Posted by: Ben | December 28, 2008

100 Movies: Spider-Man 3

(Film. Raimi. US, 2007)

If you want your superhero movie to melt all existing box office records, it’s not going to be enough to show lots of lovingly shot scenes of spandex-clad men beating each other up while balancing on the sides of buildings. You have to appeal to female cinemagoers too. And as every straight man knows, there’s nothing a female cinemagoer likes better than a film about a women torn between two men, both of whom treat her badly. Apart from a superhero suit with embossed nipples, obviously.*

Mary Jane does indeed have a bit of a rough time of it in this film, losing her Broadway singing role, getting generally knocked about by both of the men in her life and eventually kidnapped, and if she wasn’t destined by the forces of comic continuity to spend the rest of her life with Peter Parker she’d probably give the whole thing up as a bad job. Then again, the forces of comic continuity never seem to stop villains getting killed off before their time.

In every good superhero movie the villain is the star, one thing that the last decade of Marvel adaptations in particular has totally cocked up. This one in particular comes so close to finally getting it right that you want to put your foot through your TV like that bloke who was outraged by the Sex Pistols on London Tonight when it finally doesn’t.

After lovingly spending two movies dropping hints and building up Harry Osborne as the new Green Goblin, the film then has him lose his memory, in the most stupid and unnecessary plot twist since Shyamalan tried to scare the cast and crew at the wrap party for The Village by pulling his jumper over his head and pretending to be a headless ghost. He spends the rest of the film alternately trying to get into Mary Jane’s pants (villainous) and agonising about it (not villainous). Harry, not Shyamalan. What a waste.

As for Venom, I’m not the sort to buy actual comics – trade paperbacks, maybe – but surely that’s potentially the best villain in the whole Spider-Man mythos, and yet I’ve seen episodes of Scooby Doo that have put more time and effort into developing an antagonist.

Yet it’s hard not to enjoy this film. Maguire is perfect as the main character, despite having a face like a baby drinking gin. His gradual transformation into Emo Peter Parker is pitched perfectly, and the CGI is finally good enough that he doesn’t appear to turn into a cartoon every time he pulls that mask over his face.

Now that the Spider-Man movies are finally established as an ongoing concern, they can effectively continue to trash New York City in episodic fashion for as long as they’re making money. Public tolerance for movie sequels appears to be improving, with Saw V released to cinemas this year, and with CGI not likely to get any worse or more expensive in the near future the franchise may not yet be ready to be killed off, Superman-like, by a cheapo sequel shot in Milton Keynes. At least not while they can hang on to Raimi, Maguire and preferably Dunst.

Obligatory War On Terror Reference: Sandman: An intangible opponent, made from the very substance of the desert. He has committed a great crime against Spider-Man, whose attempts to punish him only succeed in turning Spider-Man into a dark and morally bankrupt oppressor who no longer represents the American values he used to embody. However with understanding and forgiveness it is possible to reduce the threat he presents.

*** (out of a possible *****)

Next time: Das Boot?

*Edited to add: For clarity, this is a movie studio’s idea of what a female cinemagoer wants to see, not mine.

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