Web weaver spins money
Two years after his big screen debut, the angst-ridden, web-slinging super hero is back. ANAND PARTHASARATHY checks out "Spider-Man 2" and his upcoming Indian avatar.
Hero but human. Tobey Maguire out to rescue his love (Kirsten Dunst) in more ways than one in "Spider-Man 2."
WHEN DID you last see a cinematic sequel that was not a let-down compared to its first coming? One may have to go 30 years back in time, when "Godfather II" garnered even more critical acclaim and Oscars than the 1972 original. Since then, most reprised roles have done little for the leading stars and rarely much for the box office. "Spider-Man 2" may buck the trend.
The film, which debuted in the U.S. on June 30 and opens its Indian run next week ( July 23), raked in over $180 millions in its first week the highest opening week earnings of an American release to date. And critical opinion has also been mostly favourable.
Reviewers are finding in the diffident, often angst-ridden persona of out-of-work student Peter Parker and his amazing arachnid of an alter ego, enough human warmth to hold viewer interest.
Based on the character created by Marvel Comics in 1962, the return of Spider-Man showcases comic book characters but not cartoon caricatures.
This makes all the difference. A good third of the film is devoted to Peter's human problems: he has lost his job as a pizza delivery boy; is in danger of failing his college course, his girl friend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), tiring of his unreliability, actually gets engaged to an astronaut. And even his Spider-Man suit turns up bad its colours run when he puts it into the washing machine. He dumps it in a dustbin.
Played once again by TobeyMaguire, the role is at once believable: Here is a superman who is as vulnerable as the rest of us.
But unlike the rest of us, super heroes do not sit around idly when a famous scientist like Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), who has grafted four cyber-intelligent tentacles to his spine, morphs into an evil octopus, when a crucial chip in his system conks out.
As `Doc Ock' rampages across New York, Peter regains his self-confidence, resumes his spider `avatar' and sets out to save the city. The fact that Mary Jane has been taken as hostage by Doc Ock, only adds to his determination.
The tentacled Ock is a slight improvement on the Green Goblin who was resident baddy in the first Spider-Man film.
And there are enough villains to keep the genre going for a long line of sequels: A `Wizard' Spider-Man Special comic this month, lists 10 bad guys in its rogue's gallery of way-out weirdos.
At least one more sequel with the same key cast is assured: Director Sam Raimi, Maguire and Dunst have all signed up for a "Spider-Man 3" to be released in 2007. And the closing frames of "Spider-Man 2" which come after a climactic duel between hero and heel, on the New York commuter train system, has enough pointers to show that Mary Jane has recovered from her astronaut affliction to give Spideman a fighting chance for her affections, once more..
Pavitr Prabhakar, an equally enterprising `desi' version.
The multilingual release of the film in India with 250 simultaneous prints in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu banks on its broad appeal, beyond language barriers, to a wide spectrum of film-goers.
This may also explain why Gotham Entertainment Group, the Indian publishing licensee of Marvel Comics, is to launch a `desi' version of the Spider Man print edition, next month.
For Peter Parker, read Pavitr Prabhakar, leaping over scooters and auto rickshaws, swinging from monuments like the Taj Mahal and the Gateway of India, as he fights crime and a local Rakshasa. ``We feel this is one of the most exciting projects in comic history,'' says Gotham Entertainment Group CEO, Sharad Devarajan. ``Unlike traditional translations of American comics, `Spider-Man India' will become the first-ever `trans-creation,' where we reinvent the origin of a Western property like Spider-Man so that he is an Indian boy in Mumbai and dealing with local problems and challenges.''
Jeevan Kang, the artist, has created a Pavitr with the familiar Spiderman red and blue skin-tight suit above the waist and a tucked-in-for-action dhoti below.
While the multilingual Indian print editions are expected by end August, the `desi' Spiderman will also compete with the original on his home turf in the U.S., by year end.
Meanwhile Gotham Comics are also slated to release this month, a special Rs. 10 Spider-Man issue in Hindi, English, Tamil, Malayalam, Punjabi and Urdu, pegging the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Spider-Man rushes to `Ground Zero' soon after the World Trade Centre is razed and helps with the rescue operations.
In the ultimate fusing of fantasy and reality, Columbia Tristar's parent company, Sony, has sponsored special give-away editions of the Spider-Man comic book, where the fictional Web crawler zooms into the set where Sam Raimi is shooting Tobey Maguire and demands to know why they are filming his life without his permission. ``You're a public figure, you're in the public domain,'' retorts Raimi.
Which may well be true in these troubled cyber-times when readers and viewers seem to relate to a character who does wonderful, way-out deeds, but who is as confused and mixed-up, as the kid next door.
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Mesh of musical genres
THE SOUND track of "Spider-Man 2" being released in India this week, by Sony Music, has something to suit every listener's taste. Artistes ranging from Hoobastank to Train to Maroon 5, cater to all the possible genres of popular music of today.
Slow new-age rock fans will find "Ordinary" by Train, as the band has produced their best-ever song for the soundtrack. If the `harder' side of rock interests you, the track by Hoobastank would have you rushing to the music store.
A relatively new band called Dashboard Confessional, makes its presence felt with a song called "Vindicated."
Indian audiences have a lot to cheer about: The Pakistani Rock-Pop band, Strings, (consisting of Faizal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood) that has been a big hit with Indian music fans in recent months, is featured in the album.
The song "Najanay Kyun" anchors the music video that is being used to promote the film. On the slower side when compared with songs that Strings usually creates (like "Dhaani," "Duur" and "Anjaane" ), the track has a breezy flow and conveys a deep sentimental message. Though it may not appeal initially, the song gradually grows on you and will soon have you humming the tune.
This is probably the first occasion when a band hailing from the Indian sub-continent is involved in the marketing effort of a major Hollywood movie. It may well kick-start a trend. For now though, the Strings' song in "Spider-Man 2" is music enough for our ears.
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