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@Doug M.: No, the slow talky start is much less forgivable because it’s a sequel. The first one (which my daughter has requested several times, by the way, and sat all the way through–this isn’t about “superhero movies bore my kid”, this is about “this specific movie is boring when others aren’t”) has to set up who Peter Parker is, who Uncle Ben and Aunt May are, who MJ and Flash and Norman and Harry are, get Peter bitten by the spider, get him into the costume, get Uncle Ben shot, and get Norman into his costume before it can really get going. And yet, it generates more dramatic tension and is faster paced than its sequel, which only has to establish “Peter Parker is frustrated with his double life” and “Otto Octavius gets into an accident and his arms go all apeshit”.

And no, I don’t think it needs to be repeated again and again, because no, it’s not hard to believe. At the end of the first movie, Peter’s uncle is dead, his aunt is in the hospital, his best friend is estranged from him because he’s obsessed with the death of Peter’s surrogate father that Peter is forced to hide a terrible secret about, and oh by the way he didn’t even get the girl out of the deal because he’s afraid that loving her will put her in danger. I don’t think that after all that, people still need a full forty minutes of every single person in Peter Parker’s life telling him, one by one, that being Spider-Man is making his life harder. 🙂

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Drag Balls said on June 14th, 2011 at 2:05 am

I think the problem we’re having here is that you’re framing the whole thing in terms of, “my kid didn’t like it, therefore it has narrative flaws.”

The DVD collections of my under-10 relatives include both Chipmunk movies, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Marmaduke, both Scooby Doos, the complete Pokemon filmography, and the Clone Wars movie. Face it John, kids frequently enjoy media that are abysmal from an artistic standpoint. Not to mention that teenagers love Twilight, and I know Grown Ass Men who cite Transformers II as among their favorites. Film watching is, at some level a subjective experience, so that must play a role in our critical evaluation. At least refer to your own subjective experiences, though, don’t use the testimony of someone who may or may not like Care Bears more than It’s a Wonderful Life as the Revealed Truth from On High.

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Kids should absolutely have a right to watch a Spider-Man movie and be entertained by it. But they don’t (and shouldn’t) have a right to have *every* Spider-Man movie be made to entertain them.

It’s okay for someone to make a Spider-Man movie that a five-year-old doesn’t like but a thirty-five-year-old does.

Besides, it’s good for five-year-olds to learn that they don’t have to love every movie they see and declare it the best movie ever. Hell, there are some 35-year-olds who need to learn that lesson.

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I was interested to read this piece because earlier this year, I tried to use Spidey 2 to teach film techniques to my Intermediate English class of 16-year-olds. They were bored rigid by it.
Meanwhile, my junior pupils at 13-14 find superhero movies “childish and cheesy”. They roundly dismissed Thor for those reasons.

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Drag Balls said on June 14th, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Ah, 13 and 14. That magical age where everything is too childish for you, ’cause you’re all grown up now and shit.

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@Drag Balls: Not “my kid didn’t like it, therefore it has narrative flaws”. More like, “My kid didn’t like it in a way that reveals its narrative flaws.”

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I got bored halfway through watching Spider-Man 2 for the first time, and stopped because it was on cable and I had other things to do. But one thing I really liked was that it didn’t start off with a throwaway villain, and use that as an excuse to launch into 30 minutes of talking. That formula bugs the crap out of me.

take just one minute to think about the implications of trying to argue that kids should have no right to watch a Spider-Man movie and be entertained by it. Okay? Okay.

Speaking of formulae that bug the crap out of me! “If you think about my argument for even one minute, I’m sure you’ll realize I’m right without me actually having to advance a concrete argument.” So first, let’s try to reconstruct the implicit argument. I think it’s:

“Spider-Man is a character so beloved by children that any movie which features Spider-Man must cater to children of all ages; to do otherwise renders it a failure on some level.”

Is that close? So whose interests are you trying to protect, here? Certainly not the interests of creators who wish to use a popular character to tell a story; you’ve just shut down a lot of avenues for them.

Are you trying to protect children? What are you trying to protect them from? The disappointment of not having enough media available to entertain them? That seems unlikely. My best guess here is that you want to protect children from the heartbreak of learning that there’s a Spider-Man movie, being excited to see it, and then being bored halfway through. I’m totally uncertain why someone would want to protect children from ever learning that sometimes, things we want to be awesome turn out to suck, but maybe we can work with this.

Or perhaps you’re trying to protect Marvel? “Hey, Marvel – if you license this character to someone who wants to tell a boring story with it, you risk alienating people.” OK, we’ll give that a try, too.

On the “kids should be protected from being excited by a movie, and then disappointed” front, yeah, it does suck when a kid learns that a movie exists which features one of their favorite characters, and sets out to watch it and finds it doesn’t hold their interest. I’m still pissed off about the whole “Pink Panther” thing. But that’s just a thing that happens. How is that any worse than someone earnestly attempting to make a Spider-Man movie that appeals to children, and failing? We’re not talking about a Spider-Man movie that contains themes and concepts which are inappropriate for young children. (“Spider-Man vs. Caligula”) How, exactly, was the ProtoSeavey hurt by this experience? She started watching a movie, found it not to her tastes, and stopped. That’s how things ought to work!

So maybe you’re giving advice to Marvel, here. “If you produce one single bit of authorized Spider-Man media which doesn’t appeal to my five-year-old, you risk…” what, exactly? Making millions of dollars? Does your daughter now find the first movie to not be the best movie ever because the second one was so jarringly boring?

I guess the one possible risk is that they might make a bad movie, but as you said – it’s not “My kid didn’t like it, therefore it has narrative flaws.”

So tell me – what post would you have written if Marvel had produced a Spider-Man movie with a narrative that you approved of, but that nevertheless failed to appeal to your daughter? Who would actually be hurt by that?

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Loved reading this. When that movie came out, I was quite disappointed in it, but it seemed very few other people were. I just wanted someone to edit about 20 minutes of “woe is me” out of the middle. It had the bones of a great movie, but the editing of a crappy one.

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Halloween Jack said on June 18th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I agree that S-M2 probably isn’t the best superhero movie for a five-year-old, but I think that you’re kind of taking your critique to a bit of an extreme. Peter isn’t a “total loser”; he’s having trouble making ends meet and fitting the rest of his life around web-slinging, true, but he has the disadvantage of (as far as we know) being the only superhero in existence, and not being able to go to Captain America for a little pep talk. (Or a loan or straight-up grant; I always wondered why some of the richer superheroes, like Tony Stark, didn’t simply subsidize some of the independents like Peter, even if they weren’t in the Avengers.) Also, remember that part of the reason that Peter quit superheroing in S-M2 was that he was losing his powers and, again, didn’t have the option of having Richards take a look at him. Also, I saw Otto Octavius as being much more supportive than critical of Peter, pre-accident.

Me, as an adult, I kind of liked the fact that the movie spent some time on the characterization of the three main characters–Peter working out whether he can keep up all of his commitments; Harry trying to come out from under his father’s shadow, and putting all his chips on Octavius; Mary Jane dealing with her newfound fame and thinking that it might be time to ditch the boy next door. We knew that the big Spidey-vs.-Doc-Ock slugfests were coming because we saw them in the trailers, so it wasn’t so much of a thing to set up some character arcs (although I was disappointed a bit that we didn’t get Green Goblin Jr. until the third movie). The movie wasn’t perfect–that emergency-room murder scene was, for my taste, a little too derivative of the autopsy scene in Independence Day, and even the pizza delivery scene seemed like the work of someone who had clearly read Snow Crash–but I still think that it hangs together fairly well.

Besides, if the young adult angst bored your kid, couldn’t you just skip ahead to the fight scenes?

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Moral Man said on April 26th, 2013 at 4:47 am

I am nearing thirty and I found this movie to be even worse than the description above…

If that is not potential watcher then I guess I must be past the “prime audience”.

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