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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman 3

Were you one of the gazillions waiting for months and months for Spiderman 3 to come out? Tell the truth, and by “come out” I mean “premiere” not the other interpretation so don’t try to wiggle out of it. Okay, okay, so basically everybody in the world loved Spiderman and then Spiderman 2 was even better, and it was only natural then that the third installment was destined to be too fabuloso for words, right? It promised not one villain, but two, three if you count the reconstituted Green Goblin in the form of his son, and four if you count Spidey himself as a “villain” fighting within himself for control of his aggressive impulses as a result of exposure to an alien symbiote, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Still, you can see that just from the pre-release press the movie promised to be stuffed fuller than Rosie O’Donnell’s pantyhose on burrito night at Barbara Walters’ house. What was left out of the hype was just how prevalent the romantic story between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson was going to play in this edition and how anemic the Spidey story was to the bigger picture.

It’s as if each edition of the Spidey series has decided to embrace a different genre. The original movie was a fantasy coming-of-age story, the second edition was a hard core action adventure, and somehow, for some weird reason, writer/director Sam Raimi (The Gift) has put the kick-ass CGI effects second to the soap opera saga of Peter Parker’s shaky love life. Oh, there are lots of fight scenes to be sure, but even the villainous Sandman and Venom who are out to kill the Webbed Wonder have their Palmolive moments before things are over. I swear, I thought I was watching the Lifetime (“television for women and gay men”) version of the story. No wonder the movie is two-and-a-half hours long. It takes quite a while to process all this angst.

So here goes the brief overview (with a few minor spoilers, so be prepared): The movie opens with way too much Peter (Tobey Maguire; The Good German) and not nearly enough Spiderman. Yep, Peter and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst; Marie Antoinette) are ga-ga for one another, and Peter is especially proud that his beloved is making her Broadway debut. Apparently Peter’s Spidey senses do not include acute hearing because he seems to be the only one incapable of realizing that Kirsten Dunst has the voice of an owl with a bowel obstruction as she tries to dazzle us with her on stage torch song. My ears and my eyes began to bleed at this part of the movie. (I don’t consider this a spoiler so much as a warning. You may want to consider earplugs for your own safety.)

So all is beautiful and lovely and then Peter goes to his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris; Being Julia) to ask her blessing in proposing to Mary Jane, guaranteeing that the entire plot will grind to a halt immediately as the elderly Ms. Harris is given “HER” moment in the film, recalling her own proposal from Peter’s late Uncle Ben (not of the rice empire) about a hundred years earlier. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah….. I kept wondering why he was asking his aunt for permission to marry someone else’s daughter anyway. Shouldn’t he have gone to MJ’s parents and asked them, if he was going to ask anyone? And, by the way, is Tobey Maguire still living in Pleasantville or does he realize that this is the 21st century now and he doesn’t actually have to ask for MJ’s “hand” in marriage, especially after she’s already given him the other parts, if you know what I mean (and I know that you do).

Of course before Peter can get to proposing to MJ he has to do some battle with the revived Green Goblin, his former BFF (best friend forever), Harry Osborn (James Franco; Flyboys), who
has taken up for his deceased daddy, and who blames Peter/Spiderman for offing his father in an earlier installment. Now I will give Raimi credit. The battle scenes here are damned fine work and I found myself swerving and ducking in the audience as the sky-borne opponents went at it, but their fight was over all too quickly and conveniently and ended with that old soap opera staple, the knock on the head followed by a case of convenient amnesia. Yep, Harry winds up in some General Hospital, having forgotten the events of Spiderman 2. He still loves his pals Peter and MJ and says to a nearby nurse “I’d give my life for those two.” At that point sirens in theaters all over America should have gone off in case any slow-witted viewers didn’t see that foreshadowing of things to come. I half-expected organ music and a close-up, complete with arched eyebrow and smug look of recognition on the nurse’s face, but since she was not a “name” player they would have had to pay her more or cast a higher paid actress in the role and they probably felt they were already way over-budget as is.

While Harry is recovering, MJ is living in Another World, full of despair, as she has been axed from the play and forced to take a job putting people off their food by vocalizing for them as a singing waitress while they attempt to eat. I imagine her boss guaranteed her a minimum, plus tips and all the uneaten food people leave on their plates after she’s sung. That alone would be a huge benefit. She’d never have to grocery shop again.

For all the Days of Our Lives I will never understand why MJ felt she couldn’t share this news with Peter, but she could tell Harry instead. Naturally, this gives the boy with the doofus grin the chance to smile more and look like a puppy in need of breast-feeding. Gee, could he be in love with MJ too? Do you think?

Meanwhile, Peter continues to fret over “the” perfect proposal, ending in a slapstick farce of a scene with Peter and Raimi favorite Bruce Campbell (The Ant Bully) as a snooty French Maître d’ conspiring (and failing) to orchestrate the perfect scene for popping the question. Instead, Peter is left at the Edge of Night wondering where the Passions MJ felt for him disappeared to before he could get the words out. Instead of engaged they finish the night barely speaking. I know things are different for The Young and The Restless, but this is taking restlessness to whole new heights.

By this time I was beginning to think they had forgotten this was a Spiderman movie altogether. It seemed like an hour or so since he’d even been mentioned. There was another sub-plot explaining
the origin of Sandman aka Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church; Charlotte’s Web), which was also soapier than Susan Lucci’s résumé, what with his sickly little daughter in need of medical treatment forcing him into a life of crime, blah, blah, blah… Fortunately, there were some exciting fight sequences squeezed in about then, as much to wake the audience up as anything else. Of course, it also helped that we got to finally meet Topher Grace (In Good Company) and his blonde highlights as Eddie Brock, a new photographer on the scene who was out to give Peter a run for his money in snagging a single available photographer’s job at The Bugle, the paper where Peter worked as a freelancer. There’s really not as much to care about with Eddie as with Marko, but Eddie’s destiny to become the evil Venom was really what’s important, and once he was infected with the alien goo that turned him into the demonic doppelganger of Spiderman you knew he had only One Life To Live and it was going to be short-lived if for no other reason but that it was slowing down the already glacial pacing of the romance that was driving this film.

Okay, so I don’t want to reveal too much, but you get the idea. There are more tears shed in this edition than in an entire month of most soaps. The Bold and Beautiful young people in this drama have more woes than the entire towns of Port Charles, Santa Barbara, and Peyton Place
combined. By the end of the movie so little has advanced in this little $270 million saga that I wondered if Peter would ever get MJ to the altar before her eggs were hard-boiled and she was far past the age when he could weave her a little web sac for their babies. It would be interesting to see if she would do a Charlotte (as in Charlotte’s Web) and pop out a few hundred little spider-babies that would all float away on the wind. Now that is a movie I’d really like to see. As for Spiderman 3, not so much, but it will do until Shrek the Third arrives in two weeks and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End sails in at month's end. Hey, rumor is that Spiderman 4 is already in the pipeline, so we can always hope for a home run next time around.

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