Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Together at Last! Disney and Star Wars

Signing over Lucasfilm for more money than you can imagine
Announced just yesterday, Disney has acquired Lucasfilm. This is pretty big news in the nerd universe… but there are a few questions that come to mind. First of all, what does this mean for Star Wars? To begin with, this means that we’re having more Star Wars films. That’s right, it has already been announced that there will be a Star Wars Episode VII to be released (hopefully) sometime in 2015. Traditionally, Star Wars films are released in May, so we can expect a release around that time. Other than this, however, what does it really mean? I think the most important question to answer is: Is this good for Star Wars?

What’s interesting to me about this entire acquisition is that George Lucas has allowed it to happen at all. Historically speaking, GL has been reluctant to release any kind of control over his intellectual Property. Why else would he have been involved in everything released by Lucasfilm from the very beginning? I can’t say as I blame the man, considering his history with film making. However, when I looked further into it, I didn’t expect to see a pretty candid video interview with George and current Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. In this interview, George makes the comment that he wants to retire from film making (I think with the assumption that he wants to do other things). What this seems to tell me is that the man is tired of running a pretty big corporation, tired of making films… maybe the man is tired of all the scrutiny he gets put under? With a franchise as beloved as Star Wars, it’s no wonder he might be fed up with the idea of a million voices crying out in anger every time he does what he feels is right. I mean, it’s his baby after all. This is illustrated very clearly when George talks about why he wants Disney to own his company… he wants the big brother Disney to protect his baby, Lucasfilm. I think it’s rather telling how precious this company, this I.P., these characters, and this universe are to him. He’s willing to do the one thing he never thought he’d do, let someone else take care of it. From watching this interview (which I thoroughly recommend) it seems pretty clear to me that George isn’t completely comfortable with the idea. Take a look at the man’s body language… in a private interview, he’s playing with his hands, he’s fidgeting in his seat, and he’s reluctant to make much eye contact. It looks like the man is uncomfortable. My inference is that it’s about this decision, a huge one for his company. I believe the man wants to see this thing he created continue long after him. The best way he knows to do this is to give it to a company that’s “too big to fail.”

The second question that I will try to discuss… is this good for Star Wars. Ultimately, I think that it is absolutely good for Star Wars. In my world, more Star Wars is always better. Yes, I think that the prequel trilogy falls under this category (this coming from a guy with 3 signed Star Wars novels on his bookshelf, a Star Wars lunch box, and (the coup de grace) Star Wars bed sheets… I’m 28, why do you ask?). To really tackle this question, there are a few different things that I really think I have to address: what kind of films can we expect to come from this; how will this interact with the hundreds of novels that have been written; and what kind of involvement will Disney have?

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Pres. of Lucasfilm
To address the first point, yes we are going to expect more films. With Lucasfilm, any film they produce seems to be gold. Considering that the worst of these films has returned over $50 million (with a $9 million budget), I’d say that’s proof enough. There’s an article here (via Cinema Blend) where the author, Eric Eisenberg, comments that the franchise may be beyond redeeming. This statement is just wrong. In fact, it’s so wrong, that I’m certain it was said just to raise a ruckus. Is this writer somehow shielded from the internet so much that he’s never seen the hordes of people whose fandom is so keen that they cosplay at public events? Or is he so ignorant that he doesn’t know that there’s a thriving TV show out there currently? The statement is so blatantly ignorant, I’m thinking it was said to be deliberately inflammatory, but I digress. The question of what kind of films can we expect… is a really dicey one. I’m not certain that anyone knows the material this next episode will cover. It’s being said in very unreliable sources that it will have to be about the continuation of Luke’s story. Personally, I’m not certain this is the best idea. Originally, the story of Star Wars was about Darth Vader and his growth and change into (and then out of) a Lord of the Sith. However, there is talk already of writers having being hired to work on a new story and script (from the mouth of Kathleen Kennedy herself!). What this means is that George Lucas isn’t writing the story himself, nor is he directing these films. From some of the other places I’ve read, he still retains creative input. This is the best of all possible situations. Where the prequel trilogies were particularly weak was with the minor plots and the dialogue. The hope is that these things issues will be much better in a story written by professional writers. Since George Lucas can focus on storytelling, where he seems to really shine, that means a new movie could be on par with the original trilogy. It’s something to think about.
In my second point, I asked the question of how this will affect the Star Wars Expanded Universe. This is a very sticky situation to really discuss because it is based on several assumptions. For starters, we need to know if the films will be based on any of the novels that are out there, or if it will be all new material. On the one hand, being based on the novels isn’t necessarily a bad idea. In particular, there are the stories written by Timothy Zahn that shine above all others. His trilogy is really what made Star Wars novels a thing. However, the ages of the original actors and those characters in these novels won’t mesh, meaning that we’d have to tolerate new actors. It seems to me that people aren’t really that keen on the thought. However, there is a novel series wherein the actors are much closer to the ages of the characters. The series, called Legacy of the Force, takes place in a time when Leia, Luke, and Han have suffered and experienced so much in their lives that we probably wouldn’t recognize them anymore. What’s more, anyone who hasn’t read any of the novels would have virtually no clue what these people are talking about. I mean… do any of you know who Jacen is and why it’s bad that he’s a new Sith Lord? For the vast majority of you, this doesn’t mean anything. However, this raised the other question: should these movies be made off of new source material? Speaking from a historical standpoint, the new movies have not been based on any of the significant amount of material that was already in existence. Instead, George Lucas has gone and written his own stories completely independent of what’s written in the “Expanded Universe.” This makes any discussion of Star Wars cannon very dicey. In addition, by taking an action such as this, he wipes out tons of work by many people, making it obsolete. While I understand that it’s his universe and he can do with it whatever he damn well pleases, it can make for some frustrating times for those of us that love the universe so much we memorize names of Star Destroyers (those big triangle-ships from the Empire). Seriously, something called the Executor is really quite awesome… I digress. Ultimately, I think it’s a safe assumption that these new movies will be entirely new material. Already we have a historical basis for this happening. Not just that, some of the book material would be difficult to really film. My suspicion is that the original actors will fill in for minor roles, but the movies will be about other people. This could be very interesting. My hope is that they will do something similar to Tron, and make it a legacy story about passing the torch. How exciting!
The coolest Disney castle?
 The final point I made was in raising the question of what kind of involvement Disney will have. I remember years ago when Disney acquired another property pretty highly regarded. Some of you may have heard of it, it’s called Marvel. When this happened, there was a lot of speculation about various cross-overs… and it was all great fun. However, Disney ultimately gave us Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Avengers. I’d say that they pretty well established that they’re not messing around with the IP. It’s almost like Disney saw an opportunity in these franchises and gave them plenty of space to ensure magic happened… huh. Additionally, Disney happens to own Pixar, another company you may have heard of. All I really need to say is that, if Disney owns a company like Pixar, where their worst feature is probably Cars, I’m pretty sure we have nothing to worry about. So why are there still questions being asked, and comments like “I’d just as soon [Disney] let Star Wars die off…” by very intelligent people? I think people are a little heartbroken over the prequel movies and the various changes that Lucas has made to the originals. It’s true that some of those changes are a little silly (eye lids… really? That’s something we should sink $800K into), but the vision that Lucas had isn’t the Star Wars people remember… I think people will always remember the impact these movies had in their originally released forms, and how powerful that was. Basically… get over it, you’re getting more, and it will be better.
To conclude, I would just like to say that I think this is the best possible situation for the Star Wars name and franchise. In a situation where George Lucas is a creative consultant (maybe even creative lead), not writing the dialogue (where he is probably a little weak), and not in charge of direction, there are only good things that can come from this. When I think about it, it seems to me that this Kathleen Kennedy person is very smart, and knows her trade. She’s smart enough that George has given her his full support. In the end, I’m very excited for what this means. I can assure all of you that I will be paying attention to the coming developments.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boardgame Roundup: Small World and Gears of War

          This weekend I had the pleasure of a visitation from old friends. Among the activities in which we partook, board games were the most prominent. I finally had the chance to play some board games that I purchased a while back. Before, I bought them because I played them and had fun, but since I didn’t have a regular group to play with, I didn’t know the rules. Now, I made the time to learn the rules so that I could play with my friends James and Jen when they came to visit. Among the games were two that you probably have not heard of: Small World and Gears of War the board game.

Small World
 Small World is a game set on a fictional world where there are several races from which you can choose to play. You get to play on 4 predetermined maps that are designed based on the number of players the game supports, 2-5. The game operates similar to risk in that you are given a number of armies, and the objective is to conquer land with those armies at the cost of a certain number of units per territory (usually no dice are rolled). As you conquer more territory, you earn more victory points toward your total point score, which determines the winner. Since there are around 10 turns per game, strategy plays an important role in how you play. In each of the games I’ve played, the world has looked very different even if the map was the same. This variety is thanks to the number of races from which to choose.
A few races and powers...

A game of Small World

Without expansions, Small World has 14 races to choose from that can be coupled with any 1 of a total of 20 special powers that will augment that race for as long as they remain active on the board. For the original game, there are currently 3 expansions which offer additional races. These give anywhere between 2 and 5 additional races with a combination of anywhere between 2 and 5 additional special powers. If you purchase all of these expansions for your game, it leaves plenty of variety in the game. While I have seen repeats of some of the races, I’ve never seen a race and special power combo twice. This leaves each of the games as fresh, and I find that people get really interested to see what the next combo is going to be. In addition to the official expansions, there is a secondary stand alone game that can be purchased called Small World: Underground. This edition of the game comes with 15 races and 21 special powers. Also, this edition contains a few new items called places and relics that offer additional bonus powers.

For our first game of 3 players (2 of them new), it lasted around an hour, including the time it took to teach them the basics and let them figure out the strategy. By the end of the game, and that hour, the new people had mastered the game enough that we could dive into a second game with very little discussion. In addition, by the end of the first couple of games, both James and Jennifer really enjoyed the game and are planning on purchasing it themselves. It’s fairly high praise for the game when two new people enjoyed it enough that they’ve already put it on their Christmas list. For a thorough review of the game, go here.
With all of this being said about the game, I would like to say that I find this game very enjoyable. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with friends. In a good way, a single game won’t last an entire day like with other games. This allows for plenty of socializing on the side, which makes it great for small gatherings. At the moment, I am planning on picking up some/all of the expansions to this game. Originally, I was introduced to this game by my former roommate Alex and his friends Chris and Mai. If any of you people are fans of board games, this is a great addition to your collection. It’s not as simple as games like Sorry and Chutes and Ladders, but it’s simple enough that you can master the game in no more than a few playthroughs. I recommend this game whole-heartedly.
Gears of War the Board Game

A number of years ago, Epic Games released a video game entitled Gears of War. This was one of those rare games that become popular enough through a unique (sic unique enough) style of game play that resulted in it becoming instantly huge. Since then, they’ve spawned a number of video game sequels, comic books, etc. Among the franchise is this gem of a board game.

The game comes with over 300 cards, a number of map tiles, a number of tokens, and 30 plastic figures. For me, this game has punched just about all the buttons of things I look for in a board game. I love games in which I can paint my own miniatures, I love games that have cards that help randomize what is going on, and I particularly love games with a cooperative focus. There are so few games that are legitimately cooperative, but this is one of them. Other games come close, but few of them require team work in order for you to win the game. This game is for anywhere between 1 and 4 players, and the scenarios get much more difficult with additional players.

Bad guys!

Painted Heroes
The cards for this game are for setting up the scenario, “drawing” the map, determining the enemy’s actions, and for drawing orders and weapons. Each turn is broken down into 3 steps: healing (drawing cards), giving orders (playing order cards), and the enemy turn (drawing an enemy AI card and performing its actions). We played the simplest scenario of the game, which is based around escaping a prison in which all the figures are trapped. Despite this being the simplest scenario, we still barely succeeded in our mission. The figures for this game really spice up how it looks visually. There are 30 plastic figures that are very well sculpted; 4 of them are for the hero characters (each of them is a different sculpt), and the rest are for the various types of enemies you must fight. The board is made out of thick card stock with a glossy print finish. Each of the map tiles comes double sided with its own designation (and they’re not the same size tiles either!). These map tiles all have their own cards to which they are associated, and this allows for each game having a randomized map.

A game in progress... basic scenario

When setting up this game, each player gets to decide which hero character they want to be (which determines which weapons and abilities they have), and the heroes decide as a group which scenario they wish to play. Simply put, the game is complicated, so it takes a while to learn, but there is a TON of variability for each game that gets played. So far, I’ve played the same scenario 4 times, and the map has been different every time. Additionally, each game has played completely differently. I’ve lost a few and I’ve won a few… but in every game I’ve played, it was a close thing.

An example of a hero card

Overall, I think this is one of my favorite board games. With each of the scenarios you play, there is a little written story that unfolds as you complete your objectives. However, with a game that has this much depth, you are almost certainly going to have a very complicated game. Because of this, it’s not for everybody. A lot of people I know aren’t willing to spend 2 hours just to learn the ropes. In our 4 person game, it lasted close to 4 hours. Where this game really shines, though, is in the cooperative play. This game is truly cooperative in that it requires cooperation from all players in order to succeed in the mission. I admit that the game was a little boring at the beginning when everyone was just trying to learn the gameplay. 

Towards the middle and end of the game, however, things really started to pick up. Now the heroes aren’t sitting flush with plenty of ammo and health… and there is no good place to earn more of these. Now each turn becomes a desperate struggle against the Locust hordes. In our first game, two of our four characters were taken out, one of them we could save, but the other we had to leave on the ground to bleed out while we tried to complete the mission. What really draws me to this game is the sense of desperation you get when things really aren’t going well. But when you finally complete your mission and roll a successful attack to kill the last locust, there is a sense of elation as everyone in the group exhales that held breath. That game we played ended victoriously, and we were all stoked to have beaten the bad guys. I remember there were smiles and high-fives all around… the group won, we went through a struggle together. Ultimately, it is because of this game’s ability to bring us closer together that I recommend it and like it as much as I do. If given the chance, I sincerely recommend that you play it with some close friends.

There's nothing quite like chainsawing an enemy... Also, for a video review, look here.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leonard vs Ted

            A number of years ago I began to watch a television show called “How I Met Your Mother.” This particular show has a quirkiness that I really enjoyed, coupled with a few characters that I’ve found quite entertaining. Take, for example, Barney Stinson and his shenanigans. I’ve so enjoyed Neal Patrick Harris’s portrayal of a misogynist that I even purchased the official book: The Bro Code. Since then, I’ve become disenfranchised with the show. The main reason: Ted Mosby… he’s the new Ross. In contrast, I’d like to talk about a show that I’m currently watching, “The Big Bang Theory”. This show has a similar quirkiness, but I find it to be a bit more compelling. For example, the characters in this show are easier for me to relate to, particularly Leonard Hofstadter. Being both sitcoms, these shows share similar characterizations. Through conversations with my friend Larry (who is also my Comicologist), I’ve come to realize that Ted and Leonard are equitable characters. While I think Ted is a terrible person, I think Leonard is a good person. Were these two characters to be in the same fictional universe, I believe that they would be nemesis… similar to how Sheldon and Wil Wheaton are nemesis (only Ted would be an annoying child about it). Not only do I like the main characters more, “The Big Bang Theory” has a much more accurate portrayal of professionals, but there will be more on this later. For now, I’d like to explain to you why Leonard Hofstadter is better than Ted Mosby in every way. 

            For starters, let’s address the interactions of these two characters with their friends. On the one hand, we have Ted, a self-proclaimed nice-guy and romantic who is loyal to his friends.  When you really look at it, though, he’s pretty much only friends with Marshall (despite Barney proving himself multiple times). Many times we’ve see Barney get excited about something and Ted, being the “voice of reason”, comes in and craps all over him. While I will allow that Barney is an exaggeration of a real person in that his schemes are often over the top, a friend doesn’t generally sit there on his high horse and judge his other friends like this. For example, there’s an episode where Barney breaks the Bro Code by sleeping with Ted’s ex, Robin. Ted gets so angry at Barney that he “breaks up” with him. So Ted is taking the high-road when he usually does nothing but crap all over Barney anyway. Ted, don’t pretend like you’re some great guy and that Barney is the bad person when you do nothing but treat him like a child and try to destroy Barney’s fun and games, screw you. 
When it comes to Ted’s other friends, the episode usually ends with Ted being the one to explain what the others are doing wrong and how they should fix it. He usually does it in a condescending manner. In particular, there’s an episode where Ted begins to date an ex-girlfriend named Karen (played by Laura Prepon). While dating her, Ted becomes an insufferable douche. During this time, he plays the same character as Sheldon (from BBT). The difference here is that Sheldon is a genius and has actual knowledge to back up what he says (thus being partially justified). Ted is just being a jerk and nitpicking. Seriously, screw Ted.
Now let’s take a look at Leonard and his friends. It’s true that the character of Leonard fulfills nearly the same role as Ted. He often times comes down on the group as the “voice of reason”, and he routinely gets condescending while he speaks to Sheldon. However, the parallel stops there because Sheldon needs it. My friend and comicologist Larry swears that he’s just as much at fault, but I disagree. Sheldon is an over-the-top alpha nerd. The arrogance and know-it-all attitude displayed by Sheldon leaves plenty of justification for putting him in place. In just about every episode, Sheldon will have knowledge and science to back up why he’s better than his friends at something, why they’re doing something wrong, and what they need to do to in order to be correct. This kind of behavior should be taken down a peg, and it’s good that there is someone there to do it. Contrast this with Barney and it holds up much better. Barney often times tell the others what they’re doing wrong, but most of the time he’s totally making stuff up and the other characters know it. I would hazard to say that most of the time, Barney is just trying to have fun and enjoy something that Ted immediately craps on.
Leonard will occasionally come down on his other friends in a manner similar to Ted. However, I believe that when Leonard plays the “voice of reason” he’s legitimately trying to help these people. He can be fairly negative to them, it’s true, but that doesn’t stop him from having fun with his friends (or his friends having their own fun). With Ted, it seems like he’ll only have fun with them on his terms. Friendship with Ted is about what value you add to Ted’s life, while friendship with Leonard means he wants you to try and act in a more socially acceptable way. Leonard is needy, and wants to be loved by everyone (an explainable flaw after you meet his mother), which is a trait that makes him more human. What’s Ted’s excuse for being an insufferable douche?
Next, I would like to address the portrayals of the characters as professionals. Ted Mosby is a questionably successful architect-turned-professor. Leonard Hofstadter is a very successful experimental physicist. With BBT, they have a fairly accurate depiction of what being a doctor in physics means. It’s not something glamorous. In Leonard’s case, he spends a lot of time setting up experiments using lasers and poring over data. Sometimes it’s really not fun. Most of the time, no one has any idea what you’re talking about. In one episode, they comment that Leonard has done tens of thousands of trials with no statistically significant results… this happens. Combine this with the portrayals of his colleagues, and you’ve gotten a pretty accurate picture (maybe somewhat exaggerated) of what being a high-level scientist is actually like.
Contrast this with the depiction of Ted’s job, which they never seem to show in detail. Ted talks about being an architect, but it doesn’t seem to be as much a part of his life as science is with Leonard; he doesn’t seem to define himself by it. Sure, Ted busts out some random facts, but those kinds of interactions rarely occur. Which begs the question: if they can make Ted anything, why make him an architect? Well, there’s a very interesting article here that explains a lot about Hollywood and architects. Let me give you the highlights: people don’t really know what an architect does and Hollywood likes the idea of an artist without the stigma of being an artist. The general belief about architects is that they have a consistent, reliable job, and that they spend most of their time doing creative work… it’s romantic. Think about it, though… how often are new sky scrapers built? In reality, architecture is filled with a lot of long hours of people going over schematics in extremely fine detail. My point being, Ted’s job is not accurately depicted, and he isn’t nearly as cool as he’s portrayed to be.
For the coup de grace, let’s talk about what are these characters are like as people. Anyone who has watched these two shows will tell you right away that Leonard is a huge nerd, and Ted is a hopeless romantic. This is really the point that I want to make: for as awkward and unapproachable as Leonard can be, he’s still a super nerd at heart. This is a guy who made his profession looking at numbers. Contrast this with Ted, who disliked his job so much (being an architect for a large firm) that he moved into a position where he can, essentially, tell people the right way to think. Leonard spends a great deal of time trying to be accepted by groups of people other than the uber nerds because he genuinely wants to be liked. His difficulty in expanding these horizons comes from the awkwardness of being an enormous nerd, but he is always willing to accept new people into the group… even while the others in his group may not be (check out the Halloween episode from Season 4). With Ted, we see a similar insecurity… but why? The writers have tried to portray Ted as some kind of nerd. After all, they’ve shown him loving Star Wars and playing video games (a total of maybe 5 times). In reality, the guy is just a regular dude who happens to like these things. He’s not an uber nerd who goes to the comic book store at least once a week… he doesn’t even watch Star Wars once a week (his admitted favorite movie). This is a guy who goes to the bar all the time, has NO problem talking to random people or in front of groups of strangers (see the episode involving Marshall’s wedding), and has NO problem talking to women. Is he really a nerd? Why are we supposed to be sympathetic to a guy who is as successful as he is and has had almost as many sexual partners as Barney? Remember the episode where Ted dates a woman who wants to open a purse line? They literally referred to her as “Blah Blah” for the show. In addition, there’s an episode where they go through all these pictures of Ted with random girlfriends. It takes Lilly and her memory to remember most of their names… Yeah, Ted seems like a real catch. For a guy with whom we’re supposed to be sympathetic, he sure has an easy time treating women like garbage. While Leonard puts genuine effort into being a better person, Ted is a giant douche.
Hopefully I’ve made my point: Ted is an a-hole and Leonard can be an a-hole… but isn’t one. Of these two guys, it’s easy for me to decide with whom I would want to spend time (yes, I know I’m a huge nerd… I have a blog about it). It took me about 4 seasons to really see how obnoxious Ted was, and I apologize to anyone for whom the show may now be ruined. However, there’s still hope! You can watch a better show called “The Big Bang Theory” in which the characters are more accurately portrayed as people, and the show’s format is almost the same. What’s more, the show is actually about the main character. Think about it, in the case of “How I Met Your Mother” all they ever talk about is Barney and his adventures. It’s almost literally a show about Future Ted narrating the crazy stuff Barney is doing and how Ted got involved. From that perspective, isn’t the show more about Barney? I guess if you’re in Hollywood you find a formula that works and beat a dead horse with it.
If you disagree with me, please let me know… there’s a handy comments box at the bottom. Tell me what you think… is Ted really a douche? Is Leonard the douche? Where am I wrong in my assessment? What do you agree with? Is there something you’d like me to address here that I didn’t? Bring it up!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dollar Review: The Amazing Spiderman

This article contains Spoilers for “The Amazing Spider-Man”

Recently I was given the opportunity to view the new Spider-Man film. I realize that this film isn’t all that new, but since I’m cheap (and since I expected it to be bad) I waited until the film was in the dollar theater to see it. Upon reading a bit about the development of this film prior to its release, I will admit that I had the preconceived notion that this film would be bad; It had some of the classic ear marks for bad films. For example, this film was a rushed release and it featured some odd story lines. Upon viewing the film, I admit it wasn’t a bad movie. I do feel, however, like it may have been unnecessary. Let’s talk about the film in a bit more depth, like what works and what doesn’t:

What Works: Spider-Man doing everything thing a spider can

What Doesn’t: Major parts of the story and some of the character interactions

What do I mean when I say that the part that works is the Spider-Man part? Isn’t the whole movie a Spider-Man movie? To be honest with you, I don’t think so. I think this is a movie about Peter Parker, not about Spider-Man. It’s a shame, too, because it should have been a movie about Spider-Man. In the scenes in which they actually featured the super hero doing the super hero thing, I was drawn right into it. This newest interpretation of Spider-Man is, in my opinion, the best one they’ve shown on film so far. I really enjoyed the quirkiness of the character while he fought bad guys in addition to the style with which he went about doing his shenanigans. It was really fun to watch a skinny guy hop around and do crazy flips and dodges like he was some kind of crazy gymnast… or spider. In my opinion, this latest portrayal of Spider-Man was quite brilliantly done.

Now, let’s move on to what didn’t work for this film. This is a section where I nitpick this film a bit, and comment on the character portrayals as well as plot points. To start, let’s talk about Act I one the film: Peter Parker. This is a person that they went through lengths to illustrate is a nerd. For example, he’s got a complex electronic lock on his bedroom door that they make a point in showing (look, he made this himself!). He’s portrayed as being super smart in science, and he is even picked on by the bullies… it’s classic nerd. This is a theme that they made sure to convey to the viewers, but it doesn't withstand any sort of scrutiny.

Peter finds a briefcase that belonged to his deceased father, and it kicks off a legacy story where he searches for any connection to his father. They drop this search-for-father after the first act, it’s used only to introduce Peter to Curt Connors, the one-armed, almost-mad scientist. It makes me wonder why they had this in the film at all... It seemed unnecessary. They set up a world with a kid who is a science nerd, and they need some secondary device to introduce him to a preeminent scientist? It seemed sloppy. Additionally, we don’t need to know about Spider-Man’s parents, we already know something bad happened to him, we don't need to be fed some pseudo conspiracy involving his father. The appeal to a character like Spider-Man (in the comics) is that something horrible happened to him (he’s lost two father-figures, for example), yet he has never let these events ruin him. He will still make quips and jokes as Spider-Man, pretty much staying up-beat the whole time. That appeals to people, we don’t need to give him some other back story about his parents, it’s not necessary.

Act II: This is where a lot of the meat of the story comes out. Now that we’re past the introductions, we know that Peter’s uncle cares deeply for Peter, and we know that Peter is conflicted about his life with his uncle vs the legacy from his father. This is how Peter discovers there’s an opening for an internship at the same lab that Curt Connors works in (a scientist that worked with Peter's father). Peter gets in to the lab, sees Connors in the flesh… and doesn’t say anything. Peter has obsessed over meeting Connors, thus making a connection to his father, and doesn't reach out to the man at all. In fact, he immediately goes away from the group tour he is in (after he was specifically told by his love interest not to) and gets himself into trouble. How does he get himself in trouble? Peter walks into a room filled with hundreds of spiders, and immediately gets bitten. Thus, he gains the powers of the human spider. Remember earlier when I said that legacy portion of the movie wasn’t needed? Yeah, that would have actually made sense here, because what’s to stop anyone else from getting spider powers? They never once mention that Peter is special in any way, he gets bitten by one random spider in a room full of hundreds of them, and now he has spider powers. Does anyone else think this is stupid? What’s to stop these people in the lab from making hundreds of spider soldiers, especially after Connors discovers the Spider-Man's identity (yes, he figures that out)?

Later in this act, Peter and his Uncle get in an argument. Peter has been spending more time away from the house than he usually does in order to explore his powers and figure out how they work. As an aside, there’s a scene where Peter literally destroys his bathroom because he can’t control his super strength, and neither of his caretakers mention anything to him… I’m guessing that sink is still spewing water everywhere. Anyway, Uncle Ben is concerned about the path Peter is taking… he’s breaking things at school and humiliating bullies. Eventually, Peter plays the “where’s my real dad” card (totally below the belt, by the way), and leaves the house. Uncle Ben, being a concerned parent, goes out to find him, and becomes the victim of a shooting and dies. This event is why Peter decides to fight crime on his own; he feels the police can’t do it themselves.

Peter basically says as much to the father of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Oh, I’ve jumped ahead a bit. So Peter and Gwen have started dating. I guess she finds his rakish charm attractive? As I’ve stated, they went through some lengths to show Peter was a nerd… There is one scene that does a great job at showing how nerdy and awkward Peter and Gwen are together. One of the problems with this scene is that it keeps going on… and on… and on. Yes, I get it that you like each other, and yes, I get it that you’re awkward. Enough is enough (ironically, the awkward scene had an awkward length, hah). In contrast to this, Peter’s first date with Gwen is a dinner with her entire family, including her father, a police captain (a little fast for nerds, don't you think?). This is where Peter gets into an argument with his girlfriend's father about how Spider-Man is just trying to help. After Peter gets excused from the table for fighting with his girlfriend’s father, he meets Gwen on the roof of the apartment building. Peter talks to Gwen for a while (it’s really awkward and annoying) then suddenly he turns into Joe Cool from Smooth-town who lives on Suave Street. He performs this move... It's really difficult to explain... but when did he become so suave and smooth? What nerd is this forward and smooth?

In the final act of the film, Spider-Man finally meets up with the mutated Connors, who has become the Lizard, and they have their showdown for the fate of New York. There isn’t a lot I had a problem with from this portion of the film, but there are certainly some issues that I have with it. Essentially, I agree with the review from the “How It Should Have Ended” people here. I found much of this final showdown enjoyable, it was more of Spider-Man doing his Spider-Man thing. However, it did bother me that Captain Stacy showed up to fight the Lizard alone with a gun when his officers had already shown such weapons to be ineffective. Apparently in this world, one guy with a shotgun trumps a dozen guys with assault rifles… who knew.

I realize that a lot of my criticisms of this film are nitpicks about the film... such as continuity problems. Some people may criticize me for this, but let me try to defend my opinion: I think nitpicking can be important. The movie makers for this film have gone through great lengths to establish a fictional world for us to get lost in, in the hopes that we will escape reality for a while (a great reason to watch movies). Studios will spend a bunch of money on things like props, graphics, sound effects... All of these things serve to build this bubble in which the world exists. When I watch a film and see something illogical, and that strikes me as unnatural for this world, the bubble breaks. It can be difficult to re-immerse myself in the world. As a result of this, it will harm my opinion of the film.

To conclude with what I think of this movie: it wasn't bad. I will definitely not say that this was a good movie, not by a long shot. Admittedly, I think it was better than the Tobey McGuire interpretation of Spider-Man. Many of the scenes involving Spider-Man were quite enjoyable, and they helped develop an infectious energy in the film. However, the movie was slow to get going, the buildup to Spider-Man was too drawn out to justify the slow scenes in the middle of the crazy fun spider scenes, and there were a couple of side story lines that I feel could have been eliminated. Ultimately, my verdict is this: good dollar theater movie, bad true theater movie. It would have been annoying to see this film after paying $10, but I was entertained enough by it to ignore sticky floors and a $1.50 price tag. I realize there is much more in this review that paints the film as a bad one, even though I feel that the movie isn't bad. The portrayal of Curt Connors was brilliant, and I truly enjoyed the actor who played him. Portions of the film were drawn-out and unnecessary, but for the majority of the film I was entertained... just not for all of it.

- Jack

Nitpicks Section!

- Why was Aunt May in this film? She didn't do anything, and she certainly didn't add to this film... she could have been totally removed from the film and nothing would have changed.

-Why did they have the homage to Spider-Man's luchadore days and do nothing with it?

-What kind of research lab allows their employees to wear mini-skirts, and allows visiting people to wear no safety equipment? They weren't even wearing safety glasses!

-Why would a system that wasn't intended to be a weapon have a vocal countdown that includes the phrase "xx seconds until detonation?"

-What kind of biological engineering or genetic manipulation involves complex mathematical functions?

-When Spider-Man shows up at the end with the crap beaten out of him, why does Aunt May forgive him suddenly because he hands her eggs?

-When Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy were standing in the hall talking to each other acting nerdy, there was no point in that where I believed people that good-looking could be nerds.