Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Film Appreciation - Spidey / Nirvana / Zeppelin
Cody Hamman's Film Appreciation for Spider-Man spins off into a look back at the time in his life when the movie came out.
"Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale... if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied."
It's hard for me to believe that ten years have already passed since the release of the first big budget Spider-Man film. I had first heard that the movie was in the works about ten years before that, when I read in a magazine that James Cameron, fresh off of Terminator 2, might make it his next film.
As I mentioned in my post on the Ultimate Marvel Marathon, I've always loved comic books, especially the books and heroes of Marvel. Throughout my youth, I bought and read many issues of Spider-Man books and titles that featured him as a crossover character. I never subscribed to any of his titles because I was always put off from subscribing to the books of a character who had multiple series going, and Spidey has had a ton - Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man Unlimited, Sensational Spider-Man, the list goes on. Despite not subscribing, I was a big fan of the character, and was very interested in the idea of a Spider-Man movie. The possibility of getting one on a production level comparable to T2 sounded good to me.
Cameron wasn't the first filmmaker to be attached to do a cinematic version of the character, Spider-Man had been drifting around Hollywood for almost ten years prior to that, passing from the hands of Roger Corman to Golan/Globus and being worked on at different points by directors Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Joe Zito (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), and Albert Pyun (the 1990 Captain America), with many writers taking a pass at the script, including Ethan Wiley (House, House II: The Second Story) and F13: The Final Chapter's Barney Cohen.
Actor D.B. Sweeney has said that he signed on to star in the 1993 alien abduction movie Fire in the Sky because he had heard that a Spider-Man movie was in the works and he wanted to do an FX-heavy movie in hopes of being recognized as a potential Peter Parker. That plan didn't work out, because the iteration of Spider-Man he heard of was never made.
The Cameron project eventually fell apart due to financial and legal problems. Soon after, a dispute arose between Columbia and MGM over who really had the rights to make a Spider-Man movie, an issue that was resolved with MGM letting Spidey go to Columbia in exchange for some stray James Bond rights.
Columbia was given the go-ahead on Spider-Man in 1999, and go ahead they did. I was on the internet at this point and following the development through news site reports, often not enthused about what I was reading. There were filmmakers mentioned that I didn't trust, casting rumors that I didn't like.
Things didn't seem to be heading in an ideal direction for me, but then one day the clouds parted. On January 7, 2000, I checked AintItCoolNews to find out that Spider-Man was going to be directed by Sam Raimi.
This was huge. This was amazing. Raimi was a director I could trust, a director I could root for. A man who had started out making a very low budget horror movie in a countryside cabin - The Evil Dead, the movie that scared me worse than any other film ever had - and whose awesome visual style had now led him to the heights of making a big budget superhero blockbuster.
Raimi assembled a promising cast and soon a Spider-Man movie was actually, finally being filmed. Fellow Marvel properties Blade and X-Men had successfully paved the way for Spidey, and it seemed like it was happening at the perfect time. The pictures that leaked of an armored Green Goblin were a bit strange, but I could live with the look. The movie was set for release on May 3, 2002. I was very excited for it and was at the theatre opening day.
A couple hundred other people were also at the theatre to see that showing. Coincidentally, among them was my friend Noah, who I've known since kindergarten. I didn't expect to see him there, but I wasn't surprised. When we were kids, Noah was a bigger fan of Spider-Man than I was, he was a subscriber, Spidey was his #1 hero.
With our tickets secured and some time to kill before the show began, I accompanied Noah over to a nearby Taco Bell. We then returned to the theatre and took our seats in the sold out showing. An image of Spider-Man was on the large bag of popcorn we had and Noah asked if I had ever noticed that "Spider-Man shows metal every time he shoots a web." For a moment, I thought he was talking about the mechanical webshooters that I knew the film version would not have, the news of organic webshooters having caused an uproar online sometime before. Then I realized that by "metal" he meant the heavy metal horns sign of extended index and pinky fingers.
The movie began. It was everything that I wanted a Spider-Man movie to be. The cast was fantastic, I liked the representation of the characters, it was a great telling of the origin story that followed the comic's beginnings with some alterations that worked well, it had nods to classic moments, the effects were good, and it was a lot of fun.
Raimi had proven himself in the big leagues while still staying in touch with his roots, having Uncle Ben's car be the Oldsmobile Delta 88 that he had been putting in movies since The Evil Dead and casting Bruce Campbell as the ring announcer who names Spider-Man during the very funny and entertaining wrestling match sequence. Raimi's style and unique camera moves were a perfect match for Spidey.
I hadn't gone to the theatre with him, but Noah drove me home so we could spend an hour or so raving about the movie, how Raimi had pulled it off, how we now had a Spider-Man movie and it had been done right. This had been our childhood daydreams put on film and projected. We talked about the Campbell cameo, we liked Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, we had been blown away by J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons was the pleasant surprise of the film for me, because I was not familiar with him before this movie. During the casting process, I had gotten caught up in the fanboy dream casting of R. Lee Ermey as the character, but when Simmons reached the screen it was like JJJ had stepped right off the page.
The next day was prom, which I did not attend, but I did go to an after party that was being held on a girl's family farm, a large gathering around a campfire outside a little one-room cabin called Nirvana that sat at the edge of a field and a woods. Noah was at the party and our celebration of Spider-Man continued, as I had news to share with him - the movie had achieved the record of the biggest opening day of all time with $39.4 million, its second day was likely to break records (it did, the biggest single day of all time with $43.6 million), and it was probably going to be the first movie to ever make $100 million its opening weekend (it made $114.8 million.) Spider-Man was kicking ass.
I planned to see the movie again on the following Monday, May 6th. That day, I got horrible news that led to me making a great decision. Before my mom and I left for the theatre, my dog Katie, a red cockerspaniel, had an appointment at the veterinarian to check out a lump on her leg. It wasn't a big deal, she had this lump before and it had been removed, now it had just grown back. But this time it was a big deal. It had come back cancerous, and the vet said that she probably only had six months left to live. I was devastated.
We decided to still go to the movie. I needed to see it, it's a feel-good movie and I needed that to take my mind off the heartbreaking shock of the morning. The theatre was close to a pet store, and mom impulsively decided to stop at that store first. We had no intention of buying an animal there, we never had before, we were just there to look at them. Some people say you should never get a dog at a pet store, even if the store deals with local breeders, as this one did. They say that even if the dogs didn't come from a puppy mill, there's always something shady about them being there. But if I hadn't bought the dog I did from that pet store that day, I would've been deprived of knowing the most amazing dog I've ever met. There was a three month old dachshund in the store, his dapple coloring a mixture of black, white, and tan, and as soon as I saw this adorable little guy lift his white-streaked head when we walked past, it was a given that he would be going home with us.
We paid for the puppy before going to the theatre, and while waiting for the movie to begin, I thought about what I could name him. For one crazy moment, the thought of naming the dog Spider-Man crossed my mind. But no, that would be too weird. Led Zeppelin had become my favorite band in recent years and I was listening to their music almost exclusively around that time, so I then had the idea of naming him Zeppelin. That could work. And still wanting to give a nod to Spider-Man, I chose the name: Zeppelin Maguire. I also thought the dog might have the nickname "Doc", being a dachshund, but that never did get put to use. He's Zeppelin.
I enjoyed Spider-Man just as much the second time as I did the first time, maybe more. When the movie was over, we went back to the store and picked up Zeppelin. He instantly became my good buddy. Unfortunately, Katie's cancer spread very quickly and she went downhill fast. The vet had greatly overestimated with six months, in ten days it had already gotten too bad to put her through. I hated to lose Katie, and Zeppelin was a comfort to me during that time. I dug her grave, and as I got down on my knees to do the digging at one point, Zeppelin walked up and laid across the back of my legs. Zeppelin has been my best friend, my sidekick, my almost constant companion over the ten years since. He's a very smart, loyal, attentive, cool dog, who often acts like a little four-legged person. I named the dog Zeppelin after the band. If I ever have a son, I think I'm going to include Zeppelin in his name in honor of the dog.
Spider-Man came out during a very emotional time in my life, a time of change, turmoil, and heartbreak, when I lost a great dog and gained another, and I remember those days very clearly.
I still enjoy the movie and think it's great, and while the Raimi series has wrapped up and cinematic Spider-Man is being rebooted, this one and Spider-Man 2 will definitely always be my Spider-Man movies of choice, they both mean a lot to me.