Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

A Tangled Web

While watching Spider-Man 3 on Sunday night, I couldn’t help but begin assembling my review in the back of my mind. And it was easy – it was going to start something like, “take two of the top-grossing blockbusters of all time, a huge dose of both critic and fan goodwill and a director who’s already publicly declared that this was going to be the final installment in the franchise and you’ve got a recipe for a directorial blank cheque with a healthy side dose of Sam Raimi drunk with power and nothing left to prove”. And then I read this interview excerpt with Raimi at Sci-Fi.com and I had to toss it all.

It seems that Raimi’s breaking the 2-villain rule of comic book adaptations, aka “the Batman & Robin rule”, wasn’t his idea at all but that of executive producer Avi Arad who essentially forced the inclusion of Venom in the film, thus pushing an already busy script over the edge and making the finished product a gloriously technicolour, head-spinning mess. The last-minute grafting of what by rights should have been a film on its own – the alien symbiote storyline is a classic and deserved better treatment than it got – onto the already in-play son of Goblin plotline and new Sandman thread ended up being a disservice to all three. Thomas Haden Church looked terrific as the Sandman but any emotional quotient his story might have had got lost in the process and just ended up super-hokey. Which isn’t to let Raimi off the hook entirely – I’m sure more than a few of the questionable ideas came from his head alone, but it’s evident that the finished product is not the film he originally wanted to make.

Ironically, and even though I stand by what I said above, I thought the Venom storyline was best executed. Not the black costume itself, per se – simply making the red-and-blue black wasn’t nearly as cool-looking as the comic book version (though that may just be the 9-year old nostlgiast in me talking) – but Eddie Brock’s motivations for becoming Venom were well-delivered. The on-screen rendering wasn’t nearly as big or menacing as it should have been and I could have done without having to look at Topher Grace’s mug all the time, but what can you do.

But to this point, it sounds like I didn’t like the film and though there were many things wrong with it – the pacing was uneven, the acting wooden, the dialogue cheesier than ever and whoever was responsible for the Emo Parker look and disco fever sequence needs to be fired, re-hired and fired again – it still managed to be exhilarating and lots of fun. The action sequences were a blast and there were still a good number of genuine and humorous character moments to offset the bad ones.

But unlike the first two, it didn’t really leave me hankering for a fourth film, at least not if this is the direction the franchise is going. Best to quit while ahead least you end up with an X-Men 3 or worse, Superman 4 on your hands to tarnish the whole franchise. Though all the principals insisted that this would be the last one, the record-breaking opening weekend will surely give them second thoughts. Maybe next time, Raimi will manage to avoid Arad’s phone calls.

Trailer: Spider-Man 3

Happy birthday to Take-Away Shows, who are celebrating their first year of filming wonderful informal performances from great artists by sharing six previously unreleased clips from The National, Jens Lekman and more. And speaking of The National, the “Mistaken For Strangers” video I promised yesterday is up now.

Video: The National – “Mistaken For Strangers” (YouTube)

Spinner is streaming the new Maximo Park album Our Earthly Pleasures, out domestically today. They’re at the Mod Club July 10.

Stream: Maximo Park / Our Earthly Pleasures

And remember the new version of “Song For The Fields” that I was moaning about last week? Spinner has got it available to download and you can stream the whole Fields record as well, or you can in theory. Doesn’t seem to be working quite right at the moment.

MP3: Fields – “Song For The Fields”
Stream: Fields / Everything Last Winter

Spin talks to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy about the upcoming festival season, of which they’re taking part of with a show at Bonnaroo. Also check out a short trailer for the DVD portion of the Sky Blue Sky deluxe edition, out next Tuesday.

CBC interviews and the The San Francisco Chronicle pop quizzes Feist.

Paste profiles The Hold Steady.

Some show announcements – solo Stroke Albert Hammond Jr is at the Opera House on June 10, The Heartless Bastards are at the El Mocambo on June 20 and New Zealand Australian punk legends Radio Birdman will be at Lee’s Palace on July 6. And Do Make Say Think have been confirmed for the Canada Day show at Harbourfront Centre along with Final Fantasy – as always, a free show.

By : Frank Yang at 8:27 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. pradoc says:

    How strange…
    I think the "the Emo Parker look and disco fever sequence" (I mean the one in the street) is perhaps the best scene of this movie and i found it quite funny.

  2. Frank says:

    it was funny at first, but went on far too long – and I’m including the whole unfortunate dance sequence in the jazz club as part of it. I had flashbacks of "A Life Less Ordinary" and lord knows I’ve been trying to strike that from my long-term memory.

  3. pgwp says:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but everything you say is right in line with what I expect my reaction to be. And it isn’t childhood nostalgia talking–the comic version of the black suit is way, way better.

    And–I take exception to your X-Men 3 comment! That movie has a lot of haters but I actually thought it was a fun ride. Not as good as X2 but still enjoyable.

    Oh – and imdb already has a listing for Spider-Man 4, though I don’t think anyone is attached yet. I’ve got my heart set on Steve Carrell as Kraven the Hunter. (Anyone who saw 40-year-old Virgin knows he’s got the chest for it!)

  4. alan says:

    i hate to correct you because your blog is always top notch, but a very minor correction in that Radio Birdman are Australian. They are also playing Bluesfest in Ottawa, unfortunately the same night as Bob Dylan. Pick your aging star…. Cheers

  5. Frank says:

    I know they’re australian. what the hell was I thinking? my mind was elsewhere. thanks for the catch.

  6. Karl says:

    I thought they could have made a great movie about revenge and forgiveness, or a great movie about the corrupting influence of power (as in "With great power…"). Instead they tried to jam both into one movie, slighting both and uniting the villains with a nasty kludge. The disco scenes would have worked better in the context of a Venom-based, power corrupts-themed flick, to show PP going from goofy bad to vindcitive and violent.

    Word elsewhere tees up The Lizard and Carnage for number four, possibly without Raimi, but we’ll see.

  7. graig says:

    I’m totally with you on Spider-Man 3 kimosabe.
    my review is here:
    and lest you think that 3 villains couldn’t have worked… I had it figured out, if only they let me draft the script :P

    And a belated thanks for exposing me to Aqueduct. Really enjoying that.

  8. Ron says:

    Everything absolutely felt rushed in the film. And this may seem odd, but I noticed someone on that set loved the use of glass. On innumerable occasions Spiderman was thrown through glass, or someone was punching glass windows out, or even how Sandman was slightly turned into glass. I suppose that last one was pretty cool but enough with the shattering of innocent panes.