Friday, May 4, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Warning: Do not read if you haven't seen the movie.

Spidey's back in black as he returns to the big screen for Spider-Man 3, the newest in the continuing series of films that have arguably given the superhero genre the most legitimacy since Tim Burton's Batman. New villians, new characters, and new problems present themselves to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as they blunder through the film caught in a whirlwind of nonsensical romantic situations and too much plot for their own good.

I'm sure you guys were about as sick of hearing about this movie as I was. They started hyping it like 13 months ago. I hate it when they do that - by the time the movie comes out, you feel like you've already seen everything you need to see. There WAS one real surprise that wasn't advertised and therefore came as a delightful bonus to a Kirsten Dunst-filled film: the magnificently attractive Gwen Stacy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, Lady in the Water). As a new love interest for Peter Parker, Bryce stole the show with her dazzling cuteness and girl-next-door qualities. (Disclaimer: This could be a side effect from seeing too much Kirsten Dunst on screen, causing ANY OTHER female (including Aunt May) to seem like Scarlett Johansson at the beach. Regardless - Bryce was lookin' good.) Enough of that.

Spider-Man 3 wasn't spectacular, but it was definitely above average. It was a good summer movie: it had the requisite action, the love story, and the cool swinging camera shots we've come to expect from this movie series. However, it did not offer anything to kick it to an "holy crap, that movie was awesome" level. Personally, I came away slightly disappointed. It's a shame when you get excited about average movies because you haven't seen anything better recently, making (in your mind) the movie you just saw seem better than it actually was. That's how I felt after Spider-Man 3. (This feeling could also be attributed to the fact that I watched Lucky Number Slevin two days before seeing SM3, and L#S could possibly be one of the best movies in the past 10 years. )

The main reason that I didn't like Spider-Man 3 as much as I thought I might is because of its blatant similarities to other movies in the same genre. I felt like in the first two, the filmmakers did well keeping the storylines moderately original and really set the franchise apart from "just another superhero movie." After all, Spider-Man 2 was the second-highest grossing film of 2004 behind Shrek 2. As for the subject at hand, I've got some problems with this threequel (aka third movie, second sequel).

First off, they tried to intertwine too many stories at once. This isn't Traffic or Crash - it's a summer blockbuster. What are you guys trying to do, here? There was the thief breaking out of jail turning into the Sandman, Parker's rivalry with Brock at the Daily Bugle, the Gwen Stacy sideplot (pictured at left), Mary Jane's failing career, Brock's transformation into Venom, Peter's revenge on his uncle's killer, Peter's dancing in the streets shooting the double guns left and right, Harry's amnesia, Harry's regaining his memory and forcing MJ into a fake break-up, Harry trying to kill Peter, Harry saving Peter, Harry dying for Peter...HOLY CRAP, THERE'S TOO MUCH HAPPENING. I understand that audiences are (I hope) physically and mentally able to comprehend everything that's going on, but that doesn't mean that they should be forced to. Spread it out a little, screenwriters.

Second, the three-villain combo is reminiscent of late 90's Batman movies. Bad idea. We all saw how that worked out in Batman & Robin. Enough said.

Third, the Sandman's character was a complete rip off of the Mummy from those Brendan Fraser movies. It looked like they literally recycled some footage from the Mummy movies and inserted it into New York City. Also, if you could grow in direct proportion with how much sand was in your immediate area, riddle me this: Why wouldn't you just go to the friggin' beach, grow to be like 600 feet tall, and then start doing some real damage instead of just robbing banks? They're probably going to catch you, unless you get the standard "unmarked, non-sequential bills" that villains are always asking for. Sandman didn't make any specifications in his demands. He didn't even demand anything. The Sandman's not the sharpest tool in the shed, says I. Plus, with the inclusion of Sandman trying to save his daughter, they tried to make him the standard "sympathetic villain" that we've seen OVER AND OVER again in examples like Mr. Freeze (Batman & Robin), Magneto (the X-Men series), V (V For Vendetta) to some degree, and even Doc Ock from the last Spider-Man incarnation. Throw something new our way.

What's that? You DID throw something new our way? Venom, you say? Hah! He was hardly even in the movie at all. At one point, I leaned over to Branz and said that the symbiote had lain dormant in Peter Parker's apartment for about 2 weeks, waiting for some arbitrary time to make its move. I wouldn't have beef with this except for the way that they portrayed the symbiote in the bell tower scene when it shifted over to Eddie Brock. In that scene, the alien organism immediately switched personas when Parker ditched it with the church bells, taking over Brock within 30 seconds. If the thing had such an intense need for a host, why did it wait for two weeks in Peter's apartment just sitting under his bed? Doesn't make sense. This coupled with the fact that Brock's version of Venom was in the movie for a staggering 25 minutes doesn't really even count as a villain appearance. That's like saying that Sean Connery starred in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

All this aside, the performances were just as you'd expect. Kirsten Dunst was awful as Mary Jane, Tobey Maguire was his usual goofy self, Topher Grace was pretty good as Eddie Brock, J.K. Simmons was awesome as J. Jonah Jameson, and Rosemary Harris ain't gettin' any younger.

As much fun as it is to rip on Ms. Dunst, you can't place all the blame on her. She's just trying to do her job. She's not the one who came up with the idea that Peter literally backhands her in the face and a few scenes later she gets back together with him. (Connery would approve.) I know this isn't supposed to be the most realistic film ever put to celluloid, but the filmmakers should at least make an attempt at being reasonable. You know who they should have cast as Mary Jane? Bryce Dallas Howard! She actually has red hair, plus she's hot. I don't think the audience can really get the reaction the director wants when they are hoping that Peter actually dumps Mary Jane for Gwen Stacy. Why wasn't I in charge of casting? Until next time...