Spider-Man: Far From Home 4K UHD

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This is Wrong.

At the close of this film prior to the end-credits going up there is a dedication to the memory of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, co-creators of Spider-Man who both passed away before this film was released (I say ‘co-creators’ but it took several decades for Ditko to get his due, and even then grudgingly, I suspect, but Marvel and Hollywood caught up with the comic fans eventually).

Its a fine sentiment noting their passing, but the makers of this film needn’t have bothered, because the Spider-Man of this film has practically nothing at all in common with the Lee/Ditko comic-books of the 1960s. As a reader of the original Spider-Man comics of the 1960 and 1970s, its my biggest gripe with both this film, its predecessor and the recent Avengers films. This ain’t my Spidey. Indeed this film is more National Lampoon than Ditko-era web-slinging.

Before I get side-tracked waxing lyrical regards the miss-appropriation of cultural icons, I’ll happily concede that Marvel Studios is evidently updating the character/s of the comics for the benefit of contemporary social trends and to reflect our modern times. I will point out that to my mind, the best Superman movie is Richard Donner’s 1978 classic, simply because it remained mostly faithful to the original 1930s strips and maintained a sense of olde-Americana that possibly felt old-fashioned even in 1978, and stands far superior to the edgier/darker/slicker takes of the Man of Steel of more recent years. I’d also raise Rogue One as the best Star Wars film of the Disney era simply because it felt most like original Star Wars. Sure, you can move these franchises on, update them, but they should still feel authentic.

As a super-hero film, Far From Home is okay. Its funny, its efficient, its fairly-well  made barring its excessive reliance on CGI spectacle over old-fashioned drama, albeit unfortunately it has all the tension of an episode of Knight Rider…  Really, its nothing particularly special. Casting aside my chief gripe that it in no way resembles the Spider-Man of my youth, I’d just like to point out that it would be fairer to re title it Iron Boy: Far From Home, regards its endlessly irritating compulsion to reference his mentor Iron Man/Tony Stark, who sacrificed himself in Avengers: Endgame in episode 22 (?) of this Marvel Cinematic Saga (whatever happened to just making single movies?). As in the earlier Marvel Studios films featuring Spider-Man, I’m really bothered by this- in the comics, Spidey never needed a mentor.

spidey2
This is REALLY wrong: Spidey never got the girl. That was the whole point.

But hey ho, this is Spider Man 2019. So its funny, its energetic, its… its got more Spider-Costumes than Batman has gadgets in his utility belt. At one point Iron Boy leaps out of plane and a Spider-Chute bursts out of his ass, or something. What the hell has any of this film got to do with what Lee and Ditko were doing years ago? Not an awful lot.

Oh I don’t know. At least Homecoming had a decent bad guy. I’m not sure what this one has. This film’s Mysterio character feels as authentic as its Spider Man to be honest, and I never really accepted him or his team of stooges or the conceit of his staged ‘fake’ monster attacks. I suppose you either buy into all that holograms/drones nonsense (where so the sound effects come from?) or you don’t, and lets face it, modern audiences aren’t the kind to second-guess or think about anything they are watching as long as its big and loud enough to keep them away from their mobile smartphones. Its funny that we have a Nick Fury in this for the whole movie but it turns out he isn’t Nick Fury, as if it was a clever meta-statement on Spidey not being Spidey and Mysterio not being Mysterio. everything is some kind of doppelganger, an imperfect fake.  And don’t get me started on Marisa Tomei’s  ‘hot’ Aunt May, I still can’t get my head around that even after so many movies, nor the romance between her and Favreau’s ‘Happy’ Hogan. And everyone seems to know that Peter is Spider-Man, its almost an inside joke calling it a secret identity, as everyone who knows him figures it out, lessening the shock as it gets totally spilled in the movie’s cliffhanger ending to the general public. 

As regards the 4k UHD disc, the film looks gorgeous, truly spectacular. I may pick many faults with the film itself but I can’t really do so with this really impressive disc. The Dolby Vision HDR really gives the whole film a sense of  depth and the night-scenes in particular really do impress. Its a beautiful-looking film and a major positive for the format. So great disc, shame really about the film. Not a disaster by any means, but it sure as hell ain’t Spidey, not in my book. 

Shazam! 4K UHD

shazam1When I saw the first teaser/trailer for Shazam! some time ago, it certainly looked different- it was either going to be a blast or another Distinguished Calamity (see what I did there? I’ll go get my coat…), it was hard to tell which, but it was clear that this was no typical, formulaic superhero movie. Except of course it was, really.

But, I have to say, and much to my surprise, Shazam! is an absolute blast. Its great. It doesn’t really shake up superhero movies in anything like the same way as Deadpool pretended to (that film’s last third really just falling into standard genre tropes) but it’s genuinely great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it and its easily the best DC film I’ve yet seen. Indeed, it’s so much better than the lackluster and confused Captain Marvel.

Shaking off the darkness of the Dark Knight films or Man of Steel etc, this nonetheless finds what actually turns out to be a very surprising middle ground – sure, its as light as Spider Man: Homecoming or the Ant Man films, but somehow it also manages to have some genuine darkness in the mix. Its a story of two boys (Billy Baxter and Thaddeus Sivana), one of whom is an orphan, while the other might as well be as he is ridiculed and rejected by his father and elder brother. Both boys are summoned by ancient wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) who has spent years searching for someone pure of heart to take his place and protect the world from the Seven Deadly Sins. Thaddeus, tempted by the Deadly Sins, is deemed unworthy, and by the time Billy is tested years later, the Sins are on the loose (freed by a now-adult Thaddeus, played by Mark Strong) and Shazam, nearing death, is so weakened he has no choice but to pass on his powers and hope Billy will measure up. Billy is no boy pure of heart, living a rough life in and out of foster care whilst vainly searching for the mother who he lost (and actually deliberately deserted him, in another dark twist). Will Billy learn to control and use his powers for Good before Thaddeus, equally empowered by the monstrous Deadly Sins, hunts Billy down and claims the power of Shazam in order for the Sins to wreak havoc on the world?

shazam2Well you can guess how it goes, but the beauty of Shazam! is how it gets there. While young Billy is played very well by (Asher Angel) in a sympathetic and warm performance that grounds the character, his Shazam alter-ego, dressed in an oddly charming retro spandex suit complete with a very strange cape, is played brilliantly by Zachary Levi, who I thought was incredibly good in the tv series Chuck. Levi’s performance is like Tom Hanks in Big, here playing a kid in an adult superhero body and getting great comedy out of it, but genuine pathos too. In many ways he is a vulnerable innocent in just the same way as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in recent Marvel outings, and perhaps to a lesser extent Christopher Reeve’s 1978 Superman. Shazam spends most of his time with his foster home buddy Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) who, thanks to a fascination with superheroes, acts as Shazam’s advisor. Its two outsider kids against the world, sort of, in a rather intimate and personal superhero film with considerable heart.

Sure its not perfect, but it’s really quite close. It doesn’t degenerate into a huge CGI spectacle, there is a sense of reality to it in spite of its daftness, and all the characters are well-written and defined. There is a warmth and sense of fun to the film which is really refreshing, especially for a DC film. It doesn’t take itself at all too seriously, and yet maintains some real tension and drama. Its a great balancing act.

Better still, in 4K UHD, the film looks and sounds phenomenal. Its surprisingly reference material, with absolutely perfect use of HDR giving a sense of detail and depth that can be astonishing at times. The film mostly takes place near Christmas, with lots of seasonal lights outside and inside of homes that really pop, and a finale that takes place at a Winter Carnival that is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous throughout. This is a great Christmas movie (I didn’t see that coming). The CGI is more restrained than recent superhero ‘epics’ and is really photo-realistic in 4K, really benefiting from the HDR and wider colour gamut.

So yeah, thats me quite shocked, to be honest. I really didn’t think I would enjoy this anywhere near as much as I did. It certainly augurs well for the future direction of DC movies- well, I hope so, anyway. There’s plenty of room, surely, for both light and dark approaches to these costumed capers. After the deplorable Justice League I had absolutely zero interest in watching any further DC films, but this one has me turned around. Maybe I’ll have to get to Aquaman afterall.

1976, the Batmobile, A Star is Born, Jack Kirby and all that

1976 was a pretty good year. I was ten, buying four-colour Marvel comics voraciously; the American monthly comics (rather than just the UK weekly reprints) which were printed in runs for the UK market, being cover-priced in pence rather than cents (no idea if this meant the comics were/are worthless to collectors). It was the Bicentennial in America, something the comics were full of and which almost felt like a holiday/event for me too. Jack Kirby was drawing Captain America, full of patriotic Stars n’ Stripes and I almost felt more American than British (and of course the four-colour Anerica of the comics was a world away from living on a Council Estate in the Black Country in 1970s Britain).

Jack Kirby being back at Marvel was a big deal over the pond but I didn’t understand why, but I was loving his work on 2001: a Space Odyssey and The Eternals and the Black Panther, fantastic comics that exemplified all that was marvelous about Marvel, especially to a ten year old. It was also the year the film Logans Run came out, a film I would not see for a few years but I read the Marvel comic adaptation, which was really exciting and better than the movie, as it would turn out. Had great art by George Perez as I recall. His name is an indelible part of my childhood reading all those comics he drew for Marvel – I think he also worked on The Avengers comic and several others. Of course 1976 was the year of Howard the Duck running for president.

1976It was a long hot summer that year in the UK; we had a huge drought and terrible water shortages, but for a ten-year old lad it was fantastic, no rain, lots of play. The kids in my street had a fad for go-karts that summer and our parents built us go-karts; invariably deathtraps, really. Batman re-runs were on television that year and the kart my brother and I had was painted black and we called it the Batmobile. My Dad was no engineer and it was a shaking, rattling accident on over-sized pram-wheels just waiting to happen, which was a tad ironic- a lad up the street, Stuart, had a go-kart that was built like a tank, a beast of a wooden kart it looked like it would last forever, but we had an accident in it late one evening racing down a steep alley near our school entrance and he lost some of his teeth (it was the same alley down which I would later break my arm skateboarding, but that was another craze in another year). His go-kart of course was in better shape than he was. If he’d had the crash in our Batmobile it would have been in pieces everywhere, but our Batmobile actually lasted the summer, somehow, and whenever I think about the Adam West show, my thoughts often turn to that rattling Batmobile and I wonder that it didn’t kill or maim me.

So why do I write about 1976? Well, two things really. Partly it’s because I watched the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga film A Star is Born yesterday, which triggered a conversation regards the two earlier film incarnations from 1954 and 1976 neither of which which I’ve seen (I didn’t even realise there was an original 1937 film until I checked). My mother-in-law recalled the 1954 film starring Judy Garland very well, but other than a song I think all I remembered of the 1976 film was a review of the 1976 version commenting on the dire hands of megalomaniac star Barbra Streisand and producer boyfriend Jon Peters ruining it. The new version thankfully isn’t the disaster that 1976 film apparently is, I’ll perhaps post a review soon (A Star is Born perhaps isn’t the usual kind of film I’d watch, but it was Claire’s birthday yesterday…).

marv1But as usual, I digress. The other thing that has me reminiscing about 1976 is that I recently read a fascinating book by Sean Howe, Marvel Comics- The Untold Story, which for an old Marvel kid like me, proved to be a sobering read, confirming all sorts of tales and comments I’d read/heard over the years.  When you’re seven or ten or thirteen, you don’t care about the real-world stories behind the comics, you’re just loving the comics, but it’s pretty shocking in places what went on behind the scenes. It would make for a brilliant movie, but I doubt Marvel Studios would be keen on seeing that in multiplexes- which is a pity, it’s a very human story behind those four-colour daydreams of my childhood.

The crux of the issue is what became known as ‘the Marvel Method’ which I assume infers that those DC comics that I never read were created in some other way. How Marvel did it, was that Stan Lee, usually attributed the title of creator and writer of the comics, assigned plot summaries to artists like Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four) or Steve Ditko (Spider-Man) and they would go away to plot and pencil the comic. When this artwork returned, Lee would then write dialogue over their work. Now, when I was kid reading those UK reprints of the 1960s Spider-Man, I always assumed Lee wrote the stories in detail and that Ditko just drew what Lee thought up- but of course this was far from the truth. In penciling the layouts and pages the artist was responsible for the pacing of the narrative and the details of the heroes battles with the bad guys. Indeed, pretty much the whole actual story beyond the rough plot outline from Lee. In the case of the Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby got increasingly disheartened by being given what he saw as insufficient credit. In one often cited example, an increasingly sidetracked Lee (remember he was writer/editor of the majority of the Marvel line) gave Kirby the premise “the Fantastic Four fight God” and Kirby came back with the classic saga of Galactus the World Eater and the Silver Surfer, characters who went on to become major figures in the Marvel Universe, in an epic story that still gives me tingles thinking back on it (it’ll be a great movie one day, no doubt).

Like Kirby, Ditko (something of an odd character himself, truth be told) got into an increasingly bitter feud with Lee over his work on the title and left the Amazing Spider-Man comic and Marvel altogether – Ditko’s run on the comic regarded as the classic defining run of the comics history. Lee of course would continue to be considered the creator of Spider Man and the web-slinger would go on to make Marvel a fortune, and millions for the film studio when the later films came out… but not for Ditko.

Kirby had long battles with Lee and Marvel for recognition of his own work in creating stories and characters, and this long-running saga is infamous in the industry. Marvel treated artists as ‘work for hire’ and held that their art was owned by the company- by the late 1960s it became increasingly obvious that the real value of the artwork wasn’t actually in the comics but was in the licensing and merchandising of the content of the comics, revenue that Marvel earned but the artists didn’t. Kirby fought for years to get his artwork back, seeing it used on tee-shirts and toys and other merchandise and himself not earning a dime. Disney later bought Marvel for $4 billion and would go on to make billions of dollars from a line of movies based directly on Jack Kirby’s work of the 1960s.

The thing that struck me most though from reading the book- whatever the details of his creator credentials, it’s clear that Stan Lee saw the future for Marvel’s roster of superheroes, and it resided in Hollywood, and the movies we watch today. He spent years out in LA trying to get studios onboard with making films of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four etc. All of the 1970s, pretty much, and into the 1980s. The studios just didn’t get it. Ironic, now, considering how much the Marvel Studios output is dominating the movie industry (news broke this past weekend that Avengers: Endgame may finally have surpassed Avatar at the global box office and become the biggest film of all time). I suppose that film technology had to catch up with the wild four-colour fantasies of those Marvel artists. But Stan Lee saw it. For years he just couldn’t sell it. He must have felt so vindicated after all those years when they took over the world’s cineplexes.

Sean Howe’s book is a great read and I recommend it to anyone even mildly interested in the real history of Marvel and its creations. For readers of those comics, especially those of the 1960s and 1970s, the book is essential reading.

 

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

verse1Some have described this as the best Spider-Man film yet. I’m not so sure about that- I suppose that really depends upon your own history with the character, which has been in print now for over fifty years. For myself, well I read the run from 1963 through to the late ‘seventies, from the Ditko years through to the Romita and Andru years and all had their own pros and cons. For myself, the definitive Spider-Man would be one set during the 1960s, like an episode of Mad Men sprinkled with Ditko’s noir-ish sensibilities, full of period songs and stylish fashion and design. Something like the Batman tv show but done all adult and serious. Clearly, thats never likely to happen, and Spider-Man films are made for today’s readers carrying all the baggage of the 1980s run to the present, which I’m utterly ignorant of (hence my rather clueless bemusement of the Venom film and a strange distance from much of what goes on in recent Spider-Man films- a young ‘hot’ Aunt May? Wtf?).

But you never know- if there’s one thing that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse demonstrates, anything can happen.  Quite a few times while watching the film I had to ask myself if this thing was real, where it had possibly come from. Its an exciting, exhilarating, breathlessly entertaining and imaginative slice of comic-book joy. Its an absolute blast. Back when the film was announced, I wondered what the hell they were thinking of (maybe my thoughts were shadowed by memories of that awful cheesy Spider-Man animated show of the 1960s) but this thing… well, it’s quite gorgeous, and it has a witty script… its great, a real treat. Its a slice of genius really, how it manages to press some kind of ‘reset’ button on everything that’s come before it, and make everything seem so new again- it does make me wonder, infact, where the live-action Spidey movies go without seeming old-fashioned and almost redundant. I’m quite ignorant of the character of Miles Morales having his own comic-book series but I gather he does, no doubt part of all the mythology in the comic I’ve missed since I stopped reading it decades ago. I have the feeling that I had the Spider-Man of my generation, that we deserved back then, and it’s somebody else’s now. I’m fine with that, and while I’d not really be interested in reading the current comics, it’s fun to watch something like this and get a glimpse.

I’d also love to read a Spider-Man Noir book (at last Nicolas Cage is brilliant again, who’d have guessed his true destiny was self-deprecating voice casting? His career could be revitalised for years). This guy deserves a spin-off movie… but then so does Spider-Gwen; it’s part of the genius of this film, how it can appeal to so many different groups of people not naturally ‘into’ the usual Spider-Man.

Did I say it was gorgeous? Its like one of those old Motion Comics (remember them? I tried watching the Watchmen one and retired to the original book in confusion), but on steroids. Its breathtaking really, riddled with all sorts of clever touches, whether it be squiggles or comic panels and lettering, different styles, as if somehow a comic-book drawn by different artists was brought to animated life by some kind of Frankenstein cine-sorcery. I’m sure having only seen it once there’s all sorts of touches/details/geek easter-eggs (I spotted a few) that I’ll pick up on repeated viewings. Its wild and nuts and beautiful.

Its funny, DC could have done something like this with its Batman series- have the old matinee-serial b&w Batman meet up with the Adam West Batman and the Michael Keaton Batman etc. Its a funny thing how even the movie mythologies of these comic-book characters are as convoluted as the original comic ones are. I guess it’s all those years, decades going by.

Into the Spider-Verse almost makes all those reboots and remakes make sense. Maybe it’s making some kind of commentary on the industry and how all these franchises twist and turn in an effort to keep themselves relevant and topical, and, er, make lots of money. I suppose a sequel would be almost an afront, like selling-out almost..

 

Venom (2018)

venom1I liked it. I think. Well, it was that old chestnut of ‘reduced expectations’ again- I gather from when the film originally came out at the cinema that the critics were not at all impressed, nor some of the comic book fans, really. Regards the fans, I can’t really comment, as I know nothing of the original comics, so I’m likely not best suited to comment on the film anyway. Although I’m a huge Spider Man fan, having grown up in the 1970s reading the weekly UK reprints of all the 1960s/1970s American comic books (from the Steve Ditko era through John Romita and to the Ross Andru years- I guess that’ll only mean anything to older comics readers, so hey ho) I’m not familiar with anything of the 1980s onwards. Venom, I gather, is a huge fan-favourite Spider Man spin-off but I have no idea how faithful this film is or how many liberties it has taken.

I gather it got some flack from fans for not being an R-rated picture, as the original comic book would apparently lean more towards more of a Deadpool-type adaptation- seriously violent and graphic and foul-mouthed. This is clearly not that kind of movie, and while it’s not a PG Deadpool kind of situation, I think that it strangely disturbs even more. This film is surprisingly violent and even drops at least one F-bomb, but to manage the more kiddie-friendly certificate (it landed with a 15 rating) it seems to show the violent acts but not the results. Venom is seen throwing a SWAT team through walls and in the air etc which likely leaves the guys crippled and dying painful deaths but we don’t see those consequences of Venoms actions- I think he bites heads off at times but without hardly any gore etc. I don’t know why, but that actually makes the film seem worse than Deadpool in some ways, as if its unintentionally showing the action in some kind of painless videogame kind of context which does more harm than good.  Which makes me wonder, are comic book films such as this more of a danger to kids watching them (lets face it, now it’s in the home domain this film will be watched by 8-year olds or younger still) precisely because its showing violence as entertainment and even as something funny but without showing the outcome of that violence?

I’m likely just ignoring/misremembering how violent most comic-book films are in general, but something just feels off about Venom.

Maybe that’s another discussion. I just mention it because I had to look at the certificate of the film as I was watching it. The violence doesn’t feel as intense as, say, it did back in Blade Runner even back in 1982 but I can imagine an extended, rawer cut being released showing all that gore and battered twisted body parts and the film being a different beast entirely, but also maybe that would be more honest? At any rate, the film made a fortune at the box-office in spite of critics panning it so the film-makers succeeded in what they were attempting, financially anyway.

To me, the film was some strange, daft comic book flick possibly leaning more towards the campiness of 1960s Batman than the usual Marvel film does – I suspect that was a way to dilute the darkness of the character but it does make the whole feel odd, really. I did enjoy Tom Hardy, he brought an awful lot to the character he played and is a huge part of the film’s success- I certainly doubt I would have enjoyed the film at all with someone else starring in it. I wonder what the film might have been like with a big brash pop score like Queen’s Flash Gordon, for instance (“Venom! Ahhh-ahhh! He’s come to devour us!”) – that would have been wild.

Oh well. I kind of enjoyed Venom– certainly well worth a £1.99 rental. Which is likely deservedly damning it with faint praise, but there you go…

…and another…

ditko.jpgWoke up this morning to more sad news; the American comicbook artist Steve Ditko, co-creator of Marvel’s Spider-Man, has passed away at the age of 90. Its the kind of news that can’t help but colour the remainder of the day.

By all accounts, Ditko was something of a recluse who shunned publicity and harkened from a time when artists and creators were ill-rewarded for their work- his creation of Spider-Man in the 1960 with Stan Lee should have made him fabulously rich, but didn’t (Marvel of course has gone on to make a fortune from the character over the decades from the comics, merchandising and movies). Ditko also co-created Doctor Strange, and I noted with some satisfaction that the recent Doctor Strange movie had visuals that referenced the trippy images that Ditko conjured up for that comic. Like a lot of comic artists of that era (Kirby, Buscema, Kane, Colan etc) Ditko had a unique visual style all his own.

Ditko’s original Spider-Man strips are likely the definitive Spider-Man (although as I grew up I preferred the John Romita period for the more ‘sophisticated’ stories of their time, today the DItko era is clearly the most evocative). If I find time today I will reach for my Marvel Omnibus of the Amazing Spider-Man that features Ditko’s run on the strip and re-read one of those glorious issues that I loved so much as a kid reading the British reprints in the early 1970s.

But yes, sad news, and again, as I noted in my previous post, another great icon/name of my youth and cultural-scape has passed. I know its an inevitable side-effect of my own ageing, but it remains awfully depressing that so many of them are fading away. Two consecutive posts such as this are lousy reasons to write here, and I sincerely hope a third is a long time in coming….

My Favourite Web-Slinger

spidey 60Go back some 43 years, and early on a Saturday morning you’d find me lying awake in bed waiting for the familiar noise of a delivery through the letterbox. It was a regular routine, every Saturday through most of my childhood. The rest of the house would be asleep, enjoying a lie-in at the start of the weekend, and I’d usually be awake, light dimly streaming through the curtains, waiting for that noise. I’d hear the swing of the letterbox flap, the sound of the morning newspaper and my Spider-Man comic being pushed through and finally falling to the hallway floor with a dull thud. With that, I’d get out of bed and silently, oh so carefully (woe I woke my parents!) creep down the stairs trying to avoid the creaky spots, go down to the front door, pick up the latest issue of my favorite comic and return upstairs for a read.

I remember how crushing it would be, those rare weeks that only the newspaper was delivered, and my comic missing/delayed. Upset my whole weekend. Was I ever that young, life ever so simple, days so easily crushed?

Spider-Man Comics Weekly was a UK b&w comic that reprinted the American original The Amazing Spider-Man- the first issue of the UK reprint came out in February 1973 (free Spider-man mask that didn’t really resemble the free gift in the tv ads), and it continued into the ‘eighties. I think I read it until about 1980; sometime after the original mag’s Ross Andru run the quality seemed to fall off dramatically and I’d finally grown out of it- remember Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns were several years away, but I’d already been reading 2000 AD and enjoying it’s harder, more grown-up stories. But during the 1970s that weekly ran through all the Steve Ditko run, the John Romita period and into the Ross Andru years- what an astonishing run that was, with the advantage of weekly installments racing through the original monthly run of four-colour comics.

omni 3Why do I mention all of this? Well, the other day my copy of The Amazing Spider-Man Marvel Omnibus Vol.3 was delivered. This fantastic book reprints issues 68 – 104 of the original monthly edition. This period is probably my favourite period of all the Web-Slinger’s adventures. While I will naturally always love the Steve Ditko years, it was this period, with artwork by John Romita, John Buscema (my favourite comic artist) and Gil Kane, that seemed to feature the strip all grown-up and sophisticated. The artwork was wonderful, and the stories brilliant- the Kingpin, the Green Goblin, Dr Octopus, the ‘drugs’ issues, the death of Captain Stacey… these were the issues that blew me away, and being able to own them in this luxury hardcover is like being ten years old again.  Indeed, sometimes I think we never really grow up. I cannot express the joy of reading strips I have not read in decades and yet remember as if I only read them yesterday, they were so burned into my subconscious. I think I forgot how much of a big deal/real love they were to me, those Marvel comics in the 1970s, and of course, to be able to read them in their original colour format, with the original letters pages, is something of a wonder.

So now I have the three Spider-Man Omnibus volumes, and all those original issues from issue 1 through to 104 with annuals etc in between. Hopefully volume 4 will follow in a few years, with the death of Gwen Stacey and through to the Ross Andru era. One day I’ll sit down and read them through and it’ll be like some kind of microcosm of my childhood. But this book, volume 3, is really something special- I’m sure my eyes must light up with the joy of my childhood self as I read it. No, we really don’t ever grow up, not if we’re lucky.

Spidey to suffer ANOTHER reboot?!

Oh, No! Not AGAIN!!!
Oh, No! Not AGAIN!!!

Well it seems a surprise but maybe it shouldn’t be. Rumours seem to be circulating that Sony is intending to give Spider-Man another reboot. The fact that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made less box-office than its predecessor seems to have gotten the executives nervous.

For myself, well, I had problems with the film (as my review last month will testify) but there was still much to like in the film, particularly Andrew Garfield’s performance and the films take on Spidey in action (especially in the first half). The problem with the film was its mad fascination with franchise-building, simply unnecessary back-story and seeding numerous villains for a Sinister Six spin-off. If only Sony had tried to just make a single good movie rather than a launchpad into other films/stories. No doubt they were enviously looking at what Marvel Studios have been up to and wanted more of the same. This is the most irritating thing about trilogies/sagas- if they end up aborted (Golden Compass, I’m looking at you) then it undermines the individual films and all that went into them.

I find it extremely irritating that rather than own up to their mistakes and make a good ‘proper’ Amazing Spider-Man 3 with maybe one genuine villain (Dr Octopus, please stand up) and the good things from the second film (i.e. Garfield), it looks like we are going to be getting another reboot, complete with yet another tiresome origin story and romance arc (this time Mary Jane again?).

Nothing has been confirmed as yet, but signs do look ominous for anyone who wanted to see what happened next after the second Amazing film. Maybe a Spectacular Spider-Man trilogy instead? Poor Spidey- he deserves so much better…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

AMAZING-SPIDERMAN-2There’s a point early on in this film, where Spidey is swinging around, joins a police convoy to halt a robbery and is wise-cracking away with the same high-octane energy and wit as the onscreen delirious stunts and effects wizardry, that I really felt they had cracked it. This was the hero I used to love back in the 1970s reading all those weekly UK reprints of the 1960s original classics.  Pete Parker may have been a bit of a nerd/geek loner  with troubles and woes aplenty (even if he did really get the girl, which we real-life nerds/geeks rarely did) , but once he donned that red and blue costume he was off having fun, doing good, living every young boys dream. Spider-Man has always been an escapist fantasy, a super-hero romp with teen angst but loads of exciting adventure. The Daily Bugle and most of its readership may have thought of the web-slinger as a vigilante and troublemaker, but we readers knew better. He was doing good, and free of his Pete Parker persona/life troubles, as Spidey he was having a ball while he was doing it. And damn if the first twenty minutes of this film don’t just nail it to perfection. Its great. But then they have to spoil it by adding the most uninteresting and downright annoying villains you could imagine, whilst shoving in the most shockingly blatant Sony product-placements just about everywhere (even throwing in a Sony laptop into a flashback sequence of a time when, er, did laptops even exist?).

But the villains kill it, which is ironic as they apparently take centre-stage in the next film, The Sinister Six. I mean, come on, a Robo-Rhino? Another villain like Spiderman 3’s Sandman, here Electro, that isn’t really a bad man rather than a victim of ill-luck? What’s wrong with bad guys being, like, genuinely evil/ bad to the bone? Is this some kind of modern-day PC thing, bad guys can’t really be all-bad? And how is it that after so many attempts, not once have any of these films done the Green Goblin justice? I loved the character in the original comic, he was Spidey’s nemesis, like Dr Who’s Daleks or Superman’s Lex Luthor. He was evil, crazed, egomanical… never was he a guy in a military suit of powered armour  or a teen green with envy. I don’t know, maybe you just can’t translate these guys to the silver screen.  Or maybe only Marvel Studios really knows how to do it. I still think that translating those 1960s stories and characters into the modern-day world doesn’t really work, and that updating them into our world betrays them somehow, loses their original magic. There is a reason that Richard Donner’s Superman had an origin of midwest 1940s Americana; it faithfully translated the characters depression-era origins, the non-cynical simpler days of an America long gone. Man of Steel brought the character to our times and it lost all its charm. That seems to be happening to Spider-Man.

But anyway, I’m starting to sound like some kind of crazy nerd having a geekasm. Fortunately I’ve got two weighty Marvel Ominbus volumes (one of the Lee/Ditko run, the other a big slice of the Lee/Romita run) of The Amazing Spider-Man to retreat to, and try to forget these last five attempts at bringing him to the silver screen ever happened.