Saturday, May 05, 2007
Spidey 3-- A Sight to See
The heros of Marvel comics have seen something of a renaissance in the last ten years, thanks in no small part to a Hollywood looking for more fun summer fare-- the season of the year when they make most of their money. It is not an accident that Marvel Comics have only come to life late in the super-hero movie game, because the technology required to bring Marvel comics to the big screen is a relatively recent phenomenon. Whether we are talking about Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Dare Devil, or the X Men, all of these comic book stars would not likely translate well to the big screen in an era before CG and special effects reached their recent heights.
Clearly enough the Spiderman series, now apparently completed as a trilogy, is the flagship product of the line, hence the pressure to make these movies really hum. Both of the first two movies, with Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst starring were very well done, and had their moments of real pathos and drama, not to mention spine-tingling action from time to time. Stan Lee is a master of misanthrops, not only with his villains, but also with his mis-fit heroes as well. One of the secrets that made his and Steve Ditko's creations so compelling is that most of his heroes became heroes by accident, through something unusual happening to an ordinary person. Thus ordinary persons could more easily fantasize about being one of these heroes. There is also the 'outcast' or me vs. the world aspect to these heroes as well, just perfect for teenagers who used to read comic books(in the 60s and 70s B.C-- before computers that is) and thought they had a lot against them already. Such were the factors that made the comic books such fun reading.
But does this third episode maintain the standard of excellence of the first two, while still being true to the story lines of the comics themselves? Well the answer is-- not entirely. The movie in itself is too long, well over two hours, and it is too dark for small children as well. Too much evil to swallow in one gulp. Mr. Rami apparently felt it necessary to tie up all loose ends with the series coming to an end, and this is part of the reason for the bloating in this third episode. Not only do we bring back Harry (the son of the Green Goblin), but we introduce the Sandman. And not only do we bring in Flint Darko (aka Sandman), we also turn a Bugle photographer into yet another super villain bent on destroying Spiderman. The odds are not even, and the odd want to get even in this movie. One super bad guy would have been enough and did we really need to throw in evil inter-galactic goo ( which would have fit better in Men in Black) as well?
Then of course there is the sometimes torrid sometimes sputtering romance of Mary Jane and Peter Parker. This subplot is important and could have been a nice point and counterpoint with the super-hero drama segments, but not satisfied with this, we bring in girlfriend number two--- Gwen Stacy the daughter of the police chief, who turns out to be a blonde bombshell (just like in the comic book). This also is too much, and it is not really possible to develop in tandem a relationship that originally was a sequel to the relationship between Peter and M.J.
Do the special effects come to the rescue? Well, yes and no. They certainly are special. My son and I saw the movie in its Digital and High Def form-- and you almost needed sunglasses it was so bright, crisp, clean, and clear. It was like the visual form of digital audio. Sometimes between the quality of the pictures and the special effects it was mesmerizing. Sometimes it was just mind numbing. Especially well done was the Sandman sequences, but was it really necessary to turn him into a sort of Gigantor Godzilla figure in the end before he goes exit stage right? Probably not. And here is where I say that this was a movie which had too much rope and money to play with. it would have been a much better movie if someone had put it on a diet, and tightened up things here and there. True, there are some nice humorous touches along the way (Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance and gets to say "Nuff Said"-- which was his byline in answering the letters we used to send him that were printed in the magazine). And there is some 'realism' along the way--- Peter Parker turns out to be a little too self-absorbed as his fame grows. But on the whole this third episode disappointed. It was both too much, and too little of what we needed to see, at the same time. Let's hope the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean does a better job of rounding out a tale in three acts. My spider sense is tingling--- will they resist a 4th episode of Spiderman if this once makes a zillion? We shall see.