spider-man 3 (sam raimi 2007)

4 06 2007

Tobey Maguire
Kirsten Dunst
James Franco

It’s very brisk, innit? Plot point/plot point/plot point/fight scene/plot point etc. The acting is delivered in a broad, almost old-fashioned kind of way, that, along with the slapstick/slapdash attempts at comedy remind you that this is, in fact, a kid’s movie. The musical interludes (I know! WTF?!) and effects sequences are so disconnected from the actual human acting bits that they feel imported from a whole other film. Quite a weird film.

There’s too many contrivances and coincidences. The Venom symbiote comes from space: so a meteor just plops down near where Peter (Maguire) and MJ (Dunst) happen to be. The plot calls for MJ to become disillusioned with Peter: so they just happen to bump into Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) at a restaurant. The plot calls for Peter to realise what he has become under the influence of the symbiote: he and Gwen just happen to turn up at the bar where MJ now works.

Worst of all, when the plot calls for Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock (a man with a number of legitimate dramatic reasons to follow Spider-Man around) to bond with the symbiote, we are asked to believe he has suddenly found religion, and has chosen, of all the churches in New York, the same one as Peter Parker.

The characters are subservient to the plot structure, and the plot subservient to the effects. It should be completely the other way around.

The special effects aren’t even that captivating (with the notable exception of the stunning realisation of the Sandman). The big action set-pieces are weightless and cartoony, like video-game interludes. The change between ‘real’ acting and CGI fight is so marked, it’s like the grain change in old sitcoms when the characters step outside the soundstage.

Worse, the effects wranglers mistake dizzyingly fast movement across incomprehensibly large spaces for spectacle, so it’s hard to see what’s going on, and harder to care.

A fight in the subway tunnels – when at one point Spider-Man grinds Sandman’s head to powder against the side of an onrushing subway train – is the only point where the excitement and drama of two people in conflict is enhanced by the effects, rather than the scrap acting as a showcase for the digital trickery of cartoon characters bouncing about a cartoon storyboard city.

Even an effects-light stand-up fistfight between Parker and Franco’s vengeful Osborn feels overedited and overcooked, and would have benefited from a Bourne-style stripping down.

And why, exactly, is James Cromwell even here? As with Jon Favreau and Joe Pantoliano’s thankless appearances in Daredevil, maybe Cromwell has one patrician eye on the future franchise paychecks.

James Franco’s performance is ten times as seductive as Maguire’s, and spending half the film grinning like a head-injured four-year-old is a waste of his slow-burning charisma. Having the whey-faced gimlet-eyed Kirsten Dunst within fifty miles of him is a waste of my time and yours.

Thomas Hayden Church is wicked, though. The Sandman effects are consistently gobsmacking, combining with his new granite physique to create a memorable character through the synergy of acting and effects.

Meanwhile Topher Grace’s camping-it-up works well but Venom’s rubberiness doesn’t, while Maguire’s doughy Peter Parker seems like a completely different entity to the loose-limbed Spider-Man.

But forget the kid’s stuff. The big question is, as ever: does it work as an allegory for Iraq (another one!)? Of course it does (doesn’t everything?). Six years after the Twin Towers fell off-screen and were digitally erased from in the first Spider-Man film, the threequel is all about the danger of revenge as a long-term motivation.

The black suit represents vengeance. Vengeance feels good; but it transforms the wearer into an unrecognisable monster. And anyway, the act being avenged wasn’t as simple as we thought. Vengeance is simple: black and no white. Real life is in colour.

It’s no coincidence that Spider-Man’s triumphant return to the good – in red and blue – sees him swoop past an enormous US flag, while the closing voiceover talks about personal choice. Hurray!

So, not exactly great, but with yawnsome effects comes pleasing weirdness.




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