Friday, 27 April 2007

Spider-man 3 (2007)

Here's a good reason to arrive at the cinema on time for Spider-man 3: its opening credits sequence is no obligatory preamble, meaningless eye-candy, or leftover pennies to keep the studio's animation department, long reduced to thumbtwiddling in the wake of the rise of CGI superhero movies, somewhat busy. Instead, observe the opening sequence, a montage of scenes from the first 2 Spider-man movies, rendered or rotoscoped into comic-book art stills. Yes, we know it's a recap, but the sequence brings to mind the stained glass panels of say, the Stations of the Cross, that you can find in cathedrals. And that's exactly how this sequence should be viewed - not a recap, but a restatement of Sam Raimi's treatment of the Spider-man trilogy, film version of a Marvel Bildungsroman, perhaps titled "Sentimental Education of a Hero", in which one young webbed crusader must learn the ethics of saving the world as a vocation. You know, the sort where in the hero must first learn the consequences of his superpowers and struggle to understand that he has to renounce his ego to fight with evil-doers (Spider-man), then learn it's okay for a crimefighter to act on his personal emotions and passions while doing his job (Spider-man 2), and then learn when he has to rein in his own desires again, lest he become too self-centred (Spider-man 3). It's important, therefore, to note that what makes Spider-man the best superhero franchise of this decade is its focus on the realistic emotional foundations of its superhero, instead of CGI-fests like the FF4 movies or the dark psychology of the rebooted Batman. If Spider-man 3 carries its unique exploration of the education of the supehero, then the movie should be seen as a success. Which of course, it is.

But for those short of attention and hungry for novelty, what is there that Spider-man has to offer? Raimi probably knows the dangers of repeating himself in the final act of the trilogy, and hence gives us something slightly different here: there are 3 villains to contend with instead of the usual single villain. Yes, we do get a breath of fresh air this time, away from the "supervillain of the episode" feel of the first two Spider-man movies, but then Spider-man 3 may come across as losing some sense of unity and coherence that its predecessors had. It is still far better than X-men 3, a movie consisting of 30 second cameos of every mutant in the X-man universe.

Since there's no question that Spider-man 3 is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, I'd just like to take the time to present to you my list of 5 minor annoyances and 3 major raves for this movie:

Spiderman 3 would be far more impressive than it already is, if...
1. The director used sand instead of corn pellets to create the Sandman CGI. Yes, it's very noticeable that pellets are far larger than grains of sand, leading me to think Thomas Haden Church was cast as Breakfast cereal man. Also, this must be the reason why aside from one scene, no one ever got sand in their eyes, when lots of sand-like pellets were flying in the air in every Sandman battle.

2. The editor wasn't too trigger-happy with his scissors, presumably deleting a few scenes that left a Venom science explanation hanging in the mid-air (How did Peter Parker realise his suit was alive, and thought to submit a sample to the FDA?)

3. The costume designer had ensured Tobey Maguire got a more fitting costume for a certain scene. Wardrobe malfunction and moose knuckles, yikes!

4. The makeup artist hadn't resorted to making putting black eyeshadow on Venom-possessed Peter Parker. He simply looks like a goth kid.

5. The CGI department spent more effort on the Venom design. Not only is he far less unhinged and psychotic in the script, he is so unscary and unconvincing that I thought the shinigami from Death Note were more impressive.

3 good things that you'll remember about Spiderman 3
1. Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell have cameos in the movie; Campbell's segment is actually entertaining with his spot-on imitation of John Cleese's characters
2. The best homage to the THX trailer ever, hidden in the final fight scene
3. Despite a prolonged buildup, this movie has a clean resolution to the trilogy, tying up all loose ends

First published at incinemas on 1 May 2007

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