Monday, May 07, 2007

Spiderman 3

Despite its shortcomings, it’s a big flick

In Europe and Asia, Spiderman 3 snared over $29 million – that’s more than the combined takings of its two predecessors. It also set records in Hong Kong, South Korea, Belgium, Italy and France, according to distributor Sony Corp. It’s a money spinner all right, but it is it really that good?

Well, it’s not that it’s not good. The content is excellent. There’s just too much going on. That might be unavoidable when the theme thoroughly explores the two sides to every story, and every person telling it. Sam Raimi, probably attempting to top Spiderman 2 (an awesome production), obviously put a LOT of work into this one. The problem Mr Raimi is that it’s got too much going on, and it ends up being seriously tedious.

Sure, the 139 minutes are at times filled with awesome flourishes, and clever jabs. The first scene between the Goblin and Spidey having a go at each other between the skyscrapers is classic Spidey-stuff. In typical Spiderman fashion, Spidey takes a terrific beating, and then has to come up with a crafty, but straightforward solution to take out the Goblin.

But the amount of plots and subplots – a marriage proposal, a best friend losing his memories, the return of the villain (as Sandman) who killed Peter Parker’s uncle, an up-and-coming cameramen attempting to steal Peter’s place at the Bugle, the iconization (okay, it’s not a word, but I’m making it into one here) – of the Superhero in the Superheroe’s domain (there’s even a Spiderman parade with Spidey balloons etc.) overwhelm the flick about as much as this sentence is overwhelmed. And then there are still more subplots; an attractive platinum blonde classmate, and a mutual best friend, straining loyalties on both sides. And it’s all got to cover full circle. That’s why it’s easy to forget the core plot, and the entire mainframe of the movie. The meteorite ooze – a kind of gooey symbiote – enhances the personality of its host, and is the basis for the film’s exploration of ‘The Dark Side’.

The spidery goo actually provides the flick with a lot of magic. I enjoyed Peter’s transformation from stumbly, bumbly, geek-boy to a sauve, arrogant, street smart John Travolta type. For a while it seems that aggression and assertiveness are what’s really needed to at least have some kind of spine, and let’s face it, Peter Parker becomes a stronger, and arguably a better character at one point. But how much darkness is enough? The sleek black Spidey is somehow even more cool than the conventional stars and stripes (did you get that one?)

Interestingly, while Spidey’s colors are red and blue, his enemies like purple and green. Seems like Superman and Lex Luthor shop at the same store as Spidey and his cohorts.

I also realized, watching this flick, what it is that gives Spiderman his unique kick. It’s the fact that Spiderman is perhaps the most human of the superheroes. Think about it. Beyond his spidery skills (those silk threads he shoots might as well be batman’s cables) he has to rely on something like human reflex to navigate through very difficult and physically strenuous situations. In one scene Spidey takes a pretty long time to pitch up. Why? Because swinging through town Tarzan style just takes longer than flying in straight lines at superspeed. And we often see him just barely getting through horrific scrapes. He’s constantly falling, throwing out web rope, having it chopped off, and then falling again. Sure, he does have a gift, but he has to rely a lot on human ingenuity to survive. As superheroes go, Spiderman’s a more regular guy that often gets hurt. I’m not saying I don’t like that, I do. I’m just saying it’s his vulnerability that makes Spiderman Spiderman.

Also interesting is that in this flick, and in Spiderman 2, we often see through his mask. Literally. It’s either torn in half, or missing altogether. Spiderman and Peter Parker exist pretty much as one, with Peter Parker at times doing the Spiderman thing – even on the outside of skyscrapers – in his work clothes.

These are actually deft touches. An entire Spiderman flick with the mask in place will quickly begin to feel like a series of Special Effects sequences (with no Tobey MaGuire necessary).

I wonder which villain we’ll see next? The Lizard Man? Spiderman and Superman vs Lex Luthor? And then Spiderman and Batman vs the Joker?

Despite its shortcomings, it’s a big flick. Spiderman 3 has broken box office records around the world, but to continue doing that, the franchise needs to stick to a specific message, and make sure their story is strong, and travels like its heroes do: fast and light.

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