I live in the great state of Ohio where I once saw our four seasons described as almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction. It just so happened this last weekend that a hellish torrent of freezing rain fell upon my part of the U.S. For those unfamiliar with freezing rain, it’s when rain falls from the sky and immediately freezes to whatever it lands on. So I went inside to have dinner and games with some friends at 7pm. When I came out at 11pm my car, the roads, and all the trees were covered in a sheet of ice.
So what does this have to do with what I’m bitter about? Well the freezing rain made it near impossible to do anything (like walk out my front door) and caused my internet access to die. So I was afforded the rare opportunity to watch all three Spider-man movies. And by afforded I mean forced to review a trilogy that has not aged well.
Spider-man came out in May of 2002. I was a junior in high school and 9/11 had created an entire economy based on car flags, flag pins, flag stickers, United We Stand commercials, I heart NY shirts, and tons of stuff that said “Never Forget.” It was a crazy time. So crazy in fact that the original Spider-man teaser featured the twin towers in it. Any hint of the towers was removed for the final film.
Holy crap did I love this movie as a kid. This teaser doesn’t do it much justice, especially since they hadn’t really decided on the marketing or penned out a deal with Chad Kroger yet. I flipped out after I saw this movie and went to see it again. I would get on my dial-up internet and spend 10 minutes navigating to the movie trailer. I seriously thought this was the best superhero movie I had ever seen (except for Batman, of course). And then Spider-man 2 came out, and I freaked out even harder.
And then I watched the films again this weekend. Maybe it’s because the Dark Knight has tainted my sense of good superhero movie, but these films have not aged well. Everything is bright and colorful. Characters seems vapid and shallow (looking at you MJ and Doc Ock). The whole thing seems like a mess. Then again, maybe it’s just that the special effects of 2002 and 2004 haven’t held up very well in the age of Avatar.
It’s not to say that Spider-man and Spider-man 2 were bad movies. They just weren’t great. There are some obvious plot holes (who lets someone create a miniature sun in a room full of people?) and story problems that are hard to get around when you’re not 17 anymore. And some of the acting is a little hammy.
And then came Spider-man 3.
*So Many Spoilers
2007 was the summer of the “threequal.” Movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Shrek The Third, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Rush Hour 3 were expected to justify our dependance on content recycling. Ditto for Spider-man 3. The hype was insane. Spider-man kicked ass in the box office and Spider-man 2 did comparably well. So, with how awesome I remember Spider-man 2 being, there wasn’t anyway to for the third movie to disappoint. Right?
That’s what I thought going in. Spider-man 3 has one of the best credit intros of any sequel I have ever seen. I hate looking at all of the well-deserving names when I know there could be something amazing happening. It does a great job of conveying the sense of continuity that comics love to use while catching the entire audience up to over three hours of story. Well played.
Too bad there are some problems that superhero movies love to flirt with. Why so many bad guys? If the Batman franchise is any kind of indicator, it usually has to do with BS studio politics. So yeah, Spider-man 3 has Flint Marco (Sandman), Hobgoblin and Venom. That’s three intersecting character stories (five if you count Spider-man and the symbiote separately from the rest) that have to come together while developing a main plot centered around Spider-man and MJ.
And then there are the problems Spider-man 3 inherited from it’s prequels. Most of the cast of these movies suck. Seriously, why the hell would anyone cast Toby McGuire for this? I was pretty meh about him at the time because I really just wanted to see someone in the costume do cool hero things, but the more I watch these movies now the more I think he was a bad choice. His soft-spoken “I’m not a superhero at all” voice reminds me of Michael Jackson for some reason.
And Mary Jane just seems cold all the time. Like she’s kind of into Spider-man, but hates that it turned out to be Peter Parker. And while I don’t mind James Franco as Harry Osborn, it kind of falls apart for me when he starts acting like a villain. Maybe he should have been Spider-man instead. Never mind, he reminds me too much of Hayden Christensen when he whines about his dad. And I’m gonna gloss over Topher Grace as Venom because he’s awful, and it’s a waste of my time and yours to talk about it.
So whatever. The cast sucks. I guess it could still be ok. Yeah, it’s 2007 and I’m old enough to know better, but maybe things will be alright.
Not a chance. We need to talk about the CG of this movie. Everyone looks fake. Obviously Sandman looks fake because he’s made of sand and CGI dirt is too difficult to do, but why does black-suit Spider-man look fake? I honestly can’t understand why a CGI character in a red and blue suit looks more normal to me than an entirely black suit. Even when a real actor is in a real suit it looks kind of fake to me. WTF?
Fine, let’s talk about how “evil” Spider-man requires Toby to go emo. For whatever reason Sam Raimi decided the best way to express the transformation from hero to asshole required an angry dance number. Glad the popped collar and eyeliner look turned out so well. Fine, why did the movie need the other dance routines? Who knows?
I will say that watching Peter blow Harry’s face up with a grenade is pretty gratifying, though I didn’t need the fight’s jazz number soundtrack. And I get that the whole point of this sequence was to convey how Peter was out of control, but it seemed poorly written and very campy.
Whatever. The point isn’t that Spider-man 3 was bad, but that it was the worst of a bad trilogy and it just took me a while to figure it out. It’s like Power Rangers. I thought they were badass when I was eight, but then I grew up and realized Doug was where it’s at.
Seriously, what a dick.