A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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.

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March 27, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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