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Killing the comic
A capsule film review for SPIDER-MAN 3 by Camus
 
"Anytime anyone makes a comic book into a movie,
in some way, I think, they have to kill the comic book."
Sam Raimi, director Spider-Man 3

 

Raimi has a point. I cringe when I hear movies and novels compared as if the experience of both was in any way comparable. Spider-Man exists in Raimi's head as a hybrid extension of the comics he loved as a child and a CG shaped hero swinging through a semi-CG New York City. He now has to warp and bend those original memories to do one of three things; first, he has to maintain some continuity with the first two movies, both of which did staggeringly well. Secondly, he has to present enough Parker angst so that we can care again and third? He has to provide Marvel canon villains. He does all three but...

Well, the bad news is that Spider-Man III feels just very tired. It's a retread in the worst sense. It's Raimi on some sort of awful Faustian contract to deliver what he has delivered before. The price he's paying is the shedding of his Evil Dead skin. He is no longer the geek with a Bolex bolted on a two by four. Sony is thrilled (3 has gone stratospheric and the suits have ordered three more, aiee). Raimi seems to be now more of a corporate facilitator than a bona fide director. I had to keep pinching myself repeating the words 'dead' and 'evil' over and over again. Don't get me wrong. His work is breathtaking and exhilarating in places but it's all web-slinging by numbers. Because the CG is so good and you instinctively know anything is possible, everything becomes levelled - almost trite. The cookie-cutter formula may work with, well, cookies. But movies? Watching 3 felt like watching Apollo 13. I was just ticking off the boxes with no emotional connection at all. As the dreary Elfman theme (what a missed opportunity that was) marched its weary way through clips of the first two movies, I had the most extraordinary feeling. I was bored before the movie actually started and that's a first. It was the familiarity of the set up and the characters that I had grown tired of (this really shocked me as I really liked the first sequel).

I knew Peter and MJ were going to be tested. I knew the Goblin's son was going to take revenge. I knew (from the marketing) that there would be an extraterrestrial blob that for reasons well beyond me would darken the Spider-suit and make Parker's dark side emerge... The new, evil Peter struts his dark stuff and I was shocked by the sequence's clumsiness and the choices of the film-makers. For a few moments our tortured hero is a joke, giving girls the eye beneath the evil fringe of his new villainous hairstyle. It's camp, hokey and well below any standards set by the first two movies. I was embarrassed for Tobey Maguire - not a great emotion to have in a cinema. The one thing I was really looking forward to was the Sand Man. I was a big fan of Flint Marko in the comic and within a few moments, we knew that all the villains, save Dafoe's original Green Goblin, were going to have salvation. It's become part of the formula, oi vey. I really wanted an extended Sand Man Spidey scrap (I can even recall panels from the original comics and wondered if an industrial vacuum cleaner would be the instrument of his demise). But no. Hayden Church plays the guy as a loving father with bad luck. The one mano a mano scrap there is seems to be over within seconds from inside an armoured truck. It's as if Raimi is afraid to stay small and had to get big as soon as possible. Because of the Sand Man's ability to absorb, he can grow into a giant and does so (ho hum). And the film wants to have it two ways scoring the metalwork of the origin story somewhat. The guy who really killed Uncle Ben was... etc. Talk about going over old ground. That's the Sand Man's job.

When Parker is first attacked at night by his one time buddy Harry Osborn (a scene I wanted to get behind me as quickly as possible as it had been telegraphed for years) it is an explosion of movement and choreographed as if Raimi was afraid our eyes may wander. It was actually difficult to watch, to make out who was where and who was doing what to whom. And you have to add what the posters have been calling 'fantasy violence' for a few years - beatings and blows that would floor a blue whale, all shrugged off by our superheroes and villains. How convenient for Parker that Harry loses his memory and becomes sensitive Mr. new man who cooks and paints until he is reminded of his arc by his dead father's spirit. And it all seemed way, way too long. Squeezing a good twenty minutes out would have benefited the film. There is something very irritating about having an intermission during a movie that doesn't feel like it should be more that an hour forty. There is an appallingly jingoistic shot of Spider-Man sweeping past a massive stars and stripes (oh, please) and like that's going to make every non-American in Spidey's audience cheer? What am I saying? It's gone through even the high rise corporate roof, a global phenomenon. Everyone must be thrilled, all except those of us who want to care about a movie not contribute to a bloody franchise.

Spider-Man 3

USA 20077
140 mins
director
Sam Raimi
producers
Grant Curtis
Laura Ziskin
screenplay
Sam Raimi
Ivan Raimi
Alvin Sargent
story
Sam Raimi
Ivan Raimi
comic book5
Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
cinematography
Bill Pope
editor
Bob Murawski
music
Danny Elfman
production design
J. Michael Riva
Neil Spisak
starring
Tobey Maguire
Kirsten Dunst
James Franco
Thomas Haden Church
Topher Grace
 
review posted
8 May 2007