Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Was it Really That Bad? Spiderman 3. by Kyle Johannessen

(Editor's Note: Poor Kyle has been doing a series for us, viewing movies considered "terrible" by audiences at large to see if they've been misjudged. Before this, he's done X-men 3 and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
One of these days, I will try and watch a movie that might have some redeemable qualities to it. Today is not this day. I’m back again to give you the re-review of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Just a little background on me and Spider-Man: he has always been my second favorite super hero (right up there with Superman. Yes Superman, bite me, he’s awesome) and I had, up until this point, loved Sam Raimi’s live action take on the character. Especially Spider-Man 2, which is still the best Spider-Man movie of all time. So believe me when I say that Spider-Man 3 was one of my most highly anticipated films of 2007. Finally getting to see my favorite Spidey villain, Venom, was especially exciting as this was a villain that didn’t just beat up Spidey, but ruined Peter Parker’s life, and made every attempt to destroy him, both physically and mentally. He also looks bad ass. Hey ED! Give me a bad ass picture of Venom right here!

I obey. -Ed
 Yeah, that’s the stuff. Look at that right there, BAD ASS. Unfortunately, we did not get a bad ass movie. What we got was a steaming pile of fuck you from Sam Raimi and a middle finger to the studio. What am I referring too? Well, a little background on what was going on leading up to Spider-Man 3.  Raimi really wanted to do a Sandman movie, and tie up the “Goblin” storyline with Harry Osborn. The studio really wanted to see Venom as the villain. Raimi had no interest in Venom, for reasons I will get to in the Venom section of this article, but the studio often gets what it wants in these situations. So Venom got pushed into the movie. And man, does Raimi’s disinterest in the character really show in just about every corner of this film and that, in turn, made the rest of the film weaker.
Now the movie isn’t completely without its bright spots. Rosemary Harris is terrific as Aunt May, and I mean terrific. She’s always been terrific throughout this trilogy, and J.K Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson is so over the top fantastic that we will probably not see the character in the new series at all. Whoever played him would have to be compared to J.K. The Harry Osborn storyline isn’t terrible either, despite the amnesia thing and James Franco hamming it the hell up. It’s interesting plot line, if not written particularly well. I also really believe the chemistry between Tobey Maquire and Kirsten Dunst. Dunst isn’t really the best fit for Mary Jane Watson, but the two stars have a convincing love story spread out through the film. Dunst also seems to have either not received the memo or decided to ignore it, but she is not caving in to Sam Raimi’s campy acting style and, other than Rosemary Harris, is the only one trying to give a decent performance.
But now for what you all came for. Let’s dig into the dirt of it all, shall we? Is Spider-Man 3 really that bad?
Yes. Yes it is. It’s worse.

It’s so… Silly… why?
I had completely forgotten how utterly silly this movie is. I’m not just talking about the now infamous dance scene, (there are several dance scenes in this movie by the way) but the whole movie has a really ridiculous Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Saturday morning cartoons as much as the next geek, but if I wanted to watch a Saturday morning cartoon, I’d just watch the Spider-Man cartoon. That cartoon was awesome. This is just silly for silliness sake. Maybe Raimi wanted to appeal more to the younger crowd for this movie, I dunno. The 7 and 8 year olds are not attending the midnight releases, I can tell you that much.
What’s worse is that this silliness isn’t just in the dancing, it’s in the dialogue. People say the most ridiculous things in this movie. I wrote a ton of them down, but we’d be here forever so please just take my word for it. There is seemingly a completely lack of understanding of how people actually speak to one another. Characters refer to one another as “old pal” Spider-Man calls someone a “chump.” I mean, who talks like that? Seriously, I have two pages of terrible lines written down in my notebook, I’m not going through them all.
Now I understand why it was done this way. Raimi was brought up on a completely different type of Spider-Man comic than the target demographic of 18 to 35 year olds was. He grew up reading the comics from the 60s and 70s and the newspaper serials. Those are silly and were written to conform to a very strict set of rules. It’s why he doesn’t understand/like Venom, he didn’t grow up with it. And he tried to inject that tone into the film. It was an artistic decision that failed, epically. Instead of an old school, throwback film, what we’re left with is a silly joke of an action movie that no one but Raimi wanted. The first two Spider-Man films had their campy and whimsical moments, but they were better executed, and there wasn’t the presence of an extremely dark character like Venom.
Raimi makes campy movies. It’s sort of his thing. But we didn’t grow up reading those comics from the 60s and 70s, we grew up reading late 80s, 90s, and modern comics. If you want to make that movie, set it in the 60s! Hell, X-Men: First Class did it, there is nothing stopping you from doing it as well, Raimi! Then we’d be all in on the joke. This is my only explanation for things like all the dancing, the awful inclusion of Gwen Stacy (WHY IS SHE IN THIS MOVIE?!) and the villains he Raimi choose. Speaking of villains!

 There are too many villains!
Yes, there are too many villains in this movie. It’s a lesson studios never ever seem to learn and are more than likely doomed to repeat for the rest of time. There’s Sandman, Venom, and “New” Goblin. Yeah, that’s right, “New” Goblin. Not Hobgoblin, not Green Goblin II, or just The Goblin. “NEW” Goblin! Good thing this movie wasn’t made in 1998 or it would have been called Nu Goblin and then I’d have a whole new section to write!
The story gets lost in its villains, and the whole movie suffers for it. Raimi clearly only cares about the two main villains, and they are the main villains, of Goblin (I’m not calling him New Goblin and you can’t make me) and Sandman. They are the only ones who get any major screen time or development. Raimi seems so in love with Sandman that on my rewatch, I sometimes thought that this was supposed to be a Sandman movie. The best sequence in this entire movie isn’t a fight scene with Spider-Man or a character moment between Parker and Mary Jane or Aunt May, it’s the scene where Marko climbs out of the sand after falling into whatever the hell that thing was. What was that thing supposed to be, by the way? And if it has the power to mess with people’s atoms, wouldn’t you think it would have better security? What if Flint Marko fell into that thing and became Dr. Manhattan or something!? Now that’s a movie I’d pay to see!
Sandman is a very interesting inclusion. And by interesting, I mean complete and total shit. I understand, Raimi, I do. As I said earlier, you grew up reading the comics of the 60s and 70s where Sandman was a big deal. But he’s stupid. He can turn to sand and his weakness is water. His weakness is something 70% of the earth is covered by. And he’s stupid. There is just no other way to say it. Spider-Man has a great rogues gallery, and for some reason you wanted Sandman.
You wanted a sympathetic villain, like you had for the other two movies. Sort of. Goblin in Spider-Man 3 just wants revenge on our Hero, and you don’t understand Venom enough to give him any sort of character traits other than “he’s evil”. But there had to be someone better than SANDMAN.

I mean, what the hell, Raimi? Listen, I understand you don’t like the character and didn’t want him in the movie in the first place, but you are so wrong about all of that it hurts. I have never sided with the studio on a supposed creative decision. Everytime I hear that there is studio interference on a film I’m excited about, I start to worry that it’s going to be bad and I’m usually write and I usually right. But wow, did the studio have the right idea when they said “Do Venom”. You hate Venom so much you wouldn’t even give us the real black Spidey costume. The iconic black Spidey costume. You just rolled the original Spidey costume in some soot, gave us all the finger, and called it a day.
Here’s a quick, cool Venom plot line off the top of my head (Seriously, I had no idea I was going to include this). Harry becomes the Green Goblin early in the movie and has a fight with Spider-Man. Spidey gets his ass handed to him and retreats to live and fight another day. While he is recovering, he gets he Venom suit somehow. He returns to fight Harry and damn near kills him with the help of the Venom suit. He gets worried, but the suit is addicting and doesn’t want to give it up. It’s only after he hurts Mary Jane that he gives it up and it finds its way to Eddie Brock. Parker, while having the suit, does more than just cost Brock a job and sorta steal his not really girlfriend. He does something else, I dunno, this is off the top of my head. Parker gets rid of the suit and tries to make up with Mary Jane. The suit, feeling rejected by Parker, seeks out Brock and merges with him. Venom now comes to kick the living shit of Spidey, and again has to retreat. Meanwhile, Brock is fucking with his Parkers life while he’s not Spider-Man and is constantly threatening to expose him. Of course Mary Jane gets kidnapped and then he has to go ask Harry for help beating him.
There, basically the same story, but now you’ve made Venom a threat and there is no Sandman. I’ve fixed two of your film's big problems in about five minutes. Spider-Man 3: Story By Kyle Johannessen and written by anyone other than Sam Raimi or David S. Goyer. You understand where Brock is coming from even if you don’t sympathize, and you get where Harry is coming from again even if you don’t really sympathize either. But at least you’ve done something with a great villain! The first thing Brock does when he becomes Venom is to run and get help from Sandman.  The.First.Thing.He.Does. You’ve turned Venom into a wuss, Raimi! Just give the character something to do! Cut out one of those Parker being an emo kid scenes and show Brock being affected by the suit or something. Oh, and why does the suit turn Parker emo in the first place? The main reason why the suit becomes so addicting is, for a time, people like Parker more. He’s more confident, charming, and easy going. As the suit starts feeding off his negativity more is when he starts to become a hyper aggressive dick. It doesn’t help that Parker is already being a complete and total tool even before he starts to wear the freaking suit, so the effect the suit has on him is pretty hard to see. Other than the emo haircut and eyeliner. I mean, was he listening to Nirvana on his way to his fight with Harry? (my roommate, Rachel, wanted you all to know she thought up that line)
I could go on and on and on about this freaking movie. It really is a travesty in filmmaking. If Raimi doesn’t consider it the worst movie of his career, then he is deluding himself. Not only should the studio have gotten more involved, it probably should have moved on from Raimi a movie earlier when there were signs that they were not on the same page. He shoehorns in a character, Venom, he has zero interest in and has no problem more or less telling you that he has zero interest in, puts a character that only he likes on a pedestal, Sandman, and tries to make Spider-Man into Adam West’s Batman. I’m all for a filmmaker making a movie for himself, but not a summer blockbuster. Raimi really seems to expect us to like this stuff, but we don’t.
I keep hoping that these films will have some redeeming qualities to them after years of not watching them. I’m older, the movie is older, and maybe there was something I missed. I’ve only done three of these so far, but it has not been the case so far. Next time, I watch a movie that maybe could be good, I’m just not this masochistic.


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