Even superheroes live flexibly neoliberal – spider-man 2 by sam raimi

After peter parker alias spider-man has finally traded in his horn-rimmed glasses for the superhero cape, director sam raimi sends the likeable hero into the wild, flexibilized world of work in the sequel. And this one is almost unconquerable even for a superhero. But only almost.


Tobey maguire and kirsten dunst in spider-man 2. Image: columbia pictures (sony)

The day of a superhero has only 24 hours. He also usually has only two arms and two legs at his disposal. So it’s no wonder that peter parker (tobey maguire), who in the final images of spider-man (usa 2002) is still darkly pondering his love m.J. (kirsten dunst), who, with a serious face, ared himself of his responsibility and, yes, also his identity, goes jobbing in a very unpathetic way at the beginning of the second part: call-a-pizza, delivery guaranteed in 20 minutes, otherwise the delivery is on the house. So maguire with a ridiculous helmet on a ridiculous moped, the boss in the neck, across manhattan, in seven minutes to the most gentle rush hours 40 blocks – no one can do that. Only spider-man.

Comic relief: the superhero as pizza man acrobatically gymnastics through the manhattan skyline. We love spider-man for such winks, you feel a bit at home in this film. But two children run in front of the car, the superhero quickly changes gears, the children are saved, the job, on the other hand, goes flat: even lame delays of a few seconds quickly cost a job and a flawless resume.

Parker’s photographs are no longer as popular with the daily bugle as they used to be, since he refuses, for obvious reasons, to photograph spidey for sleazy tabloid campaigns. His physics studies are completely idle, since he has to help the hopelessly overtaxed police to catch bad guys. The only friendly relationship with m.J. Parker’s aunt may (rosemary harris) is kicked out by her landlord after being denied a loan from the bank, and he himself is threatened with the same fate in his ramshackle manhattan apartment: "rent!", hort man’s in the germy stairwell regularly cholerisch scream. The landlord is an asshole by the grace of god, but he keeps saying cool things, and we’d better not say anything about the superhero’s miserable apartment: it’s nothing like the subsidized luxury apartment that was available in part 1. Depression everywhere.

Kein zweifel: peter parker ist alter geworden.

Instead of high school problems with horn-rimmed glasses, the tough world of work in the neo-liberal age of constant flexibilization and a lack of protection against dismissal now dictates the situation: "you always seem so exhausted!", says his professor reprovingly, after parker has missed the lecture once again.

Who should be surprised? Spider-man, too, it now seems, is ultimately just one of the millions and millions of people in this world whose lives are affected by the working-poor syndrome who sell their labor, free time and their own nerves for a ridiculous amount of money.

Tobey maguire as peter parker. Image: columbia pictures (sony)

Damage does not remain out of it. Spidey loses his power. In the middle of the flight through the skyline has eaten something with spider thread ejaculations: literally deep fall of a superhero. Because in the age of flexibilization, people’s relationships with each other are the first casualty, because love has no chance in it, something blocks in the hero’s head: what is he actually? What does he actually want?

Psychic castration is the consequence, accurately diagnosed by the family doctor. Spider-man leaves the ship, jerks to the familiar horn-rimmed glasses: welcome back, peter parker! Not entirely involuntarily, by the way: the costume ends up in the gutter, the superhero is made out of the 24-hour day, which had to have 40 hours, as the root of all ubel and unceremoniously, as back in superman 2, outsourced.

Peter parker, now just himself again, gives love a chance, but the, m.J., has already turned her attention elsewhere: marriage is on the cards, with the astronaut son of the bugle editor of all people! Meanwhile, a homeless man is willing to turn the found costume into cash at the daily bugle, the editor – we already know him as a cynical sloganeer from the first part, in this one he is, to the general amusement, especially in shape – offers a laughable 50 bucks. "I’ll get more for that on ebay!", the treber acts self-confidently and protocols thereby, beyond the bare laugh effect, the "expansion of the combat zone": the homeless ego-worker.

The bosewight : the gadget cyborg working man of the future

Superhero movie. Was there something? Oh yes! The bosewight! As in the saga’s first installment, the villain in the sequel takes up comparatively little narrative time for himself. Naturally, hero and villain are close at the beginning – before the villain’s mutation, which, as always, is caused by scientific gross insanity. Of course also here the inner conflict of the mad scientist, who wants good and creates evil. Faust and mephisto in personal union, presented in shakespearean monologue, well mixed with pop: appearance of dr. Otto octavius, later dr. Otto octavius. Otto octavius, then later as octopus-like man-machine hermaphrodite briefly "doc ock" wonderfully embodied by alfred molina, currently the most versatile in the arsenal of hollywood mimes.


Alfred molina as doctor octopus. Image: columbia pictures (sony)

Doc ock is the complete opposite of peter parker, who is increasingly worn down by circumstances: more arms, more legs, flexible from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, and the machine arm takes a cigarette out of the corner of his mouth. And whether one covers his distances with legs classically or with the help of the machine arms, remains only question of the spontaneitat. How he operates his devil machine, with which he wants to achieve breakthroughs in the field of nuclear fusion – but which, it is to be feared, will rather blow up half of new york – is the dream of every entrepreneur these days: fast, faster, accurately. The gadget-cyborg-worker of the future and thus, not only on the level of the subtext, a more than worthy opponent for spidey.

But, as mentioned, the film takes remarkably little time over this conflict. Im fokus steht der personliche konflikt der titelfigur und dessen breite schilderung. This may at times grate on the nerves of viewers. The dramaturgical and narrative elegance with which the disparate was approached and interwoven in the first part is sorely missed here at first and one feels reminded of earlier bad times of director sam raimi, when he organized some effective mumbo-jumbo, but often enough paid for it with the high price of a functioning arc of suspense.


But it soon dawns on you that this approach is based on a concept: analogous to the pulverization of the superhero’s body, the film also pulverizes itself, which – sophistry? – not for nothing the same name as his character, or his body. Their body, hoard. Just at the point when you think you’re getting tired of the whole thing and the film is threatening to turn into a single tale of love kept, withdrawn and revised – styled kitschily in a european-style coffee house – the spectacle literally breaks into the film – and into the coffee house: doc ock abducts m with much bluster and even more broken glass.J. Like king kong. Rising from ruins: spider-man. The spider-man costume demonstratively displayed as a trophy in the daily bugle’s executive suite is nimbly stolen – one man, one lost woman, one task: return of the workforce.


Image: columbia pictures (sony)

All it takes is upbeat music like rough gesture and all previous boredom is forgotten. The film is – like the character and its body – again completely with itself, in the midst of the loud spectacle. And if you have already appreciated the first part, you can’t help but surrender to it with relish. Both – film and character – perform feats of strength that exceed the previously expected many times over. When spidey almost comes to a standstill in an almost ruddy sequence, reaches the limit of his physical endurance and even loses his identity-protecting mask, the new yorkers – as they did once before in the previous part – reach under his arms and delicately carry the almost fallen hero in their arms. Doc ock is a flexible monster of neoliberalism, who smashes this gesture of solidarity with a wave of his hand.


Picture: columbia pictures (sony)

A sequel usually has a hard time, especially when it is obviously just the hinge between part 1 and part 3. And indeed, after the viewing, spider-man 2 appears as an open interface between two completed parts: the opening credits summarize the entire course of the previous film in beautiful comic drawings, and the broad ending serves as a springboard for part 3, whose theatrical release – though neither script nor team are in place – has already been announced for 2006.

The conflict between harry osborn (james franco), son of norman osborn, the green goblin from part 1, who manically seeks to avenge the death of his father caused by spider-man and for this purpose seeks to uncover the true identity of the superhero, and his friend peter parker, who thus has his hands full trying to stop osborn from his obsession, was still promised in the promotional trailer as the essential content of the second part. In the film itself, however, it congeals into a mere narrative smear in order to set some course and set the narrative of the next part: the concept of rusting, but also of dramaturgical continuity, that comic serials, like hardly any other form of artistic expression, have elevated to primacy, is reflected here.

It will be interesting to see how part 3, after the initially somewhat skeptical but ultimately convincing sequel, will succeed in picking up the individual threads again and weaving a rough, functioning web out of them. Until then, we carry one of the most beautiful final images of recent film history in our hearts: spidey in the skyscraper canyons of new york, the "go get’em, tiger!" by kirsten dunst still in the ear. Youth cinema, certainly.

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