Friday, May 04, 2007

Spider-Man 3, Audience 0

(Beware, Mateys! There be spoilers here!)

I hate to do this.

Really I do.

I LOVE the recent spate of comic movies that has come out in the past 8 years. Even though I have no love whatsoever for BLADE, it was the beginning of the recent flush of quality movies made from comic properties, and therefore, I love it anyway.

Which is why it pains me to say I didn't really care for Spider-Man 3.

I went 40 something miles to see this movie on opening night, because I was ready for it to rock. I dragged my brother out to see this tonight, rather than wait for a more convenient showing tomorrow. I was ready for this to be the highlight of May. This made my doctor's office visit seem pretty alright.

They tried to do WAAAAAAY too much. The movie was 2:20, it needed to be 1:50. The movie had three villains, it needed two. The movie had all the awkward hurdles facing the loving couple, it needed to build on what was established in the first two installments rather than completely ass-rape it and start from scratch.

The following is a list of problems I had with the flick, ranked in no descernable chronological or dramatic order.

1.) TOO MANY VILLAINS - The movie could have been exceptional with Harry fights Spidey and loses, Spidey fights Sandman and loses, Spidey and Harry fight Sandman and win the day. I could have lived with Spidey finds symbiote, Harry fights Spidey and loses, Symbiote fights Peter and loses, Spidey fights Venom and loses, Spidey and Harry fight Venom and win the day. But this movie had too much going on, so much so that even Sam Raimi didn't know what to do with all his characters. Spidey fought Harry, and won. They didn't want Harry to get in the way while Spidey was fighting Sandman, so they gave him amnesia. When they wanted to get into the part where Spidey rejects the symbiote and inadvertantly creates Venom, they stashed the Sandman away by knocking him into a river. It even happens during the climactic battle, when the villains that Spidey and Harry aren't focusing on are "busy" doing their taxes until they are needed to rejoin the fight. I half expected Dylan Baker to eat the symbiote sample and turn into the Lizard right there in the middle, just to get a little more heaped onto Spidey's plate.

2.) Harry's memory - As I stated, Harry was given amnesia as a way to keep him out of the way until they needed him. Even though this is a trite and overused concept in movies, television, any recordable media, etc., they did a good job with it, and when Harry's memory DID come back, we got to see what a creepy fuck James Franco can be (the smile in the cafe window was pure awesomeness). My problem with this is that Harry's memory comes back for no apparent reason other than it was convenient to the script. Again, they needed to rush things along because they had to shoehorn three villains in, so they couldn't spend too much time on it, but it would have been nice ot have a little more of a dramatic moment other than "oh, yeah, I remember now, I hate that dick Peter Parker!"

3.) Thomas Hayden Church has the face of a mackerel - It actually fit in with the classic Ditko look of the character, and was not my real issue with THC, but it is fun to say. My REAL issue with this is how easily the character was turned from sympathetic father to moronic lackey and back again, seemingly at the whim of the script rather than any real sense of character development. The scenes with him transforming into Sandman were far and away the best visual in the picture, and THC did a great job as the sad-sack-sillicate, and I genuinely cared about his character. It would have been nice to know how his daughter was sick, and how robbing banks would have cured her, but much of the story was lost to the cumbersome cast and need to balance screen time between 38 main characters. In the end he rides off into the sunset, and you can almost hear Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" playing in the background. It almost makes you forget that he basically forgot why he was embarking in a life of crime in the first place to play stooge to Venom.

4.) Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy - TOTALLY unnecessary, because she only served to cause tension between Pete and MJ, which was in and of itself unnecessary. Oh, and she was just another thing for Eddie Brock to lose to Peter, which was ALSO forced, unnecessary, and boring. She did an okay job, but she felt forced in there because she was an established name in Spider-Man lore, and they needed to cram whatever they could in this installment. Her inclusion, among other things, serves to kill any belief on my part that they intend to do a fourth movie. They wanted to get everyone in this one, so they shoved her right in. I'm surprised they didn't throw in Felicia Hardy, Mac Gargan, Adrian Toomes, and Max Dillon, but then again, maybe they were all partying at the Constellation Restaurant, who knows.

5.) " 'Nuff said." - I now hate Stan Lee for doing these cameos. Each time I see him on screen it's like "OK, there, they got it out of the way." And it doesn't help that his dialogue sounds straight out of one of those "And Knowing Is Half The Battle" PSA's at the end of the G.I.JOE cartoons.

6.) Love on the Rocks... Ain't No Surprise... - At the end of Spider-Man 2 (the official best movie of the trilogy) we see that Mary Jane accepts Peter's role as Spider-Man, states that she wants to be with him, regardless. They even establish very early on that Peter is more caring and attentive than he was in the first two. Then they go and blow it all by putting them back on the rocks. I know that Kirsten Dunst is probably going through a phase where she wants to prove she has the acting chops to pull off true drama, but this movie needed Mary Jane to be more of a support character, not an obstacle. She could have been just as effective a damsel in distress without ripping Peter's heart out of his chest before hand. I was half hoping she'd get creamed by the falling dumptruck so Pete could get with Ursula Ditkovich, his awkward yet strangely attractive neighbor/devoted love slave. "Go make me some cookies!" CLASSIC. In the end, Peter and MJ end up in exactly the same place they were at the end of 2, and there is no development in their relationship. Even one of the central points of the movie, Peter's quest to propose to her, goes unfulfilled.

7.) Peter the Pimp - "This substance seems to amplify the traits of whatever it touches," Dylan Baker's Dr. Curt "Lizard-waiting-to-happen" Connors reported. So what traits does it amplify in Peter? Apparently his pimpness and false sense of cool. The scenes of him strutting his stuff were as ridiculous as they would be if you saw someone doing it in real life. I liked the whole shaggy hair, bags under the eyes, popped collar bad-ass Pete. I don't want to see the hero embarrassing himself. I wanted to see more of the DARK side of Peter; instead, we got the DORK side of Peter.

8.) Venom - AGAIN, if he was the only villain, this would have worked out okay. I didn't care for the visuals as much, but that may be because we were deluged with them for the past six months every time we turned on the TV (or went to Burger King). He didn't seem like Venom, he seemed like Venom's maladjusted twerpy brother. Part of what made Venom so imposing in comics was that he was bigger and badder than Peter. This looked more like Carnage, and maybe that's what they were going for. Topher Grace did fairly well as Eddie Brock, and his transformation from whiny dickweed to sadistic dickweed was fun to watch. But his inclusion in this movie felt like exactly what it was; fan-boy pandering. Were Sam Raimi to make a Spider-Man trilogy and then ride off into the sunset without including Venom, he would have found himself barraged by hatemail from greasy 20 somethings who like Venom because "he's cool and he kills stuff dead!" The same type of pimply dork who loves the Punisher, Wolverine, Deadpool, and Sabretooth, but can't wrap their heads around characters like Gravity, Spider-Man, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee. The same type of sweaty pricks who get offended when you mistake their Babylon Five costume for a Battlestar Galactica costume at the local comic-con, who don't understand that Venom goes against everything that made Spider-Man so successful in the first place. YES, Venom signaled a new ERA in Spider-Man, a darker turn in his history, but Sandman is ICONIC, and came from a time when Spidey was what he should be; a wise-cracking teen who just wants to pay the rent. These simpering mushheads don't understand that, they just want to see knives and teeth and blood and ick and ooze and witty catch phrases whilst the villains disembowel innocent bystanders. As much as I would have loved this movie to be Spidey vs. Sandman, if Venom HAD to be included, I would have preferred it to be Spidey vs. Venom with Sandman left out. On top of all of this, anyone who isn't a comic book reader (like my brother) has no idea what Venom is, why it duplicates Spidey's powers even when it is not on Spidey, why the Church bells and pipes affected it, or pretty much anything of interest that might assist you in understanding anything about the character. VERY inaccessible to outsiders.

9.) The Crying Game - People were laughing out loud when Peter and MJ both tried to supress their crying at Harry's dying moments. The jittering, twitching, cheekbone ruffling, trembling lip, jello face display. You'll know it when you see it. And it wasn't "man, that's funny" laugh out loud. It was the "man, I'm not really comfortable even watching this" laugh out loud.

10.) Iconic shots 101 - Spidey landing in front of the American flag. Peter and MJ holding Harry in the sunset. Spidey hanging upside down from the stage lights. UGH. Enough with the desktops, already.

11.) Sing it, sister - I understand Kirsten Dunst isn't a professional singer. But couldn't they have gotten someone who sounds like her in the slightest to do her vocals in the musical? I half expected her to stop singing and still hear the words coming from backstage. The one who sang for her in the end (if it wasn't her) would have done wonderfully, and if ti was the same woman, she changed her larynx midway through shooting, I'd swear it.

12.) Spidey, it's me, remember? - OK, I understand no actor wants to spend an entire movie behind a mask. But Harry and Eddie opening up their masks every time they wanted to speak to someone pretty much retarded. It worked for about two seconds during one of Topher Grace's lines, and Harry's big reveal, but come on. Why wear the mask if you have to keep taking it off to talk?

13.) Tricked ya, tricked ya, nonny-onny-icked ya! - This guy killed Ben Parker. No wait, it was THIS guy, the sensitive hard-luck man in the wrong place at the wrong time that we just introduced. Do you believe us? C'mon, believe us. HAH, fooled you right and proper! It WAS the first guy! This guy just knew him, and actually wasn't responsible at all! HAH! Don't you feel stupid! Maybe, if I have the attention span and intelligence of eye snot.


Alright, what DID I like? Let's see.

Dark Peter. "Get me some milk." I half expected him to throw in "bitch" after that, but they had the good sense not to push the issue.

Eddie Brock. Just the right balance of swagger and stagger.

James Franco. He really showed how much of a prick he could be. His revenge scheme against Peter could have been a movie in and of itself.

Kirsten Dunst. Hot.

Pretty much every second Sandman was on the screen as Sandman, not so much as Flint Marko.

That Ursula Ditkovich chick. Mageina Tovah, is her name. Not that I'd kick the real her out of bed, but I actually find her more attractive with the goofy pigtails and awkwardness.


So, the wrap up: I hope they don't make a fourth, because I'm sure that they would try to cram even more into it than this one. The Sinister Six would get six minutes each on screen, and do we need another hour and a quarter of MJ whining about how Peter isn't there for her? This movie itself should have been divided in two, so I'd rather they just walk away while they're ahead 2-1.

The Fantastic Four trailer looked REAL promising, though. June 15, baby!