Last week I mentioned the character of Screwball and the writer’s stilted and cringey attempts to emulate Millennial shorthand and idioms. It’s interesting to compare that mess to the scene right after Grand Central Terminal where Spider-Man and MJ have an argument via texting. This exchange is bang-on. It’s not just solid from a character standpoint, but also by the way it captures the little nuances of what it means to have a fight through text messages.
There’s a moment where MJ says, “think we both had different ideas about this ‘partner’ thing”, referring to the way they decided to team up without either of them making clear what they expected from the other. She thought if they were ‘partners’ she’d be able to sneak around the hideouts of dangerous supervillains without him trying to stop her, and he thought she would just stay at home and gather information for him.
Spidey replies by shouting, “OH, YOU THINK?” at his phone, but then types a much more measured response. The whole exchange is full of little details like this that make these two characters feel genuine.
We see the entire exchange from Spider-Man’s perspective. On one hand, I kinda wish the viewpoint would shift over to MJ a few times so we could see how she’s reacting. Is she also shouting at her phone in exasperation while typing with restraint? Is she angry? Crying? Then again, not knowing what the other person is really feeling is part of the texting experience, and by trapping us in Spider-Man’s P.O.V. the writer enables us to share in his frustration and confusion.
Otto Octavius is Totally Fine
Peter Parker stops by the Octavius labs. Doc has made himself a set of four deadly telescoping mechanical arms with ghastly claws at the end. Pete checks the equipment and sees that the neural interface isn’t isolated to the motor control parts of his brain. It might be impacting his personality.
Terrified, Peter talks Otto into disconnecting from the neural interface until they can make it safer. This is not easy. Doc is having the time of his life with these arms. They’re strong, they’re fast, and he can control them with amazing precision. He’s got a degenerative disease that’s making it hard for him to move and get around, so these arms are incredibly liberating for him.
In the end, Doc trusts in the advice of his good friend Peter. These two have been through a lot together and it seems like Peter is the only friend he has. Doc unplugs and gives up on the robo-arms.
Then once Peter leaves, Mayor Osborn comes on the news. The Mayor tries to take indirect credit for keeping the city safe now that Spider-Man has defeated Martin the Bio-Terrorist. Otto gets pissed and plugs back in.
Ah well. What’s the worst that could happen?
Spider-Man talks to Yuri. They both assume the crisis is over. Martin Li is off to prison, the Devil’s Breath is recovered, and Otto Octavius is a nice old man who isn’t about to lose his mind and threaten the entire city. Things are going great in New York.
Then the Sable convoy carrying Devil’s Breath is attacked and the bioweapon is stolen. Man, these Sable guys are the worst at everything.
Before we can worry about that, there’s a prison break at Rikers, so Yuri and Spider-Man have to hurry over to contain it before the entire prison population winds up loose in the city.
Before they can put a lid on that situation, they learn there’s a prison break at the RAFT, which is the supermax prison where all of Spider-Man’s super villains are storedIn the Marvel movies, the RAFT is the prison in the middle of the ocean where most of Cap’s team wound up at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Here it’s right off the mainland. Comic book lore is flexible like that.. Spider-Man arrives to find that not only are all of his foes free, but they’re all fully equipped with their gear and ready to fight.
Spider-Man swings frantically around the prison, trying to get a handle on the situation. It ends with him on top of a tower where Electro, Rhino, Vulture, Scorpion, and Martin have gathered. He does pretty good, all things considered. This section is all cutscene and no gameplay so don’t get excited and run out to buy the game thinking you’ll get to fight 5/6ths of the Sinister Six.
The Sinister Six
I’m not crazy about this and it reeks of publisher interference. This fight was used heavily in the marketing campaign. HEY KIDS, WE GOT THE SINISTER SIX! BUY OUR GAME AND FIGHT THE SINISTER SIX! IT’S BIG AND EPIC!
The Sinister Six are a big deal. Six powerful foes. Any one of these guys makes for a tough fight for Spider-Man, and together they seem insurmountable. Taking on the Sinister Six should be the plot of an entire game, not the B plot of the last chapter of a game. We’re here in a new Spider-Man universe where the lore has been changed and cleaned up to make the material more approachable. This is the writer’s big chance to give a fresh take on these five iconic characters, and instead these guys are basically wasted.
The problem here is that Electro, Rhino, Vulture, and Scorpion are given just enough characterization to make them seem arch and one-note. After this, you can’t turn around and give Electro a complex personality and interesting backstory like they did for Doctor Octopus in this game. You can’t give the two of them a history. By treating these guys like B-list foes, it pretty much relegates them to the position of B-list foes forever.
How is the writer supposed to make these guys interesting and threatening in the future? Contrive another escape for the entire team? It would be pretty hard to sell fans on a game where Scorpion and Electro team-up when we’ve already fought them as part of a larger group. Any sequel they make is going to be obligated to match or exceed this moment in terms of stakes, and I have no idea how you can do that. Who is Spider-Man supposed to fight in the next game? Galactus? Thanos?
Sony is Bad for Spider-Man
It’s the Spider-Man movie problems all over again. It’s like Sony is incapable of learning this lesson. They always want to burn through supervillains as quickly as possible, short-changing the foes in the process. This is one of the reasons they have to keep rebooting Spider-Man. Spider-Man 3 fell apart because they overstuffed it with villains. Amazing Spider-Man 2 fell apart because they overstuffed it with villains.
X-Men 3: The Last Stand rushed right into the Dark Phoenix storyline without giving it the proper setup. They tried that same idea again this year with the movie Dark Phoenix. It just came out this week, and it looks like they got the same results. They’re obsessed with making everything BIG and EPIC, while forgetting that without the character-driven emotional core of the story, it’s just a bunch of noise.
EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that X-Man movies are FOX, not Sony. You know, this would be more forgivable if it wasn’t the 10th time I’ve made the same stupid mistake.
Sony has spent twenty years and almost a billion dollars making the same mistake over and over, and I’m sick of it. People this incompetent and artistically bankrupt do not deserve to be in charge of something as culturally significant as Spider-Man.
For the record, I can’t prove that the Sony higher-ups forced the writers to use the Sinister Six. I have no idea what went on behind the scenes. I’m just saying I think it’s amazing how many Sony endeavors suffer from the problem of too many villains and a general rush for epic-ness at the cost of character development. I have no evidence one way or the other, but I really wouldn’t be surprised to learn this problem was the result of executive meddling.
The Sinister Six is something you should do once you’ve given everyone a proper introduction. It would make sense to have it as the final game of a trilogy. Lay some groundwork first. Introduce the characters. Take your time. Tell good stories. By jumping right to the Sinister Six they’re skipping over good stories, making Spider-Man’s foes less interesting, and painting themselves into a corner so sequels are harder to make.
Once Scorpion, Electro, Vulture, Rhino, and Martin are done beating Spider-Man into submission, Doctor Octopus shows up. This was his plan. He told the rest of the Sinister Six to make sure to not kill Spider-Man, because he wanted to personally warn the web-swinger to stay out of their way.
Once his warning is given, he tosses the limp and helpless Spider-Man off the tower and into the ocean, where he ends up floating face-down and not drowning somehow.
So let’s talk about Doc Ock and his plan…
The Evil Plan™
Like I said earlier in this series, Otto knows that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. Which means that his plan is:
Step 1: Release all the worst foes of your best friend in the whole world.
Step 2: Lead your best friend into a vicious ambush and beat him within an inch of his life in order to warn him to “stay out of your way”.
Step 3: Now go enact the revenge plan you actually care about.
See, Otto’s plan is to release these prisoners into the city and have them spread chaos and terror by killing people. Then he’s going to release Devil’s Breath, which could potentially kill millions more people. All of this is part of his effort to get “revenge” on Norman Osborn, who will most likely not be hurt by any of this. Doc has this massively destructive plan that involves several dangerous and unpredictable steps, and which won’t do anything to advance his overall goal of getting revenge on Norman Osborn.
Shamus, weren’t you paying attention? Otto Octavius has that neural interface driving him insane and changing his personality, so his plans don’t need to make sense!
Yeah, I get that he’s crazy. I still have objections. First off, even if he’s pure evil he’s still incredibly intelligent. He builds all of these science gizmos for his team. How is it he’s still smart enough to make these complex multi-stage plans that require mastering several fields of science, and yet he’s too stupid to notice that his plan hurts his best friend and doesn’t do anything to hurt his nemesis? This is a very selective brand of insanity.
Of course, that’s not really a problem in a comic-book world. Selective crazy isn’t anything unusual in this genre. The real problem is that we already did this plot. Somehow Otto Octavius went crazy in such a way that he adopted the exact same nonsensical plan as Martin Li. Both of these villains decided to get revenge of Norman Osborn by killing a bunch of people who aren’t Norman Osborn and who (according to their thinking) Osborn doesn’t care about.
Shamus, Doctor Octopus is trying to discredit Osborn. People will find out that Osborn originally made Devil’s Breath and so he’ll take the blame.
The only reason people find out that Osborn made Devil’s Breath is because of a report published by MJ, and she doesn’t make that public until after Devil’s Breath is released. And Doc Ock never made any effort to tell people where it came from. His plan was to just unleash a deadly biological agent on the populace and then… hope they somehow figure out it came from Oscorp? He’s an evil scientist. Barring some pretty damning evidence, the most natural thing for everyone to assume is that the evil science man who released the deadly bioweapon is also the evil science man who invented it.
I think this could be fixed if the writer had just given Martin Li some other rationale for his behavior. I can accept that one villain has convoluted and needlessly destructive plans that don’t advance his goals, but it’s really weird when two villains have the exact same convoluted and needlessly destructive plans that don’t advance their goals, and we learn about them essentially back-to-back. We have two guys who are both “crazy” for different reasons yet enact the exact same plan that runs on the exact same moon logic.
We could massively improve both the Martin Li and the Doctor Octopus plots by fixing Li’s motivation so it makes more sense in terms of his stated goals, and so we don’t fight two villains with the same plan. Just say the demonOr whatever his deal is. I don’t care. compels him to create chaos and don’t ask us to accept that his plan is intended to somehow destroy Osborn.
 In the Marvel movies, the RAFT is the prison in the middle of the ocean where most of Cap’s team wound up at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Here it’s right off the mainland. Comic book lore is flexible like that.
 Or whatever his deal is. I don’t care.
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