Passing Thoughts: Spider-Physics and a Case of Mistaken Identity

I have this physicist friend and the other day we were talking in the pub about nuclear fusion, like you do. My mind went straight to the scene in SPIDER-MAN 2 where Doc Ock attempts such an experiment to create a sustainable energy source and thought I’d see how accurate the representation of the process was. Considering the concept is illustrated in the movie by a miniature sun suspended in a cradle, I had the sneaking suspicion that anything beyond the theory was garbage.

After a cursory Google search for “Spider-Man 2 physics” I was presented with a stream of articles debating the physics in 2014’s cinematic tumor THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. I know you might think that I’m being picky, but when one of these is my second-favourite superhero movie of all time and the other is my all-time most hated and references to them seem to be interchangeable, for me it becomes a bit of an issue. I don’t care about how Electro transmits his powers or whether Spidey could really insulate his web-shooters, I want to know if there’s any hard physics behind Dock Ock’s miniature sun!

Are we really at a point where  twelve years on writers and the public have already forgotten Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking work to legitimise the superhero genre? Can internet journalists really not be bothered to specify if they’re talking about Raimi’s spot-on story adaptation and dynamic direction or Marc Webb’s overstuffed soapy superhero faceplant?

It’s likely an issue that began with Sony deciding to reboot the Spidey-franchise so soon after Raimi walked away. That’s not an excuse, but it could be a factor that leads to confusion, though I didn’t notice the same thing happening with Fox’s FANTASTIC FOUR reboot (probably because it failed more definitively and ingloriously than its predecessor). I guess it’s just simpler to refer quickly to a first instalment and its sequel(s) by number (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 1, 2, 3 rather than their individual titles) but that still doesn’t forgive plain sloppy writing. You only have to do it once in your article, in the title or the first paragraph, so make the effort!

It just smacks of laziness. Take the time to specify which film you are writing on – you only have to do it once in the article – and prove you know what you’re talking about. I still don’t know how tenuous the use of physics as a plot point in Spider-Man 2 is. Just a passing thought – I’ll calm down now. Of course if you spot any mistake I’ve made here then I promise to take it on the chin. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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