Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spider-Ham, Spider-Ham...

(Spider-Man 3 spoilers abound, so read at your own peril.)

I REALLY love Sam Raimi's Spiderman movies. Well, I love two of them anyway.

Saturday afternoon, the family and I headed off the see the latest installment in the hit Spider-franchise: Spider-Man 3. Many aspects of the film were amazing and a lot of it was dead on, but there were a few nagging elements that left me scratching my head. I often bemoan fanboy ravings about a lot of moives, but the issues with this movie go beyond the usual 'they did the costume wrong!' comments. These are storytelling problems that transcend genre and strike at the heart of tight movie making.

As I said, a lot was right with the movie. Most of the special effects and action scenes were spectacular. The Sandman effects were great. Venom looked good and Topher Grace brought an energy to his Eddie Brock that that was noteworthy, but made Toby McGuire seem as if he was weary of the role of Peter Parker. The same was true of Bryce Howard's Gwen and Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. I had harbored doubts about the choice of Howard to play the ORIGINAL (in comics) girlfriend of Peter Parker, but I was amazed at how she projected the same appealing quality of the comics character from over three decades ago. Her look was distinctive and avoided a Gwen that had a sort of 'common supermodel' look. In the end, though, she made Mary Jane look as though Kirstin Dunst hadn't had enough sleep. Harry Osborn was played well and his action scenes were well done also. Sadly not all was right in the Big Apple.

My first problem with this outing is the fact that there is simply TOO MUCH injected into this film. It could easily have been two movies or even three. It's even possible it might have worked better if some of the more erroneous elements had been excised and more exposition and key connecting scenes had been added. Some of these are minor points, but not seeing the symbiote that becomes the black costume move from Pete's motor scooter up to his apartment made me think I had slept-walked a bathroom break and missed a scene. This happened several times and everytime it made me stop watching the movie and think about what was going on. I don't ever recall being reminded I was in a theater so many times during a movie.

Spider-Man 3 really consists of four stories. All four stories (Mary Jane, Harry, Sandman, and Venom) are all interesting and viable. Sadly, there isn't enough screen time to tell them all in a full rich manner as had been done in the first two Spider-films. Instead of expanding on these elements, we are are treated to Peter Parker doing a John Travolta act, a Pulp Fiction-esque dance number with Harry and Mary Jane, AND not one, but TWO songs from Mary Jane. Also, as funny as I find Bruce Campbell, the running champaigne joke seemed over played and did not fit the movie.

I also didn't care for the alteration of Spider-Man's origin to include Flint Marko. I understand why it was done as it allowed Peter to actually forgive his uncle's killer since the ORIGINAL killer was dead. Indeed, I liked the moral of the story that this presented, but it just added extra baggage to a movie that is already a contrivance caravan. The Venom-Meteor just happens to fall near Pete and Mary Jane's make out spot. Flint Marko just happens run onto a particle testing facility. Spiderman just happens to be in the bell tower of the church Eddie Brock visits to pray for Peter Parker's death. I realize that these types of synchronistic occurances are the mainstay of comics, but the inclusion of so many in one film and at such a rapid fire pace was jarring and took a franchise that was accurate if not transcendant of its source material and made it into simply a comic book movie.

I'm not sure what happened with this one. The film seems to have fallen victim to the same thinking that plagued many of the Batman films i.e. cramming as much into the project as possible in order to create buzz and sell a broader array of merchandise. Now, don't get me wrong, this was still one of the best superhero movies to date. Sadly it wasn't one of the best Spider-Man movies. I was hoping for much more, but it is after all, just a movie.


Blogger Charles R. Rutledge said...

Pretty much my take as well, man. A rambling, unfocused film that often didn't make much sense. The effects were cool though and the Sandman looked like a Steve Ditko drawing come to life, right down to the waves in his hair.

May 13, 2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger Brett Brooks said...

Again, I agree. I thought that it was easily the weakest of the three movies. It had glaring holes and horrible moments--and I'm surprised that you didn't even mention the whole Butler-Ex-Machina scene that drove me nuts. But still, with all that said, I feel it's the best movie to use multiple villains in the same movie. Let's just hope they never do it again--even though the next Batman flick has two villains in it.

May 19, 2007 3:25 PM  
Blogger Lanny said...

OH YES! I forgot about the butler!

Surely a better way could have been invented to let Harry know his dad died by his own hand.

May 19, 2007 6:27 PM  

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