Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spider-Man 3

A mixed blessing. That’s how I would refer to Spider-Man 3. Sure, we get the alien symbiote, the Sandman, Gwen Stacy, a wedding proposal, a new Goblin, and Venom, but we get them all at once and all on top of each other. The film would have been better served if the creators had been a little more selective and told a more in-depth, concise, and fleshed-out story, rather than rushing through a half-dozen tales all at once.

As the film opens Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) life is golden. He’s got a good job at the Daily Bugle, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is acting on stage, the city has fallen in love with Spider-Man, and he has decided to ask MJ to marry him.

Well, as you can expect, things don’t remain rosy for long. First there’s relationship trouble Peter isn’t paying attention to. Second, Peter’s best bud Harry Osborne (James Franco) has been taking his dead dad’s (Willem Dafoe) super Goblin formula and has decided to finally take his revenge.

There’s also the recent jail-break of a prisoner named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) who is important to Peter for two reasons. First, because of a freak accident while escaping from the cops, he runs into a live scientific staging area causing his molecular structure to be changed to sand, thus making him freakishly powerful. Second, as Peter learns from the police, he’s the man who actually shot Uncle Ben (Clifford Robertson) that fateful night.

There’s also Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a new rival photographer at the Daily Planet, who is interested in Peter’s college lab partner Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) who has a little crush on both Peter and Spider-Man. And add to all of that a mysterious symbiote lifeform that lands to Earth and bonds to Peter increasing his aggression and ego to Mel Gibson-sized standards.

Whew! Did you get all that? Did I mention the movie is “only” 140 minutes long? Even at that length it is impossible to explore all the aspects of each storyline. In fact there is so much going on a storyline will be lost for 20 minutes or more before it comes back around again. At times I forgot the Sandman was a part of the film. There’s just too much jammed in here, in what was originally planned to be the final chapter of the Spidey franchise. Though it does wrap up many storylines it does so only by rushing through each in a breakneck manner that leaves the overall storyline disjointed and uneven, and may leave you a little shell-shocked.

Just how much story is jammed into the film? I’m so glad you asked, you’re such a smart reader; have I told you that lately? Well, I got through all that and didn’t mention J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) humorous health problems, Dr. Curt Conners (Dylan Baker) experimenting on the sybiote, Bruce Campbell‘s new role, Peter’s conversations with Aunt May (Rosemay Harris), the amnesia plot arc (don’t ask), the flashbacks, Captain Stacy (James Cromwell), Marko’s daughter (Perla Haney Jardine) and wife (Theresa Russell), the Jazz Club, and much, much more.

The film’s overambitious plot isn’t the only problem. It seems that Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Alvin Sargent, never watched Tim Burton‘s Batman. You guys are great, but you aren’t better writers than Stan Lee and Bob Kane, so please stop ruining what they’ve done by trying to make it better. Here they make the same mistake of re-imaginging the hero’s origin to make a super-villain responsible for everything. That’s a mistake, and it’s a big one - especially given how much the first two films harped on Peter’s inaction with the robber and his responsibility with his new powers. Well, guess what? It wasn’t really your fault Peter, somebody else shot your Uncle Ben. You’re off the hook, thanks anyway.

I’m also not a big fan of multiple super-villains - here the film has three: the Sandman, Venom, and the new Goblin all of who have to have origin stories rushed through so you can get to the good stuff. If Eddie Brock had been introduced in the last movie it would have helped, and you could have foreshadowed a real resentment to Peter rather than just a competitiveness. Or, if the symbiote was introduced here and dealt with in detail leaving Venom for the next film that too would have been an improvement to force-fitting it all in one flick.

Then there’s the character of Gwen Stacy, and despite Howard’s resemblance to the character there’s almost no reason for her inclusion in the film. Kirsten Dunst should have had the role in the first flick, and yes she should have died on the Brooklyn Bridge letting MJ get introduced in the next film. Bringing her in after MJ and Peter are almost engaged doesn’t serve a purpose other than to throw one more Spidey character into the film.

Geek Moment: I hate the look of the movie’s version of Spidey’s black costume! I know it’s the petty comic geek in me, but if you want to do it - do it right! Venom’s look is only slightly better as he resembles the live-action version of Spawn if someone colored over him with a cheap black marker. Well, now we know why they weren’t letting us see him in the trailers. I guess special effects haven’t come that far in ten years after all.

Even with all these issues there’s quite a bit to enjoy (with as much jam-packed into the film as there is, there would have to be). The special effects and action sequences are quite good, and the look of the Sandman is perfect. And, if it tries too hard, it still gets the feel, the spirit of Spider-Man, right. The film’s continues to focus both on Peter’s maturation and his relationships with the world. He makes mistakes, as do the people around him, and they all grow. This film in particular also examines the gray area between good and evil, and how one’s perspective can be colored by emotion and the lack, or understanding, of the full facts. The costume subplot also allows the film to play Peter as a darker character which gives you some surprisingly good moments (his fights with Eddie and Harry) and some groan-worthy over-the-top ones as well (the leers on the street).

Although the film still manages to pull out an entertaining film despite it’s many issues, it’s the weakest of all three films, which is sad considering how good Spider-Man 2 turned out to be (I don’t think it’s coincidence that it was the most concise storyline of all three films). For a summer popcorn flick you’ll get your bang for your buck, some frills, some chills and some fun, but maybe not quite as much as you were hoping for. Oh, and a final note, don’t get up as the “ending” starts to wrap up. We’ve got another Peter Jackson epilogue upon epilogue situation happening here. Here’s one situation I’d like to see changed; when you get to the end, end the movie! One page epilogues work great in comics, in movies they look like you were trying to use up the rest of your film stock.

No comments: