Monday, October 15, 2012

Geez, We Sure Were Dumb When We Were Kids: "Spider-Man: The Chinese Web"



I am thirty five years old...who's applauding?...anyway, I grew up on "Batman" reruns starring Adam West. My mom remembers using a clothespin to secure a bath towel around my neck as a cape so I could save the world from villains, or at least the family bulldog from my little sister. I saw all of the Christopher Reeve "Superman" movies in the theater, and thrilled to the first one, hated the second one, was indifferent to the third one, and knew better by the fourth one.

I also remember watching the television series "Spider-Man." I could not believe this man was crawling up buildings, shooting webs, and capturing bad guys. Again, I was a dumb kid. Now, as I sat down to "The Chinese Web," I realized my parents were right about all the garbage I used to watch on television. Back in the days before cable, we soaked in all we could, dreaming of the day that this magical cable television would come and save us from network dreck. Who knew that it would deliver just more dreck?

Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) is an overly earnest photographer for editor J. Jonah Jameson (Robert F. Simon). The plot is way too complicated for a basic two-part episode of a network television series. Min Lo Chan (Benson Fong) arrives in New York City from Hong Kong. He is about to become a minister in the Chinese government, and villain Zeider wants him dead so he could get the steel mill contract. Min, on the other hand, is up on charges of selling Chinese military secrets to some U.S. Marines in WWII. Min wants to clear his name, and needs to find the three Marines in order to have them tell their side of the stories.

Min is good friends with Jonah, so he goes to the cranky editor for help. Min drags his poor niece Emily (the beautiful Rosalind Chao) along as Parker and Min hunt for the Marines, and Spider-Man conveniently pops up to save the day. The last half of the film is shot on location in Hong Kong, as we Americans offend the Oriental sensibilities with cheesy action sequences.

I really tried to get into this. Ted Danson pops up in one scene as the most unconvincing Marine Corps officer ever filmed. I thought it was funny that the first episode...I mean, the first half of the film...took place in New York City, but film makers obviously shot some of this in Southern California. Hammond is pretty good as Parker, but the costumed Spider-Man is awful.

Eventually, however, this just bored me. No one could figure out Parker is Spider-Man, until one scene where Emily unmasks him (after he gets hurt AGAIN), and that scene is just glossed over. The film makers try to take advantage of Hong Kong locales, but the story is so convoluted and lame, it is a shame they went through the money and effort.

The direction here is standard. The script is jumpy because it is just two hour-long episodes edited together. When Spider-Man climbs a building, you can see rope and machines pulling him up. Spidey gets shot (twice!), but only in each arm. The whole thing is laughable, especially when Parker goes "undercover" by disguising himself as a stereotypical Chinaman, right down to dark pajamas and a straw hat.

"Spider-Man: The Chinese Web" might find new life thanks to the new "Spider-Man" films coming out. Do yourself a favor and go to the theater instead. (*) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Adventures of Spider-Man: Chinese Web [VHS]