May 28, 2002
Mr. Karen and I took advantage of the holiday weekend to see both of this summer’s big movies, Star Wars: Episode II and Spider-Man. Spoilers are sure to follow, so look away now if you wish to remain in the dark. I’d certainly tried to stay spoiler-free before I saw them.
There was no way we were going to miss Episode II, no matter how bad it might turn out to be. It’s a spectacle, plus it’s part of a series that we got hooked into when we were impressionable teenagers. So off we went, and it was merely okay. Had the dialog and plot risen to the level of the CGI, it could have been a great movie. As it was, I had a hard time suspending disbelief. The biggest problem was I didn’t like the whiny teenaged Anakin. I couldn’t buy that now-Senator Amidala would fall in love with him, at least not based on what I was saw in this film. I also couldn’t buy that he is going to become my beloved Darth Vader from the original trilogy. I needed to be shown more and told less, especially given the often-awful lines the characters were given to say. That said, showing me Yoda in a light saber battle only amused me, rather than giving me a sense of how powerful a Jedi he was. Most of the audience I saw it with was giggling right along with me, too. It just seemed comical, maybe because it was too far removed from the Yoda I’d grown to know in the original trilogy—a stately power he had, never his mind on being hyperactive. I did appreciate a lot of the small touches, like he way one of Amidala’s approximately fourteen thousand hairdos foreshadowed Leia’s twin cinnamon buns style, but small touches alone are not enough to make me come back for a repeat viewing.
I liked Spider-Man a lot more. It wasn’t any less predictable than Episode II, but it was a lot more fun. Maybe that’s because my expectations were lower. I’m not a big reader of comic books, so my previous exposure to Spiderman was all from the kids cartoon show that was on when I was a girl. Over-the-top action violating some of the laws of physics was perfectly fine with me, since that’s the Spidey I know. I was having a little trouble buying Tobey Maguire as a high school kid, but no trouble buying him as Spiderman, especially since the movie showed his development from 90-pound weakling to superhero. Sure, there were a couple clunky notes, like the way James Franco’s character had a bandage over his sideburn after being injured in an attack by the Green Goblin, and Kirsten Dunst’s working as a waitress in a diner wearing strappy high-heeled shoes, but overall I was able to just sink in and enjoy watching the story unfold, and that’s the best kind of viewing experience.