Sunday, June 03, 2007

Spider-Man 3

The story so far: Spider-Man was a great superhero origin movie, reasonably faithful to the original comics, with the exception of the web-shooter gadgets (completely forgiveable) and the wise-cracking sarcasm (sadly missed). Spider-Man 2 was a good established superhero movie, great baddie, nice action sequences, but overly syrupy love story and soap opera ending. So, to Spider-Man 3.

Fundamentally, this movie continues the 'love/hate triangle' between Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborne. So we see the relationship between PP and MJ fall apart, the friendship between PP and HO temporarily restored then fall apart again as Harry remembers why he hated Peter/Spidey and then proceeds to force a wedge between PP and MJ. Along the way Peter/Spider-Man turns to the dark side, thanks to alien black goo stuff, completely fails to fall in love with Gwen Stacey, and ultimately reaches reconciliation with both HO and MJ (I hope that was vague enough to be spoiler free).

This plotline, with a few action sequences, would make a pretty good 90 minute superhero movie. But not a summer blockbuster. So in order to bolster this up to multiplex pleasing levels, they thought they had to throw in a couple of further bad guys to the mix: Sandman and Venom.

Why choose the Sandman for this movie? Purely because the FX are cool. As a bad guy he has a pretty rubbish background and origin story. And I don't want to give away any spoilers here, but the final scene between Sandman and Spidey is just pants. What kind of way is that to leave it? Its unresolved. In the middle of the film he is out of the story for far too long for us to care when he comes back. But the single greatest error the movie makers made with the Sandman is that at no point does Spidey suck him up into a vacuum cleaner! That always happens in the comics. Poor show. The only real function he performs here is to turn the black Spidey towards revenge, but I'm sure that could have been achieved without him.

If it had been me writing this movie, I'd have ended the alien goo part of the story when Spidey manages to break free of it in the church. Sure you could have had the goo then going on to devour Brock, but I'd have left the birth of Venom as a setup for the next movie. Because as a bad guy Venom is pretty dull - he's basically an evil Spiderman (with fangs and a long tongue which doesn't even appear in the movie) - able to do exactly what Spidey does, and nothing else. All the best super-villains have completely different superpowers to their nemeses. In a fight between Spidey and Venom, you simply have like against like, so its not much more entertaining than a fight between two ordinary blokes - its a level playing field. The other problem with Venom here is that he is only introduced towards the end of the film - long after the point you just wish it would hurry up and get everything finished. Simply, you don't care - its all FX and no heart.

Green Goblin Jr.
Harry Osborne becoming the Green Goblin, on the other hand, we care about. The film should have invested much more time and effort into this character arc.

So what we have here is a Phantom Menace of a movie - built out of a string of well constructed, visually impressive set-pieces, tied together with dull dialogue scenes into a movie which manages to be less than the sum of its parts. And bum-numbingly too long.

But hey, I'll probably watch it again sometime and may even buy the DVD (most likely when the price drops to a fiver on eBay though).

As a general rule of thumb in Superhero movies, the more villains there are, the less good the film. Although you do have to kind of class Zod, Ursa and Non as one villain in Superman II for that theory to work. Also the third instalment of Superhero franchises is always weaker than I and II. But hopefully they won't do a Superman IV or Batman & Robin if they ever make it to Spider-Man 4...

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