Those who know me well can attest to one thing: I am a hopeless romantic.
For that, I blame the movie “Spider-Man 2.”
Also “Tuck Everlasting” — I mean, who doesn’t shed tears when Jesse Tuck announces his eternal love in the pouring rain for the mortal idiot who didn’t just drink the water …
But I digress. Let’s talk about “Spider-Man 2.”
It is arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time, boasting a sky-high 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a perfect 4/4 from Roger Ebert and the ability to make my fairly resilient father laugh and cry — a feat that only “Ben-Hur” and “Bambi” have ever accomplished.
“It’s a superhero movie for people who don’t go to superhero movies,” Ebert said in his original 2004 review. “And for those who do, it’s the one they’ve been yearning for.”
I couldn’t agree more. While Tobey Maguire is a weak actor who never should have been chosen for the role, and though I believe Andrew Garfield worked harder for less praise (a column for another day), my dad and Roger Ebert are not wrong. Succeeding where other superhero films fail time and time again, “Spider-Man 2” is true to the qualities that made Spidey a phenomenon from the get-go: it attacks the heart, instead of just Maguire’s fake abs.
In 1963, Stan Lee introduced “the new superhero.” While Spider-Man is untouchable — a giddy jokester with the humor level of a third grader — Peter Parker is anything but strong. In fact, he boasts the emotional maturity of, well, a third grader. Hopelessly inarticulate and amusingly backward, Maguire rises above his dismal performance in the first movie by discovering what has made the world devour every Spidey story to hit the bookstores and the big screen since the 60s.
It’s pretty simple: it’s just love.
Not billionaire playboy love. Not even sensible, mature love. Young, poor, reckless love. Love so amateur and simple that it seems impossible.
Expounding on Ebert’s analysis, I would argue that Spider-Man is a superhero for those who don’t even like superheroes. And for those who do, he’s the hero they’ve been yearning for. Peter Parker is a real boy, capable of real feelings beneath his mask of power. He loves his Uncle Ben. He loves his Aunt May.
More than anything, Peter Parker loves his Mary Jane. He loves her so much that he is willing to risk sacrificing his own happiness, his own integrity and his own life to keep her out of harm’s way.
Peter Parker made my 2004 self understand what it meant to be in love. Young, poor, reckless love. Love superior to anything I had ever seen from Marvel, D.C., or “Bambi” (sorry, Dad).
I am a hopeless romantic. Unashamedly so, and I look forward to the day I encounter a superhero movie that moves me like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man sequel.
“So, here I am, standing in your doorway.” Mary Jane’s words will forever be the ruler with which I measure my own feelings. “I’ve always been standing in your doorway.”