So yeah, I saw Sam Raimi's big new superhero sequel SPIDER-MAN 3, which opened last weekend. It's been getting tremendous amount of backlash - for example, Manohla Dargis of the New York Times called it "aesthetically and conceptually wrung out." Many others have lamented that the fun has gone out of the series, and while I wouldn't exactly say that, I do agree that it is a very mixed bag. Here's how mixed:
5 Things SPIDER-MAN 3 Got Pretty RIGHT:
1. Much better special effects: In the first two installments, Spider-man (Tobey Maquire) web-slinging his way from building to building looked video gamey, and at times borderline absurd, but now has a fluid graceful believability.
Nice to see that the reportedely most expensive movie ever has its money up there on the screen.
2. The Sandman:
3. The Black Suit: Yep, shiny goth Spidey looks pretty cool. That was evident in the trailers from a year ago though. But no - I'm not gonna copy 'n paste that same ole brooding dark SPIDERMAN in "the thinker" pose promo photo and post it here.
4. Venom: Though only named in the credits - a satisfyingly scary villain (especially when he grits his teeth) albeit in a movie with one villain too many - damn I said I'd save the cons and there I went again. Anyway since the other half of this element is covered in the cons I'll just say this - Venom has bite.
5. The obligatory yet hugely satisfying Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell cameos: Appropriately cheesy Spider-man creator Stan Lee's quick pep-talk appearance to a battered soul-fried Parker hits the spot - "You know, I guess one person really can make a difference...". You tell him Marvel Man! And wouldn't we all feel cheated if we didn't get Bruce Campbell for the third time to cameo? His pretentious French Maitre d' may not have anything on John Cleese in MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE but in this film it's one of the only bits of comedy that worked - "I love romance. I am French."
Now to let the disses truly fly:
5 things SPIDERMAN 3 got drastically WRONG:
1. J.K. Simmons: As newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson Simmons was dead on in the first 2 installments but here his fast talking manipulative shtick is tired, unfunny and only annoys the audience every time he appears.
Maybe it was Simmons' Simpsons appearance from last season that fully wore down the character - "stop the presses, send my wife some flowers, get me an Advil - what do you mean you don't work for me? You're hired! Now that you're hired you're fired. Now that you don't work here we can be friends - now that we're friends how come you don't call? Some friend you are!" I guess once the Simpsons has got you down your gig is up.
2. The Harry Osbourn (James Franco) amnesia subplot: As a writer I always dislike the "he lost his memory" plot-line that has been a longtime cheat of sitcoms, - Hell it made me swear off the show 24 forever. Despite that Franco sells it to the best of his ability, It's such lazy screenwriting to have Harry conveniently have his recent revenge fueled memory erased after such an unimpressive alleyway tussle with our hero.
3. Kirsten Dunst sings 2 songs: Yes, I know it's from the original comic that Mary Jane Watson is an aspiring actress, a wannabe Broadway singing star, but nobody, and I mean nobody, was buying a ticket to see her warble through two complete numbers. Show stoppers in the worst way.
4. The extended black gunk from outer space that turns Peter Parker into an asshole sequence: Yes, the black suit looks cool, as I noted above, but the gunk, an alien symbiote (some sort of parasite) coming from a small meteorite that attaches itself to Spidey's suit brings out the jerk in Parker in a painful sequence. Looking like strands of Twistler's candy dipped in tar - the ooze infiltrates Peter's nice guy mentality and promptly makes him strut around Manhattan with an entitled attitude, which makes him come on like Jim Carrey in BRUCE ALMIGHTY. This whole bit should have been a deleted scene.
5. Topher Grace/ The Overall Bloat : I loop these together because as scary cool as Venom was and maybe that was because it's the only less-is-more element here - the entire Topher Grace origins of the character are lame, it comes in way too late in the story to have proper impact. Grace's overall smarminess is pretty hard to stomach too.
The two and a half hour flick is crammed with too many incidental characters and go nowhere plot threads. Also, do we seriously need a scene of Franco and Dunst making an omelet? Repeated appearances by Peter's landlord and daughter Ursula? Really?! And did I mention Kirsten Dunst sings two full songs?!!? Okay, well at least I got that all out of my system.