Friday, May 04, 2007

Midnight madness: Spider-Man 3

Before I start tearing into this latest installment of the adventures of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and incur the wrath of all those who enjoyed it, let me just state for the record that I didn't hate this movie. Not by a long stretch.

If it weren't such a beloved franchise to me, in fact, I'd probably be writing a much more positive review. Call me a victim of my own expectations, compounded by my strategy of watching the first two Spider-Man movies to keep me awake and alert two hours past my regular bedtime so I could join the younguns for this late-night screening. That only made Sam Raimi's latest flick pale in comparison to the others.

Flash back with me, if you will, to the end of Spider-Man 2, which is my favorite superhero movie of all time (the best villian, the epic love story, what more could you want?) Near the end of this great flick, we see James Franco's Harry Osborn vowing revenge on Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker for killing his father (if you haven't seen No. 2 yet, please forgive me, but how could you not have?) It sets up a perfect journey from there to redemption, a sideways view of a hero's quest, which No. 3 only sort of follows through on.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Shortly after the movie opens we see Harry on his Goblin glider, which appears to be more of a snowboard, and a nifty chase ensues. In pursuit of Spidey/Peter, he bumps his head and loses his memory, so far a perfect setup. It's in how Raimi (and not one but two of his brothers credited with the story) deal with the issues this brings up where the movie loses focus.

Just as Harry loses his memory, our hero Peter gets infected with the venom (which comes from outer space, oddly enough) that brings out his dark side. Except, for my taste at least, it's not nearly dark enough. The main side effects seem to be that it makes our hero comb his hair more than a little like Hitler, dress like a disco dancer and thrust his pelvis at random women on the street. Some of this was funny, but more often than not it was just painful to watch.

But how could I forget Kirsten Dunst's MJ, since, as Peter Parker told us way back when, this is really a story about a girl? The Raimis, oddly enough for a superhero movie, clearly invested the most time into her storyline, and Dunst fares better than Maguire with it. They still work well together on screen, but she has the upper hand as MJ deals with being fired from her Broadway show and myriad other troubles (but, please, don't let her sing again, and so definitely don't let her play Deborah Harry!)

There are two other villains in this piece, and one too many. Though he plays it with relish, Topher Grace as the embodiment of Venom was just thoroughly irrelevent. Thomas Haden Church's Flint Marko was also woefully underdeveloped, but it was awfully cool to watch him transform into the Sandman. The two of them mostly just distract from the dual journeys of Harry and Peter, which should have formed more of the foundation for this flick.

OK, so I said at the outset that I didn't hate the movie. What did I like? The continuity between the three flicks is impressive. No detail is left hanging, and it's good to see our old friends again, even if they're not nearly as well written this time around.

And the last 20 minutes, really the only epic action sequence in the piece, is almost worth sitting through the 2 hours that came before it. It's nothing to approach the sequences with Alfred Molina's Doc Ock, still the best work Raimi has ever done for my money, but it's well-choreographed action on an epic scale. And finally, Bruce Campbell, of course, just chews up his 10 minutes as an extremely snooty "French" waiter.

In comparison to its two predecessors, I'd have to call "Spider-Man 3" a mild failure, but nothing approaching the one-two-three punch of "Poseidon," "X-3" and "Art School Confidential" that launched last summer. That unholy trio just made my eyes bleed.

P.S. I encourage anyone to disagree with me on this, but please be kind in doing so and take into account that it is currently a quarter to 4 in the morning. I wanted to get this out quickly, but now I must get a few hours of sleep before the daily grind starts anew.

29 comments:

Nell Minow said...

I agree.

Divinity said...

Yup. Great sand effects. Bad singing. Fun cameos. Too many flashbacks. I liked Topher and found Aunt May a little overbearing. JK Simmons should never have to play another role (I heart him :). It didn't suck but the two guys snoring in the row behind me didn't help.
I'll try and get a review up today... but no sleep-induced promises.

Reel Fanatic said...

Aunt May was indeed a bit much, divinity, but I'm definitely with you on JK Simmons ... They could double his screen time and I'd never complain ... It's always great to see Bill Nunn too

Shane Rollins said...

I'll have mine up later, and I had some of the same sentiments, but not to that extreme that you had. I think the Marko character got as much screen time as it deserved. Now this is from a comic book nut, so I may have a different perspective. I would have like to see more of the Harry-Peter and Peter-Eddie story then anything with MJ.

Stace said...

Such a great review.

Divinity said...

You knew who the hard-core fans were when Stan Lee's cameo got applause...

Chris said...

Wow...I thought that it was just me. What I'm finding out is that quite a few people are coming away from Spider-Man 3 finding at least one thing not to like about it. With so many (too many) storylines, the task was enormous for Sam Raimi to avoid pitfalls. I could have personally waited for Sandman on a future installment, as cool as he is, mainly because his story drags the movie down a bit.

I'm the same way: how do I express I liked the movie and that I was disappointed at the same time?

Reel Fanatic said...

I wonder what exactly is to blame for how this all ended up, Chris ... Part of me thinks it could be nepotism on the part of Raimi in having his brothers write the script, but I also think there were so many conflicting rumors swirling about even long ago about a possible fourth movie, with or without him, and maybe that triggered some instinct to cram in as much as he could now

Marina said...

You guys are hardcore! I was sleeping at 4AM. I'm still going to pop out to see it this weekend but then I was never all that gung ho about it. Maybe it was for the best. I guess I'll find out when I finally get to see it Sunday.

vasta said...

Wrote my review at 4am as well, and I have to say, I wasn't all too eloquent. Then again, I could barely tolerate the film.

Then again, I gave Stan Lee a standing ovation for his cameo. That was awesome.

Reel Fanatic said...

That was indeed cool, Vasta, as his cameos always are .. I was surprised and impressed by how many of the teens in my audience actually seemed to recognize him

Shane Rollins said...

We actually heard nuff said in a movie...does it get any better?

Sonia said...

Would you believe that I haven't seen any of the Spider Man movies?

What's even more surprising, giving the fact that I'm a huge movie fan and that before I was a mother, I used to go see from 3 to 8 movies a week in the theater (I would always see 2 or 3 in a row, never see just one), I never saw any of the Star Wars movies, which were BIG while I was growing up in the 70s and the 80s. When the first Star Wars came out, I think that my two friends and I were the only ones in the entire school that did not see it. I was just not interested.

Reel Fanatic said...

Even if you don't see many superhero or other blockbuster movies much at all, Sonia, I can't recommend the first two Spider-Man movies highly enough ... they're just perfectly entertaining flicks

Crystal Green's Blog said...

I totally agree with everything you said except the point about Venom being irrelevant. :) You can see why right here.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Okay, sorry, I clearly still don't know how to use Blogger, LOL. I'm trying to link, but nooooooo. My S-3 viewpoint is at http://crystal-green.blogspot.com/

At any rate, another interesting review from you. :)

Reel Fanatic said...

No need to apologize, Crystal ... I'm constantly confounded by the curveballs that blogger throws my way

Moonbeam Baby said...

I loved the other Spider-Man movies (especially #2), and I've been looking forward to seeing #3. From the first time I saw the preview, I had this sinking feeling that it couldn't possibly live up the high expectations that I'd been harboring. Any movie with that many special effects tends to make me nervous... the more effects there are, the less plot there usually is.

I haven't seen it yet, but I'm still looking forward to it, despite some of the reviews I've read. I love Spidy... : )

Divinity said...

Expectations are dangerous in my experience...

Ashok said...

Hey, have posted "Spider-Man 3" review and seems we agree on couple of points. Let me know.

Mercurie said...

Actually, I agree with you on everything except Miss Dunst. I thought in the first part of the movie MJ was behaving like a spoiled brat. "Oh, don't go out and save lives as Spider-Man. Never mind you might be killed at any moment. Stay here and pay even more attention to me and sooth my bruised ego..." Geez, I know girls who will kill to have a boyfriend who paid as much attention to them as Parker always has MJ....

I thought Thomas Haden Church did a really good job with Sandman. As to Venom, well, neither the screenwriters nor Topher Grace had much to work with anyhow. Even in the comic books, Venom was a pretty simplistic character. I don't know any Spidey fan who actually likes the character (boy, was Avi Arad ever wrong...).

Ultimately, I think it is worth seeing, but it is definitely a comedown from the first two.

Reel Fanatic said...

The audience I saw this with was surprisingly subdued throughout, except for laughing at mostly the wrong places .. the one outburst I did enjoy, however, was when someone yelled out, very loudly, "tramp!" when MJ started to kiss Harry Osborn ... that just brought the house down

Ben Varkentine said...

I put my review up here:
http://varkentine.blogspot.com/2007/05/is-he-strong-listen-bud-hes-got.html

My basic take is that the three movies taken as a whole are the best superhero movie franchise of all time.

But it's time for Rami & his regulars to walk away, or at least take a break. They're gettin' punchy.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thinking about it quickly, Ben, I think I have to agree with you ... X3 was so much worse than Spidey 3, so that seals it between those two ... Superman certainly deserves some consideration, but I'd still go with Spider-Man, mostly because Spidey 2 is simply a perfect movie in my eyes

Linda said...

I'd say 2 is still the best of the franchise, but this one was pretty ambitious. I liked the line-up of villans, and the visual was great. Glad to see a little more humor, the whole disco Peter Parker was hilarious! And JK Simmons does not disapoint. I'd say the weak point for me were the lingering conversations, but friends of mine said it helped them with the characters. I'd like to see it again.

Shane Rollins said...

Reel, you're right, Spidey 2 is probably the greatest superhero movie of all time, hands down. So in retrospect perhaps we all expected way too much out of three, I mean how do improve on perfection? I say give the next three to Kevin Smith, or at least the writing portion of it.

Here's to hoping someone opens their eyes and gives Joss the reigns to the X-Men.

The Dark Knight may be the one to top Spidey 2

Reel Fanatic said...

The Dark Knight should indeed be great, Shane ... I though Nolan had some issues with shooting the action sequences in first Batman flick, but that was my only beef with what he turned out ... And giving Joss control of the X-Men is just to good to ever be true, I'm afraid

Tyg said...

Hi Reel Fanatic. Trawling the net looking for some explanation as
to what happened with spider-man 3 I came across your blog.

Having been totally sold on the trailer and done my best to avoid
catching any of the press reviews before I saw it I was incredibly
dissapointed when I finally did. As you say it's not a patch on the
last two movies.

The worst thing were those extended 'evil peter' strutting
down the street scenes. The only place I should have seen those is on a deleted scenes feature on a DVD.

I'ev spent a lot of time thinking about what they did wrong and will probably
post something on that later.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'll look forward to reading it, Tyg ... Those strutting scenes were indeed just awful ... Between that and Peter Parker crying all the time, he was just almost unwatchful in this one