Saturday, June 02, 2007

Alterna-Review: Spider-Man 3

Well, AE's had his say, but that doesn't mean it's the final be-all end-all assessment. Time to put my opinion to the test in the first ever Gonch Alterna-Review, another look at an item that may just deserve it. This time out, it's the biggest blockbuster of the year, so far at least, Spider-Man 3.

AE did the hard part in describing the plot, what there was of it. But let's get down to the nitty gritty and decide where this film falls in the scheme of things.

What Worked:
- For starters, the base characters we've all come to know and love are developed through 2 movies already, and they're all here. Peter, MJ, Harry, Aunt May, JJJ, and even Bruce Campbell. Hell, the landlord and his daughter return as well just for completeness sake. We've watched them progress nicely, but ironicly, the character most underused in the second film, Harry, is the most well developed in the third. He goes through a tremendous arc, first going through with the attack he planned to do at the end of 2, losing his memory, re-befriending Peter and MJ, using MJ to get back at Peter even better than his father did, and finally going full circle by becoming a hero with a full-on amazing team up with our webhead.

- Villain-wise, we had our choices this time around. Aside from seeing Peter as a kind of bad guy for part of the film, you've got the Sandman who both did and didn't work. The way he did, was that he posed a threat to Spidey such that we're not even sure if he could be defeated in the end entirely. He was once again a compassionate bad guy, but nothing like Doc Ock was. Harry's evil doings were fun to watch, but perhaps the most enjoyable baddie was the one with the least screen time: Venom. This is not so much because of what Venom and the suit can do as a threat to Spider-Man, but more because of Topher Grace. He made sure to show off what a jerk he was in contrast to the standard Peter and eventually became the villain who frankly, just wanted to be a villain and good for him on that.

- In general, a lot of other things worked well. Special effects were top notch, every scene with JJJ and Bruce Campbell was fantastic. It's one thing we count on, no matter how much changes for Spidey, JJJ will always bring us back to the iconic characterizations we love. Aunt May does a fine job as supportive family figure as always, while Gwen Stacey was beautiful eye candy. This does lead to some major faults in the film though.

What Didn't Work:
- MJ's characterization simply didn't sync as well as it had before. She decided to keep things from Peter, be jealous of Spider-Man, and in the end left him, but almost wanted to anyway. She once again is the source of distress for Spider-Man to save. We expect that from the first film. The second she was taken again but it wasn't the major issue at hand, it was the fusion device, she was secondary. In the same way, Gwen Stacey was also not very well used. Yes she was great to look at but didn't have much use. At the very least it was some extra motivation for Eddie to hate Peter. As well, Sandman just didn't feel that fully developed, and forced into the death of Uncle Ben, even though Peter likely needed a push to the dark side.

- This leads to stuff like the team-up of Sandman and Venom, which doesn't make a huge amount of sense. In some ways it does, but in general, villain team ups can often be quite awkward without any development time. Even the Batman films had better build up to it, though it doesn't mean that it works. Some other mind-boggling problems include Harry's butler just waking up to tell him that Spider-Man didn't kill his father, gee thanks for that last minute info. Another convenience being that the symbiote just happened to find Peter by landing near him and such, but then again it would take up a lot of time to do it better...time better taken away from some very long pauses and over-dramatic acting.

A big question was about transition from good to bad Spidey for both him and Peter's personality. This kind of both worked and didn't, but in general was handled well. The dance scene was not particularly over the top, after all using his reflex abilities. This film simply felt like it had trouble living up to not just the lofty expectations, but the strong start made by the first film, and the incredible continuation done by the second film. While it has its faults, it was still an overall enjoyable film that weaved many webs into one by the end. Whether it ended the way you wanted it to or not, Spider-Man 3 earns the Silver Medal of Webslinging. A film that may try just a little too hard to do it all, just needed to follow its roots a little more to the arachnid that spawned it.

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