Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The First 15 Minutes Project: Peter Parker in Spider-Man

The structure of this movie is interesting. It starts us out with a hero with superficial teen problems (he’s too scrawny, gets bullied, and clams up around girls), then gives him a huge opportunity that seems to solve them all, and then, once, he accepts that opportunity, it reveals deeper personal problems he hadn’t suspected.

 So instead of “hero gets opportunity to solve longstanding personal problem”, we have the opposite: “hero gets opportunity that reveals heretofore hidden personal problems.” In the end, the only way to solve those problems will be to reject all the things he sought in the opening 15 minutes: the girl, the rich friend, and personal acclaim. As a result, as you’ll see here, a lot the hero’s true problems don’t emerge until around the 40 minute mark. 

I don’t know about you, but I fall totally in love with Peter as a character. I’ll have more to say about it soon…
  1. First line, over a pan out of a spider’s web: “Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale, somebody lied. But let me assure you, this, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl.” We see Mary Jane on a school bus, then see the jerk with his arm around her, “I’d like to tell you that’s me next to her,” then we pan to a slob eating a jelly donut, “Heck I’d even take him.” Then we pan to Peter running alongside the bus. “That’s me.” Mary Jan runs to the front of the bus and demands the bus driver stop.
  2.  Peter gets on the bus. A super-nerdy girl contemptuously looks at him and sees that he’s considering sitting next to her: “Don’t even think about it.” The donut-eating slob shakes his head no as well. Peter tries to catch the eye of Mary Jane, who averts her gaze, looking embarrassed, then someone trips Peter and he falls forward onto his face in the aisle, knocking his glasses off.
  3.  Class trip to Columbia University. Peter thinks he sees Mary Jane turning and giving him a flirtatious wave, so he returns it, but she’s waving to the girls who are coming up behind him. When they join up with MJ, they all giggle about Peter’s wave, humiliating him.
  4.  Just then, a Rolls Royce rolls up. Inside, Harry Osborn is being dropped off by his father Norman. Harry asks not to be dropped off “These are public school kids, I’m not showing up to a field trip in a Rolls.” “You want me to trade in my car for a Jetta just because you flunked out of every private school I ever sent you to?”
  5.  Harry gets out but forgets his bag, so Norman gets out to return it. Harry introduces Peter to Norman. “I read all your research on nanotechnology.” “And you understood it? Your parents must be very proud.” “Well, I live with my aunt and uncle and they are proud.”
  6. They enter the lab where a scientist gives them a tour of the genetically modified spiders, talking about their super-powers. Peter tries taking photos but the bullies keep knocking him in the back. Peter tells Harry that some spiders have the ability to change their color to blend into the background. Harry rolls his eyes and asks “Why would you even think I would want to know that?” Peter asks “Who wouldn’t?”
  7. Harry points at MJ and asks Peter if he’s going to talk to her now. Peter jokes, “Why don’t you talk to her?” Harry shrugs and says “All right.” Harry sidles up to her as she looks at spiders. She says, “Disgusting.” Harry: “Yeah, hateful little things.” She disagrees, “I love ‘em!” Harry: “Yeah, me too.” She shoots him a look of disgust for so obviously hitting on her. He busts out Peter’s line about the spider’s changing colors. MJ says “cool”. Peter overhears, chagrined. The scientist says that there are 15 spiders, but MJ points out that one is missing. Peter tries approaching MJ to take a photo for the school paper. She enjoys modeling for him. As he takes pictures, the missing spider climbs down and bites him. (at 10:56) Peter is worried about the bite. As he walks away, a display behind him shows spider DNA being combined.
  8. Meanwhile, at Oscorp, the military shows up to evaluate Norman Osborn’s weapons programs: a flying glider and a gas that makes you strong, though it’s driven some test subjects insane. The general tells Norman that he prefers Norman’s competitors, and if Norman doesn’t show results in a week, he’s pulling the contract. 
  9. Uncle Ben fixes a light bulb “And the lord said let there be light, and voila, there was light, all 40 glowing lights of it.” Aunt May says “God’ll be thrilled, just don’t fall on your ass.” “I’m already on my ass, May. When the plant’s senior electrician is laid off after 35 years, what else would you call it? I am on my ass.” “Hand me that dish, the green one.” “The corporation is downsizing the people and upsizing the profits.” “Oh Ben, you’ll get another job somewhere.” “Well, let’s look in the paper and see. Here are the want ads, what have we got here? Computer salesman, computer engineer, computer analyst… My lord, even the computers need analysts these days. I am 68 years old, I’m too old for computers, and beside I have a family to provide for.” “I love you and Peter loves you. You’re the most responsible man I’ve ever known. We’ve been down and out before, but somehow we survive.” Peter comes in, looking sick. He wants to go upstairs and not eat. “You won’t have a bite?” “No thanks, I had a bite…”
  10. Upstairs, we see Peter’s sickly chest as he looks at himself in the mirror. We hear a voice-over of the spider powers again, then we zoom into Peter’s blood as DNA re-combines. 
  11.  At Oscorp, the same scientist who complained to “If you just give me two weeks…” “Two weeks? In two weeks, we’ll have lost the contract request and Oscorp will be dead. Sometimes you’ve gotta do things yourself.” He tests the gas on himself. The other scientist stops the test. Norman, now super-strong and insane, kills the scientist.
  12. Peter wakes up on the floor and puts on his glasses, but he no longer needs them. Then he looks at his chest, which is now super strong. May knocks on the door. “Any better this morning? Any change?” “Yeah, big change!” Peter watches MJ out of his window and through her window.
  13. Peter leaves. Ben says “Teenagers, raging hormones, they never change…” Peter promises Uncle Ben that he’ll help him with painting the kitchen that night...

Tomorrow, a very different type of high-schooler...

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