ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spiderman 3

So I saw Spiderman 3 yesterday (I know they spell it with a hyphen, but it looks goofy to me that way), and I've been trying to sort out my thoughts about it ever since.

It's definitely a mess on many levels, but on the other hand I was generally entertained and into it, so I can't really give it a bad review, despite its flaws. Call it a B-.

*** Spoilers ***

John August, on his blog, points out all the coincidences/contrivances in the script, and he's right. Spiderman basically has three people he is in conflict with (romantically, at work, and vengefully), and all just happen to turn into supervillains along the way. Only Venom is because of Spiderman, and even that is contrived -- it would have been a lot more acceptable if Topher Grace's character had followed Peter Parker to the church, rather than just happening to be there.

The biggest problem is that by far the most interesting storyline -- Spiderman wrestling with his dark side, the symbiote that ultimately turns into Venom -- doesn't even get going until the second half of the script. Until then, aside from Sandman, all we really get are recaps of Spiderman's greatest hits -- Spidey clashes with his old buddy/New Goblin, Peter Parker is nervous about Mary Jane, Aunt May shows up for some dull bits, the editor rages.

And Sandman, though interesting visually, really has an underdone storyline. He is motivated by worry for his ill daughter, but we never get the sense of if/how the money he is stealing is going to save her, or if he is spending any of his non-psycho time with her. At the end, he's a brutal bad guy, and then suddenly, for no particular reason, he's apologetic, and sort of a good guy, and he heads off to his life.

I get what Sam Raimi was going for. Having three villains gives a lot of opportunity for eye-popping special effects sequences (as long as they are going to let you spend $250-300 million on a movie, you might as well put it on the screen) and on a visceral level this often works. The opening fight with New Goblin is good (and the whole storyline pays off well -- finally-- late) .

But all the Sandman stuff just bogs down the first half. There's a nice, tight movie here, in the story of Spiderman, the symbiote, his giving into his dark side, and in making Venom more of a character, instead of late FX throwaway; the stuff with the New Goblin could have been layered into this. Instead, they camp up Peter Parker's dark side bits (anyone really believe that his lame, finger-guns hepcat dude would really turn a girl's head, except in pity?), while the whole jazz club dancing scene he does is pretty eye-rolling.

The story really needed to be done in a darker, BATMAN BEGINS style. But of course, that doesn't bring in the kiddies.

Still, you know, there are things here that work, and I was generally entertained. I just wish it was better.

Also, as mentioned on one of the comments below, I also saw "28 Weeks Later" over the weekend. Thumbs up on that movie; despite some real eye-rolling contrivances in that storyline too (suddenly logic doesn't seem to be at a premium), it's still a good ride.

21 Comments:

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyway.............Sam Raimi really destroyed the franchise, we want Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) for directing Spiderman 4

 
At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

I don't see how Raimi destroyed the franchise. A large percentage of people loved Spiderman 3. It made a ton of money. Yeah, it's a heavily flawed movie. But it hardly destroyed a franchise. However, I hope Raimi is finished as well so he can get back to other types of movies (Simple Plan, Evil Dead types)
Also, "anonymous", I have to ask just who "we" is referring to?

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

They'll never hire Del Toro. "Dark Spidey" just isn't commercial enough.

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

I think it's about time David Fincher did a superhero movie. You think Batman Begins is dark? Fincher would scare the pants off the kids.

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Suburban Screenwriter said...

I feel the angst over a unfulfilling 3 outing for the web slinger...I don't think Raimi killed the franchise but my gut says he is really to jump ship because this just didnt have enough of a feel like a Sam Raimi movie...Spidey III was decent but weak unfortunately and I agree dark Spidey would tank. Spidey is best done with the optimism and humor that came from the first 2 flicks.

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

I agree with your thoughts on this one. In fact I did a huge similar sort of recap-analysis of the movie on my own blog (I think most people have actually...) mostly focusing on the weaknesses in the plot threads with ideas on how they could've been fixed.

The theme of the movie was carelessness. There are so many little annoying bits that would've taken only a modicum of effort to correct. One of my examples is Peter telling Eddie Brock to "find religion" -- where it would've been easier and more sensible to just show Eddie with a cross or something to get him into a church, and with a BIT more effort they could've had Eddie evicted from his apartment after getting fired and ending up sleeping in the church. And so on and so on.

Yeah I would love to see another director take this on. Alfonso Cuaron? Greengrass? It could happen...

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Allen said...

Let me reiterate, I thought the movie was a piece of crap.

The coincidences were ridiculous and insulting to my intelligence, peter parker crying more than will smith's character in the pursuit of happyness didn't help, neither did the three not so scary villains - in fact 2 end up being good.

All in all, I'd grade it a D and not an F because the visuals were cool and Bryce Dallas Howard is really hot.

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger ScreenwriterJ said...

It's the kitchen sink approach. It never works. Cut a villain so you can build substance and a better storyline around another.

Batman Begins rules!

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Blair said...

Yeah, Peter cried when he lost the girl, when his best friend died, when someone recapped his uncle's death for him, and got misty-eyed when he got the girl back.

Oh, yeah. Absolute-flaming-woman-like-lacking-in-testosterone-homosexual that one. *Smile and nod*

I agree with most of your points Scott Reader. I was going to say "Scott THE Reader" but it looks goofy to me that way. ;)

 
At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spiderman 3 is one of the worst pieces of shit I've ever seen.

 
At 6:43 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Apathy. That pretty much sums up my thoughts on Spidey 3.

I sat there and watched. I was not invested. I did not care. Not one scene in the movie truly interested me.

I did laugh though. When the professor talks about the symbiote being aggressive and they cut to the microscope shot of the bully cell.

I laughed. Hard. At the movie, not with it.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Spiderman 3 ROCKED!!! Sure the villians were a bit ho-hum, which supriced me. (You'd think big budget means so AWESOME fight scenes, but that's not really the case)

I went into Spiderman 3 thinking, Harry Osborn was going to become the Hobgoblin and become a more evil and vengefull version of his father. But that's not what really happens. Harry has/fakes amenesia after a battle with Spiderman. BUT then Harry gets back into the mix with Peter Parker and Marry Jane. He even has Mary Jane over at his house where they dance and cook an omelette together (the most creative part of the plot, I thought). And it's Harry Osborn's struggle with forgiveness, friendship and revenge that, for my money, is where the magic of Spiderman 3 lies. Great, paint yourself out of the box, screenwriting.

James Franco's work in this movie was something to behold. The smile he gives Peter in the dinner... Never been a big James Franco fan before, but after seeing him in Spiderman 3, I'm sitting up and taking note. He COULD be a real force in the movies for years to come. Will be interesting to see what his next couple of movies will be.

I'm on board with most people's past comments on the contrivances of the story. Big fan of the Spiderman cartoons growing up, I used to run home from school just to watch them. I'm a big fan of the big fight. And I felt let-down in that respect. But I'm no longer 7 years old, and am able to enjoy what does work in the story, it's heart: the Peter Parker/Marry Jane/Harry Osborn triangle.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

Yeah, I think we all wished more focus on Spidey and his dark side.

The franchise is still alive for sure, just it kinda dissapointed with the overblown storyline. Anyway, it can only get better since they will sure have learned from this one.

Btw, reading half of your preview last night, I had to write my analysis too over at my blog. If you are interested, pop by.

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me it was like they knew they had to have 2 good guys for the final fight scene (spidey and james franco) so they had to come up with 2 baddies for them to square off against.

Everything else had to fit around this and that is where it got tough to piece it together...

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

They fell victim to the "too many villains" syndrome. When oh when are these people going to learn it is always best to have a 1:1 ratio of villain to hero? Otherwise it makes the villains look weak...and the villain must always be stronger and better than the hero (that is until they are undone by their own ego/weakness/misbehaviour).

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger Abe Vionas said...

I saw Spidey 3 twice: once by myself, and once because a friend was going and invited me along. The first time I was reasonably entertained--even though I still acknowledged the film for the mess it was. I was kept happy enough that first viewing.

The second viewing, though, was so mind-numbing that I had to struggle to stay awake through it. It's the second viewing where the mess of it all becomes simply intolerable.

The sad thing is that the trailer for Pirates 3 looks like it'll be the same way: just another exercise in excess, visceral thrills, and a mess of a story. You can tell from Pirates 2, and from the trailer that they've thrown the whole idea of character arcs out the window. Everyone has the same bad-ass skills, and everyone talks the same...everyone is witty, rebellious, sarcastic. I'm almost afraid to find out how bad Pirates 3 will be.

Unfortunately, the fact that Spidey 3 made so much money--considering the mess of a story it had--just ensures that studios continue to produce blockbusters with little regard for the quality of the underlying story.

It's just sad to see what Spiderman has become. With Raimi at the helm we should've had three (at least) very solid movies with tight, well-told stories. Instead we have a trilogy of films that has rapidly descended into B-movie territory, kept only from the gutter by virtue of the gobs of money spent on production.

That kind of lazy storytelling would never fly from any emerging unknown writer.

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I really hope that Pirates 3 will be good. I've met the writers, and I trust them.

But the fact that it is 2 hours and 47 minutes long is already a bit scary.

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

Pirates looks more promising in terms of light entertainment and should do much better then Spidey 3.

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Dave said...

I read recently that the producers of Spiderman 3 came to Raimi and told him to put in Venom. Something to the effect of "come on, Sam, you know the fans want it. Stop being so stubborn and do it for the fans for once."

Raimi hates Venom (or thinks it's a stupid villain). He had planned to have The Vulture in the third movie.

I don't believe it was Raimi that hurt the film, but "Hollywood" that stepped in and dictated what they want (when they had largely left him alone for the first two). Raimi has worked on the Spiderman films much like Goyer has worked on his super hero films - as a fan first.

It was entertaining, but not as solid as the others.

If you believe it was "the worst piece of shit you've ever seen", then obviously, you haven't seen many movies.

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spider-Man 3 wasn't a great movie, but it would make for an outstanding epidsode of "Mystery Science Theater."

 
At 10:28 PM, Blogger andrew said...

Hi I want to say something about the spider man 3 is As the titles start and that theme begins, we know we are possibly on the final Spidey ride of our lives - and what a ride! This is a comic book superhero, Juggernaut of a movie and its not difficult to see where the money went. I have little doubt that we will ever see such a huge scale of nearly faultless CGI, fast-paced action, angles, details, colors and scenarios in any superhero movie ever again.


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