I watched Spider-Man 2 for the first time in a long time the other day. In doing so, I came away with a few thoughts.*
Firstly, the idea that Spider-Man 2 is one of (if not the) best comic book adaptations in the history of the genre (or sub-genre, as it were) was reinforced in my mind. Secondly, as much as I love the movies as they are, I wish there had been more fight scenes along the same lines as the train scene. Thirdly, I am as disappointed with the film's portrayal of Otto Octavius (a.k.a. "Doctor Octopus") as I was when I initially saw the film in the theatre.
"But Matt!" you're surely thinking. "What are you talking about? Doc Ock was great in Spider-Man 2!" And he was, to a point. But there's always been something about the character's story in the film that I've never really been able to get over.
And that's his tentacles.
Let me explain. His tentacles look great. They're very cool and they're used to good effect throughout the film. However, if you need a refresher, Octavius explains that the tentacle harness is outfitted with an "inhibitor chip" - a small microchip that keeps the artificial intelligence of the harness from influencing his actions. In the ensuing accident that causes the tentacles to be fused to Octavius' body, the inhibitor chip is damaged, and the influence of the artificial intelligence is a very large contributing factor in Octavius' crime spree.
This has never sat right with me. The way I've always seen it is that, by introducing the idea that A.I. is influencing Doctor Octopus' decisions and rationale, you take away a good portion of the character's motivation and, in a way, his accountability. It also seems that it diminishes what otherwise would've been a very nuanced and deep character. With the A.I., it appears that Otto is a pretty nice guy who gets stuck in something beyond his control, something that he's not really responsible for. In a way, the tentacles act as a psycho-changer when one isn't remotely called for - the story dictates that Otto Octavius undergo a severe personality change; however, instead of using the pieces of his personality already there to facilitate said change, they use an outside force to do so, which robs the character of all responsibility and accountability from there on out. Isn't it enough that Otto is a relatively pleasant (if slightly pig-headed and arrogant) scientist who becomes a monster due to his own hubris, who is driven insane not only by his utter and complete failure (and the effects of the explosion), but also due to his role in the death of his beloved wife? This would have added a hell of a lot more depth and nuance to the already great performance Alfred Molina brought to the table. Instead, the notion that the tentacles are influencing his judgment does little more than to diminish the story of Octavius' fall and redemption.
And what bothers me most, I think, is that it would've been so easy to change this at any time during the production of the film without sacrificing anything of consequence at a script level. All that would've been needed, really, are a couple of changes to some dialog towards the beginning and end of the film. Add in a quick bit showing Otto's arrogant streak and change around his expository "This is why I'm eeevil now" scene later in the film, and the rest of the film remains untouched.
It all seems very much like a lost opportunity to me.
And seriously - who puts A.I. in a tentacle harness? That's like giving sentience to an electric power drill.
What do YOU think, Gentle Readers? Am I voicing a valid complaint about an example of weak storytelling, or am I bitching for the sake of bitching?
*Yes, yes - I KNOW I'm complaining about a film that came out THREE years ago, but I needed SOMETHING to get the creative juices flowing after my brief hiatus, alright? Bear with me.