Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spider-Man 3 review

Poor, poor Spider-Man 3; such potential, and so much waste. I am what you might call, a Spider-Man fanboy. I love the first films, I've read the comics, I let myself get excited by the previews, I am someone who really wants this to be a good film. That said, I went into Spidey 3 with the understanding that it hasn't gotten great reviews, and that's ok. I may be a fanboy but I also try to be a realist. I wasn't expecting Spider-Man 2. I honestly wasn't; I just wasn't expecting this.

I won't say I hated Spider-Man 3, because there were some really great moments. Some beautiful shots, some great effects, a few great action sequences, and some funny lines. But these moments were spread thinly between some of the most insipid storytelling I've seen on screen in ages. Part of me wants to say I'm holding this film to too high a standard, but that would be making excuses. And if the standard is set high, its only because Raimi and crew set the bar there with the first two films. Spider-Man 3 should have been great. So where did it go wrong?

Mostly the problems with Spider-Man 3 fall in the department of storytelling. Technically this is as sound a movie as ever, but somewhere along the way these guys forgot that the characters need motivation for their actions. I was extremely disappointed to see the lack of motivation, the leaps in logic, and the disrespect for everything that has come before. Frankly, I'm surprised at how badly the characters are handled here, particularly the already established ones like Peter and Mary Jane. In one of many examples of poor character development we see Eddie Brock go from opportunistic photog who gets a comeuppance from Peter Parker, that I'll grant you ruins his career, but he goes from this regular guy pissed off at Peter Parker, to someone literally praying for Peter Parkers death, and not in a funny I'm kidding way, in an obviously insane psychotic way. There is no middle point of these two states though, we go directly from anger to homicidal machinations. But that's just one of the many inescapable flaws in storytelling. I can understand that the black suit amplifies emotion. But Peter puts on the black costume and all of a sudden becomes super emo. I mean with hair and attitude to boot. His transformation is absurd. No one would believe he was serious, especially his friends who seem to calmly accept that their friend the do gooder has all of a sudden gone evil. And that's all before the song and dance number. Yes, I said song and dance number...

Maybe the best storyline is that of the Sandman. His story is pretty well encapsulated away from the rest of the characters and that's a good thing. I enjoyed how they tied his story to the Spider-Man mythos, and thought that his reasons for being a criminal while flawed by any real world standard (are you serious that robbing banks is your only skill at this point?!), at least had some basis to ground them. I was annoyed that we didn't get the full story, the full revelation of his plotline until a somewhat tacked on epilogue, but at least we got it.

Harry also had a few nice moments, and James Franco, while a total ham on screen sometimes, worked well and pulls of a canny Dafoe-esque menace. In fact most of the characters had elements to them that did work, which is I suppose why I can't say I hated this film. There were moments were it was good, not great, but decent. But in a story where character is all important, it wasn't enough to have a few ok moments. there was too much bad to make up for the good.

Spider-man needs an overhaul. I love these films, and I want them to be good, I want them to succeed, and I'm glad this won't be the end of the series. But I'll be fine if Sony wants to bring in new blood on all creative fronts, maybe give us something a bit darker (and no, not in an MTV 'edgy' way), and hopefully get a better screenwriter than Sam Raimi's older brother. They had Michael Chabon for Spider-Man 2... maybe they could ask him again, or how about someone like Warren Ellis...

I'm going to go easy on rating Spider-Man 3, because while I think its seriously flawed I can see myself getting softer on it in times to come. If I was watching TBS (or FX i suppose) on a Sunday afternoon I would probably love to see Spider-Man 3. It's got some good popcorn entertainment fun that can't be denied. I just wish it was more than that.

2 1/2 out of 5


waveman said...

bummer! I was hoping you'd recommend the movie to me ;)

Chappy said...

oh its still something that you should see. Just know what you're getting into.

And maybe I'm too involved, too much of a fanboy to be objective. You might have a different reaction to it.

But my guess is that if anything you'll be more critical of it than me.