Friday, May 04, 2007

Spider-Man 3***

In spite of Marvel's lack of interest in India, and DD's lousy attempts (catchy tune not withstanding) on Saturday afternoons, Sam Raimi made me into a Spidey-buff. Spider-Man 2 is arguably the best superhero movie of all time. For me, it is just a notch above Superman-II, and an even tinier notch below Batman Begins. In fact, even without the restrictive classification of the Superhero genre, Spider-Man 2 was a damn good flick in its own right.

The good thing about the superhero movies is the sheer predictability of it all, yet the intense thrill which you get by witnessing the same thing over again. In fact, even for classically good movies, the same formula works. Lagaan was a masterpiece, yet did anyone doubt that Aamir Khan will romp home successfully, especially after he had already done it with such spectacular results in Awwal Number. I guess that's why I consider the pre-senile Kundan Shah a genius, the sheer unpredictability and blackness of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na shining through, in spite of the strong empathy with the characters.

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man series has had a very nice and logical buildup. The comic book franchise was the lead weapon with which Marvel fought its bitter rival DC (who had two heroes Superman and Batman to counter the Spidey). The first movie was a timeless under-dog tale - an average Joe getting lucky, and then trying to come to terms with his newly-found luck, all achieved through good acting performances, and even better technology. Raimi actually excelled in the second rendition, where both the hero and the villain fought their own inner demons in different manners (and to rather different ends). The fight of Spidey and Doc Ock in the New York tube is easily one of the most impressive set action-pieces ever filmed. What makes the technology of the scene so humanly identifiable is the finish of it, where Spiderman displays strength I never knew he had, grinding a running train to halt, and then collapsing right in front of his beneficiaries.

Raimi had solved most of Spiderman's dilemmas by the second part. So he chose two new tracks for the third part: the hinted at Harry's revenge for his father's death in the 2 climax, and the battle of the devil (not demon) within, going by the name of Venom. The problems with Spider-Man 3 lies with the third villain, Sandman, who is even retrofitted to be his Uncle Ben's real killer (disproven in the comics). We have already seen Peter struggling with his Uncle's avenging in the original, Venom doing the same is uncalled for. In fact, the 'black'ness is much better established with his treatment of perpetual sweetheart MJ.

In 2, MJ lies at the very heart of Peter's dilemma (something which sparked off a real trend in Hollywood, for everyone from Bruce Wayne to James Bond to explore the softer romantic side within). In 3, she gets over-bearing - her failures, her insecurities, her self-absorption. The scene where the dark Peter spites her at the bar she sings at is good, the buildup to that scene is a bit stretched.

The single biggest problem with Spider-Man 3 lies in its length (oh God, not again!). The first two movies were approximately two hours, the third one is that vital 20 mins extra. Possibly, without the Sandman angle, especially the emotional perspective, the movie would have been reduced to just the right duration. Even the best action pieces - right in the beginning (the Goblin chase and the out-of-control crane), or right at the end (the climax, where Spidey takes up the challenge of the two adversaries to stunning theatrical impact, though would have preferred if the US flag backdrop could have been avoided, after all he is a global hero now) - do not really need the Man of Sandman.

Casting Tobey Maguire as Spiderman was the coup of the century. Heroes are expected to look like Christopher Reeve and Christian Bale, not this pint-sized guy next door (whose role in the only other movie of his I have seen, The Cider House Rules, was made just for his persona). However, what Tobey has done is given the under-dog Peter an unbelievable believability. In 3, he is almost matched by the unlikely Topher Grace (as Venom), who was supposed to do Spidey's role if Tobey failed his audition, or had to later opt out of the series because of his back-problems.

Kirsten Dunst as MJ splits opinions. I am sort of ambivalent towards her, she is neither a stunner, nor so incompetent for me to hate her. She does irritate me at times, but I guess that might be effective acting too. James Franco as the New Goblin has to fill Willem Defoe's huge shoes, and he again does a good job as Harry. The super-talented Bryce Dallas Howard is sort of wasted as the blonde beauty, Gwen Stacy (his original love in the comics, who is murdered by Green Goblin). However, JK Simmons continues to be superb as Jameson.

The excess length of Spider-Man 3 at times hides the strong emotional content of the film, something which worked very well in 2. However, the interesting prediction will be the future of the series.

At the end of the third part, Spidey stands much stronger that Neo did in Matrix, and thank God for that! In the comics, there are enough villains to fight, but is there enough ammunition for a full-fledged movie. The studio, which at nearly 250Mn.$ has made the most expensive movie ever (over-taking King Kong), is tight-lipped.

My only plea will be, please do not show me Champions struggle. I prefer the McGrath way of farewell to Akram.


Homer said...

sorry to digress but Kundan Shah senile?

When did this happen?

Please say it aint so..

Abhilasha said...

Two questions: 1)Who is Jameson?
2) What does the last sentence of the post mean? (Unfortunately, my understanding of language nuances is not up to the mark)

Citizen Shaker said...

If I go by the movies he has made in the century, Kundan Shah is climbing the senility charts faster than a Ferrari.

Jameson is Peter Parker's editor, played by JK Simmons, and unanimously considered the most apt portrayal in the movies, from the comic-books.

And the last line denotes the chance that the series might be winded down, becoz there is nothing left to say. Apart from James Bond (with a stretch), no franchise has had a longer run.

Homer said...

Citizen Shaker,

Lets not forget Rambo.. Or Rocky.. Or Police Academy :)