Originally Published 2007-05-04 04:56:59
In a nutshell, this Spidey 3 is the Return of the Jedi of this (so far) trilogy. It's bigger, better, and badder than all that came before it, but something is missing from character development and #2 is still the best flick of the bunch.
First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then, I'm a fan. Anything remotely spidey-related and I'll pay to watch. I might not pay to watch it twice, but I'll probably see this one again in the theatres.
After a single viewing (yay for midnight movies!), here's a quick run-down.
The good first:
- I only saw X-Men 3 once (which I remember being darn good, but details are fuzzy), so I'm not actually certain, but the final standoff in this flick strikes me as the best I've ever seen. I know that's saying a lot, so I reserve the right to retract, but having just seen it, I can't wait to watch the action sequences in this film again. And again. Everything was well-done, choreographed well, and believable (once you get through the alien symbiote from outer space thing, of course) .
- Everything looked spectacular. The scene where we're first introduced to Sandman is totally CG, for instance, but OhMiGawd. It's got this crazy-cool powers of ten effect where you start with a mountain and end up with moving grains of sand that coalesce. The scene is actually touching. Yes, that's right, an animated sand figure illicited an emotional response in me.
- While I'm oohing and awe-ing about the way everything looked, Gwen was gorgeous (yes, that's right web-heads, Ms. Stacey shows up in this one for a few minutes), Venom looked great, the black suit was awesome, and Harry as "little Goblin Jr." was incredible. They upgraded the power-rangers daddy-goblin suit and gave him a nify flying snowboard instead of the glider from the first film.
- Did I mention Gwen? Mmmmmm. But then I've always liked her. Even before puberty.
- The Sandman story was well done. To go into detail would force spoilers.
- I remember mentioning to my movie buddy on the drive home that I don't remember how they did the initial Venom contact in the comics. Not the astronaut routine, but how the little black goo attached itself to Spidey. All I can see now is the way they did it in this movie. That says something about how effective the imagery was.
- The character development between Harry and Peter was short but sweet. There was a lot they had to illustrate there in a short amount of screen time (plus bring the newbies up to speed simultaneously), and what was portrayed was done really well.
- Harry's butler has a touching moment. Delivered differently, and it would have been downright cheesy, but the acting in the scene carried it. It's a pretty pivotal moment in the film, actually, although you won't realize it until you reflect on it later.
- Venom-influenced spidey has a great ladies-man sequence. I especially like one 7 second clip that has him hitting on Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jamison's assitant. It's a nice character play and is a pleasant nod to the comics. (Peter and Betty have had a moment or two in the comics. ;-)
- Russian landlord dude has a heart. Nice touch, good continuity, great characterization.
And my complaints:
- Not enough Gwen. Someone not paying attention would think she was just some leggy blonde. She was, but c'mon! She's GWEN.
- The sheer number of villains limited the screen time. We get incredible action in return, but at what cost? I'm not sure any of us give a hoot about Eddie Brock (Venom). Heck, to be honest, based on the power of Three alone, I'm not sure I care about Mary Jane.
- Spidey gets a knife in the kidney at one point. Um, hello, spidey-sense? You can go toe-to-toe with Adamantium-yielding Wolverine for 40 minutes (comic reference), and battle four AI-enabled robotic arms capable of pouding through a foot of solid concrete simultaneously (against Doc Ock in Two), but you get a sneak shank at point blank range? I talked myself out of this one, because Peter has the Venom suit on at the time, and so maybe (a) he's in some sort of reckless aggro-state, or (b), he's stronger than usual, so the little kidney shot isn't actually dangerous. Either possibility is a bit of stretch, however, in my opinion.
Spoiler warning. Stop reading now if you haven't seen the flick and care about the theatrical surprises.
- MJ and Peter have been dating for two years and they still can't talk about the most basic of topics, like the stress in one another's lives. That's believable if they were fighting like cats and dogs, but the film opens with them deeply in love and happy. Heaven to hell in only one bad day and one almost-fight. Not even my relationships are that bad!
- Ok. Peter makes quick work of Harry and his snowboard, basically kills him, has dealt with dear old Dad four years back, and has saved Mary Jane from certain death several times. And her boyfriend is friggin' Spider-man. I'm sorry, Mary Jane, why do you fear this juiced up pretty boy in expensive sunglasses on a flying snowboard?
- Tobey Maguire can't whine or cry. Spider-man definitley doesn't whine. Please, please, please, don't make Tobey cry, don't make Keanu do romantic drama, and don't, don't, don't turn my hero into a withering little biznitch when his girlfriend, obviously under duress, breaks up with him.
- All those posters and not one real, solo fight between Venom and Spidey. Soooo disappointing.
- Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) went from opportunistic schmuck to has-been to psychopathic killer all by himself, overnight, before his introduction to any alien symbiote. Either that guy was really abused when he was a kid, or that just didn't make sense. Dude, where's my 70s show?
- Peter Parker wouldn't bail on MJ when she's about to cry. I don't care how many sirens are wailing or how big a head he's gotten from all the Spidey photos in USA Today. A better character play would have been for Peter to feel conflicted and for MJ to tell him to go. But then, we were in a hurry to force the development of Venom as a villain.
- Yes, Venom was rushed. In the comics, Peter encountered Venom but noticed no immediate effects except that there was a utilitarian benefit -- he could will the Venom suit to look like whatever he wanted, so no more iconic button spreading while running in an alley-way. It was only later that he discovered the side-effects. I don't mind the movie change so much (it feels good, like a drug), because it doesn't even contradict the books AND it's believeable. I just don't like the fact that Peter knew how it made him act and then got depressed/desperate enough (through manufactured drama) to go put it on just so he could feel better. Lame. Spidey is a hero. Heroes falter, but not overnight.
- Why were the Staceys at the funeral? It's not unbelievable, and perhaps we just missed them at Daddy Osbourne's funeral four years ago, but if that were the case, then wouldn't MJ know who Gwen was? Or did the Staceys just become friends of the family in the last three years? Not too bad, but I noticed them, and it seemed a little odd.
- Wait, so the butler knew about Goblin-insanity and Spidey's innocence and he waits until now to say something? Hmmm. A touching moment, a nice turn, and good characterization, but it doesn't really make sense.
- Since when does Peter learn about MJ being a hostage on television? Isn't this the guy who spends a lot of quality time with his police scanner?
- Why the visuals of Spidey pulling the Red & Blue suit out of the trunk? Iconic, yes, but last I saw we had a naked Peter in a church. Seems like he'd have his good ol' red boots on under his clothes right away so he'd be ready for the running strip-to-your-skivvies routine in the alley way.
- Wait. You mean Peter went home to get his Spidey suit out of a trunk while MJ was hanging from 62 stories up? Sigh. Am I really remembering that right?
- I have to mention the Pete-MJ relationship again. It just wasn't believable. At all. In fact, the parts where they were deeply in love seemed more believable to me than the rest. And I'm a 30 year old single guy who doesn't think love is out there. That means the love rift was conveyed really, really badly.
- None of the Venom-influenced actions were resolved. Does Betty look at Peter differently now? Does Gwen have a new lab partner?
- Where did Peter get the sudden cash to buy a new black suit?
- The kisses were contrived. MJ wouldn't kiss Harry. It's out of character, even if she's mad at Peter for kissing Gwen. It's different, and she knows it. Furthermore, Peter wouldn't have pulled the kissing stunt with Gwen. But that, at least, was showboating for a crowd, which I think is forgivable, while MJ reached for Harry with intent. Another stunt to manufacture the relationship rift and subsequent Venom-influence, and all it did for me was make me excuse Peter's pig-headedness and think that Mary Jane was a cheat.
- I'm nitpicking now, but how fast is Spiderman supposed to heal? He's not friggin' Wolverine or even Superman in the sun. Yet there's no wound after Harry slices him open in their first fight, nor does he show any signs of slowdown from the kidney shot later. And how many times in this flick does he suffer head trauma against buildings, trains, construction materials, etc? Not to mention Sandman's fist. I'm not really bothered by the rough-housing, because that makes for good action visuals, but the knife shots should have at least shown visible scratches.