Sunday, 7 August 2011

Alfred Molina's Doc Ock: Comic book to movie

Doctor Octopus, one of Spider-Man's earliest, deadliest and most iconic villains. First created by Spider-Man co-creator, Stan Lee, in Amazing Spider-Man #3 in 1963. Dr. Otto Octavius, a brilliant and driven Nuclear scientist, who became the villain known as Doctor Octopus, or Doc Ock as he's often referred to by Spider-Man, made his mark in Spider-Man's life by being the first villain to ever defeat and humiliate Spider-Man in battle. It taught the wall crawler a bitter lesson in his life as a super hero. Thus it established the feud between Spidey and Doc Ock which would become a staple of the Spider-Man mythology.

So when director Sam Raimi returned to direct a second Spider-Man movie, after the first one was a huge critical and financial success, adored by fans as well as the general audiences, Raimi chose Doc Ock as the villain. Raimi cast the wonderful actor, Alfred Molina, who is not only an accomplished and extremely talented actor, but he was about as physically perfect to portray the tentacled villain as you could get.

Raimi took his liberties with Doc Ock, as he did with all of the Spider-Man characters, but he invested a lot of the comic book Doctor Octopus into his movie version. More than many fans often don't realize. So this blog will take a look at just how much of the spirit of comic book Doctor Octopus was incorporated into the movie version.

Back story for an Octopus

Dr. Otto Octavius was not always the cold hearted villain we know and love. He was once a man who had the capacity to love others. Specifically he once fell in love with a fellow scientist named Mary Alice Anders. He even came within an inch of getting married to her. Unfortunately his over bearing Mother sabotaged the relationship with her selfish nature through emotional blackmail.

In Spider-Man 2, Octavius was fortunate enough to have managed to marry the woman he loves, a woman named Rosie.

However it ended in tragedy when she was killed due to his own reckless behavior during his disastrous fusion experiment.

In the comic books, Octavius created his tentacle apparatus for manipulating dangerous nuclear material which was too dangerous to be handled by human hands:

In Spider-Man 2, Octavius created the tentacles to manipulate the Fusion ball which was far too dangerous to be handled by human hands.

So in both cases he created the tentacles to handle and manipulate material that is deemed too dangerous to touch with human hands.

Warehouse Lair

Doc Ock has a penchant for setting up residence in seedy Warehouses. Usually near the New York waterfront. They are more inconspicuous and serve their purposes.

In Spider-Man 2, Doc Ock set up a lair in a warehouse on Pier 56:

Using the girl as bait for Spidey

Doc Ock is nothing if not extremely clever. If he wishes to lure Spider-Man to him and guarantee he will show up, he uses only the finest bait: a helpless girl. Usually one affiliated with Peter Parker and the Daily Bugle whom are infamous for documenting Spider-Man.

In Spider-Man 2, Doc Ock kidnapped MJ, the friend of Bugle photographer, Peter Parker, as bait to ensure Spider-Man would meet him:

Battle tactics against Spidey

Doc Ock is more than a match for Spider-Man in battle. But Doc Ock is no fool. Why engage Spider-Man in a needlessly drawn out battle when he can employ quicker and more under handed tactics to gain the advantage?

Doc Ock's particular favorite tactic is endangering innocent lives, causing Spider-Man to either let his guard down in the rescue or physically drain himself in the efforts to save them:

In Spider-Man 2, Doc Ock sped up a train full of people and then ripped out the brakes. He then left it to Spider-Man to save the train. The extreme physical effort it took for Spidey to stop the train wore him down and Ock returned triumphantly and easily took out and captured Spidey.

Dangerous reactor/my "dreams"/unconscious tentacle reaction

In Spider-Man 2, Octavius refers to his fusion reactor as his dream. Doc Ock's tentacles were able to react to a threat, even if he was unconscious, this being due to the fact that they were programmed with A.I. in them. Doc Ock's fusion reactor also ultimately ended up going haywire once he'd built it in his lair, putting all of New York in jeopardy and leaving a desperate Spider-Man in badly need of Ock's help to shut it down. Doc Ock did shut it down once Peter managed to get through to Octavius and make him see the error of his ways and Ock did ultimately stop his reactor and in the process cause the destruction of his own lair and cause his own apparent death.

In the comics there was one particular Doc Ock story which features several elements mentioned above which Raimi clearly used as an inspiration for this movie:

Peter and Octavius: Mirror images of each other

In the comic books, Peter Parker and Otto Octavius were mirror images of each other. Both were born and raised in middle class New York, lost a parent at a young age, were Science geeks with big round glasses, bullied in school, unpopular with girls and both acquired their power through their love of Science. However where Peter learned to use his great power with great responsibility, Octavius went to the other extreme and corrupts his own power by using it irresponsibly for his own selfish gain.

In Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker's conflicts mirror Otto Octavius'. Peter is being irresponsible by giving up his life as Spider-Man so he can live his dream of a normal life. He is not using his great power with great responsibility. While Otto Octavius is using his power to do evil things in order to make his dream succeed. By the end of the movie they both have to give up their dream and come full circle and accept responsibility for their actions. 

Visual homages

Influence on the Comic Books 

Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2 has had some influence on the comic book version of the character. Most notably in appearance. The trench coat look as well as the tentacle claws having red lights in the center has been used:

The A.I. that Doc Ock had in his tentacles has also been used in some stories: