Tuesday, May 8

Third Time's a Harm

Review time means SPOILERS AHEAD, so beware.

After the Ateneo Comics Workshop, Carl, El, Jonas and I headed off to Eastwood City to watch the third and supposedly last installment of Marvel Comics' most successful comic-to-film series. Spider-man 3 just may be the last time we'll see Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as the leads, and certainly it'll be the last for at least one other cast member.

Spider-man 3 sees New York finally warming up to their friendly neighborhood wall-crawler; everyone in the Big Apple loves ol' Spidey now, which is about time after two movies of kicking villain butt. Peter Parker (Maguire) is soaking it up like a plant does sunshine, and it's probably a first for the loveable loser. There are now only two people who aren't too happy about Spidey taking the limelight- one, of course, is J. Jonah Jameson (played as always to perfection by J.K. Simmons). The other, oddly enough, is Mary Jane Watson (Dunst), Peter's girlfriend who is experiencing a rough road in her own showbiz career.

The third movie seems to be the endgame for stuff that has been brewing for the past couple of films. Here, Harry Osborn (James Franco) finally begins his campaign on the perceived murderer of his dad, taking on the Goblin's arsenal and super-strength treatments to turn into- The 'New' Goblin. Here, everyone FINALLY realizes that Mary Jane sucks on stage. Here, Peter finally decides he wants to live in sickness or in health with MJ. Here as well we have the climax of the Ben Parker arc, as a newly-escaped con named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) is revealed to be the senior Parker's real killer. Complicating things of course is that Marko won't be easy to catch since he's become the all-powerful Imhotep-er, The Sandman- after getting exposed to some radioactive sandblasting.

As if all that wasn't overstuffed enough, we've got an alien symbiote crashing down to earth (and into Peter's life), bonding with him to create a new, power-enhancing black costume at the cost of making him an aggressive arse. Oh, and there's a sleazy sneak bastard named Eddy Brock (Topher Grace) out to snatch Peter's career at the Daily Bugle, and a lovely Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) around to make MJ all jealous and frumpy.

Whew! For the most part, it all comes together in one, big, entertaining... MESS. The movie, while moving along as fast as it can under all that weight, bogs down a lot due to the dragging Peter-MJ romance. I just found watching them to be irritating- MJ is irrationally jealous of Peter's new confidence, which speaks badly of her character- what a stuck up broad! Anyway, they don't talk in the same way MJ did in the 2nd movie, which could have fixed a lot of the trouble they go through here. And then there's that awful 'coercion' thing with Harry Osborn where MJ breaks up with Peter for fear of his life... What the-? Messy, messy, messy. Oh, and having a knockout Gwen Stacy around just made MJ all the more sucky. The love mechanic between the two leads just clamps down on everything, making it all slow down like this was some dramedy or soap. It's a superhero movie, darn it!

Still, all this pales in comparison to the "Butler Ex Machina" that pretty much had me throwing out my hands in exasperation. It takes some butler mouthing off some nonsense about stuff he couldn't possibly know to turn Harry Osborn back?

"Your father died from the blades of his own glider... I had no doubt they were self-inflicted..." (or something like that).

So what... the butler's a CSI or something? I didn't know the Green Goblin had an Alfred Pennyworth on the payroll. The whole plot hinges on this, and it just plain reeks.

Flaws like these (along with iffy stuff like Stan Lee's most obnoxious appearance yet) mar the rest of the movie, but at least there's lots of stuff to keep us entertained. The rest of the cast is in fine form, like the aforementioned JJJ, May Parker and even people like Peter's landlord and his winsome daughter. Then there's Church's Sandman, whose sheer strength of will and love for his daughter makes him a sympathetic anti-hero instead of a straight villain. The revelation at the end about the true circumstances of Ben Parker's death is a welcome end to that pivotal plotline and a nice tie-up to the movie's general theme of revenge and forgiveness. Oh, and there's Venom, whom comic fans have probably been dying for years to see- but will probably be disappointed at the results. He's neat and all, but comes far too late in the movie so he seems like an afterthought, and doesn't stay too long. Oh well.

One thing that the movie does well- in fact, amazingly well- is the action, and Spider-man 3 has far and away the best fight scenes in the series, and perhaps in any superhero movie so far. Great, dizzying stuff that had me at the edge of my seat. The Sandman CG effects are amazing to see- you'll never find another pile of sand that can bring a tear to your eye. It was just a pity all the bad stuff kept me falling off my seat just as often. The movie ends with a sunrise, however with a major character death and everyone onscreen crying... it felt like The Return of the King. A funeral, and a slowdance gave way to the credits, which is an odd, downbeat way of ending this franchise (or at least the trilogy). Once again, a flaw, since I would have liked Spidey to go off into the sunset swinging, rather than slow-dancing to a fadeout.

Once again, a mess with quite a lot of entertaining parts. I hope they make another Spidey. In fact, I'm sure they will, given how much money there is in this character and series. Bury Maguire and Dunst in cash. Just get it done. And learn from your mistakes, okay? No more butlers. That's Batman's schtick. Or something. Feh.

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