Spider-Man 2 (fight 2 of 2)

Choo choo.


He damn near catches the last train for the coast.

2) Spider-Man vs Doctor Octopus

The Fighters:

  • Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus. No real changes since last time, except Spidey’s powers are working consistently again.

The Setup: Knowing that the last component for his experiment is a sample of the ultra rare isotope tritium, Octavius goes to threaten Harry Osborn (who has taken over his father’s company) for his remaining tritium stash. Harry agrees to hand the MacGuffin over to Octavius if Octavius brings Spider-Man to Harry, alive; this is a pretty serious improvement over Otto’s initial offer of “give me the tritium or I’ll kill you”. Harry further informs the villain that the best way to find Spider-Man (other than robbing a bank, hanging around a fire, etc) is via Peter Parker, the guy who “takes his pictures” for the paper.

The mad doctor decides to get Peter’s attention via the unusual method of throwing a car at the back of his head (something he only dodged thanks to his spider sense, which Otto didn’t know he had), and then taking a nearby Mary Jane hostage, telling Peter to have his “buddy” Spider-Man meet him up for a brawl or else he’ll kill her. So: Octavius kidnaps Mary Jane so that will motivate Peter Parker to convince Spider-Man to come fight Octavius so Octavius can beat up & deliver Spider-Man to Harry so that Harry will give Octavius tritium which will let Octavius try his experiment again. Perfectly straightforward.

[Pretty funny how Peter rejected his chance at happiness with Mary Jane at the end of the last movie in order to keep from making her a target for his enemies, yet lookee here, that’s exactly what happens anyway.]

The Fight: Spider-Man arrives (his powers having been fully restored by the danger to MJ), at what’s apparently their pre-arranged meeting place: the top of a high clock tower.


(BTW, I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but if any proud New Yawkers spot any errors in my description of their fine city’s geography or notice that I fail to point out any notable landmarks, feel free to point this out. [Obviously I have to explicitly invite this, since native NYC residents are so known for their shy, reserved nature and don’t like to make a big deal of their town’s features.])

The two waste little time before getting right down to bidness, doing their up-close tussling act from before. Spidey soon gets knocked from their perch, but is unfazed: he launches a couple web “bullets” (hey, those are new) on the way down which stun his foe, then swings back up and lassoes a chunk of broken clock arm at Octavius with his free hand. That’s multi-tasking.

Octavius tries using that same piece of scenery as a projectile himself, but Spider-Man is still able to seize him with a pair of webs and pulls them both down. They land not on the ground but on the top of an elevated subway train– apparently one that doesn’t make a lot of stops, because it never stops moving for this whole fight. Also apparently New York doesn’t have elevated trains anymore, but oh well.

The two don’t care, and keep up their fighting. Doc Ock blocks some webbing with his tentacles, but the hero just improvises and instead uses those webs to pull himself in close for a few kicks to the face.

C'mon, man, don't let him walk all over you.

C’mon, man, don’t let him walk all over you.

They both take a break to duck under a low overpass (apparently Otto has Octo-sense, because his back was turned at the time). Octavius is able to seize Spider-Man and fling him high in the air against an above-ground walkway, but Spidey manages to contort himself juuuuust enough to fit through the stone mesh “walls” and lands back on the train to deliver another punch.

The blow knocks them both to the side of the train, where they both just decide “f–k it, we’ll fight here now.” There’s lots of cool stuff as they scuffle from here on, as Spider-Man gets knocked inside of the train twice, at one point grabbing a pole and spinning around it sideways (he was bitten by a radioactive stripper!) to launch himself back out another window. At another point our hero has to flatten himself up tightly against the side of the car as another train comes barrelling down the opposite track. All the while several dozen passengers stand by, dumbfounded.

Eventually Otto is able to sneak around and get the drop on Spidey, knocking him to the ground outside, but with some quick use of his webbing the hero is able to snag onto the train and also dodges all the vehicular traffic he’s now being dragged around in. It’s almost certainly a quick, cute reference to the legendary train chase in the Friedkin classic The French Connection.

As long as Peter doesn't use as many racial slurs as Gene Hackman.

As long as Peter doesn’t use as many racial slurs as Gene Hackman.

As Spider-Man swings to catch up, Octavius tries to mess with him by grabbing civilians out of the train and tossing them the hero’s way. First one, then two at a time. This only barely slows the hero down, though, as he’s able to use his webs to pluck them out of the air and then create netting to toss them safely into. It’s… unclear what Otto’s goal with this is. Typically, villains use civilians in such a manner so they can escape, but Dr. Octopus doesn’t want to escape here, he wants to beat his adversary to a pulp. He expresses frustration when this tactic doesn’t work but what was his idea of it “working”? Surely he didn’t want to kill those people just for fun. Similarly, Spider-Man should not be so desperate to keep up with the train, because he knows for a fact that Octavius wants him. If he just pulled off to the side he would probably figure that Doc Ock would probably also take a time-out and they could continue their fight in a less insane location.

Ah, well. This not being enough, Otto decides to destroy the train’s brake mechanism, sending it plummeting down to the terminal point. Which of course leads into that superb non-fight sequence where an unmasked Peter summons up all his spider strength in a desperate bid to stop the train; it’d be a lot more awesome if it didn’t lead into that incredibly mawkish denouement where the hero gets splayed out as a hamfistedly-obvious Christ figure. Blergh.

When Spider-Man finally comes to, he’s barely strong enough to stand, let alone adequately defend himself against the returning Dr. Octopus, so at least that tactic made sense. Spidey gets conked out, tied up and delivered to Son of Goblin. That’s rough.

This fight, though, isn’t. For all its messiness it truly is an epic fight– perhaps the most complex and ambitious super-brawl seen in film up to that point. It covers an absurd amount of real estate (even if much of that is arguably a cheat because they’re standing on a train), makes a lot of use of its environments and the diverse opportunities each combatant’s abilities provide. A major sticking point is even how the hero willingly hobbles himself in order to minimize collateral damage to innocent civilians. (Zack Snyder was unavailable for comment.)

There’s a sense of excitement here that a simple blow-by-blow can’t really convey, a real “gee whiz, look at that and now look at THAT!” giddiness to it. It’s not just an incredible technical achievement (uncanny valley warts & all) but a labor of love. On the surface it may be irritating that the two’s definitive encounter (there’s actually not really any fighting during the film’s real climax) doesn’t have a definitive defeat, but then, it doesn’t need one: Otto Octavius is the villain but he’s not really a bad guy, just a good guy driven to do some awful things by circumstances not wholly within his control. He needs sympathy and reformation, not a beatdown. Thus the fight ends with an act of raw, self-sacrificing heroism rather than violence. Good show.

Grade: A

Coming Attractions: A brief interlude, then something a bit more… redeeming.

One comment on “Spider-Man 2 (fight 2 of 2)

  1. Most of this train sequence was filmed in Chicago, using the Lake Street El. I happened to be there that day, and no actors were used. They simply mounted a camera on a train and drove it around the Loop to create the background footage. Most of the buildings are really there along Lake Street, but nearly every scene appears to have a touch of CGI to augment or create new buildings.

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