Saturday, May 19, 2007

Adieu, The Office, Adieu

Fare thee well, The Office. I will miss thee ere thine return to mine waves in air yonder season when the very leaves of the trees adorn the ground. ::sniffle::

Fantastic double episode this Thursday. It was a great ending the season. I certainly did not expect the ending.

Nor did I expect Jan turning into a complete basket case.

What I did expect was Michael Scott’s overboard confidence, leading to putting his house on the market (E-bay, no less!) and turning his reigns over to Dwight (could there have been any doubt as to his successor?)

I expected Dwight’s immediate conversion of the office into a tyrannically oppressed dictatorship with a toady of his very own.

I did not expect Stanley’s hilarious reaction to “ShruteBucks” offered by the new regime.

Nor did I expect what happened in/after Jim’s interview.

It was certainly a senses shattering episode! Okay, maybe not so much in the sense shattering department. Still, it had me alternately laughing my arse off and agape at the developments. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty with quotes and everything this time, but I will remark on one particular development.

I am pro-Jim/Karen and have firmly been even after my waffle not too long ago. Pam had her chances and blew them (that’s what she said) twice. Not to mention, any diddling around between Jim and Pam would ruin the sexual chemistry and kill that aspect of the show. I’m beating a dead horse here, but I don’t think Jim and Pam should get together for the sake of the show. The romantic in me disagrees, but I’ve long since learned to stifle his objections with a metaphorical shovel to the head.

On a better romance front, we have developments (and I mean developments) on all three office romances. Michael, like most men, is unable to resist the allure of fresh breastage and hops back into the arms of his damaged goods girlfriend, Jan. Angela rides a wave of euphoria as she imagines the power she will wield through Dwight’s dictatorship. Ryan drops the bomb on Kelly at the end when he reveals, “We’re Done,” (note the capital D, that’s very important,) Kelly’s subsequent outburst, and the slow grin that spreads across Ryan’s face. Is he imagining his freedom from Kelly? Is he considering the possibilities now that he will be Michael’s boss? Did he just remember a funny joke Creed told earlier involving a transvestite hooker, a penguin, and fifty bucks?

Wait, that last one didn’t happen on the episode, did it?

Secondary Thoughts on Spider-Man 3 (Or, Only Read This If You Are Bored)

Stacy and I caught Spider-Man 3 again this Monday. Our chiropractor, who is also a friend, and his wife wanted to double, so we agreed to see it again. I went expecting to catch some little things that I missed in the first viewing. I didn’t. Either there really isn’t anything there to catch or I’m too dim-witted to catch (I know at least one reader would agree with the latter, and he’s a bastard.)

So I really don’t have any further thoughts about the movie in particular that I didn’t touch upon in my other post. Instead, I thought I’d examine the various treatments that Spidey’s villains have received. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for anyone that has not seen the third installment yet. (What’s wrong with you?)

First up, is Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. In the comics, Norman proved himself to be perhaps Spider-Man’s greatest foe. He menaced Peter Parker and his family for years, being one of the select few (in the comics, that is) that knew Peter’s secret identity. Even after he died, his evil influence has colored Spider-Man’s life, the least of which was killing his first love, Gwen Stacy, near the beginning of his crime-fighting career.

How did ole Normie fare in the movies? Not nearly so well. He hits his stride with his unnatural obsession with Peter early on. However, he is killed long before he can truly terrorize Parker or his family and friends. His death does have a lasting impact on the next three movies, so that is something, I guess.

Next up is Otto Octavius, Doctor Octopus. Poor Otto was a socially inept nuclear scientist before the accident that granted him his extra four limbs. He has never really amounted to much in the comics. Sure, he’s been around forever. He’s cropped up in too many Spidey stories to count, but Spider-Man rarely has that much trouble with him. For me, one of Doc Ock’s greatest weaknesses is his motivation, or lack thereof. I’m really not sure what his goal is. He is constantly stealing money, robbing banks, etc., supposedly to pay for more experiments. Why? Purely scientific pursuits? To gain the acceptance of his “peers”? To prove something to himself? It seems like he has hit on all of those and more throughout his career. The lack of a concrete motive weakens the character. For example, in the comics, Green Goblin had his obsession with Parker and Venom has his intense hatred of Parker.

Otto got somewhat better treatment in the movie than comics. He is married, for one thing, and a socially accepted scientist with the respect of his peers. Only after the accident does that go downhill. Even then, Doc Ock redeems himself by the end in a heroic sacrifice to stop the nuclear fusion chain reaction he started. It first occurred to me here that if the creators of the movies continued killing off Spidey’s main villains, he’d have no one left to fight.

Now we have the third (and final?) installment of the movies, with not one, not two, but three super villains for Spider-Man to fight!

Harry Osborn had a cursed life in the comics. His dad was the infamous Green Goblin, which led to Harry’s mental instability. Before that, he was Peter’s best, and at times, only friend. The poor guy eventually cracks and follows in his father’s footsteps. That tragedy of Harry is that he regains his sanity long enough to marry and have a child before the family insanity led him to poison his body with Norman’s Goblin chemical concoction once again. This time proved fatal, even though he had just enough will power to break free to save Peter and MJ.

Does all of that sound familiar? Raimi compressed most of that into Harry’s scenes throughout the three movies. I ain’t speaking about whether Raimi followed the story right to the end. You’ll have to watch the movie to see which way he went with that.

How about Sandman? In the comics, Sandman was just a plain rotten thug. His origin is much as it is presented in the movie, if a little updated for this timeframe. In the comics, Sandman’s thuggish personality was shaped by a bad home life growing up supplemented by hard times. While he did go good for a little while, he later returned to his roots and is still a super powered thug. His motives in the comics don’t really amount to much, but since he has never been presented as anything more than a thug, they really aren’t necessary for a story.

Raimi seems to like people to sympathize with his characters, no matter if they are good or bad. You can’t really sympathize much with the comic’s Sandman, so Raimi added an element of tragedy to the character. Now, he is motivated by his daughter’s illness. A noble cause, if a bit contrived. He is also implicated in a traumatic experience in Peter’s life, that way Spidey has more of a reason to clean his clock than just defeating a criminal. Again, I’m not going to give away what happens to Sandman in the course of the movie. Does he die, does he live? Will Raimi kill off another one of Spidey’s villains? Go watch the movie!

The final villain making the cross is Venom. In the comics, the alien symbiote portion of the villain found Spidey on a different planet. I won’t go into the details here. Spidey enjoys the extra freedom the new suit allows, including the ability to morph into street clothes and unlimited webbing from the tops of his hands rather than refillable web shooters from the bottom of his wrists. He eventually discovers that the suit is a symbiote and not a good one at that. He also discovers, through the aid of Reed Richards of Fantastic Four fame, that the symbiote is susceptible to sonic attack. He rids himself of the suit in a church bell tower, forever earning the alien’s malice. As for the other half of Venom, Eddie Brock, he hated Spider-Man for ruining his journalist career and his home life through the course of Spidey’s heroing. The symbiote found him considering suicide in the very church Spider-Man had rid himself of it. Bonded by their mutual hatred of Spider-Man and having the ability to bypass his spider-sense, Venom went on to become a major villain for the poor web slinger. An uneasy truce was eventually formed between the two until Brock revealed he was dying from cancer and sold the symbiote to the highest bidder. Venom’s current status is another story altogether. Brock, however, is no longer involved.

The cinematic version of Venom follows the comics as close as possible while maintaining the necessary brevity required for the format. Instead of finding the symbiote on another planet, (who wants to deal with the extra footage that would require?) the symbiote falls to the Earth in a meteor shower and hitches a ride home with Parker. Brock is motivated by a hatred of Parker instead of Spider-Man, but for the same general reason. Naturally, we aren’t going to see any truces form in the short amount of time available in a movie, nor are we going to see a slow killer like cancer change Brock’s outlook. However, does Raimi kill Venom in this movie, following in the tradition established by the first two? Go watch the damn movie already and find out for yourself!

Raimi (obviously with the assistance of the screenwriters and other crew) did a decent job of adapting the stories from the comics to the big screen. Most of the changes made to the characters are understandable given the difference between the rich histories established by years of storytelling in the comics and the need to show an engaging piece in a limited amount of time that also appeals to audiences of all types. Those of you that have watched the movies (and suffered through this extremely long post) tell me what you think of Raimi’s treatments of the characters, especially how he left them off at the ends of the movies and the future directions he has available if more movies are made.

I command it!