Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks is a celebration of the characters we love to hate in the movies we love to love. They’re not always the main villains – and sometimes they’re not even villains at all – but they’re definitely jerks. So let’s take a look at this week’s jerk-off, and why they find themselves forever enshrined here in the hall of shame. Also, since I’m not a jerk, this is your spoiler warning for the 2007 movie, Spider-Man 3.
Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks isn’t always about the bad guys. Good guys can be jerks, too. That was kind of the point of Sam Raimi’s final Spider-Man movie, in which Peter Parker is corrupted by a mysterious alien goo that feeds off the negativity within him, and he must battle with the darker parts of his own psyche in order to best it. Or something like that. In the comics that’s what happens, I think. In the movie he just slaps on a bit of Franz Ferdinand-style guyliner and acts like a dickhead.
Okay. So let’s set the scene. Today, great superhero movies are a dime a dozen, unless you’re a DC fan, in which case you’re probably sat listening to With Or Without You by U2, opening a tub of ice cream, gazing into a photograph of Christopher Nolan, and weeping for the happier times. Marvel, meanwhile, are knocking it out of the park. I don’t even know who Black Panther is, but I just got out of his movie and I’m totally on board, doing that weird shrug dance thing and Googling where I can do spear lessons. Somehow Marvel and Disney have got their shit together and worked out how to make largely formulaic but entertaining movies out of even their Z-tier superheroes, but it took a long time to get us here. If you remember the dark days of superhero movies long before we got three decent ones a year, back when nipples on Batman’s suit seemed like a good idea, then you’ll remember just how important the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies were in righting the ship. Superhero movies sucked, by and large. And Spider-Man didn’t.
Spider-Man 2 improved upon the original movie in almost every way. The only downsides were that it didn’t have Macho Man Randy Savage in it like the first one did, and it had an appalling early-2000s rock soundtrack featuring Chad Kroeger of Nickelback infamy. But otherwise it had a great villain in Doctor Octopus, some superb action scenes, and it handled Peter Parker’s struggles to balance the life of a normal teenager with that of a superhero with a surprising amount of deft. Naturally, superhero fans were excited for Spider-Man 3 which was set to include fan-favourite villain Venom, but the movie wound up overstuffed with bad guys and silly – even for a superhero movie. One of the silliest aspects of the picture was the portrayal of Peter Parker, who became the host to an alien symbiote that brought his darker tendencies to the forefront of his persona, which caused him to begin acting like a massive tail. James Franco is in the movie and Peter Parker is still the biggest knobhead in it. Impressive work.
I guess Peter Parker being a ginormous bell end was intentional, and so Tobey Maguire should probably be commended for doing such a fine job of turning everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man into such a colossal hoop, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. He’s not a cool bad guy that we want to root for, like that crazy dude in The Raid, or Razor Ramon. He’s just exactly the same as normal Peter Parker except he has eyes like a raccoon, dresses all in black, and disco dances up and down the street. He dances quite a lot actually. He’s always fucking dancing. I’m not sure why. Maybe dancing is inherently evil or something, and I can kinda get on board with that philosophy given my own personal aversion to busting a move, or indeed, a groove, regardless of the occasion, but it does seem quite weird that the bad guy Spider-Man only really differentiates himself from the good guy Spider-Man by being slightly meaner to his girlfriend, and slightly funkier on the street.
The standout scene, of course, is the one where Peter Parker decides to make his ex-girlfriend, Mary Jane, insanely jealous by taking another girl, Gwen Stacy, on a date to the club where she works. So he rocks up, looking like a member of My Chemical Romance, guylinered up to the nines, and performs an incredible dance number with Gwen Stacy, who unfortunately thinks she’s there on a date, and not just to help make Peter’s ex-MJ cry. She realises towards the end of the number when Peter won’t stop looking at Mary Jane while he’s pulling off all of his fanciest moves, and she starts to cry, apologises to MJ, and leaves. I think it’s at this point that Peter realises what a ballbag he is and starts to fight off the darkness within, although, if he’d been watching the movie he could have sussed it out an hour ago.
Comeuppance: Peter comes to the realisation that with great power comes great responsibilities, again, and the alien goo that has been giving him immense powers has also been turning him into an immense dick-hole. He fights off the alien substance, wins back the love of Mary Jane, and in a final example of his triumph over the darkest netheregions of his own soul, forgives the man who was retconned in to be responsible for his beloved Uncle Ben’s death way back in Spider-Man 1. Absolute hogwash.
Jerk-off Rating: Somewhere between Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco in the hierachy of emo douchebaggery.
Tune in next week – same jerk time, same jerk channel – to find out who’s next in our celebration of cinema’s ultimate jerks.