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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Spider-Man 3 (review)

Goin’ to the Dark Side

The thing about Sam Raimi is this: He set the bar so high on himself with the absolute perfection of Spider-Man 2 that there was no way he was going to be able to equal himself, never mind best himself, with the next installment. Oh, sure, we were all hoping in our geeky little hearts that our man Sam would somehow achieve this miracle, but c’mon: you knew it was impossible.

*sigh*
I want to say, “Did no one learn the lesson of Batman and Robin: that three villains are simply two too many?” But I don’t want to imply that Spider-Man 3 is anything like that crime against humanity. It isn’t. As comic book movies go, it’s, you know, very comic booky. It’s crammed with too much stuff — too many bad guys, too much plot, way too many plot-convenient coincidences, too much wham! splat!, too many meteors from outer space carrying aggressive symbiotic lifeforms that want to suck your brain (there’s only one, but that’s too many). But that’s how comic books are. It’s not a bad time at the movies, and I will absolutely be seeing again with my geek posse.

But you know what? I’m not that upset that I won’t be able to do that till next weekend. I can wait to see it again. I don’t feel an urgent need to, ohmigod, rush right out and see the film Again. Right. Now.

This makes me very sad. I want to be geeked, and I’m not.

I want to snark about Peter Parker going on all Dark Side on us — the alien goo from the meteor turns him evil; don’t ask me how, it’s comic book science. I want to snark about the “Danger: Particle Physics Testing Facility” sign — which is actually warning trespassers against an actually dangerous actual particle physics testing facility in the heart of New York City, which turns escaped con Flint Marko into supernatural superbaddie Sandman; more comic book science. I want to snark about Harry Osborn’s secret urban bad-guy lair — now that he’s Green Goblin Jr. and hatin’ on Spider-Man — and does he have a skull-island tropical lair when he wants to get out of the city for a couple of days?

But I can’t be bothered. It’s no fun. Spider-Man 2 was fun. Even when it was being so sincere and so profound about things that are usually dismissed as nerdy and cartoonish (like the angst of the superhero) that it took your breath away, the film was alive with humor and humanity and spirit and soul. All of that is missing here, for the most part: it all feels perfunctory. Calculated. Oh god, I can’t believe I’m gonna say this about a Sam Raimi flick, but it feels — oh god — corporate. Like it’s been focused-grouped into flat irrelevance, into a hodgepodge of a little bit of everything: action, romance, more action, stuff blowing up, more action, a bit of comedy, more action. Overbake for two hours and twenty minutes and roll credits.

*sob*

I want, too, to overintellectualize it, like I probably did with Spidey 2. I want to point out the shades of 9/11 in the duststorm that is Sandman billowing around streetcorners in the canyons of Lower Manhattan — another disaster inflicted upon a city that’s seen too much already. I want to analyze the film’s earnest themes about the thin line between the good guys and the bad, how it’s all a matter of choice, and how we can all learn a thing or two from guys in tights. But then along comes Aunt May — and I got nothing against Aunt May, she was simply given a terrible line to deliver — admonishing Peter with this: “Revenge is like a poison; it can take us over.” Way to whack us in the noggin, Raimi (and fellow screenwriters Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent). We were getting it, and now you’re treating us like we’re dumb or something. Like he was making a movie for everyone instead of just for us.

And here’s the ironic thing: in making a movie just for us geeks in Spider-Man 2, Raimi made a movie for everyone. I have no problem recommending Spidey 2 even to people who insist they don’t like comic book movies, because that movie had heart, dammit. It was real. But now, in making a movie seemingly designed to appeal to everyone everywhere on the planet, he’s given us a movie that, well, plenty of folks (though not comic book haters) will like just fine, but no one will love. Like when you get off a roller coaster and yell, Man, that was great! and then you’ve forgotten the experience five minutes later.

Look, I’m not saying don’t see it. Well, wait: I’m saying, See it if you’re a comic book fan; if you’re not, rent Spider-Man 2 instead. There’s stuff to like here: Tobey Maguire (Seabiscuit) just keeps getting more charming. James Franco (Flyboys) is amazing: with one little cocked eyebrow, he goes from good guy to bad. Both actors ooze screen chemistry with Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette), and with each other — the casting continues to be genius. As beautifully as they all work together, Topher Grace (In Good Company) almost steals the movie from them as the weaselly new photographer trying to poach Peter’s freelance work at the Daily Bugle.

But gosh, this has got to be the most negative positive review I’ve ever written — consider that a measure of my disappointment. I know my fellow geeks will understand where I’m coming from. Cuz there are moments when that old Raimi magic — real palpable movie magic — busts out. The absolutely necessary cameos by Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi. The jazz-club sequence about an hour and a half into the film — you’ll know it when it hits — that manages to be both funny and disturbing at the same time. And that’s when you get that weird ache in your gut, when you suddenly realize why you’ve been squirming a bit in your seat, that you have not been sitting up at attention with a big goofy grin on your face up till then. When you suddenly find yourself worrying that Sam Raimi — Sam Raimi! — has gone Hollywood on us after holding out all this time.

It’s a choice, Sam. Like Peter had to make a choice. Remember that. We’ll sic Aunt May on you if we have to.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • MBI

    I’m a geek and I don’t know where you’re coming from at all. In the slightest. This is the best comic book movie ever made. No spirit? There’s a friggin’ dance sequence? No heart? My heart SHATTERED when MJ and Peter broke up. No humor? You couldn’t possibly have not laughed at Jameson and his secretary. No humanity?? ARHGHGHHGGH YOU’RE WRONG YOU’RE WRONG YOU’RE SO VERY VERY WRONG. No one listen to MaryAnn, she’s wrong!!

  • Sarah

    To badly paraphrase Steven King, perhaps the geek-bone, like the funny-bone, is located at different places on different people. Anyway. Haven’t seen the film yet (five hours to go!) but I know the ending and most of what goes on, and I wouldn’t say it lacks humanity. Then again, I love the characters so much I’d probably watch a Spider-Man movie which consisted entirely of the three leads sitting around and talking about socks.

  • David C

    Heck, “Spider-Man: Revenge of the Sock Drawer” is one of my all-time favorite stories!

    I’m psyched for the movie, but have to admit to a little trepidation, too. For me, it’s the inclusion of Venom, an uninspired modern-era villain with none of the Silver Age charm of guys like Sandman, Doctor Octopus, and the Green Goblin. And Raimi’s a Silver Age guy too, whose initial instincts wouldn’t go toward that character.

    OTOH, Venom is a reasonable way to explore themese of good and evil. But, I always thought it’d be nearly impossible to top Spider-Man 2.

  • Muzman

    I must be one of the few who found the first two verging on being unwatchably melodramatic. Everyone’s pouring their hearts out or giving a speech. There was far too little “fun” for the amount of really, really punishing histrionics/dialogue about morality and friendship and nobility and whatever else. I just kinda switch off and wait for the next action sequence. I think this is because I expect Spidey himself to be ‘fun’ and even cool, but there’s barely any time for that; a snarky line here a ‘yeeha’ there and that’s it.
    You can argue pretty easily that the above is true to the source material, but I think its lacking something. Maybe this is where the cartoon kids(me) and the comic kids split, I don’t know. Or maybe the melodrama just blasted all the fun from my mind.
    Anyway, from what I hear the new one is even worse/moreso and the overstuffed nature of the story isn’t helping. Something tells me I’ll have to turn in my geek badge over this one. (they already came for it after I said some bad things about Aliens in the wrong company, but I was out)

  • Miguel

    I’m happy to know I’m not alone in my frustration. I wanted to love it the way I loved 2 (not a big fan of #1 and its halloween mask Goblin), but I guess you can’t force love, not even for a Spidey movie.

  • MaryAnn

    I know the ending and most of what goes on, and I wouldn’t say it lacks humanity

    The specifics of plot are not where the humanity comes from — it comes from the execution. And if you haven’t seen the film yet, you don’t know how it’s executed.

    No spirit? There’s a friggin’ dance sequence?

    Which is did mention (the jazz club sequence) as one of the high points. Though I don’t think it’s an example of spirit.

    No heart? My heart SHATTERED when MJ and Peter broke up.

    Mine, not so much. It didn’t build to this dramatic moment — the moment was just sort of thrown in there.

    No humor? You couldn’t possibly have not laughed at Jameson and his secretary. No humanity??

    I did laugh. I laughed through Bruce Campbell’s scene too.

    But none of these instances feel part of an organic whole the way the humor and the spirit and the humanity felt in SM2. THAT’S the problem. Raimi is not competing against every other half-assed action/comic book movie out there — if he were, he would win by a long shot. He’s competing against himself. And he’s done much better.

  • MBI

    I’m down off the geek buzz I had last night, but I still think this is the best superhero movie ever made, and when you see it again, I urge you please give it another chance. I’m trying to analyze what I like about it so much, and I think I’ve concluded that it’s much richer thematically. Instead of the other movies where power is a burden, it’s about power corrupting, and this makes all three villains necessary. Sandman is the not-quite-deserving victim of Parker’s ego trip, Harry the friend alienated by the new darker Parker, Venom the outward manifestation and cautionary example of his bad behavior. It’s all much more resonant than the other movies’ villains, who were basically just there because Spidey had to fight someone. The first movie especially is really thin stuff compared to the other two.

  • Alec

    MAnn, there’s one thing which gives away to me you must have been in a bad mood and sort of missed the goodness in this offering. I’ll get to that momentarily.

    I don’t think I saw the same movie as you.
    It was SM2’s equal, at the least…
    There were a couple of anvils, yes. But mon-christo! The rest of it was brilliant…fun.

    If the central plot left you cold, there was plenty on the side to entertain. Thomas Church playing Sandman so deadpan it almost hurts his face while emoting about his dying daughter? I giggled.

    But the greatest moment of the film? The one that you so clearly missed that ANY geek watcher should have been writhing in their seat about?

    **Raimi having Maguire turn Peter Parker into Peter Petrelli from Heroes for a delicious five minutes, accent and idiom perfect, taking the complete and utter mickey out of every geek’s current coolest-mofo/boyfriend. The moment when he mopingly wipes the bangs out of his eyes just in case we didn’t catch on the first time, he looks EXACTLY like Milo Ventimiglia…in fact I’m going to check the cast of SM3 in case he quietly swapped actors for the scene.

  • i saw the movie with maryann and i have to say — in my opinion, of course — that i felt there was just too much going on, and the story was so diffuse that it really had no center or heart. it was not a bad movie — i mean, i didn’t want to run out of the theatre screaming, or anything. but on the other hand… eh. you couldn’t really get involved in the spiderman/venom thing because two seconds later it was “Look over here! There’s a big bad Sandman doing bad stuff…” and two seconds after that it was “Over there, look, Aunt May is being all warm and fuzzy…” it was too much.

    i’m not a big comic book fan, though i do love the mythic tropes that comic books use, and i was aware of the different villans in Spider-Man (i have nephews and nieces), but i know how to structure a story and i know what makes a movie work for me. on the whole, Spider-Man 3 had some awesome moments. but they were too spread out and diffuse to make it an awesome movie.

  • MBI

    Guh… I need somewhere else to put my thoughts instead of wasting Maryann’s space. I will say this, though, I don’t know why I used the breakup scene as evidence of this movie’s greatness, I actually thought that whole subplot was the biggest flaw of the whole thing.

  • MaryAnn

    Raimi having Maguire turn Peter Parker into Peter Petrelli from Heroes for a delicious five minutes, accent and idiom perfect, taking the complete and utter mickey out of every geek’s current coolest-mofo/boyfriend.

    Nope. Sorry. This cannot have been deliberate. The film wrapped principle photography almost a year ago, long before *Heroes* debuted and even longer before *Heroes* became a cult favorite.

    And I’m sorry again, but Hiro is the current coolest-mofo/boyfriend.

  • Danielle

    I completely agree with MaryAnn on this one. As the credits rolled, I realized I was totally underwhelmed, and I thought this film had none of charm of Spider-Man 2. Bruce Campbell was great in it, though.

    Also, Hiro > Peter Petrelli.

  • David C

    Just having seen it, I loved it, and mostly agree with MBI’s take. Is it as good as Spider-Man 2? Eh, maybe yes, maybe no, but it’s different story, and a different *kind* of story. It’s a worthy successor, at least. I loved the way Peter’s struggle with the dark side isn’t about generic evil, but specifically *Peter Parker’s* dark side, which has always been there. (And I like the fact that some of Peter’s more unsavory character traits are on display *before* he puts on the black suit.)

    At the same time, I agree with MaryAnn that this movie really is a lot more “comic-booky” in some ways, particularly plot. Like the girl Spidey rescues from a random accident being Gwen Stacey… who happens to be his lab partner, and whose father happens to be the chief of police…. But it’s *very* Stan Lee, very true to the source material.

    (MaryAnn, as an aside, wow, I didn’t realize how naive you were about all the dangerous stuff in your hometown! Why, there’s a portal to the Negative Zone, an alternate dimension of incredible danger, right on top of the Baxter Building! I think annual radiation exposure for a New Yorker is about equal to that of astronauts in orbit….)

  • Ehhh, I liked it. Going back now, I can nitpick all the flaws — scenes slapped together for plot convenience, Pete and MJ acting like jerks for no real established reason — but it still made me laugh and cheer and feel those great chills I always get when the music swells and Spidey’s swinging pell-mell through the canyons of Manhattan.

    If anything, I think what almost kills the movie is that Harry Osborn all but steals it. James Franco just walks off with every scene he’s in; when he was good, he commanded my sympathy, and when he was bad, he was so damn fun to watch. Thomas Haden Church was just ridiculously good, too, I thought; that wounded-animal look in his eyes, and all the weariness and fundamental decency he brought to a pretty small role. I wish we’d seen more of his story — if we had, I think he’d have rivaled Molina as the series’ best villain.

    I would have liked to see Topher Grace more, too, since Venom’s got the smallest, most superfluous part in the film. Grace was having so much fun playing a smarmy creep, and it’s a shame he didn’t get to delve into the weird, creepy dual psyche of the comic book version of the character.

    Looking back, I wish they’d filmed Spidey 3 and 4 back to back, splitting up all the things they tried to cram into one movie here. Keep Sandman, the Goblin, and the black suit for 3, and save Venom and the Gwen Stacey stuff for 4. But I can’t condemn a movie for trying too hard to please its audience, and I was genuinely delighted by how much of a sweet, human, and off-kilter movie Sam Raimi made of this megabudget blockbuster.

  • hiroshi

    The movie never matches the comics. In Japan we have the Japanese manga version of Spiderman where our Peter Parker (Komori Yu) is a much darker and more repressed character. The movie opened in Tokyo first but I would have liked to have seen a movie based on the Japanese manga version
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/cool-japanese-manga-version-of-spiderman/

  • MaryAnn

    James Franco just walks off with every scene he’s in; when he was good, he commanded my sympathy, and when he was bad, he was so damn fun to watch.

    Yeah, Franco is fantastic. Early on I was thinking, “Hmmm, wouldn’t a Green Goblin movie be cool…?” But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

  • I have such mixed feelings about Spiderman 3, which we saw with an almost sold-out audience at 10:30 this morning.

    I agree about James Franco – he was quite compelling. I’ve liked the general underplaying by Maguire, Dunst and Harris.

    But there were just too many instances of “bad movie physics” throughout the flick, and just plain carelessness. And the characters just never seem to grow up (something I blame much more on the writers than on the actors).

    I didn’t hate the flick, but it was like Superman last year – it was ultimately disappointing.

  • Byron Huskey

    Wow, I almost always love and heartily approve of your reviews, but I have some qualms with this one. Spiderman 3 for me was at best a 5/10.
    The action scenes (what brief few there were) were easily 8 to 10 in excitement, and would make renting the movie again worthwhile. The rest of the movie was cvlose to emotioal garbage, and I say that with a heavy heart.
    Kirsten Dunst needs to quit acting, or at least quit pretending she can act. She’s not right for the part by any stretch of imagination, and the fact that Tobey has to try so hard to build any sort of chemistry (which is purely one sided in the end) is just sad. I can forgive him his goofy emotions, he is at least trying to make us care about the character.
    Franco I think near steals the show with his great (though comic booky) transformation from evil to good to evil again. Topher isn’t half bad either, and Sandman did a fine job of playing a sympathetic villain.
    There were a good number of highs for me in the movie, but far too many lows and groan worthy times. It does seem more corporate, but on the other hand, I preferred this film to Spiderman 2 (which only had one or two memorable moments for me in it. perhaps it’s just because I dislike Kirtsen on the screen SO much, she nearly ruined that film for me) because of the way it did feel like a comic book.
    I saw this at the midnight showing opening day, which was a lot of fun, but I came out wishing for something better, something I’d think “Yeah, I wanna see that again in theaters!” Didn’t happen this time.

  • Brian M

    Holy cow MaryAnn you hit the nail on the head with this review. I saw it Saturday night and was completely disappointed. Spider-Man 2 was a pinnacle achievement. It is the best comic book/superhero movie ever made and may never be equalled.

    After seeing Spider-Man 2, I was foolishly hoping that Spider-Man 3 wouldn’t be made, because series diminishment could be the only possible outcome. Kind of like I wish that The Matrix 2 & 3 hadn’t been made.

  • Jim Mann

    While I agree with you that it’s not as good as Spider-man 2, I liked Spider-man 3 better than you did. (Though why can’t they come up with better titles than Spider-man 2 and Spider-man 3?) I wasn’t disappointed, though I did come away feeling that the movie was a bit flabby (which is the opposite of what I’ve thought of some other films that had scads of heroes and villains, like the first X-Men film, which I enjoyed but thought should have been longer and explored some of the characters more).

    I was wary about a movie with three villains, but this one seemed to work them in far better than the Batman films ever managed.

    I agree that some of the coincidences (especially the meteorite falling right next to Peter and MJ) were silly. I think Raimi really wanted to include Venom (who was probably the key villain from Spidey’s mid-period) and couldn’t come up with a way to do it (and didn’t want to go through all the stuff that went on in the comics leading up to the symbiote’s introduction).

    I’m still looking forward to the next film and continue to wonder if they will indeed make Doctor Connor the villain as the Lizard. He states flatly in this film that he is a physicist not a biologist, but it’s as a biologist in the comics that he accidentally turns himself into the Lizard.

  • MaryAnn

    Rumors have been floating around that Bruce Campbell may be in SM4 as Mysterio. I hope that’s true…

  • David C

    I like the idea (not a “rumor,” just an idea from a comics blogger) that Spider-Man 4 could have The Lizard as the villain, and Bruce Campbell as a semi-comic version of Kraven the Hunter, out to “bag” the Lizard, but doing more harm than good.

    He’d be good as Mysterio too….

  • maryann, i agree

    Me and a handful of my friends were beginning to wonder, were we the only ones who thought this was a mediocre movie at best?

    The plot was weak, there was no characterization too. Everyone was the same spoiled kid who turned on each other without rationale or individual thought. Everything happened simply because it was convenient. This is very far from being the best superhero movie ever made. Not even the best comic book movie.

    It’s not even a decent movie to begin with. I admit, it was so bad, it was entertaining. This fact however is also a major disappointment. Spiderman 1 and 2 were good movies for me. They were preachy and corny within tolerable grounds, even the cinematography reflected that those two wanted to feel like a monthly issue of marvel comics without retaining most of the problems with the usual comic book scripts.

    Spiderman 3 had characters that were so shallow they didn’t even deserve to be TV show characters. It was disappointing. For moviegoers, don’t waste your money on this and give the illussion that because it raked in a lot of money, it’s a good movie. 28 Weeks Later is a much better movie to spend your money on. Go watch that instead. If you want comedy, turn to actual comedy, go watch Hot Fuzz.

    For the best comic book movie that has ever been made, check out Oldboy.

  • Robert

    I have to ask, what is it you – both MAJ and anyone else who might read this – expect from a movie like this?

    How many superhero movies have there been where the plot, dialogue, personal interactions, etc. haven’t been contrived, badly explained, formulaic & somewhat illogical if you *really* take a close look. Batman Begins comes to mind as having been better than most in that way.

    The entire premise of most superheroes is based in murky, implausible, made-up “science” to begin with.

    The interactions can’t be “real”. Impossible. 99.99% of the personal stuff in any superhero film would never happen.

    The main reason I go to see these movies isn’t for the soap opera, it’s for the sfx. The action and fight sequences in this were absolutely spellbinding.

    They again did superb job of bringing comic book action to life. They really show you the hyper-athleticism of someone possessed of abilities outside the realm of normal humans, as well as the amazing, impossible “camera work” made possible in the CGI realm.

    As far as there being too many villains, I guess I didn’t find any one of them to be that intriguing. Having them tag-team, and in one case switch sides made it more interesting. I gotta ask, why does The Sandman’s clothes get included in his “molecular reintegration”?

    One bit of reality was MJ getting canned for exactly what I thought when hearing her sing. I take it Kirsten Dunst did her own singing? Based on what I heard here, she has a passable but hardly star-caliber voice. Gwyneth Paltrow is an example of a true professional-quality singer known primarily as an actress.

  • MaryAnn

    I have to ask, what is it you – both MAJ and anyone else who might read this – expect from a movie like this?

    I think I made it perfectly clear in my review what I expect from a movie like this…

    The main reason I go to see these movies isn’t for the soap opera, it’s for the sfx.

    …and it’s not merely cool FX.

    Call us crazy, but some us like to feel something human when we go to the movies. Even superhero movies.

  • Robert

    I think I made it perfectly clear in my review what I expect from a movie like this…

    Well, you say “I want to be geeked” & you point out a lot of issues you had with the film. You assert Spidey 2 was “real”. Not clear to me how it was any more “real” than this one when they’re operating under the same set of vague, implausible constructs.

    Call us crazy,

    How about just “different” ;-)

    Btw, who is “us”?

    but some us like to feel something human when we go to the movies. Even superhero movies.

    It seemed about as human as one could expect it to be. Conflicts, love interest, rage & revenge, disappointment, at least comic book versions of them.

    The idea of a superhero even having a girlfriend is ridiculous to begin with. So, you’re taking one shaky premise, kludging it together with countless others and expecting it to seem “real”.

    I challenge anyone to write a superhero script that truly holds up under close examination.

  • MaryAnn

    Again, I must provide lessons in reading comprehension.

    You assert Spidey 2 was “real”. Not clear to me how it was any more “real” than this one when they’re operating under the same set of vague, implausible constructs.

    And it’s perfectly clear in my review that I do NOT have a problem with implausibility when it comes to these films. I have a problem when they’re more about FX then they are about real human issues, as I said here in the review:

    Even when [Spider-Man 2] was being so sincere and so profound about things that are usually dismissed as nerdy and cartoonish (like the angst of the superhero) that it took your breath away, the film was alive with humor and humanity and spirit and soul. All of that is missing here, for the most part: it all feels perfunctory. Calculated.

    Robert, you wrote:

    It seemed about as human as one could expect it to be. Conflicts, love interest, rage & revenge, disappointment, at least comic book versions of them.

    Exactly: comic book versions of them. The emotions were not “comic book” in the first two films.

    The idea of a superhero even having a girlfriend is ridiculous to begin with.

    What, are superheroes gay? What if a superhero is a lesbian? Would it be ridiculous for her to have a girlfriend?

    So, you’re taking one shaky premise, kludging it together with countless others and expecting it to seem “real”.

    Yes, because Sam Raimi showed us he could make a “real” superhero movie. I don’t see how this is so difficult to understand.

    Look, superheros are ridiculous. That is not the issue. I am expecting the characters to be as believable genuine as possible: you know, emotionally, no matter what superpowers they have. Isn’t that the point of most superhero stories, that they’re still human despite the physical abilities? Or that they struggle with concepts of humanity, like Superman does?

    I challenge anyone to write a superhero script that truly holds up under close examination.

    See Spider-Man 2.

  • Grant

    I challenge anyone to write a superhero script that truly holds up under close examination.

    What does that even mean? Hold up how? On whose standard? Is there some scale for rating a screenplay like that stupid thing from Dead Poet’s Society?

    And why does everyone have such predjudies against such an ancient literary tradition as the superhero story (see Herucles, Beowolf, Bhudda, Jesus H Christ. >.

  • Robert

    In the last episode, our hero said:

    You assert Spidey 2 was “real”. Not clear to me how it was any more “real” than this one when they’re operating under the same set of vague, implausible constructs

    To which MAJ responded:

    And it’s perfectly clear in my review that I do NOT have a problem with implausibility when it comes to these films. I have a problem when they’re more about FX then they are about real human issues

    The problem is, the implausibility is going to affect the entire fabric of the story. It just seems problematic to say – okay, absolutely nothing in this universe is going to strictly follow logic and reality, but somehow interpersonal relations are going to be in an isolated, conventional bubble.

    Ultimately, I do view these movies as mostly an FX-fest. I frequently find myself at odds with the “message” of a movie anyway. I think you wrote me off as a hopeless cretin in the past when I said I didn’t get all worked up over the “message” of the TOTR movies, or the Star Wars flicks.

    as I said here in the review:

    Even when [Spider-Man 2] was being so sincere and so profound about things …All of that is missing here, for the most part: it all feels perfunctory. Calculated.

    Well, of course movies *are* calculated. How do we get from point A to point B and show it on the screen. And just like the authors of the comic, they have to make numerous leaps ignoring reality and logic, sometimes offering up these hedging, fantastic explanations that would make Bill Clinton proud. It’s not clear to me that SM2 was exempt from this.

    Me:

    The idea of a superhero even having a girlfriend is ridiculous to begin with.

    MAJ:

    What, are superheroes gay? What if a superhero is a lesbian? Would it be ridiculous for her to have a girlfriend?

    The problems I’m referring to are logistical & social. Even psychological.

    They’re presenting this very narrow window that utterly ignores a vast number of considerations and issues. For one, playing fast and loose with time. He works as freelance photographer (though do we ever see him selling his pics anywhere but the Bugle?) He’s a full-time student at the top of his class in an extremely difficult course of study that by itself would realistically take every spare moment he has to keep up, even for a very bright student. When is he doing all this studying? And it just so happens the school he’s going to – right where he lives – has the best program for his field?

    Further, he’s going to school toward what ultimate goal? Is he going to work for DuPont or something? What gainful employment is he going to have in the field he’s pursuing that will tolerate the constant disappearing acts? Presumably he’s going to invent something that will make him independently wealthy?

    He also has a girlfriend, and looks after his aunt. Oh yeah, and he spents countless hours fighting criminals and evil-doers, encounters which always seem to be resolved in time (and leave him physically intact enough) for him to show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for class. Exactly how many hours are there in a day on his planet? Even if he’s on a full-ride scholarship he pays his bills (and according to marvel.com helps Aunt May financially) on the slave wages Jamison pays him for a few pics? Why doesn’t he tell Jamison to ESAD and sell his Spiderman pics (or video) to some major news outlet for a king’s ransom?

    As far as superheroes in general having a family life, is he/she constantly going to be extracting themselves from domestic situations to deal with some criminal? Are they just going to ignore crime to see little Sally in the school play?

    Further, the time-honored superhero problem of having “loved ones” is they instantly become a liability because they’re a target. I see they’ve dealt with this issue to some degree in the “official” story lines, but again in the highly implausible manner of the comic world. Yeah, MJ gets in trouble but somehow always survives.

    What about the prospect of having kids with a superhero? What about inherent dangers from enemies? And are they going to be healthy? Particulary in the case of a husband who’s been genetically mutated? Who are they going to consult about it? “Well Dr. Jones, here’s the deal…”

    Reality? MJ finally gets tired of the whole thing and wants out, even though she knew full well what she was getting in to. Reality would seem to be “I want the kids and the condo or I’m ratting your Spider-ass out to the press….and you better not be late on child support.”

    On this issue, the Doc Savage story line was much more believable and consistent. Doc devoted himself to crime-fighting, period. No romantic entanglements. Whether he ever had the occasional non-committal roll in the hay wasn’t addressed. I haven’t followed Batman in some time, but my sense is he was essentially the same way.

    And once endowed with these abilities, which open possibilities totally outside the realm of most people’s comprehension, is “the girl next door” going to continue to be appealing to him? You might notice that Rock stars and others who have unique options, often being all but exempt from the rules most people live by, aren’t renowned for having stable, conventional romantic lives.

    I am expecting the characters to be as believable genuine as possible: you know, emotionally, no matter what superpowers they have…

    …Sam Raimi showed us he could make a “real” superhero movie. I don’t see how this is so difficult to understand.

    I guess ultimately we have a fundamental disagreement as to what constitutes “real” interactions, and to what extent it’s possible for them to be real in a superhero movie.

    I did enjoy SM2, for the same reaons I liked this one, so I might go back and watch it again, with half an eye out for this issue, to see if I’m at all motivated to modify my position.

    Of course, I still think Hayden Christenson is a lame actor even after watching Shattered Glass at your suggestion, but who knows. ;-)

  • MaryAnn

    Well, of course movies *are* calculated.

    No one denies that. Good movies make us forget that.

    Grant wrote:

    And why does everyone have such predjudies against such an ancient literary tradition as the superhero story (see Herucles, Beowolf, Bhudda, Jesus H Christ.

    I don’t. I just want those stories — all stories of any kind — told well.

  • Dugger

    While I am a big fan of the other two spider-man films, this one was just a HUGE letdown. A dance sequence?!? The “convenient” turn of events at the end?!? Heck, I was wondering if there was going to be some hugs and kisses and “thats alright…I still love ya!” scenes. I don’t think I have ever checked my watch more during a movie, and the best part was when it was over. *PHEW* Don’t waste your money…..wait for the rental…..IF you NEED to see how it “ends”.

  • Sir Christov

    My my, Mary Ann… you certainly are opinionated. I must admit: I’ve read several of your ludicrous posts and I find your dribble to so outlandish and insane that it’s comical. I get a … how do you phrase it? A “chuckle” and “snort” from your musings. I could let your tirade about Judd Apatow’s work (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) go, but with great hesitancy. I won’t get into how these movies are indeed amazingly hilarious because they ARE a reflection of the current state of pop culture, which you are OBVIOUSLY not in tune to. Then there was your condoning of that wretched piece of cinematic vomit known as Pirates of the Caribbean III. Do you get some sort of perverse pleasure from trying to follow 13,000,000 plot lines? The premise of this movie is crap, it’s FAR too long, and the only movie worse than this one in recent memory was Pirates of the Caribbean II. For an accurate review of this movie (since you are incapable of such an action), I would HIGHLY advise everyone to go to YouTube and search for “Ask a Ninja Pirates”. Trust me, it’s hilarious and accurately portrays the film for what it is. Obviously, MJ, your simpleton mind was assaulted by visions of Orlando Bloom and got distracted from the plot. Oh wait… there WAS NO PLOT in that movie!!!

    But what, praytell, is my point of all this raving and bashing of you? It is simply this: You make a big fuss of having “realism” and “reality” in movies. In fact, that is easily your biggest complaint with the movie “Cars”, along with your quip about wondering how the cars themselves defecate. You even make a claim about the severe lack of realism in “Knocked Up”, and bitch to no-end that there’s no romance in it at all (which is unrealistic, in your eyes). You fail to simply enjoy movies for what they are: Movies. They are entertainment.

    However, I am now here to rip you a new vagina (because yours is apparently surgically sealed) because you claim “Spiderman 2” to be a work of genius. Are you fucking kidding me? You claim that movies are only good if they are realistic. And yet this movie had NO realism at all. First off, Tobey Maguire is a pansy. Second, Kirstin Dunst is one ugly mofo. But that’s all beside the point. The true point is this: Doc Oc’s mega-elliptical machine runs off of tritium. Your lack of knowledge (and most people’s) comes shining through at this facet of the movie. Do you even know what tritium is, MJ? It’s the third isotope of hydrogen (don’t know what an isotope is? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t) and it’s HIGHLY radioactive. And not only that, it’s a gas, not a glowing yellow ball. You want to condense tritium down to a ball of that size? Fine. That would probably consume ALL of the hydrogen in the known universe, along with a vast number of nuclear chemistry experiments to MAKE that amount of tritium, and then it would require temperatures of almost absolute zero to make a solid.

    Are you getting the sense that none of this is realistic?

    Yet Doc Oc plays with it as if it were a soccer ball. But this is a work of genius! Yippee hooray! Never mind the fact that he and everyone around him would get a slew of various carcinomas in record time. And what’s this? Harry has a SECOND glowing ball of the highly radioactive, highly improbable fuel for Doc Oc’s Ultra Bowflex? And he keeps it in his SAFE???? What the hell, man!!!

    Now, before you and others try to rip into me for being a hypocrite because I say movies are simply entertainment and should not be eyed so critically, bear in mind that I’m analyzing movies according to your very own insane bias. My judgment, however, has scientific basis unlike your pathetic points of view.

    And by the by… all my claims are accurate. How do I know this? Because unlike you, I have a real job. I’m actually a chemist investigating the biochemical basis of cancer and another genetic disease called Niemann-Pick disease. I do something of benefit in society, not just sitting around my “flat” sipping wine and thinking of how much better I am than everyone else for one reason or another in a pompous fashion.

    Enjoy the rest of your pathetic and (I’m going out on a limb here) but lonely existence.

  • MBI

    Wow. Yeah.

    I’m sure the proprieter of this website can write a better response to this guy than I can, but I’d like a stab at it.

    *ahem*

    Nothing says “I’m important” more eloquently… than screaming “I’m important” to strangers on the Internet. How’s that pickup line working for you at the singles bar, poindexter?

  • I was going to go with something more along the lines of “Dude, it’s a movie based on a comic book, so any deviations from real-world science are OK as long as they’re in the spirit of the comic book… so chill.”

    The whole “You suck because you are a movie reviewer and I am a cancer researcher” thing is really, really weak… especially with a username like “Sir Christov”.

  • MaryAnn

    Ah, “Sir Christov,” you are a hoot! And a gentleman to boot.

  • I’m just curious as to when Maryann ever said anything to inspire the quote: “You claim that movies are only good if they are realistic.” Huh? I’ve never gotten that impression. Furthermore, I wish people would realize that “realism” is determined relative to the genre, and fantasy/sci-fi movies are allowed certain leeways because they are expected by fans of the genre.

    And, yeah, as MBI says, insisting to others that you’re important just reeks of low self-esteem. And saying that your opinion is more valid because you believe yourself more important to humanity is asinine. So, yeah, you’re an insecure asshole. Good day, sir.

  • MaryAnn

    All fiction is “unrealistic” on some level. What matters is whether it works on its own terms. But I think most people realize that. It’s surprising that anyone needs to state this explicitly.

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