Wednesday, May 10, 2017

'Spider-Man 3' and the Third Movie Curse

Your favorite neighborhood-friendly blogger and fanboy recently tackled the infamous Third Movie Curse in light of "Return of the Jedi," "Lethal Weapon 3" and "Batman Forever." And I even managed to address my problems with Michael Keaton's Batman and Bruce Wayne. (I know I'm in the majority-minority there, but read my op-ed and you'll see my point.)

Ten years ago, almost exactly, I addressed the Third Movie Curse when Cary's Comics Craze ran as an every-other-week NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper column and "Spider-Man 3" was dominating the box office. I even had named the curse! With Spidey in his third onscreen incarnation with actor Tom Holland later this summer in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," it's a great time for another CCC flashback and retro-review ... 

Early May 2007 -- Here's a big surprise: "Spider-Man 3" has broken nearly every imaginable box office record. The question was never about how many people were going to see the end of Sam Raimi's trilogy, but would it break the Third Movie Curse?

Summer 2007 is a great time for movie geeks to ponder this. Just check out the big movies coming out this year: "Shrek the Third" (May 18), "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (May 25), "Ocean's 13" (June 8), "The Bourne Ultimatum" (Aug. 3) and "Rush Hour 3" (Aug. 10).

Let's face it. There are a lot of "second sequels" that are just plain tough to watch, much less enjoy. Some that come to mind include "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Die Hard with a Vengeance" and "Teenage Mutant Nijna Turtles III."

"Superman III" is an easy target for starting the phenomenon. It's still a mystery why director Richard Lester thought a light-hearted adventure co-starring comedian Richard Pryor was a good idea.
Spider-Man pushes Sandman's head against the side of a speeding train during
their fight scene in "Spider-Man 3" shortly after Spidey acquires his black suit.
"Spider-Man 3" certainly may have broken the Third Movie Curse, but just barely. The end of Raimi's trilogy is no flop; it simply takes a long time for all the dangling cobwebs' worth of subplots to become cohesive.

So what does the movie have going against it? Spidey faces three foes (four, if you count the hero's dark personality). Two of the origins are given rushed and half-hearted explanations.

Raimi has said Marvel Comics executives pressured him into including fan favorite villain Venom, so maybe the three-villain issue isn't all his fault.

Fans would have seen a completely different film if Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) only confronted Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and had to deal with the new knowledge about his uncle's murder. That would have meant no black costume and not as much exposure to the "dark side of Peter Parker."

Maybe that version of "Spider-Man 3" would have done even more with the issue of forgiveness. One of the pivotal parts of this movie is Parker's best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) avenging his father's death. And another issue -- at least for this Spidey fan -- is Parker finally offering some sort of apology to his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), for the way he treats her for most of the film. But alas, that never happens.

Actor Topher Grace plays photographer Eddie Brock in "Spider-Man 3."
Actor Topher Grace adds a breath of fresh air as Parker's rival photographer, Eddie Brock (Venom's alter ego). I must admit to loving the scene in which Parker publicly exposes Brock for doctoring one of his previously published Spider-Man photos.

It epitomizes Brock's arrogance and lack of ethics as well as Parker's nastier, confrontational side while under the influence of the alien symbiote. The newsroom humiliation also gives Brock a reason to despise his doppleganger.

I admittedly was much more impressed with the acting of Franco and Dunst than in the earlier films. The storyline, although burdened with various subplots, allows the two actors to do much more. Who knew Franco had more in his acting arsenal than simply sneering like James Dean?
Kirsten Dunst plays Mary Jane Watson throughout
director Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy.

I loved seeing Dunst's Watson (one of this generation's classic scream queens) finally take a stand against Parker, who had been hosting her personal ride on an emotional roller coaster in the first two films.

One could argue that "Spider-Man 3" also introduces too many characters -- four by count. To be fair, James Cromwell as Gwen Stacy's police captain father has little more than several cameos.

Also, keep in mind that one important storyline is the very complicated love triangles (yes, more than one!) involving Parker, Watson, Osborn, Parker's gorgeous science lab partner, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her boyfriend, Brock.

Let's face it, you can't have a love triangle without a lot of characters. Grade: B

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