Thursday, June 26, 2008

Now Dig On This, Emo-Man

I loathed the first Spider-Man movie, loved Spider-Man 2, and didn't think Spider-Man 3 was as awful as people say it is. I've never read any comics, so maybe I'm easier to please when it comes to superhero movies, but then again, there is a caste system even with superhero movies (Spider-Man is higher up on the ladder than Ghost Rider, for instance), so I am at least somewhat discerning. I enjoyed Spider-Man 3, at least enough to recommend it.

That being said, there is so much wrong with the movie. Was Tobey Maguire always a terrible actor, or did something happen to him in betwee
n Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3? I swear he was really good in Spider-Man 2. In Spider-Man 3, I just wanted to punch that idiotic, gaping smile off of his pudgy, dumbly glazed face. Anyway, more about him later. The plot is the movie's biggest problem. I'll try to keep it simple (like the filmmakers should have): Peter Parker (Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) are officially together (or are they? yeah, they basically are) after his long-overdue revelation to her that he's Spider-Man. There's tension between Peter and Harry Osborn (James Franco), who also found out that Peter is Spider-Man and believes that Peter killed his father, the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). As Harry plots his turn to the dark side, somewhere across town Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) escapes from prison to see his dying daughter (roll eyes here) who gives him a locket (the token sentimental object). Flint Marko (worst comic villain real name ever) runs from the cops and gets trapped in a demolecularizer, which reduces him to sand. Hence, he becomes the Sandman. Oh yeah, Captain Stacy (James Cromwell) tells Peter and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) that, by the way, Marko is the guy who killed Uncle Ben, but whoops, he neglected to tell them that before.

Meanwhile, Peter is still working at the Daily Bugle for fast-talking, straight out of a Howard Hawks film J.J. Jameson (the funnier-than-all-heck J.K. Simmons). A new guy, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), comes onto the journalism scene and tries to sell photos of Spider-Man and basically take Peter's job, even if he has to manipulate the pictures to do so. Once his deceit is outed by bad Peter (wait for it), Eddie gets unreasonably upset and eventually turns into the villain Venom. Mary Jane is dealing with a struggling Broadway career (who cares?!). Harry does turn into Goblin, Jr., and during a pretty awesome fight with Spider-Man, Peter knocks him to the ground, which puts Harry into a coma (I think?). When he comes to, he's lost his memory, therefore forgetting anything unpleasant, like his vengeful plotting, and is as nice and plucky as can be and is bestest friends with Peter and MJ again. There's, randomly, the appearance of Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), the Captain's daughter. She sort of dates Eddie and then serves as a piece of ass (an extremely sweet, kind piece of ass, though), a plot device really, to come in between MJ and Peter somehow. Also, there's this black, evil goo that follows Peter around and eventually turns him into mean, black-suited Spider-Man...and into mean, Emo Peter. So, that's the plot put as concisely as possible. See the problem?

It's so convoluted and way overcrowded with characters. Not just one villain, but three! More villain for your buck, I guess. It would have been way more interesting to just focus on one instead of watching these cartoonish figures hop around wreaking havoc. They're pitifully developed. I was really excited to see Thomas Haden Church get a role in a blockbuster, and you can tell he was raring to go, but he's given nothing to do but lumber around (to his credit, he lumbers well). Most of the time he's a CGI creation. The Sandman is a pretty cool villain special effects-wise (the detail of the sand is incredible), but then he just becomes this huge Hulk-like creature pounding on Spider-Man with his big, grainy fist while Venom holds him down. "Sandman mad. Sandman smash!" And really, Venom? That's how you help? Yawn.

Harry's ordeal is just ludicrous. His loss of memory is the equivalent of a lobotomy. He's so annoyingly happy all the time. It's desperate: "Look, Harry is a decent guy! Look! Look! We swear!" At one point, when MJ and Peter are fighting (when AREN'T they?), MJ calls up Harry and, no joke, Harry is painting. PAINTING. MJ is all, "Are you busy? I need some company." And he's all, "No, come on over, just putting the finishing touches on my oil painting of a vase." Well, to paraphrase... And then, she comes over, and there's an unironic montage, set to "The Twist," of them making OMELETTES. Oh, how wacky! Wacky, wacky fun! Puke. What, exactly, is the mood of this movie? How do omelettes and Chubby Checker fit into the plan?

Spider-Man 3 is basically "Mary Jane and Peter: The Married Years." Bicker, bicker, bicker. The excitement of their romance is the chase, and once they're together, you're tired of them. I didn't care about them one bit. They wrung that relationship totally dry. If there's another movie, which I hear there will be, it'll be "Mary Jane and Peter: Couples Therapy."

Now, it's time to skewer the best (read: worst) part. Oh, it's so awful. So, so awful. Peter embraces the black goo because he's upset about the news regarding Uncle Ben. We know that he embraces it because after a fight with, I think, the Sandman, he walks outside, sees his reflection, and...prepare yourself...pulls his hair down over one eye. GASP! How terrifying! Well, it is terrifying, but not the way it's supposed to be. This triggers Emo Peter, possibly the most hilariously atrocious character in the history of cinema. Emo Peter is more horrifying than any disaster the villains throw at Spider-Man. Ugh. I can't even describe it. I was so appalled, albeit amused, that I could only watch through my fingers or clasp my hands to my mouth in shock. Let me just say: Tobey Maguire is NOT sexy. Ew, ew, ew. Take a look at Emo Peter:

NASTY. GROSS. Blechh. Not sexy! Don't dance, Tobey, PLEASE. Remember the brilliant "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" sequence from the second film? Yeah, that was clever and knew when to quit. This Emo Peter business is totally pointless and seemingly endless. It's funny in the wrong ways. And it gives me the creeps! EW. Poor Dylan Baker, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Kirsten Dunst for being dragged into these segments. "Now dig on this." THAT will give me nightmares. This montage actually leaves out one of my favorite parts, when Peter tells Gwen before they enter the club, "Love that little giggle." Ugh. I wish I could pretend that this whole fiasco never happened, but it's burned into my memory. Forever. Yikes...

Okay, let's take a moment to compose ourselves. Ready? All right, moving on...

As I said before, Maguire's acting is criminally bad. No one is worse than him. Kirsten Dunst looks like she's half-asleep the whole time. Well, she's probably bored, and rightfully so. Both of them look like they're just going through the motions. However, James Franco is actually really good. He's Brando compared to Maguire. I could tell he was having fun with the lameness of his character, and I was pleasantly surprised that he mustered up energy and emotion and made me care. Simmons is so engaging and hilarious, and Elizabeth Banks is perfect as his gal Friday, Betty. You can definitely tell the new actors from the regulars, though. They just have a vitality and freshness about them. Bless them for trying so hard. Church does a valiant job with the Sandman, and it's wonderful to see Bryce Dallas Howard have an expression on her face and smile (cough, cough... Lady in the Water, The Village... cough, cough). She's really quite beautiful. I thought Topher Grace stole the movie. I wish he had been the only villain or that he could have been in it more. He just made Maguire look even more bland by comparison.

There are some amazing fight sequences, and the special effects are simply outstanding. The sound design is also insanely impressive (I notice and appreciate that so much more in movies after making my own sound films in school). The plot of Spider-Man 3 is ridiculous, and there are so many things wrong with the movie, but I was never bored. I was actually pretty entertained. I wouldn't watch it again, but I enjoyed it enough as an escapist exercise to help pass a couple otherwise dull hours.

Spider-Man 2 is as good as a superhero movie can get. This franchise will never be that good again. My advice? Stop trying. But, if Spider-Man 4 does happen and Tobey Maguire signs on, I have some more advice: get dance lessons.

Rating: **1/2 (out of 5)


DrunkenSuperman said...

I have my own problems with SM3, but I enjoyed the hell out of that whole sequence. He's not acting 'emo' at all, he's just being a dick, and (intentionally) hilariously so. That's vintage Raimi right there. I think the mvoie being overstuffed with villains was not his choice (he'd made comments in the past about not being a fan of Venom), so he decided to put his own stamp on it. That's my take, at least.

Lisa Draski said...

Fair enough.

I enjoyed the hell out of it, too, but I was laughing AT it. I think it was a gross misstep on all parts. It didn't feel intelligently thought out or tongue in cheek or intentionally clever or funny. It just seemed wrong, like a huge mistake. That's my take.

And the "Emo" label is just uniformly used now. That's how everyone refers to him in that mode. He LOOKS Emo.

ghettomanga said...

the movie would have been stuffed with villains either way (raimi wanted the vulture instead of venom). i think putting multiple villains in the film would be a good move IF you make no attempt to humanize them. (we really don't NEED to care about a villain to enjoy a fight scene...), but venom should not be part of a villain parade.

he is an ARCH villain, so he deserves a movie to himself.

i agree with just about everything else in this review. spiderman 2 was definitely the high water mark for superhero movies lately (until iron man anyway...). with so much bread coming from the spidey flicks, i don't expect it to stop anytime soon...

samax said...

(i missed out on the polls, but my vote for best PTA joint is definitely PunchDrunk...

favorite Shyamalan joint: Unbreakable (best superhero film NOT based on an actual comic...)

without Sophia, Golden Girls would NEVER work... Golden Girls is Sex In The City for old people...)

yeah, this movie was weak. Sony forced venom on the director (BOOOO, Sony! let creative people create... just keep writing checks and shut the @^&*! up!). this is a great blog! like morgan freeman in Se7en, "I'll be around..."