There's no question that superheroes are a lucrative bunch. From Spider-Man to The Dark Knight, crime-fighters on the big screen often translate to big bucks at the box office. But how much does it actually cost to be a superhero? To celebrate Superhero Week — and May 4's all-star blockbuster The Avengers — Hollywood.com delves into the sustainability of our favorite heroes' super extracurricular activities. Would they have the funds — and good health — to keep up with their secret lifestyles? To kick off the week, we break down Sam Raimi's 2002 smash hit Spider-Man and discover that along with great responsibility, great power can also come with some great debt.
Name: Peter Parker
Superhero Alias: Spider-Man
Occupation: High school student/freelance photographer
Income: Fluctuates. While Peter (Tobey Maguire) presumably earned no allowance from Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) for household chores and earned a measly $100 for that amateur wrestling tournament (he lost $2900-slash-Uncle Ben's life in the process), his surprisingly lucrative freelancing gig at the Daily Bugle ($300 per photo or roughly $2100 per week) found him making around $5600 in total that month. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
Rent: Scott free! Lived modestly with Uncle Ben and Aunt May in Queens and then presumably lived rent-free thanks in a sweet SoHo loft with Harry Osborne (James Franco.) Rooming with the trust fund baby of an evil scientist has its perks!
Costume: His homemade wrestling outfit featured Spidey-inspired Nikes for $150, a red mask (around $15 on eBay), and your run of-the-mall Hanes male sweatpants and sweatshirt totaling $28.50, bringing his outfit to roughly $193. (A big hit, considering he only won $100 at that botched wrestling match.) As for his professional Spider-Man duds, a trip to Mood for 6 yards of red solid mesh would send him back $72. Tim Gunn would have been so proud. In total, Spidey spent about $265 on his costume/disguise.
Weapons: Again, totally free! This virtually ammo-free superhero is perhaps the most resourceful one, using only the weapons at his disposal, like his slinging spiderwebs. Take that, Batman.
Gadgets: To keep up that freelancing gig (which his editor J. Jonah Jameson wrongfully refers to as "the best thing in the world for a kid your age"), Spidey used a camera like this $429 Nikon.
Damages: While most of the damage caused to the city of New York was actually caused by the Green Goblin's destructive path, Peter broke a lamp at his Aunt and Uncle's house. That's coming out of your allowance, young man! Oh wait...
Transportation: Aside from the occasional subway ride when he's Peter Parker instead of Spider-Man, the hero gets around the city by climbing walls and jumping from building to building. Hey, those Metrocards are pricey.
Risks: Scads! Considering there's no health insurance in being a superhero (or a freelancer for that matter), Spider-Man was taking some big risks with his life considering what a physical and emotional toll the job takes. Peter/Spidey never went to the hospital, despite getting bit by a poisonous spider, jumping into a burning building, hitting the side of a building at full force after a failed swing, cutting his arm while trying to hide from Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe), and a variety of other ER-worthy incidents. Factor in a tragic backstory and an isolating future, and he should have definitely invested in some therapy.
Perks: Sure, there's no health insurance. But Spidey's heightened senses means no more glasses, saving him roughly $400 in glasses/contacts/eye exams, and an enviable physique, which means he can cancel his gym membership, around $800 a year in NYC.
Entertainment/Other: Offers to take his unrequited love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) out for $7.84 cheeseburger. (She declines!)
Sustainability: Not great. Between constantly having to change your identity and location (rooming with a guy whose dad you killed will put you back on Craigslist in no time), butting heads with/running from the authority, denying yourself fulfilling personal relationships in the already isolating Manhattan, and living off a freelancers wage can only last so long.
Final calculation: Peter Parker/Spidey saved/earned roughly $6,113.84. Again, not terrible for a youngster with incredible power at his disposal, but none of that money got his Uncle Ben back or Mary Jane in his arms.
[Photo credit: Columbia Pictures]
Of course 21 isn’t just about blackjack. It’s more about Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) a shy but brilliant M.I.T. student who--needing to pay Harvard medical school tuition--finds the answers in the cards so to speak. After dazzling his unorthodox math professor and stats genius Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) with some mathematical prowess Ben is quickly indoctrinated into Rosa’s group of “gifted” students who head to Las Vegas every weekend with the know-how to count cards and beat the casino at the blackjack tables. And win big they do. Ben is soon seduced by the allure of this luxurious lifestyle including his sexy teammate Jill (Kate Bosworth) but begins rebelling against the well-oiled machine Rosa has built. Apparently you don’t want to cross this particular math professor--nor the old-school casino security consultant (Laurence Fishburne) who has set his sights on Ben as a master card counter. It’s not illegal to do that but the casinos don’t much like it when they catch you doing it. Hey what happens in Vegas…oh you know the rest. The most well-rounded performance comes from the British Sturgess best known for singing Beatles’ songs in Across the Universe. His Ben starts out as a naive math whiz/nerd whose biggest thrill is designing the perfect science project for an M.I.T. contest but then becomes the smooth Vegas dude with the nice clothes and hot girlfriend and finally turns into the guy who eventually loses it all. It’s not hard to see just how much Ben is going to change once he gets involved in the moneymaking scheme but Sturgess handles the transition with aplomb. The stiff Bosworth isn’t nearly as effective as his love interest but she has her moments. Also good for comic relief is Aaron Yoo (Disturbia) as one of the blackjack players who oddly enough is also a kleptomaniac. The performance drawbacks in 21 come from the more veteran players. Spacey and Fishburne seem to be going through the motions utilizing techniques they’ve used many times before. Spacey can whither whoever it is with that look of his while Fishburne postures as he always does. It’s too bad they couldn’t have put in more effort. As with any movie in which the action is inherently stagnant (i.e. sitting at a blackjack table) the question is how to keep things visually stimulating. That’s where director Robert Luketic--who up to this point has only done broad comedies such as Legally Blonde and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton--comes in. Luketic does a fine job maneuvering the camera around the tables creating slo-mo close-ups of the cards and incorporating a cool soundtrack. A good montage or four usually can also work well in a situation like this and Luketic fully utilizes that technique--from the kids winning to them spending their money in gloriously obscene ways. Based on the book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions 21 has the extra advantage of being a somewhat true story as well. But the script from Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb basically copies from other sources and never really distinguishes itself.