Thursday, April 29, 2010

Archive: "Spider-Man 3" (2007)

Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 3" packs in a bit too much, giving it the feeling of simply being overstuffed. Two new villains are introduced, one of which is supposedly the actual killer of Peter Parker's uncle. The other man Spidey exacted his revenge on earlier was merely an accomplice. The other villain is hardly used and could've been put to much greater use, but more on that later. There's also a pesky new photojournalist, played by "That 70s Show"'s Topher Grace, who is trying to take Peter Parker's spot on the Daily Bugle. Meanwhile, the relationship between MJ and Peter Parker becomes a foe all in itself. Her Broadway career is failing while Parker's fame is taking off as he just keeps getting more recognition as Spider-Man, and so she feels detached from him. And remember Harry Osborn, son of the Green Goblin, who vowed to kill Spider-Man? Well, he's back, and conveniently got a nice bump on the head, causing a loss of short-term memory. And so, they're back to being friends until Harry starts remembering and becomes his friend-turned-foe-turned-friend-turned-foe-turned-friend yet again, and also the man who MJ finds solace in when Peter's off being a jerk; more on that later, as well.

So let's back up here. First, there's Flint Marko, played by a strangely tan and buff Thomas Haden Church. He's a convict on the run and is just trying to get money to cure his sick daughter, which is his justification for accidentally killing Uncle Ben. We're supposed to feel sympathy for his situation, especially during a most forcedly sentimental speech he gives to Peter for why he must forgive him. Yet how can we feel sympathy when he's flying around the cityscape as a disastrous cloud of sand? While on the run, Marko falls into a pit where scientists just so happen to be conducting a molecular fusion test, and he gets fused with the sand and becomes the Sandman. The other villain is this sticky, black goo that immediately finds its way into Peter's apartment, and eventually takes him completely over, donning Spidey with a new black suit. This ominously exciting new suit with seemingly extraordinary yet dangerous powers was supposed to be the highlight of the plot, right?

Wrong. I was expecting grand darkness, a layer of some intense character development on Spidey's part, allowing Peter Parker to learn from his thoughts of revenge. This is entirely not the case, and it isn't even all that clear why the black suit is so appealing. No new spider senses or other powers are demonstrated and yet Peter Parker still puts up with the horrible side-effect of an annoyingly aggressive attitude. Just when Peter is being a pompous, uncaring jerk to MJ, he slaps on this suit and completely transforms into even more of an asshole. Apparently a dark suit and black, slicked-forward hair represents the newfound darkness. Oh, and the rumors are true: There is a musical number, and yes, two instances where Kirsten Dunst sings. Sadly, though, it's Tobey Maguire who dances. He struts down the street as a clueless egotistical loser, pointing his fingers at disgusted women. To spite MJ who recently called it off with him, Peter goes on a date with a Spider-Man fan named Gwen (played by Bryce Dallas Howard finally in a role as a normal person) to a jazz club where MJ works as a singing waitress. Next thing we know, Peter is tearing up the place with his shameful dance moves, pelvic thrusts included.

So, instead of putting the vengeful black suit idea to good use, it's used to create the single-most embarrassing scene throughout the entire movie. You see, this black goo is actually the villain Venom; he only comes to full form when he's able to manifest himself into somebody else. His later host is the scrawny Topher Grace, which is an odd combination to say the least. Venom is actually a really cool villain, or at least he could be. Once the gooey Venom stops taking over Peter and becomes something really threatening, he's defeated almost immediately. He ultimately feels like an after-thought, with the tons of other side plots in the way; it's a real shame, too. The movie feels like a blatant attempt to make this the biggest and best installment yet, which ironically strips away what could've made it all the better.

I admired the first "Spider-Man" for its colorful presentation and lively, energetic feel. I thought "Spider-Man 2" was quite possibly not only the best sequel ever made, but also one of the best super hero movies ever made. It was beautifully structured, wonderfully acted, and had just the right balance of exciting action sequences and deep, heartfelt emotion with a hint of light-hearted humor on the side. There were likable characters fending off truly menacing villains without too heavy of plot getting in the way. "Spider-Man 3" includes surprisingly bland performances from good actors: Kirstin Dunst is whinier than ever and Tobey Maguire is boyishly arrogant, and neither of them was like that before. The emotions feel forced, but the humor is still there, except sometimes unintentionally so. And there being two villains doesn't compensate for the fact that they're both pretty lame. Lastly, there's just too much plot going on all at once, almost like Sam Raimi lost touch with the ideal simplicity of the first two films. Sometimes less is a whole lot better.

What haven’t changed from the previous two films are the dazzling action sequences. The special effects are absolutely eye-popping, except there aren't enough of them. Sluggish sequences link the gap between the brilliantly vibrant and fast-paced web-slinging or superhero brawling sequences. As a whole, it meanders through mostly uninteresting side plots, and nothing ever really adds up into anything truly satisfying come time for the conclusion. However that may be the case, I must say that "Spider-Man 3" is entirely watchable if not at least a little enjoyable. It only comes as a disappointment to me just because "Spider-Man 2" showed me what these movies are truly capable of; it was a fault on my expectations.

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