spider-man 3 (2007)
To be honest, by the end of Spiderman 3, the story has taken so many turns, characters have switched sides and had so many fake deaths, and 'dramatic reveals' have hit such an overload that it's touch to keep track of it all. That is, of course, until the final act when it all gets ... well... predictable. With so many movies becoming trilogies lately, it's easy to track where a third installment is going to go: the filmmakers always feel the need to go bigger with the action and the amount of challenges the hero has to face (in this case they up the villain count from one-per-film in the last two flicks to three), and they always, always, always feel the need to toss in some "dramatic" death to make it seem the hero hasn't emerged unscathed. Spider-Man was not a franchise that needed this in the first place, Peter Parker has been scathed throughout the last two films, and if you thought Raimi might take it easy on him this time around after pummeling him with problems for two movies, think again. But what worked about his problems before is that most of them were pretty average stuff; stuff he could talk to his Aunt May about to get advice like schoolwork and paying the rent and feeling dejected. There's a point in this film where Aunt May asks him what's wrong and you realize he can't possibly tell her because the plot has simply gotten so outlandish at that point that the story has no basis in the real world. "Well, Aunt May some alien goo from outer space has been making me act like a jerk and my best friend is flying around the city trying to kill me and this sand guy keeps popping up and stealing stuff". You get the drill. Not to say there wasn't craziness in the other films, and not to say that the craziness in this film is a totally negative aspect, but when Peter Parker turns into an emo rocker and starts disco dancing around the city, one begins to wonder what in the hell Sam Raimi was thinking while making this. I mean, the film had to be cut 20 minutes to make it fit better into theater time slots, and I'm thinking that lost footage will show up in an extended director's cut and will probably flesh out the rushed parts and get it all flowing smoothly, but come on, you took time away from important scenes and major developments just to show me ten minutes of cheesy dance numbers and ridiculous Jim Carrey-style jazz club nonsense? What did you think people's reactions would be? And they were decidedly grim at my showing, with a lot of disgruntled muttering nearing the end. Now, people have been turning out in droves to see this thing, and it doesn't have to worry at all about itself financially. Despite claims that it may be the most expensive film ever made, it's also got the biggest opening weekend gross of all time and will easily make it's money back, so it's not about that. But Sony has been planning on an entire new trilogy with parts 4,5, and 6. This film just doesn't leave us at a point where I really have a desire to see more. Something is just off about its conclusion, which I'm guessing was supposed to be quietly affirming and sweet, but had a sour note to it that could have easily been washed away by the "swinging through the city" conclusion that the last two films closed on. Despite the failing of the original film, it's ending was the best part. Not so much here.
And I guess that's where the quality lies. The last 5 minutes of Spider-Man, the entire film of Spider-Man 2, and then the first hour or so of Spider-Man 3. It's a nice chunk of superhero goodness, and it's lightyears ahead of the other superhero franchises like X-Men, Batman, Blade and Superman, each of which have already had trilogies that turned out ... not so good. This is easily the strongest third installment of a comic book franchise we've seen. However, I can't help but feel cheated. This movie is just structurally unsound, and most of the places it takes us just don't make any sense. There's plenty of things in here that shouldn't have made it past the first draft, and it makes me wonder if that's where they might have stopped in the writing process. The second film was such a smooth transition from the first, every character and plotline was picked up in a logical way and continued to be logical until the end of the film. Now, we have a character who undoes a major development in the first film, and the relationships Peter has with Mary Jane and Harry are bounced around so many times it starts to grate on your nerves. None of the new characters from Sandman to Venom to Gwen Stacy are developed as much as they should have been (but, again, this is something that an extended edition would easily fix). Also, apparently when it came to Topher Grace's dialogue for Eddie Brock and Venom, he was apparently allowed to ad-lib quite a bit. Big freaking mistake. The guy's so comfortable playing his Eric Forman character from That 70's Show that he just seems to slip into it constantly in this film. Eddie Brock is just a wise-cracking teenager, and when the time comes for Grace to get serious, he sounds like he's mocking the dialogue. It was very disappointing, especially because I supported the casting decision prior to seeing the film. I thought it was bold not to cast some idiot pro-wrestler just because Brock was a bulky guy in the comics. And, for crying out loud, just change Grace's voice when he becomes Venom, it was ridiculous. Other than that, the action was very solid, Bryce Dallas Howard made for one incredibly attractive Gwen Stacy and much of the first half of the flick plays it just right. I'm trying not to give too much away here, but there's a fight in the first 20 minutes or so that will knock your socks off. For much of the film Raimi takes a classic 1930's caper vibe to the film and the fast pace and music work wonders to make this an old-time movie experience. For the entire first half, the symbiote that results in Venom is treated as one big homage to The Blob. We're treated to a few other fun homages, like a great one to Vertigo, that keep things in good spirits. There's an unlikely alliance around the end that, while being slightly forced, I ended up loving. It was a great thing to see. I really don't want to give anything else away, and I feel like any more discussion on the film's specific aspects might do that. For now, I like the acting, I like most of the directing and I like the way it was shot. Having the films slowly go down in color tone like a setting sun (blues dominate in the first film, yellow sunset colors in the second and finally black night in the third) was a very nice touch. Take the script back to the drawing board and we might have had one fantastic film on our hands. Who knows, maybe we will when all that missing footage is put back. We'll see.
All in all, I'd say the same thing about this one as I said about the first: there's a good movie in there somewhere, but it's muddled by a bit too much junk and just has too much stuff crammed into it. I wouldn't discourage you from seeing it, it's a nice wrap-up to a good franchise that I'm hoping they'll let rest for a few years before immediately pouncing on the next installment. So, here's to knowing when to call it quits, let's hope Sony knows what I'm talking about. The series has a fitting conclusion in this film, any more would make thing really really bad. As for the rest of the summer, I'm looking forward to it, should be good times. But I have a feeling I'm going to hate trilogies by the end of it. Oh Well.