Monday, May 21, 2007
HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER…OR HOLLYWOOD COCKSUCKER?-SPECIAL GUEST REVIEW!!!
An old pal from my salad days at Marvel Comics, Tim Tuohy, decided to write a full-blown review of SPIDER-MAN 3 rather than merely signing in with a comment. Tim knows his shit, boths comics-wise and movie-wise, and I was delighted to receive his two cents on the whole Spidey mishegas. So, without further ado, take it away, Big Nose!
THE PATH TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS or My Review of SPIDER-MAN 3
by Tim Tuohy
Entertainment Weekly in column review began its review of SPIDER-MAN 3 with the following sentence: “It’s Product.”
I’m sorry, but I’ve invested time and money into the first two movies to be just handed “product.” This movie was so bad on so many different levels it was staggering. My wife’s first comment when the movie ended was, whoever wrote this should give the money back. Imagine her surprise when I told her that Sam Raimi and his brother wrote it!
I am going to follow the esteemed Mr. Bunche’s lead and break down the movie into sections of badness. In no particular order…
1. GEORGE LUCAS DISEASE.
Damn the directors who write their movies. There have been many films written by directors that have been exceptional. One of my favorite films of all time is ALIENS. That movie notwithstanding, there has been an increasing trend of directors getting behind the keyboard and creating some of the most masturbatory crap ever committed to film. George Lucas ruined any credibility he was due after he penned Episodes I, II, and III. Being too close to a project, takes away objectivity. While Peter Jackson avoided this with THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, he fell victim to his own hubris with KING KONG. M. Night Shamalamadingdong is incredibly guilty of this. Don’t get me started on how he blew a golden opportunity with THE VILLAGE. Sam Raimi had the world by the short hairs with the first two films. I was able to suspend my disbelief because of a well-crafted and constructed story. Did it bother me in SPIDER-MAN 2 that an energy source as “powerful as a million suns” was snuffed out by sinking it in the bay? Yup. Did I care? Nope. The quality of the story overshadowed any imperfections. By bringing himself into the story creation process Raimi’s vision was lost and so was the audience.
2. THE "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT" SYNDROME.
Everything in this movie has been seen before. One doesn’t even have to reference some obscure film that only Bunche or a film student would know. Raimi and his crack writing partner mined the greats; THE BLOB (both versions), JURASSIC PARK, and SAVED BY THE BELL — yes, SAVED BY THE BELL — to name just a few. Didn’t you just see a young Steve McQueen flash in front of your eyes when the meteorite crashed? Shoot, how about Matt Dillon and Shawnee Smith? Steven Spielberg should be proud that Raimi ripped off the JURASSIC PARK truck in the tree scene and switched Sam Neill and that kid for Kirsten Dunst. And finally, who could ever forget when Zack took Screech’s cousin to the Max to make Kelly jealous. Zack and the poor plot device girl (more on this later) even danced to Zack and Kelly’s song. C’mon, $300 MILLION and we pay homage to T-NBC! Finally, Raimi actually ripped himself off with the Gwen Stacy in Peril scene. Wasn’t that Mary Jane in the first movie hanging from some height while dangling from a piece of masonry?
3. THE CIRCLE OF COINCIDENCE.
Let’s just say for argument's sake that there are 4 million people in New York City; Peter Parker goes to school with Gwen Stacy, who happens to date Eddie Brock, who happens to be after his job! Flint Marko just happens to be connected to the guy who “killed” (more on this later) Uncle Ben and gets to come back as a super-villain who fights Spider-Man then teams up with the guy who hates him because he took his job back and his girl away and who manages to be in the exact same church at the exact same time as Peter decides to be a genius (Reed Richards figured out the alien costume’s weakness) and use the peals of a bell to defeat the costume and stands right underneath it so the alien bonds to him…James Joyce taught me a lot!
4. THE "CAN WE PLEASE STOP CRYING?" QUESTION.
ENOUGH ALREADY. Tobey Maguire and Rosemary Harris have the amazing ability to call forth the waterworks. Thank you, but two movies of that is enough. And just an observation among many, when Sandman was presented with a watery demise Thomas Hayden Church managed to muster up enough of a panicked look that gave him believability in the part. So, how is it that he’s able to cry in the end? Seeing our hero exhibit human frailty is fine, he’s done it all throughout the series. Let’s just cut it with the waterworks.
5. THE NEGATION OF THE FIRST TWO FILMS (or Peter’s Unnecessary Re-motivation).
Flint Marko killed Uncle Ben? Huh? What? Did I miss something in all of the years that I have read Spider-Man? Now before you go pointing out my love of the BATMAN films and Tim Burton’s decision to make it a young Jack Napier who killed Bruce’s parents before he became the Joker, I have that covered! The first BATMAN film laid the groundwork. It moved the story because it was the first time we, as filmgoers, not comic readers were introduced to the inciting incident (bless you, Mark Gruenwald). By making Flint Marko responsible for Ben’s death, Raimi has now made Peter a cold blooded murderer. Raimi has also told us, the viewer, that all of the emotion that we have invested in the first two movies regarding Peter and how and why he became Spider-Man were all a waste of time. One of Raimi’s successes with SPIDER-MAN was the fact that he stayed relatively close to the source material. By diverging from the most important aspect of Peter’s motivation, he has invalidated the previous two movies. This is not the first time that something like this has happened in a genre film series. The utterly atrocious theatrical release of ALIEN3 accomplished the same destructive act. By killing off Newt and Hicks in the opening scenes, the struggles that Ripley suffered and triumphed over in ALIENS were completely wiped away.
6. GWEN STACY IS ONLY A PLOT DEVICE.
This is probably the worst usage of an actor since Danny Glover needed to pay the mortgage by appearing in SAW. Here was classic bad story stuff. Let’s introduce Gwen in Peter’s class as an intellectual rival and then squash that and turn her into a decoration. Raimi turns her into a model, a girl in peril, arm candy, and the tool for revenge. Sad. Ron Howard should have smacked his daughter in the head for this. SPIDER-MAN 3 represents her third film with an out of touch director/”writer”. The character of Gwen Stacy deserved so much more than this. Her impact in Peter’s history was so important to become what it did in the film.
Michael Gough and Michael Caine should both sue for infringement of intellectual property. ‘Nuff said.
8. THE BAD COMIC BOOK TEAM-UP OF FORMER ENEMIES JOINING TOGETHER TO FACE THE COMMON FOE(S).
If you didn’t see this coming, you should never enter a movie theater again. Here’s an idea, let’s give the initial bad guy amnesia. The bad guy and the good guy will become buddies again and all will be right with the world. But wait, the bad guy gets his memory back and in the only real highlight of the film, the bad guy and the good guy go at it. Man, do they ever. That fight scene rocked and ruled. It was great. They were using their powers but the brilliant move to keep them in civvies was inspired. James Franco stole the movie right out from under Tobey Maguire and it really wasn’t because he was the better actor. It’s because he was given the better story arc. That fight was two movies coming and it was worth it. So how does, Raimi close that thread? Let’s have them team up! AGGGHH! My wife laughed at me as I mock slashed my wrists. The whole scenario was cringe inducing. And if you were surprised by what happened to Harry…
9. BAD FILMMAKING 101.
Where to begin? Let’s start with having a resolution for all the dialog spoken in the film. Let’s mention something and reference and close it later in the film. Harry saying, “I’d die for them” was the worst bit of foreshadowing ever. Subtlety be damned, Raimi is going to tell you in the first reel that Harry is dead. Long live Harry and long live James Franco for making me care about him until his predetermined death.
10. BAD FILMMAKING 102.
Let’s glam up the new girl and make the old one look like a schlep. My best friend’s first comment to me was how bad Kirsten Dunst looked in this film. I laughed quite giddily and asked him if he really thought she had anything to do with how she looked? This was such a bad sub-conscious technique it was almost insulting. If Raimi makes Gwen everything that Mary Jane isn’t at the moment then of course we’re going to boo when MJ kisses Harry. Hello folks, this is called manipulation. Granted all filmmaking involves some type of manipulation but to again callously take a character that we’ve come to appreciate and care for and turn her or him into a whipping girl/boy is not good.
11. BAD FILMMAKING 103.
Making a character a caricature. J.K Simmons crafted the perfect, and I do mean perfect, live action interpretation of J. Jonah Jameson. His presence on the screen was an absolute joy to behold. It was truly one of those moments where I became a kid all over again and remembered why I loved these characters. Oh, well. SPIDER-MAN 3 reduced him to nothing more than pathetic slapstick. I like slapstick. That’s why Ted Raimi is in these movies. Ted is a funny guy. Funny Ha Ha. JJJ is scary funny. He is so resolute in his opinions, and that it’s funny because we know, as outsiders looking in, how wrong he is. Instead we get a poorly written scene involving medication. I needed meds after that.
12. ADDENDUM TO ABOVE — MISSED HUMOR.
Let me be clear, I love the humor in these movies one of my favorite comic book movie funny moments is in the first X-MEN. When Jean and Cyke ask Logan how they are supposed to know he is the real one, he spouts the classic line, “You’re a dick.” That was funny. Appropriate and funny. There was a moment when Peter walks into the French Restaurant. We know that Bruce Campbell has to show up sooner or later and there he is. That moment, when they look at each other, I mouthed the words, “Do I know you?” Waste of my jaw muscles.
13. ORIGIN OF THE SANDMAN.
Dumb, Hulkesque. And unsafe. Wide open top in the middle of one of the five boroughs. Please. I can’t write anymore about it.
In closing, I wanted to like this movie. But there is no way that I can. I have called this movie the ALIEN3 of the Spidey franchise, and BATMAN AND ROBIN plus and extra hour. People will say that you can’t please all the people all the time. I’m sorry that I feel $300 million should please me at all.
If Sam Raimi ever decides to make a Director’s cut of this movie please listen to others, listen to people who aren’t his family. Listen to the immortal words of James Cameron when relenting to the studio in their demand to cut ALIENS to a shorter running time: “The easiest way to edit a movie is not to whittle down a second here or a second there. Remove an entire sub plot.”
Despite what the general populace may say, remove the entire Sandman storyline. We know that the Venom stuff seems wedged in there, but it is the lesser of the two evils. The Sandman story ruins the mythos of Spider-Man’s origin for that reason alone it needs to go.
With some careful edits and restructuring, a Venom movie will be okay. And leave all of the Harry stuff except the team up and death. That’s a movie I’d pay to see again.