Are superheroes' women their kryptonite?
By David Germain
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lois Lane is in constant need of rescue by Superman. Batman's various girlfriends always require saving.
In "Spider-Man 3," girl-next-door Mary Jane once again is used by villains as bait for the web-slinging superhero, whalso has to rescue another damsel in distress with whom he has a flirtation.
Forget Kryptonite. Are women the real Achilles' heel for superheroes? Would these caped and masked crusaders be better off as loveless loners?
"Absolutely," said Sam Raimi, director of the three "Spider-Man" movies, whose latest installment has Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane used both physically and psychologically by the bad guys to ensnare Tobey Maguire's Spidey.
"In fact, that's the path that Tobey's character, Peter Parker, chose at the end of the first picture," when Peter decided that with his Spider-Man alter ego, he had to avoid personal intimacy to protect those he loved and to do his job well, Raimi said. "Unfortunately, it's hard to live up to that ideal, and in the second picture, he weakened and wanted a life with her."
Laura Ziskin, one of the producers of the "Spider-Man" movies, said Peter tried giving up Mary Jane but ultimately found he could not live without her.
Raimi also found something he could not live without in a "Spider-Man" movie, Ziskin said. In the first movie, Raimi had Mary Jane dangling from a bridge for Spidey to come and save her. In the second film, she's tied to a pole and being sucked horizontally into a red-hot miniature sun. In the third one, two of the movie's villains suspend her from a giant web to lure Spider-Man into their trap.
The third movie also features Spider-Man rescuing a new character, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who sways from a skyscraper after a crane smashes through the side of the building.
"Sam loves putting a sexy girl in a tight-fitting outfit, hanging from something," Ziskin said.
They may be eye candy for the audience, but these women in peril certainly make for a harder day at the office for superheroes.
Their jobs would be easier without such emotional ties, Howard said. "It's true, it's true," Howard said. "It's heartbreaking for that reason. He's always having to go and save the girl, then everybody's always kidnapping the girl. When my husband saw the movie with me a few days ago, he turned to me and said, `Mary Jane's been through a lot.'"
Besides physical danger, Mary Jane faces endless emotional turmoil in "Spider-Man 3." Her Broadway career stalls, and she finds herself jealous of both the success boyfriend Peter has found in the superhero game and the adoration it brings him.
A stolen kiss between Gwen and Spidey especially galls her, opening the door to further complications in the love triangle between Mary Jane, Peter and their old pal Harry (James Franco), now Spider-Man's sworn enemy.
While Harry and new villains the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace) exploit Spider-Man's feelings for Mary Jane, Maguire said the hero still is better off with her in his life.
"I just think they know they can get him that way. The villains would find him one way or the other. We'd have to create something for the villains to get to him. It's kind of the most obvious way in, I guess," Maguire said.
"And it's nice, it adds dimension to his character. I mean, I guess, if he disconnected (from) his emotions or his feelings or his sense of duty, then he would be better off, because he'd just go, `Oh well, people will survive this, it's not my responsibility.'"
If Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and their superhero brethren were just invincible loners, without friends or other connections to the real world as they went about the business of rounding up bad guys, who would care about them?
"In the comics, the easiest way to bring real life into the life of the hero is to give him a spouse," said Avi Arad, another producer on the "Spider-Man" franchise.
"Lois Lane and the other women, in the comic books, the woman is the other world that represents all of us, and she is there to support, she is there to demand, she is there to observe and to make you think of her as an ambassador of the rest of us," said Arad, who also headed Marvel Studios, the comic-book empire's Hollywood branch, until last year.
"Otherwise, there is never a personal story to bring all of us into the room."