiss in an examination. No being with Spider-Man's abilities could look remotely human in the real world.]
Jul 25, 12:38 by Mike Brotherton
I'm a bit torn on this one. I'm a fan of the Spider-man comics since childhood and I've enjoyed the movies very much. All you critics though -- you look like idiots saying "Doc Oct" because the short version is "Doc Ock"!!! If you're going to be critical, pay attention and don't make everyone else feel like you're condescending, because that's how that kind of slip comes across. It says, I didn't pay attention to this thing you love, and not only didn't I pay attention, I'm heaping scorn on it.

Now, after having said all that, I see a movie like Spider-man as fantasy rather than sf, and suspend a lot of disbelief. As a scientist and a hard sf writer, it is a crusade of mine to have better science portrayed in EVERYTHING when at all possible. John has some criticisms this way, and the movie could have addressed them at least a little better (how heavy are the arms, really?). I agree with him that Spiderman's mask came off very often, a problem shared by Daredevil, and can only chalk it up to either the actors/directors insisting on it since it is dramatic and more emotional without the masks hiding the faces. That, I guess, bugs me as a "purist."

I do like that Spider-man II has Peter Parker continuing to study science, and that even though science turns someone into a villian, science is still portrayed positively. I think.
Jul 25, 22:32 by Alaya Johnson
Um...I make no claims to have any more knowledge of the Spiderman universe than what I saw in the movie. Who knows, maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had been more familiar with the comic books, but...

By which I mean to say, I called him "doc oct" because that's what it sounded like to me, a Spiderman-ignorant first-time viewer. I don't think it sounds condescending for me to make a mistake like that (if anything, I just sound, as I said, ignorant) but if it offended, I apologize. I'm really not sure if mishearing something counts as "not paying attention," but hey.

And I could not have been the only viewer who found Kirsten Dunst incredibly annoying. It's possible someone else could have played her part more sympathetically (for me, anyway).

Jul 25, 23:27 by Mike Brotherton
"Doc Ock" is also in the movie in the newspaper headline, flashed for a couple of seconds, I'm pretty certain. Maybe John can go see it a couple of times and report back for us? ;-)

Never been a big Kirsten Dunst fan either, but could imagine worse as MJ.
Jul 27, 16:49 by Dennis Mahon
But if you really want to see my wrath, wait for Keanu Reaves (ugh!) to play my hero John Constantine in Hellblazer.

Keanu Reaves?!?

Jul 30, 11:09 by Rebecca Gold
Hmmm. Note to self: when making an ideological argument, if at all possible, try to stay far away from using items of popular culture as examples. They tend to divert the conversation.

I think idealism *probably* is fine, some of the time. The trap you have to watch out for is the simplification of idealism: it becomes a Lord of the Rings-style "everyone else must be AWFULLY bad because WE are so GOOD."

Yes, good movies and fiction are better than bad movies and fiction (in theory, because of course, what is good for one person is bad for another) but you have to be careful with what you use for classification. The problem I see with the disuse of idealism is that then we become much more in danger of using it "badly", because if you're out of practice with an idea, obviously it's tough to tackle all of the other ideas that intersect with that idea and the ways they do so.

Example: it's perfectly fine to say that Ray Bradbury's work is better than Laurell K. Hamilton's: as long as you don't blindly insist that Bradbury's is better *because* he is Bradbury. In fact, coming full-circle, if you'll excuse me, I think not being careful to know of the personal principles your idealism is based on, is kind of where popular culture went wrong, and is what leads directly into the trap of bad idealism.

Aug 17, 06:22 by Robert Shelsky
I'm afraid I'm in total agreement with Mr. Frost on this issue. It seems as if more and more money is spent on blockbuster movies that have almost no plot, two-dimensional characters, and an endless exhausting string of mass destruction sequences. Spider Man? 100 million dollars or whatever to make, ten dollars to see, and when the comic book had more plot! And how about the two movies, Deep Impact, and Armageddon. Although neither in my opinion was fantastic, at least Deep Impact was believable in its science and characters. Armageddon was pure unadulterated eye candy, pathetic paper characters (Bruce Willis a hero just one more time -- whoopee!), and so bad on the science aspects that I had absolutely no willing suspension of disbelief. I mean, our space shuttles can't survive a piece of foam striking a wing, let alone boulders bouncing off them as they drive through a comet's tail! What are the shuttles in this movie, armor-plated humvees with wings? And all done in just a few short weeks (when everyone knows that's too late to do anything with regard to an approaching comet, except maybe to launch some hopeless missiles and kiss your butt goodbye). I mean, come on!

But this sort of thing goes on endlessly throughout Armageddon and movies of such ilk. Garbage, in my opinion! The same holds true for many other genres. I'm sick to death of supposedly suspense murder mysteries where person after person is butchered in tons of gore, and the plot sucks! I've turned more toward such older mysteries as "Poirot," "Morse," and others. For me, it is the cerebral idea of solving the mystery -- not seeing how many people can be splattered in how many different gruesome ways.

Are these movies something one shouldn't see? No, by all means, see them if you must, if you need a couple of hours of excitement in your life. But let's be honest and blunt here; they exercise the eyes and visceral emotions -- gut feelings of fear -- not the brains. In fact, judging by the shallow, superficial, jaded, and decadent things movies seem to be now, one should probably leave their brains at home. Too bad we don't have time travel, then we could just visit the gladitorial blood sports of ancient Rome and cut out the computer-generating middlemen. I understand admission to the colliseum was free, the blood, and spectaculars were real. One could then save their ten dollars and watch all the true gore they want! Of course, I wouldn't want to have to be on the cleanup crew. I understand the smell was quite awful in real life. Gritty reality versus computer generated tripe -- maybe, movie goers should learn the difference. Maybe, we should all ask ourselves why our lives require so much garbage in them? What are we lacking as a people that we have to fill it with such stuff? I wonder.

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