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May 29, 2002

Face foward, pilgrim We still haven’t managed to see Spider-Man, but it’s a little dizzying to find 1960s Marvel comics and the appeal of Spider-Man so expertly discussed atop the commanding cultural heights of New York Review of Books:
A comic book was like a movie you could hold in your hand, contemplating the action as a series of immobilized moments of tension: in some ways it was better than a movie, because of the scope it offered to expand imaginatively on what the page offered. Even aside from the difficulties of staging the fanciful combats and intergalactic confrontations of the comics (now solved after a fashion by the advent of computerized special effects), it seemed unlikely that any movie could ever capture the way the best comics could feel lightweight and monumental in the same instant, while always remaining the direct handwritten evidence of a human touch. […]

The Amazing Spider-Man was essentially a romance comic disguised as a superhero comic, a secret feminization of the man-of-steel tradition.

It’s a strange kind of fulfillment. And then I woke up. [09:59 PM]
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Comments on Face foward, pilgrim:

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 12:35 AM:

I'd have liked this a lot more if not for the moaning about the soullessness of the computer graphics. I thought the shots of Spidey swinging among the towers of New York were fabulous, a believable realization of something that I never quite believed in the comics. (Though the director does seem to swallowed the nonsense claim that New Yorkers never look up.)

It's a commonplace that computer art is soulless and inanimate, looking as if human beings had nothing to do with its origin, but I wonder if any of the people making this claim have ever tried making computer art themselves? The TiBook and copy of Photoshop I sometimes use to turn out web graphics are just as much human inventions, just as much artistic tools capable of conveying style and creativity, as the brushes and paints I was mucking around with an hour ago.

Neilalien ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 03:14 AM:

Great find- I'm going to link to it right now!

Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 10:54 AM:

I wouldn't say the CG in Spider-man was soulless, but I did find it sub-par, as did many of my friends who do it for a living.

Seeing CG films with them is always interesting:

"Did you see the fur? Wow!"

"How about the way that thing walked?"

I'll say, "What about the story?"


Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 02:07 PM:

I wouldn't call it sub-par. It's not at the cutting edge, but that edge advances so very quickly nowadays....

Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 02:20 PM:

The problem I had was it was always glaringly obvious to me whether I was looking at a man in a costume or a CG model. I don't want to say what caused that, and possibly ruin the film for those who don't want to notice. But if your interested you can mail me.

Yahmdallah ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 02:56 PM:

"a secret feminization of the man-of-steel tradition"

Oh, puh-leeze. I would say it *humanized* the man-of-steel (what it would be like to BE a superhero) rather than *feminized* it. What an odd attempt at association with feminization. Wouldn't feminization be more along the lines of what was done with Wonder Woman or the She-hulk? Meaning it's a woman's viewpoint/approach rather than a flawed/limited/human approach (ala. Spider-man).

Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 03:45 PM:

I agree that the CGI in Spiderman was sub-par-- the web-swinging scenes looked really cartoonish to me. My guess is that it may have been done that way on purpose, though. It is a movie made from a comic book, after all, so cartoonish visuals aren't necessarily a Bad Thing. If nothing else, you can spin this as a tribute to the comic-book origins of the character.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 04:39 PM:

Have there been any movies that used CGI to the extent Spider-man did where you haven't been able to tell when you were looking at a real person and when you were looking at CGI?

In my experience, the most convincing uses of CGI-generated characters have been for non-humans (Yoda in Attack of the Clones [who managed to have more screen presence, more charisma and gravitas, than many of the human actors], just about everybody in Monsters Inc.) or very cartoon-like humans (the kids in Monsters Inc., the human characters in the Toy Story movies).

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 04:55 PM:

I think the key point to be noted here is that the NYRB has used the word "intergalactic" in a context where it is, at least sometimes, actually correct. This may be a first.

If they should follow this with an analysis of print comics that does not contain sound effects (e.g., "Zap!") we could be wobbling on the brink of a Colloidal Golden Age.

Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 05:17 PM:

Avram, Fellowship of the Ring. Sure they weren't swinging from buildings, but my problem with Spidey was the way they chose to render him. It's a technical detail. (I wasn't fond of the animation, but that's personal taste and I don't count that against the film.)

I'm not saying Spider-Man isn't a good film, I enjoyed it very much. I think we agree that the review was far to pretentious in its criticism of the CG. Yes, all CG in film has flaws, but there were some basic flubs here (possibly due to time constrants).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 05:22 PM:

"Pretentious"? To what was the reviewer pretending?

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 08:01 PM:

It's probably not what you're thinking of when you say "comics", but Brad Leithauser's article on Walt Kelly's "Pogo" didn't contain a single sound effect.


Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 08:15 PM:

Yes, Lord of the Rings did an astonishing job with the hobbits and dwarves. I don't know enough about the details to judge whether that's a different task from rendering in entirely non-existent people. (It might even be more difficult.)

I also don't remember my reactions to the cave troll well enough to recall how real it seemed; though again, that's a non-human creature.

The aspect of Spidey's appearance that clued me in to his being CGI wasn't how he was rendered (if I'm understanding what you mean by that word), but how he moved. There's a particular quality of movement there, something I can't put a name to, that looks artificial to me. I saw the same thing in the Harry Potter movie, when Harry was flopping around on top of the troll's head.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 11:18 PM:

What sound effect did the NYROB Spider-Man piece have? I've just skimmed it twice, and can't find so much as a "pow!".

Like Patrick, I'm just stunned at the matter-of-fact tone of the article's praise, and understanding, of Lee and Ditko. A NYROB writer who understands Bullpen Bulletins? Wowser.