3SR: Raimi gives a first class lesson in how to screw up a franchise in little under three hours. Weird, disjointed and full of unusual choices.
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Topher Grace
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Alvin Sargent
Action, Adaptation, Adventure, Superhero. 2hr 19mins. M: contains fantasy violence
My bro got our tickets to the opening night of Spider-Man III about seven months ago. We’ve had them in an armed safety deposit box thirteen floors below the BNZ in Wellington, you know, for safe keeping. Every couple of weeks we’d meet up to go visit the tickets. We’d look at them, maybe touch them, do a little stroking of the tickets, and, I’m not gonna lie, some ticket kissing may have occurred. Then we’d put them back, lock ‘em up tight, and go off about our daily business just as if we didn’t own tickets to the opening night of one of the most eagerly awaited sequels ever in the history of fanboyandgirldom.
During those halcyon pre-Now-I’ve-Seen-It-And-My-Life-Has-Lost-All-Meaning months we never once discussed our hopes and fears for the final instalment of Spidey’s Big Screen Sojourn. Never once did we say “What if Raimi drops the ball? What if he fluffs it? What if his bottle’s gone?”. We kept our Spidey induced conversation strictly within the perimeters of “I’m looking forward to this. Are you looking forward to this? Yeah, I’m looking forward to this.” And even then, mostly only while we were stroking the tickets. Personally, I even avoided Empire Magazine and not only because it costs $55 for an airmail copy of Empire UK. I just didn’t want to know. I didn’t want any expectations. Now that I’ve seen Spider-Man III and despite the fact that my life has lost all meaning, I am glad I had those final months of Spider-Man III innocence. I’m glad that, when I walked into the Embassy on Friday night my heart was full of anticipatory joy, my mind full of little more than the dilemma of choosing between boysenberry or vanilla ice cream, peanut or plain M&Ms, Toby Maguire or Topher Grace as Fantasy Dream Boyfriend of the night.
In short I’m glad I had no forewarning of Sam Raimi’s evident nervous breakdown at the helm or that Sony films is about to loose it’s entire top shelf on account of secretly going 170 MILLION DOLLARS over budget on a 270 Million dollar film. I’m glad no one told me about dancing, emo Spidey. I’m glad no one told me that Spider-Man III is an homage to Electric Company Spidey, who will be tuning in next week to say F-L-O-P. I’m glad no one told me Peter Parker would be jive walking his way onto my shit list.
Because it left me free to fucking love the shit out of this weird assed 70’s freak-out film that bares so little resemblance to it’s predecessor in terms of tone, pace or style that it may as well have been made by a team of highly trained spider monkeys. (Perhaps the same highly trained spider monkeys who declined work on Ghost Rider? Who can say?)
I grew up reading Spider-Man in the 70’s. I remember the cheese-core storylines, the shoddy three colour print that came off on your much thumbed wad of hubba bubba like a shit stamp. I remember Peter Parker jive walking down Broadway, thinking he was all that because he’d gone ‘bad’ and not in a good way. It seems Raimi does too. Spider-Man III is all about that time, mid cold war, when bad guys could be made good if they’d just listen to the wisdom of their benevolent elderly servants (or as my bro calls them ‘Shit Alfreds’). It’s about how sometimes being really cool is not cool, y’dig? It’s about how Emo makes young people hit their girlfriends and wear eye makeup. It’s a bout a class act filmmaker giving a big stupid studio the fingers.
The Spider-Man Franchise is dead. Spider-Man II is still and maybe will always be the best comic book adaptation of all time (Batman Begins not withstanding). We didn’t need more of the same in Spider-Man III, so we got something else. A reminder maybe that Comics aren’t about making it all utterly real. They’re about impossible people, living impossible lives impossibly. They are the height of ridiculousness, an element of the books which Spider-Man III totally nails, and that ridiculousness should be applauded. When we were kids and Spider-Man was given the keys to the city of New York which he accepted hanged upside down from a flag pole, when he took time out of his hectic sandstorm battling schedule to teach us how to read on TV, when the Green Goblin attacked whilst the hapless Pete was out buying Gwen Stacey an engagement ring in Macy’s, he was real enough.