Comics : Spider-Man 2: The Official Movie Adaptation
This review was first published on: 2004.
This adaptation is available in two editions: 1) the 48-page standalone SPIDER- MAN 2: THE MOVIE #1, and 2) a slim 120-page TPB combining the standalone adaptation with reprints of ASM #50 and USM #14-15. In moving to the TPB, the comic adaptation gets a satisfying deepening of color, but loses a little of the dramatic punch provided by the page breaks, which are offset by one page in the TPB. The first page, for example, ends with the caption, "Which is fine, because I'm not just Peter Parker, I'm also...". In the standalone issue, one turns the page and concludes the thought with the archetypal half-page splash of the swingin' "...Spider-Man." The TPB puts these pages facing each other, dulling the effect. This review covers the adaptation as printed in both editions, but does not cover the extra content in the TPB.
The most straightforward way to evaluate this issue is to discuss how well it adapts the movie. First, we'll look at the parts of the movie that were changed for the worse in the comic, then we'll look at the parts changed for the better.
Spider-Man 2: The Official Movie Adaptation
Jun 2004 : SM Title
Reprinted In: Spider-Man 2: The Official Movie Adaption #1 (Otter Press Reprint)
Reprinted In: Spider-Man 2: The Official Movie Adaption #1 (Walmart Reprint)
Reprinted In: Spider-Man 2: The Official Movie Adaption (TPB)
Peter's boss at the pizza parlor doesn't lecture him about his lack of responsibility; we get him threatening to fire Peter, but that is the least significant contribution of this little bit to the plot.
Betty Brant is seen briefly in the movie, considerably more friendly than she was two years ago (which is to be hoped); in the comic, she appears only in the background. More on this later.
The backyard conversation between Peter and MJ loses a lot of its chemistry in the translation.
Aunt May doesn't try to give Peter money; little characterizations like this made the movie, but are cut from the comic to make room for conveying as many plot points as possible. This is not the ideal way to adapt something. Sam Raimi understands that even though some elements of the Spider-Man canon were changed in the movies, the spirit of the books remained, and was the most important thing to keep. Sticking excessively close to the script for the comic adaptation in order to try to substitute for the movie is, in this respect, wrongheaded.
Peter's landlord doesn't bug him about the rent as much as in the movie. This decreases the severity of Peter's troubles, and decreases his suffering, which is counterproductive: the point of Aunt May's speech is that suffering is no excuse to give up doing right. That Peter doesn't suffer half as much in the comic makes May's speech less poignant.
Rosie, Octavius's wife, dies differently: an energy bolt goes through Otto, then her. In both the movie and the comic, her death is barely mentioned as motivation for Doc Ock's revenge, and the manner of her death doesn't really matter-the odd part about it in the comic is that Otto gets hit by the very same energy bolt, and he survives just fine. I guess he took the hit in his harness.
Speaking of Ock, where did his goons come from? Three of them blow the bank safe, and are later shown holing up in his waterfront warehouse as he complains about having to work with them. News flash-he never had to, and doesn't in the movie!
Aunt May doesn't see Peter flee the bank robbery. In the movie, she sees him running off, and calls out to him not to leave her; in the comic, he just disappears, and she wonders where he went.
The whole scene with Harry blowing up at Peter during the Jameson gala is left out, robbing their relationship of a lot of the conflict depicted in the movie.
The Peter/MJ relationship is handled more bluntly, with MJ's dialogue clearly acknowledging that she thinks Peter loves her: "John's never let me down the way you have," she says. I don't think this subtle change is all that damning, but I think the subtlety and unspoken emotion expressed on screen could have been better expressed on the page by making more skilful use of the pictures, and less clumsy use of the words.
The story Peter tells to his doctor is about simply climbing and falling, with no mention of Peter-I mean Peter's friend-dreaming about being Spider- Man. That's kind of important, and the omission here is peculiar.
Finally, the literary connections to The Importance of Being Earnest are dropped, as MJ's play is seen only in one panel.
Now onto the good changes. The introspective captions place the reader more firmly inside Peter's head than the movie does, which doesn't concentrate much on his actual thoughts, and when it does, sometimes has him speak them out loud to himself, rather than in voiceover. Introspection was always a hallmark of classic Spidey stories, and the comic adaptation wisely maintains this tradition.
The elevator gag is mercifully shortened, though it loses half of the gay- subtext humor in the process; it probably could have been left out altogether, actually.
The comic efficiently condenses two scenes into one, with Peter confessing to Aunt May while at Uncle Ben's grave. The confession actually works better this way, being more relevant.
Aunt May's speech about the importance of heroes is followed by the caption "She knows"; more direct than the movie, to be sure, and probably an improvement.
The interaction between Peter and the landlord's daughter is understandably cut; this, coupled with the absence of Betty, removes some of the suggestion that Peter might have relatively satisfying relationships if not for his sense of responsibility. This is not a major loss, since the point is conveyed well enough by the captions.
MJ is shocked when Peter gets thrown into a wall at the cafe; in the movie, she seems remarkably nonchalant about it.
The uncoupling of train cars a great idea, and much more sensible-if less dramatic-than stopping the entire train; this is good because it reminds us that Peter is a thinker. In defense of the movie, however, it must be conceded that Peter was under a lot of pressure, both mental and physical, and was probably in no shape for thinking any more clearly.
The "Mess with us" New Yorker scene is also mercifully abbreviated without much loss, which is how all events in the movie should be adapted; space is saved, for example, by adopting Peter's perspective and skipping over Ock's delivery of him to Harry.
Harry tells Peter where he thinks Ock's hideout is, a fact conveniently assumed, but never shown, in the movie.
MJ's appearance in Peter's doorway is rightly emphasized by her famous "you just hit the jackpot" line, which is surprisingly left out of the movie.
Their final kiss is intercut with MJ's memory of their upside-down kiss in rain: "Yep, that's it! That's the one I remember!" Emphasis like this works in the comics in a way it might not on the screen.
The movie ends with MJ watching Peter swing away to the next crime, looking strangely melancholy for what is supposed to be a happy ending; this is smartly left out of the comic, which ends with another prototypical splash of Spidey swinging into action.
The departures from the movie pretty much trade off on each other, some being unnecessary, others being appropriate. The adaptation could've been paced a lot more smoothly if the entire 120 pages of the TPB had been devoted to adapting the movie; still, the reprint issues-especially ASM #50-are welcome companion reads, and may generate some interest in non-readers to pick up reprints of the classic stories. As with the adaptation of the first movie, I have to say I probably would consider my money better spent on seeing S2 again, or on saving for the DVD, rather than reading an abbreviated, rewritten version in comic form. The 48-page cutoff makes it simply too short to do justice to the movie.
Three webs. The movie itself, of course, is more like five webs!