Wednesday, May 02, 2007
SPIDER-MAN 3: GREAT ENOUGH IN ITS OWN TWO FEET; BUT WEAKER BY COMPARISON
By Reymundo Salao
Spider-man returns with Sam Raimi on the directorial helm and its same main cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. The story starts out with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s romantic relationship blooming despite of the challenges they face as Parker balancing his life with his crime-fighting, wall-crawling alter-ego, Spider-man. But things are complicated when Norman Osborn lunges into all-out vengeance against Spider-man. In the midst of it all, Spider-man is faced with new villains that include Flint “The Sandman” Marko, played by Thomas Haden Church and Eddie Brock, played by Topher Grace, who eventually mutates into The Venom. The film boasts a plethora of action and amazing visuals, as well as a storyline that is faithful to the comicbook source material.
Spider-man 3 was not bad. But I would be stubborn to argue that Spider-man 3 was absolutely superb, because it was not. Perhaps the first 2 films were too good to a point that Raimi used up all his discipline by the third movie.
Raimi’s signature quirkiness also found in part 1 and his other films like Army of Darkness and Darkman are ever-present. The same kind of silliness that is fit for Marvel's more lighter, more wholesome web-slinging superhero. But there are instances in this film that that quirkiness was awkwardly positioned. Minor scenes that felt like the punch-lines missed their mark.
One thing applaudable with Raimi, though, is his ability to fit in the numerous subplots into the film's limited running time. In this one, Raimi focuses on the complex relationship between Peter Parker, Spider-man, and Mary Jane Watson. This focus is in full consistency with the first two films. But this emphasis deprived Raimi of the opportunity to have a more interesting focus on the other characters. Sure, there was focus on characters like the Sandman or Venom, but the geek in me is craving for more focus on those new characters.
Fan expectations & geek nitpickings are always present in comicbook adaptation movies. What may be well-received by the general audience may not be satisfactory to the core Spider-man fanbase. I would have thought Raimi's keen sense of humor and eye for horror would be utilized to make his new villains more interesting than it was. With the introduction of Sandman, it should’ve been about time to have a Spider-man villain who's cooler in terms of character temper. Sandman is one of Spider-man's longtime villains who is adored by fans because of his sense of humor. Likewise, Thomas Haden Church is also known for his polished balance of sense of humor and a reputable acting career. But none of that humor is shown on screen; instead, we are given an overbrooding Sandman. Sure, he shines in some dramatic scenes, but please; they shouldn’t have made him too serious throughout the entire film! It's as if we're not already sick of Harry Osborn's and Eddie Brock's whining. Thomas Haden Church was PERFECT for Sandman, he's got the Sandman look and his talent is capable of giving an inside out adaptation of Sandman's character. Instead, Church's talents are wasted with the film's lack of focus on his character.
And then there was Eddie Brock who transforms into the horrifying Venom. The look of Venom was excellently brought to life. Venom is supposedly one of the creepiest villains in Spidey’s universe. A villain in which Raimi should have showcased his expertise in horror the same way he made “Evil Dead” a cult classic. Topher Grace did a fine job playing Eddie Brock, a new character who becomes a rival to Peter Parker, and eventually, to his alter-ago as well. The storyline concerning Harry Osborn, the new Green Goblin, on the other hand, was one that has got some interesting twists; James Franco was given a more radiant spotlight in this one, one that makes his character a more important role to play.
Although the action was sufficient to blow away any chances of boredom, the special effects tend to be over-used. Sandman became disappointing when they exaggeratingly turned him into an overgrown sand giant, a seemingly bastard child of the stay-puft marshmallow man from the Ghostbusters movie & Imotep from The Mummy. In addition, there were action sequences that went by too fast; they may be impressive but cinematically devoid of being appreciated.
Nevertheless, nitpickings would not totally bring this movie down. Apart from his eye for exciting action, Raimi juggles with equal doses of comedy, action and romance into this movie. Spider-man 3 is great enough in its own two feet; the only weak point it has is that it pales in comparison to the first two movies which were so good that it breaks our meters. An essential sequel to the Spider-man franchise, this movie is a must-see. And it seems that Spider-man will not rest as a trilogy. There is already news confirming a part 4.