In order to cheer myself up after Spider-Man 3, the sequel to the best comic book film of all time, I've made a batch of cookies. It's probably dangerous to eat "Venom" but I'm gonna devour this whole plate.
I was film festivaling during the film's mammoth opening weekend but from the reviews I've glanced at post-screening today I don't think there's a strong reason to write another: the film's problems are obvious and familiar enough from other films that I figure even your average moviegoer can describe them with great accuracy (never mind the box office. That was a given). But I do have a couple of things I'd like to get off my chest before I put several of these into my belly.
As a huge supporter of this particular franchise and its inspired director, I'm inclined to disagree with the notion that the filmmaking team is entirely off their game or that the spirit has gone out of it. I think this film is pitched exactly the same as the others: it has the same unembarrassed beating heart and soapy broad strokes romance, the same visual flair and idiosyncratic comic beats... the same everything. What it's missing is the ability to turn itself off or add something new to justify the more! more! more! mode. The Watson / Parker romance, for instance, was so superbly handled in the first two that it needn't have been such a focus. We remember it well so there's no need to retread. Especially not when you've got so many new story threads to tell us about.
We've seen this before in sequels and would be blockbusters but in superhero films it's especially easy to spot the "more" problem. You can count the villains. If there's three or more you're almost always in trouble. Unless those three are essentially one (see: Superman 2). Batman Returns was an exceptional sequel in many ways but the movie got distracted enough with three Bat threats to forget its prize posession (Catwoman) for huge stretches at a time heading into the climax. Let's not even speak of the third X-Men film: so many characters that almost no one registered --and when your cast includes talent like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman that's not only a pity but a crying shame.
I should probably fess up to the fact that I've been nervous from the beginning but kept my mouth shut hoping for the best. Venom is a sensational looking villain but I've never been crazy of exploring duality issues with Spider-Man. That's Batman's bag, kids. Let Peter Parker do his own wonderful nerd/hero thing.
For what it's worth I'm confident that Spider-Man 3 will be more enjoyable in DVD form when you can watch little bits at a time. But as a stand-alone, it's very choppy and swings awkwardly from threat to threat and from crying jag to crying jag. It's so unwieldy they even have to throw in little inserts to remind you: Villain #? is still alive! Gwen Stacy is a complete dud but here she is again anyway! MJ is still sad!
My heart plummeted when I realized I was tired of the movie and Venom still hadn't appeared.
Still, as I bid goodbye to the series (I don't believe in the Spider-Man 4 rumors -especially not with this team) I want to say a warm but melancholy thank you to all involved: I love this huge colorful gift you gave us. I would've been thrilled had the finale topped or nearly matched the transcendent heights of the midsection but that rarely happens. For every Empire which strikes back, there seems to be a Jedi who returns.
Spider-Man 3 C+
(ftr: Spider-Man B+ and Spider-Man 2 A Both were on their respective years top ten lists: 2002 & 2004)
My Mood Right Now: D
These Cookies: B (pretty good but a little burnt at the edges --in the oven a bit too long)