Monday, May 28, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Finally saw Spider-Man 3 this weekend. I could relate its flaws but they would be news to no one, and John August has done a fine job cataloging the various plot contrivances here. Some of August's solutions would require breaking from the comic book source material, but the real, sensible solution would have been to not have two movies' worth of story shoehorned into one movie.

That said, I enjoyed the movie just fine, although going in with lowered expectations and a purposely heightened willingness to suspend disbelief no doubt helped.


I even enjoyed the "evil" Peter Parker montage, although I do think they overplayed their hand a bit and dragged it on about three times longer than it needed to be. It's pretty much the same scene as the "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" montage from Spider-Man 2, when Peter gives up being Spider-Man and sees his life improve... sort of. Just as that montage undercut Peter's improved life with reminders that he was still a klutz and a loser, this one undercuts his overconfidence with endless shots of women reacting to him with disgust. Which, given his hairstyle, makes sense, but still, I felt like it would be nice for his character transformation to actually work a little bit. Even his cruel ploy to bring Gwen Stacy to the jazz club blows up in his face, and ends up feeling more foolish and ill-conceived than mean.

One of the worst parts was when the butler told Harry the thing that Peter should have told him a long time ago. To give Peter credit, at least in this one he tries to say that Osborne killed himself. I was waiting the whole second movie for someone to bring up that simple fact. But I was so relieved that someone finally got through Harry's illogical Spider-Man blame that I was almost willing to forgive the fact that it came at an overly convenient moment from a character who had no way of knowing the information nor any reason for withholding it as long as he did.

But the very worst part of Spider-Man 3 is by far the Uncle Ben retcon. My favorite sequence in the first movie is when Peter lets the thief go, then discovers that the same thief has killed Uncle Ben. It's a good use of coincidence, one with grand, tragic consequences, and the action scene that follows, with Peter swinging after Uncle Ben's car in a rage, is both viscerally thrilling and wonderfully emotional. The Flint Marko addition to the story spoils all that. Peter is still sort of responsible for Ben's death, since he dragged him into town to pick him up from the wrestling match, but less directly responsible. Flint Marko might have killed Uncle Ben whether his partner escaped or not. Or maybe not. Now it's all muddled. Not to mention, the logic of a two-man robbery where one guy is solely responsible for the getaway yet doesn't procure a car ahead of time is dubious at best.

The end of the movie is also very soft. Not just the deus ex machina solutions to defeating the villains, although those were bad too. How do you resolve your plot when you've set up powerful, unbeatable villains? This movie offers two ways out--one, invent a weakness out of thin air with only the most tenuous of setups, regardless of whether that weakness makes any sense; or two, forgive the villain so you don't actually have to beat him. But sorry, I was going to talk about the real ending, the Mary Jane ending. The previous two entries in the series ended on very clear notes: Peter rejecting Mary Jane in favor of his responsibility, and Mary Jane getting together with Peter, only to realize the struggles that lay ahead. Considering that Peter spent the whole movie planning to propose, it would have been nice to end on a more definite resolution of any kind. At least something more than just, Hey, I'm back.

Hey look, I ended up listing a bunch of flaws anyway. But I don't mean to be griping about the movie. My purpose in mentioning these things is simply to support my point, which is that I enjoyed the movie okay in spite of all this. So if you are in as forgiving a mood as, say, Spider-Man is when Flint Marko apologizes to him, you may just be forgiving enough to have a good time at Spider-Man 3.


1 comment:

Zack said...

I ended up seeing the movie because my sister and I wanted to see a movie, and there wasn't a workable showtime for Hot Fuzz in the area. Why I lobbied for Spider-Man 3 when I disliked Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 is hard to say.

The widely hated retcon in Spider-Man 3 (Flint Marko/Sandman killing Uncle Ben in a flashback) did not bother me. There are three reasons.

One, like Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2, Thomas Haden Church was the only likable guy in a cast of closed-minded assfucks who never explain anything and then wish people understood them. Therefore, any scene involving Thomas Haden Church gets an easy ride from me, if not a free one.

Two -- hey! It's that guy from Wings! I literally had not seen this guy's Brendan Fraser-as-Frankenstein face since Fox stopped running commercials for Ned & Stacey, right up until Flint Marko appeared onscreen.

Three, Sam Raimi had already earned my comics-reading Atomic Middle Finger for letting Spider-Man save both Mary Jane and a bus full of people during the "bridge scene." Kenny, you've got to understand, this is like Batman killing dudes with a gun. The two most crucial aspects of Spider-Man, as a character, are that with power comes responsibility (which he learns through Uncle Ben's death), and that he is not strong enough to save everybody (which he learns through Gwen Stacy's death). Sam Raimi fucked up one of these two from the get-go. It's a miracle it took him three movies to fuck up the other.

So I can't say the retcon bothered me. I also feel that it is strange to call resolving conflict through talking at the end of Spider-Man 3 deus ex machina ... weren't you upset that the same thing didn't happen between Peter and Harry in Spider-Man 2?