Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spider Man 3 Review - Or, "Son of the Mask"

Am I a bad person if I want to punch Aunt May in the stomach?

We went to see "Spider-Man 3" yesterday, and my basic take on it was put both succinctly and perfectly in 1983 by Berkley Breathed in his "Bloom County" strip (click for a larger and more legible version):

My much more long-winded and rant-filled diatribe of a review is after the jump, however it contains many spoilers. If you haven't seen Spider-Man 3 yet, therefore, do not click on the "Read More" link, it will spoil the movie for you! The rest of this posts assumes you have already seen the film, so you're forewarned!

It wasn't until after the first third of the movie that my flesh started to crawl. Prior to that I was having a pretty good time -- Spidey slugs it out with "The New Goblin" (Worst Villain Name Ever, it sounds like a new mini-car from Hyndai), there's some good character interaction, bada boom bada bing, we got us a super-hero movie here!

And then things started to get stupid.

First, this alien meteorite lands right next to where MJ and Peter are necking in the woods. Do either of them notice a loud explosion? Or see the bright light from the reentry or the landing, even though they're both ostensibly star-gazing? Of course not.

Meanwhile the black alien snot, completely unfazed by forcible, flaming penetration of the atmosphere and sudden impact with terra firma, crawls from its fortuitous landing spot and finds two suitable human hosts. Surely after its long journey and calamitous arrival it's peckish, one would think, being a symbiont and all, but no! Apparently it has super-restraint and super-patience, because it gamely leaps not onto the waiting flesh of MJ or Peter, but instead to the license plate of their motorbike. Foregoing the the doorman and the other five million New Yorkers passed on the way to the apartment, the snot leaps from the plate to Peter's person, but somehow still resists the urge to merge for a number of days, lurking about until juuuuuuust the right moment.

Which is the first time I really started to wonder -- where in the Hell is Spider-Man's spider-sense? It's one of the signature powers of the character, the reason he's able to avoid so much danger and harm; he senses trouble before it hits. So why isn't it tingling immediately when the meteor hits? Why doesn't it go off when it starts creeping up on him? Why doesn't it warn him to avoid getting smacked upside the head over and over and over and over again throughout the movie? At first I thought maybe the producers decided to write the concept completely out of the movie, but later the Goblin makes reference to it. What gives?

In any event, the film abruptly gets taken over by "The Mask" movie, with Peter Parker suddenly channeling Jim Carey, literally dancing up and down the street, fingers popping and hair rakishly combed down over his eyes. The entire sequence (hell, the whole conceit of the "Costume Element Leading to Out of Control Psychoses") is lifted complete from that series, the only thing missing were eyes bugging out comically and a character who could turn into anything. Oh wait, there's The Sandman, my bad -- it is indeed a complete and utter rip-off.

Around this time Aunt May pops in with one of her nauseating, direct-from-the-pulpit sermons, this time about revenge taking over or something, I can't remember because I was consumed with an all-powerful urge to leap through the screen and punch her in the stomach repeatedly until she SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY!! Criminey, I got enough of that crap in the first two movies, why doesn't she just open her own church already and leave us all alone? I'm starting to suspect Uncle Ben got begged to get shot just so he wouldn't have to listen to her hectoring any more.

Speaking of Uncle Ben we learn, through convenient flashbacks and the hiring of a much bigger-named actor that his murderer was really The Sandman, who despite having the ability to change his shape at will seems unwilling to fix his jug ears or get a decent shirt. This is the same criminal who's so stupid he can't figure out how, even given the ability to essentially dematerialize, to rob something that's not already surrounded by guards. Honestly, why not just slide under the vault door of the bank at night, nab the most valuable small jewelry items from the safe deposit boxes, hide as a pile of sand in the corner, slip out when the day shift opens, and walk out in human shape? Or stack thousand dollar bills in his shoes and reform as a slightly taller guy? Or any one of a thousand other things that would occur to even a simpleton after the first ten minutes of thinking about it? But nooooooo, Mr. Sandman (apparently still angry at being named after a 50's pop song) thinks to himself "Hey, there's an armored car surrounded by armed guards in the middle of daytime Manhattan, what a perfect opportunity!"

And if he's so damned sorry and haunted by what happened to Ben Parker those many moons ago, if all he wants is understanding, then why the hell does he throw in with Venom to kill Spider-Man? Shouldn't be be planning a robbery in another part of the state, where maybe there aren't so many super-heroes? Wouldn't that be a more cost-effective way of getting the money to save his little girl than spending a day trying to kill Spider-Man? Couldn't he have just left a note for Spider-Man saying "Hey pal, sorry about offing your uncle, it was totally an accident. Ta! I'm off to rob a bank in a smaller town now."

Look, I'm a simple man, I don't ask much from my super-hero movies. I just ask that they not insult my intelligence. And that the hero not reveal his secret identity to every. Single. Person. He meets. Especially his enemies! Is there anyone in the entire city of New York at this point who doesn't know Spider-Man's secret identity? Or is it only the ones who want to kill him or marry him that are in on it? Honestly, Parker himself at one point is standing on a rooftop above a square filled with people there to meet him, who in turn are surrounded by TV and still cameras, and he's watching with his mask off! Honestly! It's right there on the front page of the "How to be a Super-Hero" manual, don't take your effing mask off in front of an effing crowd if you don't want every Tom Dick and Harry coming after your relatives and loved ones with guns a-blazing!

And then there's the crying. Oh sweet Jeebus the crying. Aunt May tells Peter about when she got engaged, and there's crying. Peter gets snubbed by MJ at the restaurant, crying. MJ gets fired, crying. Harry looks at his father's portrait, Peter beats Venom, Peter loses to Venom, Peter meets Sandman, Sandman meets daughter, a puppy crosses the street, there's been more than five minutes since the last time someone cried, CUE THE WATERWORKS! I can only hope that given Sandman's vulnerability to water that Peter was secretly ramping up the Tear Production for their next encounter, because I swear, if he started bawling one more time I was gonna kill him myself. There was more bawling in this movie than in "Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" and "Terms of Endearment" combined. I kept waiting for a puppy to get strangled on-screen, the director was so intent on forcing some kind of emotional response out of the audience.

Speaking of the directing, it was so heavy-handed I wanted to scream. Spidey leaps and lands in front of a blowing American flag while a spirited voice-over extols his virtues! New Yorkers clap and cheer their hero! The soundtrack swells with sappy music!

Gag me.

I had just gotten over the blatant takeover of the movie by the spirit of "The Mask" when suddenly "Robo-Cop" intruded in the form of the smarmy television reporter/anchor combo voice-over reporting on the capture of MJ at the end. Who the hell is this Australian chick? Why am I listening to someone report on a story when I was already, through the magic of the movies, watching the very story she is reporting on?! And correct me if I'm wrong, but since both Sandman and Venom know who Peter Parker is at this point, why do they have to resort to television reporters to tell him they've got MJ? Couldn't they have sent him a note? That seems like a better plan -- what if Peter's cable was out? What if he was in the lab all day working on a project and didn't see the news? A gigantic, public spectacle like that is appropriate for when you don't know how to get in touch with your nemesis, but they have his frickin' address. Just drop by and leave a message with the stereotypically freakish foreign landlord.

In short, this movie made me want to hurl objects at the screen. My theory of super-hero movies, sadly, stands confirmed with this release. Namely:

"In any super-hero or sci-fi movie series, no matter how long it is, you only get two good films. The rest will suck."

With the original Superman series, you got I and II for your good movies, the rest were crap. Batman I and II were both good, the rest were crap. Star Trek II and IV were good, the rest were crap. X-Men 1 & 2 good, 3 was crap.

And sadly, the same is true for Spider-Man 3. Too many villains, too many stories, too much schmaltz, and way way way WAY too many tears. I'd like to wind this film up in a web and stick it under a table where it belongs.


David M said...

Yeah, but how was the soundtrack? :)

I was so disappointed by Spidey 2 that I never considered going to numero tres. I think I got more enjoyment out of reading your review than I would have from the movie.
I think I speak for all of us when I say, I wish you'd see more bad movies. Go back and watch "Eyes Wide Shut" again and then review it. ::snicker::

I am left with 2 questions though.
Did you really not like "Batman Begins" and "Superman Returns"? I enjoyed both of those.

Jeff Hebert said...

You didn't like Spider-Man 2? Wow, I thought that one was really fun and interesting. Diff'frent Strokes I guess.

I liked Batman Begins very much, I think it was actually the best Batman movie so far. But, it's essentially a new series of Batman movies. They get one more good one in this set and then it's done, too. I consider the first Tim Burton run its own thing.

I did not care for Superman Returns all that much. It wasn't bad, I enjoyed it overall, but it too was a little too schmaltzy in parts. They played up the "Superman as Jesus" angle waaaay too much, this was the least "human" Superman I think I've ever seen onscreen, which I thought really detracted from it.

But it was all right, I didn't hate it or anything. It just sort of left me indifferent. I don't know if that means they get two good movies out of this run or just one more, I guess that'll be the determining factor :-)

Jeff Hebert said...

To clarify, I also think this new run of Superman movies is its own beast, unrelated to the first series with Christopher Reeve.