Tuesday, 8 May 2007
Spider-Man 3 (2007) dir. Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirstin Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church
We just heard today that the producers intend to make at least another three more Spider-Man films. I highly doubt if Sam Raimi and the team will return for another trilogy, or even a #4. The way “Spider-Man 3” is structured it closes out the subplots and character arcs of the first two films to be its own self-contained trilogy.
Unfortunately despite the closure, SP-3 suffers from the plague of “Star Wars”, “Matrix”, and “X-Men” of not being able to finish on a high. It was a tough act to follow as “Spider-Man 2”, was generally considered one of the best comic books films ever produced, and it appears not even Sam Raimi could live up to the hype.
Perhaps two signs of the times were the absence of Danny Elfman as the composer - he was replaced by Christopher Young, who is at least a couple notches down on composer most-call list - and the absence of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter Michael Chabon. Instead, Sam and his brother Ivan, with help from SP-2 alum Alvin Sargent wrote the script. (By the way, Alvin Sargent was writing television in the early 1960’s which makes him in his mid-70’s, couldn’t they hire someone with his/her thumb to the pulse of their audience?)
“Spider-Man 3” picks up right where “Spider-Man 2” ends. Peter Parker is on top of the world, he’s a big celebrity in NYC, his girlfriend, Mary Jane, is starring in her first big Broadway production, he’s doing well in school, making ends meet etc etc. Harry Osborn on the other hand is ready to take his revenge on Peter/Spidey for killing his father. During a scooter ride in Manhattan, Spiderman is intercepted by Harry as the Green Goblin (this time, a hipper version – he rides a flying snowboard). They fight each other through the streets and back alleys of NY until Spiderman almost kills Harry. Harry is unconscious but alive, and is brought to the hospital where he wakes up without memory of the last 2 movies (the lamest of comic book devices).
Meanwhile, Mary Jane (Kirstin Dunst) gets fired from her big role and doesn’t tell Peter. She experiences career envy and as a result they break up, only to take up with Harry again. Peter is wooed by his lab partner, platinum blonde Gwen Stacy (a yummy Bryce Dallas Howard), and they develop a relationship. In fact, this love quadrangle is the best part of the film.
The baddies turn out to be lamos. Thomas Haden Church is miscast (or underused) as Sandman, and Topher Grace actually overachieves as Parker’s photography rival at the Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock. Brock eventually turns into Venom – a sort of Bizarro-Spiderman. Spiderman, himself, explores his dark side in the form of the fan-favorite black suit, which possesses him and turns Peter into a goth/emo, for lack of a better word, ‘asshole’. Believe it or not there are actually 2 musical sequences in the film. One, a Fall Out Boy-coifed Parker strutting his stuff down the street Travolta-style and a Timberlake-esque showcase at a jazz bar. Both scenes are Raimi-quirky, but also take you out of the film for 2 lengthy moments and are unnecessary to the plot.
The action and fight scenes are poorly choreographed and over-produced. Raimi never gets the physics right during the action. Every scene has either Goblin and Spidey, Venom and Spidey, or Sandman and Spidey “falling and fighting”. The falling seems to take forever until, at the last minute, Spidey shoots his webjuice at a tall building and escapes. There’s no jeopardy to the action, we never feel Spiderman cannot get out of any of the situations he’s in, unlike, say, the train sequence in SP-2 which was a tense and thrilling chase rooted in some form of physical reality.
Most of the writing to tie the knots at the end, such as Osborn’s butler informing him that indeed, Parker didn’t kill his father (a little late buddy!), is frustratingly lazy, and no more complex than a high-school writing-class. The ending gives a terribly preachy life lesson, similar to that of the first film (remember, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’). This time the “He-Man” moment is “Whatever battle is raging inside us, we always have a choice”, or is it, “You start by doing the hardest thing: you forgive yourself.” I can’t remember which it is, but it’s Sesame Street-time regardless.
After the promise of the great #2, sadly “Spider-Man 3” will likely satisfy kids only, but also make gobs and gobs of money.