Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst, Dallas Bryce Howard, Topher Grace, Thomas Hayden Church

"How long can any man fight the darkness ...
before he finds it in himself?"

Cinema 5, Greenbelt 3

The main issue with a film being the 3rd installment in its franchise is that it would invariably be compared to the original and its sequel. I don't like comparing anything in life, most of all movies so I won't get into whether Spidey 2 was better than the first Spidey or if Spidey 3 even deserved to be made. Instead , I will focus on the merits of the film based on what I liked and what I didn't like about it. Fair enough, right?

The opening credits of the film starts with a montage of scenes from the first two films shown on these glass cut panels rotating around accompanied by some loud music. A cutesy little voice over from Peter Parker himself pans us into the main story. Things are going well for Spidey. He is a top student in class, his romance with Mary Jane is steady and he is adored by a hero worshipping public. Then we are introduced to not 1, not 2 but 3 villains all out to give poor Spidey or more specifically the stuntmen something to do in the film. Cleverly choreographed fight scenes with loud heart pounding music as well as CGI enhanced techniques ensues. The film didn't hold back in the sounds department - sounds of metal hitting metal, loud thuds, shrieking non human noise from some black gooey meteorite stuff, ambient traffic noise. Masks wearing villains in the form of the New Goblin and Venom all add to the hugely entertaining factor of the film.

The main draw is a well buffed Thomas Hayden Church in a very 'sandy' performance as Flint Marko aka "The Sandman". After he has wreaked havoc on the streets of New York, you feel as if you're on a beach in Boracay with pesky sand oozing from every nook and cranny of your sun burnt body. The way Flint Marko evolved into the Sandman is a neat cinematic visual effect which merits a pat on the back of those hardworking graphic artists. It reminds me of the scene in "The Mummy Returns" where the sands shift into this big wave forming into the face of The Mummy. "The Sandman" was portrayed as a sympathetic villain and you can't help but believe that deep inside he didn't want to do any harm but he was merely a misunderstood petty criminal who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The somewhat amiss parts (I won't say 'bad' because it is too negative) are mostly wasted footage delving on the conflicted Peter Parker grappling with his darker alter ego personality. You know the one where he has bangs, wears that dark Spidey suit inside his clothes and he roams the streets like a creepy gigolo swaying like Travolta in "Saturday Night Live" dance moves. He shouldn't have resorted to acting like a goof ball, it just seemed so forced and totally off character behaviour. Then you have Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) not using her real voice when she sang during her off Broadway play as well as a waitress/singer in a jazz bar. But then it doesn't really matter anyway. That girl can't act even if her life depended on it. All she can do is shriek her lungs out as she hangs precariously from a tangled web mess atop a building. Yes I never liked Kirsten Dunst so it is useless for anyone to convince me otherwise about the obvious lack of her acting abilities.

Thankfully, director Sam Raimi cast the effervescent Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy. Her luminous presence fared a whole lot better than the scruffy looking Mary Jane. Her hair dyed a glaring platinum blond accentuated her expressively set eyes. Even though it was a brief role and very cartoonish in nature, she registered well on screen. Topher Grace as the competitive freelance photographer Eddie Brock was a good 'sidekick' comic relief. The scene where Eddie Brock accidentally transforms into the hideous looking antagonist Venom is another worthy CGI art form.

The inner personality conflict which started brewing within Peter Parker/Spiderman added more character into his otherwise boring personality. It showed his vulnerability as a Superhero. That he wasn't a goody good hero after all. Let's face it if all he did was save someone from falling from tall buildings or fighting against much powerful enemies then it would be pretty boring. My thinking is that as an actor Tobey Maguire has a rather limited range. His detached expressions are mostly one dimensional limited mostly to this blank stare with bulging eyes throughout the entire film. The writers should have thought of something far more innovative than merely let Peter Parker have bangs to signify his alter ego. They should have exploited this side plot more to their advantage. Instead of portraying him as a goof ball with cheesy dance moves. The transformation of Harry Osborn into the New Goblin was a lot more interesting to watch. He had more range as Harry bent on avenging his father's death by killing Spidey. Then he hits a snag when he develops temporary amnesia but towards the end he redeems himself when he teams up with Spidey (his best friend) to defeat the enemies.

Overall, this film had its glaring flaws - underdeveloped characters, poorly edited scenes, wasted extra footage, numerous side plots - but the special effects (both visual and sound), the good ensemble cast and the action scenes make up for it. The recurring theme of lasting friendships, the triumph of good over evil and the familiar family oriented values still remained intact somewhere within the tangled mess of this Superhero movie. Although it may not be the best installment in the Spider-Man franchise, I was relatively entertained so be it.

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