| The Red Right Hand
Thomas Haden Church
**This review may be littered with minor spoilers and could ruin the film for some, so feel free to wait until after you have seen the film if necessary**
Alright, there's a lot to get through and not much time... well, there's as much time as I wish to invest in writing this review and you can read this at your leisure, so... ignore that! There are many, many things for me to tell you and I feel I have to condense them all into something that resembles a review, rather than a lengthy essay; such is the problem of Spiderman 3. What started out as a phenomenal series has fallen into the same pitfall that X-Men and Batman (before Batman Begins) found themselves in not too long ago. Maybe I'm writing it off too soon and if you've glanced at the relatively high score at the bottom of the page you may be questioning my sanity. For clarity, let's go back to the beginning. In 2002, Spiderman was released and heralded as a wondrous achievement. It was the simple origin story of a nerdy kid bitten by a mutant spider, developing similar powers, deciding to fight crime after his Uncle's murder, taking pictures for a newspaper, falling for the girl-next-door and battling his nemesis who also happened to be his best friend's father. Got all that? Good. Two years later Spiderman 2 was released and remains one of the greatest superhero films ever made. The nerdy kid is still nerdy but getting distracted from school and needs to 'find himself' again, his friend blames him for his father's death, he acquires a new nemesis with four mechanical arms and his relationship with the girl-next-door is strengthened but can he risk her safety? Which takes us right up to the start of Spiderman 3, more or less.
The film opens on a happy little Peter Parker [Maguire]. This irritated me. I don't want to see Parker happy! That means he's happy and he has superpowers! That does not make for interesting viewing and alienates your audience, Mr Raimi! Luckily for us, director Sam Raimi knew this and quickly pits Parker against a world of pain and suffering - yey! Peter's job for the newspaper is seemingly stable, the public worship Spiderman and he's getting ready to ask his broadway-actress girlfriend, Mary Jane [Dunst], to marry him. There is one thorn in his side, in the form of Harry Osborn [Franco] (best friend and son of the recently deceased Norman Osborn/Green Goblin), who refuses to forgive Peter - but even this is resolved fairly quickly as Peter has a brief battle with Harry, who suffers a head injury and is diagnosed with short-term memory loss. So, all seems to be looking good. Enter our two new villains... sort of. The first new villain is Flint Marko [Church], a convict who has recently escaped from prison and, unbeknownst to Peter, was responsible for the death of his beloved Uncle Ben. Like the best of villains, the audience is torn between sympathising with and hating the ill-fated Marko. Flint's daughter suffers from some unnamed disease and in an attempt to pay for increasing hospital bills, resorted to crime. Having been chased down to a military test site, Marko stumbles into a large device that looks like a glass bowl, filled with pancake mix, as a giant egg whisk starts whirring above his head. The accident leaves Marko transformed and mutated into the Sandman - a being capable of harnessing the power of sand!! Just think The Mummy and you'll get the idea. At the same time we witness the birth of one of the most beloved Spiderman villains of the comics; Venom. It has been disputed whether Raimi's statement was true or just to throw off the media but he claimed to 'hate' Venom and that he would never appear in the Spiderman films he directs. From the way he has been brought to life, it really shows. In 1984, Venom made his first comic book appearance. Spiderman had just taken a trip to space and came back with a new black suit. There was no explanation; it was just a new suit. It wasn't until much later that the suit started to corrupt Parker leading to them breaking free of one another and infecting the impressionable Eddie Brock Jr. [Grace]. Similar to the comic, Venom's origin is never explained; unlike the comics, it's not explored either. Other than the new suit and a moody Parker, Venom as a separate entity feels like a tacked-on after thought. Oh! Harry's just remembered who he is!
So, we now have three villains and a new suit for Spiderman, who has become mean and vicious. On top of this, Mary Jane loses her job on broadway (because she can't sing... I'm not going to dance around the issue) and gets increasingly frustrated at Peter's absence, success and recent changes. I know this is going to sound harsh but frankly, I don't care; Mary Jane has been getting whinier and whinier as the series has developed! I liked her in the first film, the dark red hair worked for Dunst and her character had a lot to offer. Throughout the second film she looked kind of annoyed and tired and my looks reflected hers. I'm not sure if it's the script, character or Dunst herself but something went horribly wrong the third time round. Her hair went from red to orange, her sassiness degenerated to an irritating moan and her damsel in distress thing got a little tedious. I was hoping for some improvement but, my God, she was so unbearable! Sorry, Ms. Dunst, I really don't want you to feel like I'm attacking you but I didn't like Mary Jane, I just wanted Peter to get with Gwen Stacy [Bryce Dallas Howard]. Which reminds me - if Peter didn't have enough to contend with, his girlfriend is jealous of the time he's spending with lab-partner, Gwen; played by Ron Howard's daughter. Now that the main components are at work and almost all of the characters from the first two films have had some screen time, we can get on with the story! Unfortunately, after about forty minutes of introductions, there's no time left for story and three sub-plots become the main driving force of the script. Then there's the score which sees the departure of legend, Danny Elfman and the hiring of Christopher Young, who takes the known Spiderman theme and contributes... what sounds like... the X-Men theme. It sounds odd but it just put me off so much; the whole thing was wonderfully forgettable. The only highlight was the sullen Sandman theme; not the booming one, the slow melodic piece.
Now, I shall address something I wrote earlier; five out of ten. Considering I've been damning this film, from the get-go, you may be a little confused by my relatively high score. Despite all the flaws and irritations, Spiderman 3 is still an enjoyable blockbuster and as far sequels go (especially the third instalment), this is a very good telling. The action doesn't live up to its predecessors, neither does the drama but the comedy excels - I'm still not sure if that's a good thing or not. The running-time is mind-numbingly long but with Venom's lack of development, you really feel an extra hour would have considerably aided the story telling. There's just too much going on and not enough time to show it all. The acting is all fine, with Franco showing off some talent (and flesh, for some reason) as the deranged New Goblin, following in his father's footsteps; JK Simmons reprising his role as the brilliant newspaper editor, J Jonah Jameson; and extended cameos from both Stan Lee (not really extended but he has lines!!) and Bruce Campbell. All-in-all, the film is a bit of a let down, considering the heights that Spiderman 2 climbed to but as a stand-alone piece, this really isn't as bad as fans will make it out to be.
4th May 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Anything with Aunt May [Rosemary Harris]. Not dissimilar from Mary Jane, Aunt May is really beginning to make me uncomfortable. She has a tendency for crying, dishing out oddly convenient nuggets of advice and anecdotes regarding her dead husband yet remains oh-so-bloody perfect that I just cannot see anyone relating to her in any way, shape or form! Yes, it's petty but I don't like her, she's getting really preachy. Either that or the ending... because I hated it. In all seriousness, the best scene shows off the CGI and one of the only highlights of the disappointing score. The Sandman has just been de-molecularised and he is piecing himself together for the first time. It's just a very entertaining scene... ruined by the fact that his little necklace/keepsake wasn't broken down to sand molecules, like his clothes but whatever's good.
Here is a short list of characters I hated:
Dr Curt Connors [Dylan Baker]; a fantastic villain just waiting to be used and only in this film to offer random facts about Venom
Captain Stacy [James Cromwell]; superb actor, ridiculously underused
Miss. Brant [Elizabeth Banks]; I can't take her seriously after she said "You know where to shave me" in The 40 Year Old Virgin
Uncle Ben Parker [Cliff Robertson]; Oh my God! Why won't you just die and stay dead!? You're like Kris Kristofferson in the Blade series!
Hoffman [Ted Raimi]; You weren't as funny as in previous Spiderman films!
Ursula Ditkovitch [Mageina Tovah] You scare me!
Alfred wannabe butler [John Paxton]; You are a strange, strange man!
Reporter, Jennifer Dugan [Lucy Gordon] Who told you, you can act!?
British Photographer [Steve Valentine] Stop feeding the stereotype!
Timothy Patrick Quill; In the first film you were a security guard at the wrestling arena, the second you were a passenger on the ill-fated train and in this film you were the crane operator who kept smashing a red button thinking that would help; stop turning up in the Spiderman universe! Your repetitive face is beginning to irritate me!
Those two kids at the end who saw Sandman take a grenade in the face and delivered some of the worst dialogue ever - "Awesome!" *PAUSE* "Wicked cool!"
Awful!! You should all hang your heads in shame!
"Oh, look at little Goblin Junior. Gonna cry?"
In A Few Words:
"An entertaining feature but too many issues regarding quality leave a rather nasty aftertaste"