Monday, May 7, 2007

Emo Spider-Man

It is time to put the Spider-Man film franchise to sleep. Sure, Spider-Man 3 will set records in terms of ticket sales and potentially even DVD sales, but the film suffers from an ill-conceived story, excessive length and digital effects that often don’t blend well with the live-action shots.

Spider-man 3’s plot can be explained in a single sentence: Peter Parker, over-taken by a hostile space substance suddenly becomes emo Spider-Man. Given the amount of crying that Toby Maguire has done in these three films it’s only logical that he would take the next step and start wearing solid black tights and eyeliner (between this film and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, I don’t think there’s been this much eye make-up on male actors since the days of silent films). All he’s missing is a marble composition notebook filled with poetry and whiny musings.

Spider-Man 3 is saturated with examples of how CG animation and effects have made suspension of disbelief increasingly impossible these days at the movies. Granted it has allowed for some interesting camera work and subtle special effects, however it often fails in the realm of believable human and anthropomorphic characters.

Case in point: Flint Marko’s (Thomas Haden Church) transformation into Sandman in a radioactive sand silo begins with a shot of his cellular structure undergoing drastic changes. Reminiscent of Epcot’s Body Wars, the scene is effective because it’s not bound by the average audience’s intuitive notion of how an event like this should unfold. The opposite is true when Sandman’s full humanoid form is revealed. As anatomically correct as the filmmakers tried to render him, Sandman’s performance possesses crude movements similar to those of early 2-D (‘rubber hose’) and stop-motion (jerky-movement) animated characters. His initial reaction to his new form is expressed through a lot of pantomimed, ‘eye-less’ disbelief (kind of like slow-motion ‘jazz hands’ and what appears to be an attempt to express his frustration through tears that wouldn’t come – either that, or he was having a Visine moment on par with Ben Stein pouring a bucket of sand over an iris-emblazoned beach ball in their commercials).

Spider-Man 3’s faults rest not entirely with CG excess – if anything poor storytelling has made it all the more glaring. What is most-baffling is the previously and thoroughly explored event that steeled Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s resolve is shown in flashback (now with never before seen ‘missing’ footage!) at least three times while the substance that creates the truly under-developed Venom (Topher Grace) is never given such consideration. Avoiding any unnecessary exposition, a simple resolution may have been a Daily Bugle cover featuring a concise explanation (complete with a fill-in-the-blank government agency ‘sez’ tagline). Previously, whenever something has fallen from the sky in the New York tri-state area, it usually lands on someone’s car or house and makes the cover of a tabloid newspaper.

Oh, wait...I almost forgot. There's a third villain, New Goblin (James Franco). I don't know which villain was more 'throw-away': New Goblin or Venom. Although, Emo Spider-Man does deride New Goblin as "Goblin Junior."

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