Clear as mud.
3) Spider-Man vs Sandman, round 2
- Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. Our hero’s gone down an increasingly dark path ever since an alien symbiote he unknowingly encountered* has bonded with him and created a blackened suit, which grants him increased power while subtly amping up his negative qualities, such as aggression. (It also makes him act like a jackass hipster, in one of the movie’s most criticized indulgences.) Unfortunately it enters his life at the worst possible time: just as he’s going through a messy fight with Mary Jane and facing the revelation of Marko’s involvement in Uncle Ben’s death. So like the kind of alcoholic who drinks because deep down he WANTS to act like a drunken a-hole, Peter enters a self-destructive spiral where he keeps donning the suit to enable his worst impulses. Played by Tobey Maguire.
- Flint Marko, aka Sandman. Nothing new here. Played by Thomas Haden Church.
[*The symbiote crawled onto Peter’s scooter after landing nearby, in one of the quietest meteor landings in history. A bit convenient, but the way Spidey finds the thing in the original comics is considerably too… involved to adapt here.]
The Setup: Not much to it. Shortly after Peter has gotten re-adjusted to his new suit, he hears some police reports of Sandman committing yet another robbery, and heads off to where he was last seen. On the way, he encounters Eddie Brock, Peter’s new professional rival, and they have an ugly confrontation. This will be important later, duh.
Marko has headed underground (in a subtle touch, Spider-Man throws respect for property to the wind by simply ripping a huge chunk of concrete away to make his entrance, rather than finding a more conventional way) and Spidey slowly stalks him through a darkened sewer/train tunnel area. For a little while, at least, it’s the sneakiest he’s been since he chased down carjacker Dennis Carradine back in 2002.
The Fight: Peter surprises his prey by lowering down from the ceiling right in front of him, and after dodging some blows, taunts him about Uncle Ben’s death– something that visibly unnerves Marko.
When a subway train roars by, Spider-Man webs himself to the side of it, letting its momentum pull him in for a strong double-kick against Sandman. The crook goes flying, dropping his bags of money (again) and lands on another platform in between two tracks. The hero tries to swing in again, but this time Flint is ready.
Acrobatic even in the confined underground, Spider-Man recovers from his fall, loops all the way around from underneath the platform and strikes Marko from behind. The two then engage in some solid, painful-looking fisticuffs as two trains come simultaneously from opposite directions. Peter gets bounced around back & forth between the fast-moving cars like a human pinball, but Marko’s turn is even worse, as he gets half his face sheared off when the increasingly merciless hero grinds it up against one of the trains.
Sandman recovers his mass with some nearby dirt, but still, probably not the best experience.
After a little while of this, hero tackles villain off the platform and they both take a long fall, hitting a big pipe on the way down. Marko lands in a small puddle, and finds that the water is making it hard for him to maintain his cohesion. Spider-Man notices this too, and when he swings Marko’s way again, it’s not to hit him but to reach the big water pipe nearby. He violently opens it, making a burst of water come out and hit his opponent.
Degenerating into Mudman, Flint gets washed away in the flood, eventually coming apart completely as he hits a grate. Without remorse, Spidey smugly bids his foe good riddance.
The rematch with Sandman is short but an improvement in the Exciting department. Raimi & co get around the issue of the character’s seeming invulnerability not just by finishing him off with his Kryptonite-equivalent, but by having Spider-Man employ aggressive and creative techniques to keep pressing his advantage. This has the handy side benefit of further establishing not just the increased power offered by the black suit, but also emphasizing its effects on Peter’s personality; as fun as it is to watch this fight happen, there’s an undercurrent of “wrongness” to Spidey’s callous brutality. It’s the rare superhero fight where the villain feels like the victim… though, granted, Raimi had already stacked the deck beforehand by letting us in on Marko’s hard-luck story.
The underground setting is a new one for this film series, and handily allows the hero’s dark behavior to be complemented by the literal darkness of the surroundings. Who knows how “realistic” it is– half the time it just looks like a straight-up cave, but also has trains and giant water pipes running through it everywhere– but it definitely fits in with the movie’s cartoony aesthetic. Also, New York’s mass transit system played a big part in the previous movie’s climax, but you almost forget that because of the different role the trains play in this battle. Clever.
Coming Attractions: Spider-Man vs Wolverine!