Last night, my brother and his girlfriend (also known as yoavb and ntopaa) suggested that I join them in going to the movies to watch Spiderman. I smiled and said "No, thanks". My brother, sinister mastermind that he is, engaged ntopaa in my seduction. She used flattery (which, as you surely know, will get you everywhere), responding to my objection that it'll probably be just a bundle of stunts and computer graphics by saying "Oh, but it'll be worth it just to hear you and yoavb discussing the Marvel Universe afterwards." Her efforts also involved funny faces and grapes. I caved in.
Flashback: The year is 1989. Ijon the Young Role-player discovers that there's more to role-playing than AD&D. Specifically, there's the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game. With a friend named Elad and later with another friend named Itamar, Ijon discovers the allure of spandex apparel. Um, of imaginary characters with spandex apparel, that is. Honest! Anyhow, Ijon never read any Marvel comic books (those being practically nonexistent in Israeli bookshops at the time), but like all kids knows Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk. He buys some official MSH accessories, and relishes the "biographies" of all kinds of things (being a noun general enough to include humans, mutants, aliens, gods, entities, vegetables, planets, and chemical compounds gone very, very wrong) in the Marvel Universe character encyclopedias. Ijon starts playing Marvel, alongside his continued interest in AD&D (that only stopped around 1993), and for a while it is his favorite game in the whole world. At some point he teaches his little brother, yoavb, the mysteries of the game, too.
Fast forward to 2002: Ijon realizes that although it's been at least six years since he's touched those game books, he still has a soft spot for those wacky superheroes. In fact, he finds himself lecturing to yoavb and ntopaa about the geographical differences between the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men. With surprising clarity, floor plans of the FF's Baxter Building and side views of the Avengers' Quinjet vehicle spring to his mind. Even the numbers corresponding to the game's "intensity" ranks are there. Talk about mental attics.
Then he recalls Dotan's recent blog entry about Spiderman, and decides he wouldn't mind a stroll down memory lane in the form of a Marvel-inspired movie. Off they go to the movies.
Ijon will switch pronouns now, because I feel like it.
En route, yoavb shows me some old document props I made for my In Nomine campaign, back in early 1998. It turns out that he collected the props, NPC sheets and other papers in some big envelope, and I leaf through it, waxing nostalgic again. One of the props is made up to look like a newspaper article, and it is signed J. J. Jameson. Ding! I point to the tiny signature on the page and say "Hey, Jameson, Jameson! How serendipitous -- we're going to see Spiderman, and you picked this time to show me this particular relic of a past campaign, bearing my candid little homage to the Marvel Universe!" yoavb and ntopaa eyed me with concern, but I was beyond worrying about my dignity. "Jameson, don't you get it? The editor and publisher of the Daily Bugle, Peter Parker's boss!" That little serendipity (my life abounds with such things; I love it) had me all excited and fuzzily happy before the movie began.
The movie is great fun. Tobey Maguire makes a very good Peter Parker, as Dotan pointed out. unsubliminal message: go watch The Cider House Rules if you haven't yet. Kirsten Dunst's face was much too reminiscent of plastic at some points, but it didn't spoil the movie for me. Willem Dafoe made a wonderful villain. But the casting that really made my day was J.K. Simmons playing J. Jonah Jameson. Ohh! He was perfect. Facial features, facial expressions, tone of voice -- perfect.
The plot was quite tolerable, and there was plenty of wholesome humor. I never thought I'd enjoy such a film so much. I guess it owes more to the emotional strata it taps into in me than to "objective" quality, but it pleased me so much that I actually felt an itch to return to the genre, in role-playing by default but perhaps from another angle instead or as well. yoavb promised we'll hold some evening dedicated to Marvel, for ol' times sake. I look forward to it.