Saturday, April 2, 2011

Raimifest Day 7: Spiderman 3

Hey I still kind of like Spiderman 3…


To say this is not the expected choice to end the blogothon on would be an understatement. Few films have been more maligned on a higher profile then Spiderman 3. Capped by the teeth grinding “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out after making us a couple billion dollars.” Treatment that Raimi got from Sony, Spiderman 3 seems likely to remain one of the most ignominious last acts to any major franchise. I compared the last entry in Raimi’s other trilogy to a victory lap. Spiderman 3 is more like a victory lap in which the engine explodes and cooks the driver alive.

But is it really that bad?

Certainly it’s a flawed film. One might even say it’s a film divided against itself with the Venom plot so painfully an obviously shoehorned in. It is obvious that Raimi really at no time gives half a crap about Venom. So lazily is the character presented that it never even refers to itself as we. Really all of the film’s problems, from its goofy humor (emo spidey) to its lazy plotting (“I dunno, a meteor drops nearby”) can be traced back directly to Raimi’s sheer disinterest in Venom.

So what do we have once we remove Venom from the equation? Well I’d argue it’s a pretty good movie. Not to mention one that despite the epic creatorial battles that he had in the making of it, reflect more of Raimi’s quirks as a filmmaker then either of the two previous entries.

It’s in the little things. The playfulness of the action sequences, the ring and crane one in particular, the sense that Raimi is a kid whose getting to play with the world’s greatest set of Spiderman toys ever. It’s in the love that Raimi has for the material. His compostions and storylines may not have been directly lifted from Ditko Romita era Spiderman, but it easily could have been. Might not seem much in the post Watchmen world but it’s still distinctive take on the material. It’s in the sense of humor. The Daily Bugle sequences harkens back to Raimi’s earliest his Three Stooges influences and the Bruce Campbell sequence down right abusive. An unrelenting tormentor out of one of Raimi’s high school shorts. Lastly it is of course in the horror Raimi brings to bear. Though Raimi’s horror movie imagery isn’t as potent as in Spiderman 2’s Operating scene, it is still present in the giant homunculi The Sandman Becomes. The way his face splits apart and then melts, making him monstrous. It’s in Harry’s Quasimodo like transformation and despite the disinterest he has in the character, the design of Venom goes admirably against the grain. Turning a liquid smooth character into something nightmarishly angular and sharp. And of course there is the Sandman’s haunting transformation, demonstrating perfectly the curse of the genre filmmaker. Had that sequence shown up in any art film it would be hailed as a piece of pure cinema. As is it’s disregarded as just another monster origin.

Say what you will about Spiderman 3, but it is not a film made by a filmmaker that is out of ideas or stories for these characters.

Yes there are other flaws. Knowing what we know now about Franco as a performer, it’s hard to look on his performance in this movie as anything but a weird ass kind of performance art. I mean come on...

And major sequences like the one fight between Harry and No Mask CGI Spiderman falls right smack dab into the middle of the uncanny valley.

Yet I cannot help but have a soft spot in my heart for this strange little movie. Which is why I chose to end with it, rather than one of the other more popular Spiderman flicks, or his “comeback” movie Drag Me To Hell. Who else but Raimi would stick himself so far out on the limb? Who else would dare to tinge his happy ending with a feeling suspiciously like melancholy.

Who else would center a major Hollywood action blockbuster, a genre which frequently boasts of body counts in the triple digits, around something like forgiveness?


le0pard13 said...

Fine review and re-examination of this one, Bryce. Yeah, if it had one less villain to muck up the storyline, it "coulda been a contender" (though Sony still laughed its way to the bank).

"Few films have been more maligned on a higher profile then Spiderman 3."

There's still an inner circle of Hell awaiting Bret Ratner for what he did with X-MEN: The Last Stand.

Perhaps the other factor here, besides what you cover, is the shadow of Spider Man 2. Arguably, it's considered by many as one of the two or three top superhero movies ever. Raimi's third Spidey feels like it's pressing (and ultimately choking) on what it is attempting to overcome.

You've provided a lot of food for thought with this one, Bryce. And I agree, it is a good one to end on. Thanks for this.

thevoid99 said...

I went to see Spider-Man 3 on opening night like everyone else did.

I enjoyed the first two and figured, despite the reviews it was getting, that it was going to be a fun film.

Well, after the film finished. The one thing I wanted at that point was the 7 of the $9 I paid to see that movie back. The $2 bucks were for Bruce Campbell's great cameo.

It was bloated, that was the first thing on my mind. It was bloated, it was overlong. There was too much happening and I felt it didn't do enough for what I wanted. It was a mess.

They should've had Venom in another movie. Instead, he came in and it was very disappointing.

I blame the studio chief for the film overall. He pressured Raimi to include Venom and it became a mess.

There were few moments in that film I liked. Notably Peter Parker acting like a pimp and being all cool.

Excellent as usual Bryce.

Adam Zanzie said...

Spider-Man III is a decent film, and a case can definitely be made for it. I'm sure I'll bring myself around to returning to it one of these days as I haven't seen it since 2007... largely because there are sequences in the movie that are just difficult to watch. The difference between Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man III, in terms of sheer emotional effect, is pretty simple: Spider-Man 2 is about lonely souls, missed chances and uncertain futures. Spider-Man III, on the other hand, is all about opportunism, friends-turned-bullies, abused relationships and nonstop arguments. It's playing with a lot more fire, struggles for greatness, and almost succeeds.

I do appreciate the humor of the "emo dance scene" in which Peter discos down the street. It's over-the-top, but it's that typical, Raimi-esque humor. Yet I have to draw the line at that dance scene in the bar that comes afterwards, which is merely painful to sit through: it uncomfortably attempts to juxtapose Peter's Nutty Professor-type jive with an unexpected moment in which he knocks down MJ and beats up a bouncer. At that moment the movie begins to get depressing, and those other story flaws (Venom, mostly) don't help things much.

Still, the movie makes up for some of this in the action finale. Raimi films it well. It's good that he allows Peter to forgive Sandman. And that final shot of Peter and MJ attempting to reconnect does lift off some of the burden of what we've just seen previously. The movie's a bit of a mess, but as much as there is to gripe about it, I don't quite have the heart to dismiss it altogether.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

My favorite part was the screaming Venom, played by Topher Grace. It would've been nice to see Kurtwood Smith come in and sort him out.

Craig D. said...

We live in the age of hype. If someone likes a movie, they make it sound like its artistic worth is comparable to the combined works of Shakespeare and Da Vinci. If someone dislikes a movie, they make it sound like it'll give you AIDS just by watching it. There's no "pretty good" anymore. People either want to fellate the director or cut his throat. Hence why I consider Spider-Man 2 vastly overrated and Spider-Man 3 the opposite, even though the former is undeniably a better film.

There's so much about Spider-Man 3 that makes me cringe: MJ's singing, Harry and MJ's cooking, Harry's butler dropping an atomic exposition bomb, Peter's emo look, the utter waste of Venom. But it deserves better than it gets. The action is terrific, Church and Grace steal every scene they're in, it's got the best Campbell cameo yet, and the humor works. I'll defend that James Brown strutting scene any day. And at least it doesn't have a dreadfully boring midsection like Spider-Man 2, or dialogue like "you've stuck your webs in my business for the last time!"

Yeah, I went there.

Bryce Wilson said...

What more can be said, except: