Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman 3

The Spiderman movies are great fun, with fleshed-out characters and exciting CGI. However the more I think about it, the more I feel it may have worked even better as a TV series, in the way that Heroes, Lost and Battlestar Galactica have succeeded in bringing big-budget ideas to the small screen.

Don’t get me wrong, Spiderman 3 is a great view, and ensures the franchise remains the best of the recent superhero film outings. But at almost three hours long, and with multiple story arcs and character developments, it’s left me wondering whether cinema is the right medium for superheroes. Certainly the special effects look good; but in the modern era of large plasma and LCD screens, they would look good in the lounge room as well.

Tobey MacGuire returns as Peter Parker, the self-described nerd who moonlights as New York’s friendly neighbourhood Spiderman. Life is good for Peter – Spiderman is universally popular; he’s doing well at college; and he’s still with the love of his life, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). But as always, pride comes before a fall, and it’s not too long before Peter has to face an old enemy in the shape of his friend Harry – who returns to avenge his father’s death from movie one, having taken over the role of the “Green Goblin” – and a new one, in the shape-shifting form of Flint Marko, aka “The Sandman”, a petty crook who accidentally gets zapped by a de-molecularisation machine (as you do), and can now turn his body into sand. Thrown into the mix is an alien symbiot called Venom - a parasite which first infects Peter (becoming “Black-Suited Spiderman”), before taking over the body of Eddie Brock’s – Peter’s new rival photographer – when Spiderman rejects it.

Confused? We also have Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), the Chief of Police’s daughter who’s also a classmate of Peter’s and Eddie Brock’s girlfriend; J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmonds), the newspaper editor and Peter’s boss who’s still trying to discredit Spiderman; and let’s not forget Mary Jane herself, whose acting career has hit the skids but her superhero boyfriend seems too busy to bear. Oh yeah, and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) is still around to dole out words of wisdom, and to try to put the breaks on Peter’s anger when they find out Uncle Ben’s real killer (from movie one), turns out to be someone different – someone who just happens to have strayed in front of a de-molecularisation machine….

With all these stories, Spiderman 3 needs to be 170 minutes long, and while the onscreen action barrels along, and the non-action pieces keep you interested, you do still feel it from time to time – hence my proposition that the Spiderman franchise could have worked well as a TV series, with time enough to explore. Another reason is that the movie changes tone several times – including a bizarre but hilarious screwball comedy routine that shows just how the Venom suit is affecting Peter Parker. Those who know a young person afflicted by “emo” disease will snigger at the fact that Peter seems to turn into one every time he dons the black suit.

The performances are solid, with MacGuire impleccably playing the nerd whose pride makes way for a big fall, and Dunst the conflicted and disillusioned actor. James Franco turns an amnesiac Harry into a wonderfully sympathetic character – a true hero by film’s end. The two new villains – Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman and Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom – are both fantastic. And as always, geek favourite Bruce Campbell turns in another stellar cameo appearance.

The action sequences are extremely well done; but the CGI highlight is when the Marko, having been reduced to a pile of sand, first tries to gather himself back into human form to stand up, walk, and wrap his fingers around a locket containing a picture of his beloved daughter. It’s a very human moment in a completely constructed shot. There’s a bit of all-American bravado – but with Raimi, you can never quite tell how much of it is tongue-in-cheek. The end satisfactorily closes the first “trilogy” of Spiderman stories, but leaves it open enough to future films. Above all, it insists upon the redemptive power of forgiveness, something which Raimi probably feels in this day and age, which could all use a lot more.

Spiderman 3 then is another fine piece of superhero work; and while it will be a long time before superheroes fade from our cinema screens, it will be interesting to see how long it will be before more pop up on TV. “Look out! Here comes… ?”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.