Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Inferior to the other two films in the series, the latest edition of the comic-book-inspired tentpole franchise nonetheless has enough entertainment value to trump most other summertime offerings. Franchise shepherd Sam Raimi keeps the proceedings moving at a managable pace despite having twice the characters to juggle; while certain elements feel forced, frenzied or underdeveloped (Sandman's daughter shows up long enough to provide motivation then politely disappears forever, while Venom needed his own film), enough here works that the corner-cutting can be excused as a form of shorthand. Besides, this series (unike, say, the Batman franchise) has never really been about the villains -- it's been about the development of Peter Parker as he navigates his way through the nature of heroism in the world he lives. Here, we get Peter getting lazy, coasting on his fame; this allows his dark side to well up (literally, in the form of an alien symbiote) and he momentarily loses his sense of self. The sequence in which he succumbs to the dark power, briefly becoming what can only be summed up as a strutting, preening emo-boy, is hilarious and prime Raimi. Speaking of... the emo-ish tendencies that have always hung around in the background finally break through in this installment, for better and worse. Raimi's generosity (even the ostensibly-evil ones) with his characters is encouraging, and Harry's revenge has an emotional cruelty about it that would seem out of place in any other comic-book movie but works here; however, we really didn't need yet another rejiggering of the Uncle Ben trauma (I've now seen that sequence more often than the Zapruder footage) and the climax, where one villain basically says, "Um... sorry, won't do it again," and gets a free pass to leave, is a bit squooshy. But-but-but, you say, how are the fight scenes? Well, they're fucking awesome, what do you expect? Raimi gets more confident in that arena with each passing installment, and while there's nothing here that stands out a la the El train duel in Spidey II, this gets points for being the most consistent in its rock-em sock-em action, plus it also allows its fight scenes to work as character development (i.e. the two callously vicious beatdowns Spidey delivers midfilm)... just like a good comic-book movie ought to do. I see the flaws, but I can't help it -- I like this stuff.

Grade: B


Anonymous nicole. said...


delete this after you read it, i had no other way of contacting you.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Nothing to be surprised about, really -- Death Proof is generally considered to be the better of the two films. The extended cut even played Cannes. So it simply makes better business sense to release the one more people are apt to buy first. Of course, I'm going to hold out for the actual full platter (it won't be the same without the fake trailers), but I'll probably rent the longer Death Proof at least anyway.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, you didn't think that the "bad Spiderman" sequence would have been more effective if it had been played straight? The fact that it was played for a joke (with him strutting down the street pointing at the ladies, etc.) really took the teeth out of it for me. It in some ways recalled the "bad Superman" segment of "Superman III," where the abrupt tone change and lame comedic bits (the green "go" guy in the crosswalk sign climbing up to the top and beating up the read "stop" guy) sunk the movie.

Also, what's with the tenency these days to overstuff a summer movie with way too many subplots? The new Pirates of the Carribean flick did the same thing.

Andy Nowicki

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

above: "read stop guy" should read "red stop guy." --Andy

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and by "tenency" I meant "tendency," but you could have guessed that...

5:07 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I'm of the mind that modern superheros often play things far too straight (case in point: Superman Returns), so I appreciate the combination of reverence and flippancy that Raimi has brought to the Spider-Man series. The "emo Spidey" sequence works for me on that level: It's a significant shift of character, indicative of some deep issues within Parker, but it's not treated as the end of the world.

Also, I think the sequence just makes sense in terms of the character. I mean, Parker's always been something of a goofball, no?

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am yet to stay awake through an entire Spiderman movie.

10:07 AM  

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