A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 392 – Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 – March 27th, 2011

I did not want to watch this tonight. Actually, after the last two movies I didn’t ever want to watch this. The first movie wasn’t great. The second one was thoroughly unpleasant. I mean, it was irritating. And annoying. And from what I had heard, I expected this one to be abysmal. The downward trend seemed a little too steep to correct in the space of one movie. And I can’t believe that anything done in this movie was supposed to make anything better. Much like the Venom symbiont, it amplified characteristics of its host. Negative ones. But not aggression. More like suckage. It has everything I disliked about the first and second and more. In one overlong, overcomplicated morass.

When we start with this movie, Peter is on top of the world. Which is a nice change from the last one, but it’s like he’s a pendulum and we only get to see him at one extreme or the other, never in the middle. He’s either an ego-maniac smarming for his crowds of adoring fans (or horrified onlookers) or he’s Mopey McMoperson, Mayor of Mopeville. But hey, I’ll take what I can get, you know? And what I can get is at least a few minutes where Peter’s not making me wince for one reason or another. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last long. I understand the Venom plot and Peter’s personality getting amped up by the symbiont, but that doesn’t explain his performance in the park when Gwen Stacey gives him the key to the city and they smooch. Basically, the movie is setting him up as a douche. And then it goes and introduces a bigger douche and then gives them both super douche powers. But I’m getting ahead of myself! We’ve got a bunch of other plots to cover before we get to Venom.

First of all, let’s talk about Harry. We left off with him having delusions of his father talking to him and telling him to avenge his murder. So, yeah, Harry’s gone the way of the Goblin and attacks Peter a few times, both physically and emotionally through MJ. Next we’ve got Flint Marko, an escaped convict who, it turns out, was actually responsible for Uncle Ben’s death. But Marko’s a bit of a question mark as a character cause he claims it wasn’t the way it’s been presented and sadly, he doesn’t get much time on screen to be a character. Because before we get to know much more than that he’s escaped from jail and his daughter’s dying, he gets caught up in some particle physics experiment with sand and suddenly we have a walking dune. He wants to get money to save his daughter but Spider Man won’t let him steal it, so what’s a guy to do, right? Then we forget about him for a while because Harry’s got amnesia and can’t remember his vendetta against Peter. Then he remembers it again. Peter gets shut out of a job at the Bugle by the douchetastic Eddie Brock, whom he then exposes as a fraud and who then goes way overboard by wanting Peter dead. Yeah, that’s a healthy response there, Brock.

If all that wasn’t enough, through it all is MJ, whom Peter wants to propose to but he’s never around for her and keeps making everything about himself (douche!). The addition of Gwen Stacey as a pawn in the whole romance plot makes sense, but I don’t really like it. She deserves a little better. At least the movie tacitly admits that when she walks out on Peter after his incredibly gross display in MJ’s nightclub. The whole Venom plot, with Peter’s suit (and Peter himself) getting infected by a nasty symbiont from outer space that amplifies characteristics, specifically aggression (apparently in all forms) ties into this here, with him acting out all over the place. And then it infects Brock, so we get another villain on top of our new Goblin and Sandman. The trouble is, that while Peter’s infected, the only people left to root for are MJ, Gwen and Jonah, who are all given so little time it barely counts. And oh, oh do I weep for the lack of awesome Jonah, who is toned way down in this movie because he’s on blood pressure meds. Yes, really.

What a muddled mess of a movie. The relationship issues with MJ, Harry taking up his father’s mantle then getting amnesia, Sandman, Venom, smug celebrity Spidey, Gwen Stacey? Of course it’s the longest of the three thus far. It would have to be to have all of that. But really, come on. Pick a plotline, or a pair of plots! Run with Harry and Sandman! Or Venom and Stacey! MJ would certainly end up involved with either. But bundling them all together into a single movie doesn’t work. More plot doesn’t mean a better movie. Oh, it’s bodged into a semblance of coherence, with the Venom stuff seeping into the other parts. But it ends up feeling like every plot in the movie is lessened for there being so many plots.

The really sad part? Is that the end, with Sandman and Spider Man and the whole culmination of their plot once Venom and Harry are out of the way and MJ’s safe? It has some good emotional impact and Sandman/Marko and Spider Man/Peter have some similarities that echo nicely. Neither of them asked for their powers. Both of them want to help someone they care about. And the end for Harry and Peter brings things to a nicely bittersweet close. The endings aren’t spectacular, but they work. The problem is that those endings along with the endings for Venom and for Peter and MJ, we had to have four! If the movie had somehow managed to have all of the various plotlines come together for one actual ending with a coda after the fact? I’d have at least had to concede that they’d been tied together. Having to end them all separately is an admission that they were only loosely spun and easily unraveled.

March 27, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spider Man 3

March 27, 2011

Spider Man 3

I’ve been kind of dreading watching this movie again. Not because it is an awful or irredeemable movie but because it has such promise and tries so hard and just falls so flat. I saw it in the theaters – one of those rare times when I went to the movies alone because Amanda had no interest in watching this particular film with me. I found myself underwhelmed by the movie, but it had a lot of bits that were pretty cool. By the time the DVD came out my memories of the movie had faded somewhat and I was willing to give it a second chance. Maybe some of the frenetic fight scenes that simply didn’t work in the theater would read better on the small screen. Maybe the multiple plots fighting for dominance weren’t quite as hodge-podge as I remembered them being. Besides: I owned the first two movies already and it was a comic book movie after all so I felt the need to own it.

I’ve watched it again since then and I hate to say it but all the flaws I remembered from the theater did still plague the movie on the small screen. And I had managed to block out the most painful to watch and irritating bits of the movie.

Most of the problem with this movie is that it bit off more than it could chew. I was excited when it came out because I wanted to see the story of Venom on the big screen. I have only a passing familiarity with the actual comic books, but I know the tale. I distinctly remember Spider Man’s cameo in the Transformers comic book and being puzzled that he was all in black so I asked my friends what the deal was. The black suit was an alien symbiont that gave Spider Man extra super powers. He no longer needed to change his clothes to fight crime because the suit could change at a whim from street clothes to Spidey’s slick new duds. He also had no more problems with running out of web fluid (something he hasn’t had to worry about in the movies but a common issue I remember from the comics and cartoons.) And he had amplified strength and power as well.

This was too much for our simple web slinger, and left him fairly over-powered, so it had to end. Enter Eddie Brock, a rival photographer who wanted Peter Parker out of his way. When Peter finally freed himself from the symbiont Eddie merged with it, gaining all its knowledge of Spider Man’s true identity and all of Spider Man’s powers – amplified by his own rage and hate. Thus was born Venom, a dark mirror to Spidey and probably the coolest enemy he ever had to face. It didn’t hurt that these books were illustrated by the extremely talented Todd McFarlane, so they had the over-worked and insanely detailed illustrations that he was known for.

It’s a grand and epic tale that took place over the course of a couple years in the world of the comic books. Which is the downfall of this movie – because none of the groundwork for this whole tale was laid out in the first two films. The groundwork that was laid out over the course of the last two movies all has to do with Harry Osborn and his vendetta against Spider Man for the death of his father. The result is that this movie is committed to resolving the whole Harry Osborn thing and at the same time has to introduce the black suit and Eddie Brock as well. Then, just to make things more difficult, the film makers decided to throw in the Sandman as well. I think their intent was to give Peter somebody dangerous to fight that would require the ruthless power of the black suit and drive home how deadly it is – but it really is unnecessary and acts to weigh the whole movie down. (Wouldn’t it have been more powerful just to show Peter in the black suit almost killing his friend Harry and have that be the emotional core of the movie?)

Then we get to the most awful scene in the entire movie. Awful because Sam’s attempts to show Peter’s descent into darkness takes the form of him becoming a smarmy asshole. The alien symbiont is supposed to bring out the rage and hatred in its host. That’s a kind of cool concept and it would be interesting to see Peter tortured by the rage that the alien unleashes within him. Instead in this movie the alien inspires Peter to dance at a jazz club where Mary Jane is working in an attempt to hurt her. It’s a painful scene that doesn’t work to move the plot in the way it ought to – it just makes you hate Peter Parker and everybody associated with this movie.

We finally, after two entire hours of waiting, get to see Venom at the very end of the film, and he’s got maybe five minutes of screen time because by then the audiences’ collective asses are falling asleep and things need to get wrapped up mighty quickly. There’s no sense of payoff for all the investment we’ve made slogging through this convoluted and messy morass of a movie. Instead there’s a slap-dash quick CGI-heavy battle between Harry, Peter, Venom and the superfluous Sandman.

It’s such an underwhelming and pathetic conclusion to the Spider Man franchise. Like I said at the top there are individual bits that are cool. The transformation of petty thief Flint Marko into the Sandman, reminiscent as it is of the creation of Doctor Manhattan to me, looks awesome. The iconic image of black suited Spiderman brooding on a cathedral bell tower is cool. The few glimpses we get of Venom’s manic nasty grin are nice. In short: there’s about enough good film here to make a pretty kick-ass trailer. Too bad they padded it out to more than two hours.

March 27, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment