Saturday, May 05, 2007

Web of Tears

I saw Spider-Man 3 last night after building up my excitement for the picture over the past few weeks. The film had a lot of promise, going by, if nothing else, the track records of the previous two films in the franchise. The villains were some of Spider-Man's oldest and most interesting, there were a lot of unresolved issues between Harry and Peter, and the whole MJ thing just started going well for Peter. (I'll refrain from spoilers as best I can. Suffice it to say, if I feel like I'm about to give something away, I'll warn you, but that shouldn't be the case.) So what was my take on the third installment?

"Oh... Huh."

I was not impressed. I'm a fan of comic books, so it's annoying that there's little way I can phrase my following thought without seemingly coming down on comic books, but within the first ten minutes of the film, I kept thinking to myself, "This is just so much more comic-booky than the other two, in a bad way." By that, I think I mean that where I felt the first two films tried not only to be good superhero/comic book movies, but also good movie movies, this one was just going for comic book film success. The script seemed nowhere near as strong as did the ones for the first two movies. Every plot point was so driven by the writer, it was as if I could sense that, well, "it's time for a plot point, so here comes the incredibly ridiculous coincidence."

I acknowledge the fact that a lot of what happened in the film, well, some of it at least, occurred as it did in comic books. Coincidences are comic books. Things don't really happen to normal people in comic books. By that, I mean that once a normal person becomes a super person for whatever reason, every other cosmic event or random happening seems to happen to him or her only. And that's ok. But in Spider-Man 3, everything just seemed too easy.

I remember writing a scene for my own comic book movie where the love interest of the protagonist is kidnapped by a villain, without the villain's knowledge that she had anything to do with the hero. In fact, the hero's rescuing her was the impetus for the relationship. I got a note form a classmate (and fellow Leaguer) that he could see that coming from a mile away. While the teacher agreed it was somewhat predictable, he conceded that I had done my job well, and that it didn't read as though I had twisted fate within my script to create an impossible situation for the benefit of my plot.

But in Spider-Man 3, that's exactly how I felt. A few times. If I had brought that script into class, my teacher would have smacked me across the face with it. Everything was so driven by the writers that nothing seemed to flow naturally from the story. That was my biggest problem with the film.

But not my only one. Problem 2) the crying. So much crying. I don't know why Spider-Man didn't just cry on Sandman to kill him, it would have been more effective than anything else he was doing. Everyone was crying in the movie. Peter. MJ. Harry sort of. Aunt May. Uncle Ben (in flashback). The Sandman... somehow. Gwen Stacey. A bunch of extras. The usher in the theater, because apparently in Spider-Man world, crying is contagious.

Problem 3) Venom... er, the lack of Venom. Venom, who I understand to be Spider-Man's foil and arch-nemesis, the anti-Spider-Man, was barely in the film. He was introduced just to be defeated about ten minutes later. He was like Bane in Batman and Robin, completely under used and kind of dumb looking, a great villain turned into a temporary, fleeting threat. Way to go, Marvel.

Problem 4) -and this is where you might want to skip if you're concerned about spoilers- The Sandman/Uncle Ben stuff. Sandman was cool, but he was completely gratuitous. Unnecessary. The only reason Sandman was in there was so that there could be a double team fight at the end, which could have been done any number of ways sans Sandman, albeit not as a two-on-two brawl. Sandman looked cool, but there was no way, in the film, that Spider-Man was going to be able to beat him, and his presence added about a half hour of useless plot. What irked me the most was how, because of Sandman and the need to tie him personally to Peter, the filmmakers decided to change Uncle Ben's death to put it on Sandman's hands. (Um... remember those really coincidental coincidences I was talking about?) So most of Sandman's screen time was dedicated to rewriting how Uncle Ben died, which we didn't need. If they still wanted to make a 2 and a half hour movie, Avi Arad and co. should have cut Sandman and decided to focus more on Venom, who was almost lost in the picture.

Problem 5) Emo Peter. Um... yeah. I wonder if we'll get an Emo Spider-Man action figure that cries when you squeeze it. Or at least dances really badly.

Bruce Campbell was good in the film, but that's because, well, when is he not? But other than him, I was actually pretty disappointed. Marvel seems to have a habit of making lukewarm first installments of a trilogy, nailing the second completely, and just crapping out on the third. That's how the X-Men films went. That's how many people feel about the Blade series. That's certainly what happened in Spider-Man's case. And, if trailers for the second Fantastic Four are any indication, that's how that trilogy is going, as well. (Of course, with FF, there's been no real talk about the third yet, but the first wasn't great, and the second looks better, so we'll see.) I really wish that someone had stepped in and done something about Spider-Man 3. But, then again, when you're guaranteed to make almost 150 million your first weekend, if not more (just a ballpark figure I threw out) why even bother trying? So, yeah, I'm glad I eagerly waited for that one.

Oh, and P.S. In response to LoKor's post about the absence of any word about Venom in the NY Times review, I think I know why that was. He was barely in the film.

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