Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Recap: "Spider-Man 3" Part 1: The End of the Green Goblin!

It's good to be back after that long break. Siting down and talking about a Spider-Man film feels like coming home. And hoo boy, there's a lot to analyze, so let's waste no more time.

Oh, and a big thanks to all my readers! Happy 4th NewtCave Anniversary!
The film begins with...

Actually, can I get a gif of the Marvel logo? After all, this is the film series that began with the logo. It's only fitting it should end with it.

Seriously, Kyle Cooper, the world owes you a debt it can never repay.
Anyway, the opening credits sequence features images of the previous films inside the customary webs. But there's no Alex Ross art this time around. Instead, the webs feature movie clips inside them as something black and sticky begins engulfing it all.

A metaphor for how the alien symbiote plot hijacks what was meant to be a culmination of the previous films' ongoing story and themes? You decide!

The clips primarily provide a recap of the events of the first movie, since that's the one this movie builds on. Like how The Dark Knight Rises builds on plot points from Batman Begins. Sure, clips from Spider-Man 2 are shown, but there are relatively few of them, and they focus more on the events going on between all the Doctor Octopus stuff.

The film proper begins, as ever, with a voice over from our main character.

Spider-Man (Voice Over): "It's me, Peter Parker. Your friendly neighborhood... you know."

Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

Spider-Man (Voice Over): "I've come a long way from being the boy who was bit by a spider."

Not really. You're still in school and you still don't have a steady job.

Spider-Man (Voice Over): "Back then, nothing seemed to go right for me. Now..."

Peter Parker is watching footage of Spider-Man on a gigantic screen while some kids get excited over the ol' webhead.

Spider-Man (Voice Over): "People really like me."

Something is not right here.

After watching the Jumbotron Spider-Man footage, the kids head on their way.

Peter Parker: "Stick around. It's gonna start again in a couple minutes."

Geez. There couldn't be more ego on display here even if the villain from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 suddenly enacted his evil plot!

...Okay, yeah, that was a forced joke. That's what I get for trying to be topical.

Spider-Man (Voice Over): "The city is safe and sound. I guess I've had something to do with that. My Uncle Ben would be proud."

#humblebrag

Spider-Man (Voice Over): "I still get to school. Top of my class."

Because Peter Parker has time for such things, now that he's been fired from his pizza delivery job.

For some reason, though, Peter's classmates like to shoot spitballs at him.

So, uh... what kind of college-level advanced science class has dudes shooting spitballs? Did the screenwriter forget that Peter Parker graduated high school in the first movie? This might actually be the case, because we're introduced to one of Peter's high school classmates from the comics, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is his college lab partner in this continuity.

Gwen Stacy is a problematic character to include in a Spider-Man adaptation, since she's primarily known for her death scene instead of anything she ever actually did during her lifetime. I mentioned in one of my first posts on this blog that if non-comic fans even know who Gwen Stacy is, then all they know is that she died or something. I began writing that post in 2012 for a video series that ended up morphing into this blog. But when I first typed those words, they were already becoming less and less true. The Spectacular Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man had worked wonders to introduce her to a new generation of casual audiences and hardcore fans alike.

But this film was released in 2007, when Gwen Stacy was a much smaller blip on the pop culture radar. A blip whose most famous scene was adapted into the first Spider-Man film with Mary Jane in her place.

So why on Earth are they introducing her now?

Question 1: Does Gwen Stacy die in this movie?
No. Her death scene was already adapted into the bridge scene from the first film, and the audience has not yet formed a meaningful attachment to the character. To put it bluntly, nobody would care if she died.

Question 2: What will she bring to the story, since Peter Parker is already with Mary Jane?
Good question. Instead of answering it, let's save that thought for later and move on.

Gwen answers a difficult question correctly and looks back at Peter for approval, who responds thusly.

Just... Peter, what is that face?
Spider-Man (Voice Over): "And I'm in love with the girl of my dreams."

Which is why he's looking into layaway options on wedding rings, despite the fact that the arbitrary "thee-months' salary" guideline probably ain't getting him squat. With how little the Daily Bugle probably pays him, I wouldn't be surprised if Peter ends up proposing with a Lifesaver he sucked on for an hour.

But tonight, Mary Jane Watson is performing onstage. Broadway. She's finally made it. As such, Peter, being the good boyfriend he is, is there to watch. He enjoys the performance immensely as MJ successfully delivers the opening number. And I must say, Kirsten Dunst is no slouch when it comes to singing. Which, uh... is going to contradict a later plot point.

Although I do find it interesting that although we hear people clapping for Mary Jane during the number, we certainly don't see anybody clapping.
Anyway, after cutting to Harry Osborn watching both Peter from the balcony...

"Enjoy it while you can. Let's see which one of us is still making movies ten years from now."
...we cut to the end of the entire performance, where Peter runs into Harry outside.

Peter Parker: "I need to talk to you. Explain things."

And you chose... now.

I guess this means that Peter hasn't tried to patch things up with Harry since the end of the last movie. Or maybe has been trying, but he's just been unsuccessful. But, you know, Peter could always climb onto the balcony if Harry won’t open the door for him. After all, that's how Dr. Octopus got Harry's attention in the last film.

Harry Osborn: "Tell it to my father. Raise him from the dead."

"Sam Raimi's over there behind the camera. Ask to borrow the Necronomicon."
Harry won't listen to Peter's words and decides to ride off in his limo instead. So Peter goes to see MJ backstage, give her a hug, and tell her she was great. Harry apparently stopped by earlier and left some flowers of his own, and MJ can tell that something's been going on between them.

Peter Parker: "It's complicated."

But enough of that, MJ's worried about her performance.

Mary Jane: "The applause wasn't very loud."
Peter Parker: "Yes, it was. Well, it's the acoustics. It's all about diffusion. It keeps the sound waves from grouping. Y'see, when the sound waves, they propagate, then it's like an-"
Mary Jane: "You are such a nerd."

He's spent more time teaching her about sound waves than he has complimenting her performance and telling her what he liked about the play.

I don't really have a point to make here with that observation, but it's something to keep in mind as we watch Peter be a boyfriend for the first time in his life.

Over at the Osborn apartment, Harry is busy in the old Goblin hangar while the camera gives us a look at some old equipment, including a shiny, metallic Goblin mask. For those of you hoping that this foreshadows the arrival of a blinged-out Hobgoblin... prepare to be disappointed.

Actually, let's change the Green Goblin's colors around and see what a Raimi-verse Hobgoblin would have looked like.

Honestly, I really like that look.
But that doesn't mean this movie won't be giving us a Goblin. Harry emerges from a chamber like the one that created the Green Goblin... which raises so many unanswered questions.

The Green Goblin formula required Norman to be strapped down. It also stopped his heart, necessitating resuscitation. If this formula doesn't require any of that, than this must be some sort of improved formula and/or enhancement process. Did Norman develop it? If so, why? He already had super powers.

Did Harry develop it? If so... how? The guy was only getting through high school science because of Peter's help. We're just supposed to believe that Harry set this up somehow? Or that Norman set this up for pretty much no reason, since he already had super powers?

I'll believe that Norman could whip up a mask of Power Rangers's Elgar to disguise his identity in the first film. And I'll go ahead and buy that Norman whipped up a secret lair behind his mirror that we never saw until he was already dead. But this needs an explanation.

Maybe the original Green Goblin wanted to be even stronger, or maybe he was losing his powers. Maybe he wanted to turn Peter into Goblin Jr. before he discovered that the kid was Spider-Man. I don't know. More importantly, I don't care to speculate. I'm not the guy in charge of filling in plot holes. And if even if I were in charge of fixing the plot holes, I'm ten years late for the job, so I think I'm probably fired. No wonder I never got paid.

Anyway, the film cuts to Peter and MJ lying on a spider web in the middle of Central Park as meteors streak over their heads. All things considered, it's actually kind of weird how chill Mary Jane is with lying on a hammock made from her boyfriend's bodily secretions.

Yeah, if you think of Peter's organic webs as "bodily secretions," then this whole trilogy gets really gross to watch.
Why, here he is, secreting on his friend's dad!
And secreting on a train. Right in public, too.
In fact, just for fun, I'm going to be referring to his webslinging as "secreting" for the rest of this Recap. Let's see how long it takes before it gets too gross to continue! If I haven't reached that point already.

Mary Jane: "You know what? I'd like to sing onstage for the rest of my life. With you in the first row."
Peter Parker: "I'll be there."

They share some minor chemistry for a bit until the film decides to pan away for a second to show a small meteoroid impacting the ground. The space rock cracks open to reveal black, gooey extraterrestrial life that starts crawling along.

Hey, do you remember something J. Jonah Jameson said during Spider-Man 2?

Jameson: "Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. What are the odds?"

No. Screw that noise, JJJ.

A meteor containing a parasitic alien crashes to Earth right next to the world's only superhero. What are the odds?

Speaking of JJJ, from what I've read about earlier drafts of the film, his son, John, was originally to have brought back the alien parasite from space on one of his missions, like in Spider-Man: The Animated Series and The Spectacular Spider-Man.

Because no matter what, the symbiote's comic origin involving a cosmic contest between Earth's heroes and villains on Battleworld would be hard to adapt in the first fifteen minutes of this film.
Knowing that, I'm not sure why they ended up going with the less plausible option of having the symbiote randomly fall from space right next to Peter Parker.

I mean, at least this was slightly less random.
And so, Peter and MJ use Peter's secretions to hop down to the ground. As they leave the park for the night, the alien goo grabs on to Peter's license plate and hitches a ride on his moped.

Elsewhere in the streets of New York City, a fugitive from justice (Thomas Hayden Church) runs and hides from the police, eventually ending up outside the bedroom of a little girl with an oxygen tank. Like any intruder worth their salt, he comes in-tru-der window and leaves letters for the sleeping girl.

With that done, he changes his into his traditional comic book clothes and takes some bread shortly before the girl's mother finds him. This is Flint Marko. The woman is his wife. The girl is his daughter. The bread is his snack.

Flint Marko is a criminal, and one that his wife doesn't want around anymore.

Wife: "You maybe even killed a man?"
Flint Marko: "It wasn't like that."

Flint says that everything he did was for a good reason, said reason obviously being his little girl, who's now awake and happy to see her daddy. She even gives him a locket with her picture in it. But the reunion doesn't last for long, since Mrs. Marko wants her husband gone. And he obliges, leaving out-tru-der window.

Flint Marko: "I'm not a bad person. Just had bad luck."

Speaking of bad luck, we return to Peter Parker. Having dropped off Mary Jane at that place where she lives, Peter has swung by Aunt May's apartment and tells her the good news.

Peter Parker: "It's MJ. I'm gonna ask her to marry me."

May couldn't be happier. She invites her nephew in to have some tea and hear some stories about how Ben proposed to her all those years ago. Surprisingly enough, she actually turned him down.

Aunt May: "I wanted to say yes, but I said no. I wasn't ready. And neither was he."

And May makes a good point. Marriage is a huge commitment.

Whether man or woman, you're pledging yourself to another human being.

No solitude. No secrets. So you better be darn well sure you picked a person who, for lack of a better term, completes you. A person who, all things considered, counts as a part of yourself rather than part of the rest of the world. A person you can provide for without hesitation.

Aunt May: "A man has to be understanding and put his wife before himself. Can you do that, Peter?"
Peter Parker: "Yeah. I think I can."
Aunt May: "Then you have my blessing."

And with that, she starts talking about how Peter better have some kind of amazing proposal in mind. Ben took May to the beach, where they swam to an island, looked at the sky for a bit, and then he whipped out a beautiful ring. The same ring May gives to Peter for Mary Jane.

That guy who put the "layaway available" sign in the window is going to be disappointed.
After hugging May goodbye, Peter rides home on his moped. And it's sure to be an uneventful drive, since Peter has that spider-sense to warn him of danger. Remember the last movie, when Peter jumped off his bike to avoid the bad guys speeding through the streets?

So clearly, nothing can possibly fly down from the sky and snatch him up.

Except that this is exactly what happens.

Peter is abducted by an armored man riding a rocket-snowboard. And it's quite clearly a snowboard. Either the prop department gussied up an actual snowboard into a "glider," or they worked very hard to make it resemble a snowboard.

Because it is quite simply a freaking snowboard.
Seriously, why does he have a snowboard? Was this some sort of weird joke about the Silver Surfer, or did somebody think that the audience wouldn't notice that his glider was just a gussied-up snowboard?

Anyway, the masked assailant beats Peter up in midair before knocking him into a wall. As Peter regains his senses, his assailant removes his high-tech ski mask to reveal the face of Harry Osborn.

Harry Osborn: "You knew this was coming, Pete."

"No, actually, I didn't. Where did you get all that stuff?"
"...I don't know."
So Peter finally starts trying to explain what happened in detail.

Peter Parker: "He was trying to kill me. He killed himself!"

But Harry didn't get all gussied up in his supervillain clothes to have a chat, so the fight continues.

Now, one of the complaints some people have regarding this movie is the lack of action. In fact, the original cut had even less action according to James Franco, so they added more action in during reshoots. So I hate to simply gloss over one of the relatively few action scenes, since it is exciting and well-made... but that's exactly what I'm going to do, since there’s already so much that warrants talking about in detail.

Peter drops the ring during the fight, but manages to snatch it out of midair with his secretions. The fight escalates to include pumpkin bombs, razor bats, and some kind of glowy katana. Which Harry has because of reasons.

Peter manages to knock Harry off his snowboard, and he bonks his head into a metal pipe before crashing to the ground. Unlike all the similar injuries Peter took, this one seems to be special, since Harry's not getting up. Peter attempts CPR and we soon cut to Harry in the hospital, getting defibrillated.

Okay, so... did no one in that hospital wonder why this guy was wearing tactical gear and carrying sci-fi weapons when he was brought in? Or did Peter take the time to undress him? Because I think that would also raise some valid questions.

Either way, we cut to Police Captain George Stacy (James Cromwell) receiving news that Flint Marko, who was involved in the Ben Parker murder, is on the run. And then we cut to Flint Marko on-the-running across grassy marshlands with dogs and cops in pursuit. Ignoring a nearby warning sign, he punches a police dog and hops a chain link fence. Once on the other side, Flint stumbles into a concrete pit containing sand, where SCIENCE is about to happen. What are the odds?

In some kind of nearby science bunker, some kind of scientists are hard at work wearing lab coats, carrying clipboards, and looking at machines. The three founding principles of science.

Technician: "There's a change in the silicon mass."
Other Technician: "It's probably a bird. It'll fly away."

Okay, look, everyone and their grandma has criticized this part.

"If they can see the change in mass, how do they not know that the additional mass is human-sized?"

"Why don't they actually check?"

I'm sure you've heard the complaints.

I would like to add "Why isn't their testing facility set up indoors to prevent birds or people from dropping in on their little radiation experiment?" As well as "What are they hoping to discover here without adequate observational equipment set up to actually monitor anything?" Or even "Why don't they have better perimeter security?" You can't expect people to read the sign and stay out. All it takes is one Rick Jones to ignore the sign and go in there like an idiot. And that's how you get Hulks.

But these unknown scientists are going ahead with their unknown experiment, which involves spinning lights and... things. I have no idea what the heck is going on, and quite frankly, I don’t think the movie does, either.

There's this thing. It spins.
Flint tries to escape the spinning SCIENCE, but the spinny-spinny seems to be generating a force field of some kind, keeping him in the middle of the sand pile.

In the comics, Flint Marko was basically hit by a nuke while on a beach. But this was 2007, and people had a better idea of what nuclear bombs were theoretically capable of. Not to mention the fact that we don’t do random nuclear tests on beaches in New York. So this film has decided to be as vague as possible instead with what's actually going on. All that we know is that there's some kind of energy involved, and his cells are getting hit with tiny sand crystals, thus becoming sand. Meaning that by the time the cops come along, all they find is a slightly bigger pile of sand than was already there.

What I find odd is that one of the scientists says "Initiating demolecularization" before hitting the "on" switch.

Nothing was actually demolecularized. Flint Marko was merely turned into sand particles, which are much bigger than molecules. And they didn't even know that Flint was there, meaning that the stuff they were apparently trying to turn into separate molecules (the sand) wasn't even affected. Their demolecularizer is a complete failure at demolecularizing. So I guess it's back to the drawing board. And who exactly is funding this experiment? Does the public know about this? Were there protests akin to the activation of the Large Hadron Collider regarding a device to reduce mass to individual particles? Was... right, right, I'm not here to fill in plot holes.

Back in the hospital, Harry has recovered. Mostly. As the doctor tells Peter, Harry has lost some of his short-term memory… as well as anything that happened since the beginning of the first film, as we’ll see. So much for "short-term," I guess.

Peter visits Harry and it's like they're back in high school again. James Franco is back doing what he does best: being a smiling doofus. He really doesn't remember much of anything. Certainly not anything pertaining to his dad's death, Peter, or Spider-Man.

Mary Jane shows up to see him and he's all smiles again, though. But the nurse has to ask MJ and Peter to leave so Harry can rest. They do, and the nurse tells Harry how lucky he is to have such good friends.

Harry Osborn: "My best friends."

"All three of them."
Harry Osborn: "I'd give my life for them."

Did you hear that? That was the sound of foreshadowing hitting the ground with the force of a small meteor crashing into the park.

And now, we come to the most beautiful scene in the movie.

The sun rises over the pit of flowing sand. Slowly, individual grains find the willpower to move, flow, and form the shape of a man. The mass tries to lift itself, but merely crumbles under its own weight before reforming. The shape of what was once Flint Marko sits up and takes a weary breath before truly looking at itself and realizing what it has become.

A Sandman.
A few feet away, Flint Marko's locket lies discarded. He reaches for it, but the grains of his hand fall away as he tries to drag it nearer. Again he tries, this time carefully crafting fingers to gingerly grasp the metal chain. With the locket in his hand, he takes a moment to remember what it is that lives for. And fights for. And now he has the power to fight harder than ever for his daughter.

With more willpower than one man could conceivably have, he draws together enough sand to sand up. And with his body reformed, he begins to turn back into Flint Marko as he walks off to begin his new life.

This.

Is.

Beautiful.

No crazy Goblin mirror antics, no weird Doc Ock monologue, but a silent scene where we watch a man mourn the loss of his humanity and rediscover his purpose.

Honestly, this scene is so good that it reminds me of Ang Lee's Hulk.

And yes, that wasn't a masterpiece of a film by any stretch of the imagination, but the birth of the Absorbing Man features my favorite special effect ever, where he slowly moves his hand through a steel beam.

No, really, the attention to detail is phenomenal.
Because of the more-complicated special effects here, this scene might not look as realistic as that one. But it more than makes up for the lack of realism in the effects with how much raw emotion is poured into the scene. Everything from the acting to the music sells this scene and turns it into probably the most emotionally powerful scene in the entire trilogy. No, in any Spider-Man film. Ever.

(Note: As of the time of writing, Spider-Man: Homecoming has not yet hit theatres. I am fully prepared to eat my words, should the need arise.)

Over at Peter's apartment, Peter looks over the dinner reservation he made as well as his aunt's ring, no doubt looking forward to a magical night. Mary Jane knocks on the stuck door, so Peter quickly puts the ring in that little pocket of his jeans that nobody knows what it's for. You know the pocket. Then he lets her in. She's quite upset, since the reviews of her show are in and the general consensus is that she was terrible.

Mary Jane: "They hated me."
Peter Parker: "Well, they can't hate you."

It is pretty unfair to hate a human being simply because one dislikes a performance of theirs... and yet, that happens all the time. Just ask Hayden Christiansen. Luckily, the newspaper seems to be nicer than YouTube comments.

"The young Miss Watson is a pretty girl. Easy on the eyes, but not the ears. Her small voice didn't carry past the first row."

Not that Peter's having any of it.

Peter Parker: "That's ridiculous. I was right there."
Mary Jane: "You were in the first row."
Peter Parker: "Yeah, this... listen. You were great."

Yeah. She was. She was great.

But even apart from what we saw, there is no way that voice of hers didn't carry past the first row. Not because of how great she may or may not have been, but because Broadway uses these things called "microphones," whether on the actors' bodies or hanging from above. If the audience couldn't hear Mary Jane, that sounds to me like the sound guy should be in trouble.

And problems like this are usually fixed long before opening night. In fact, that's what preview periods are for: Making sure the audience can hear the singers and making sure your stuntmen don't injure themselves while swinging around the auditorium.

But the Spider-Man franchise learned what a preview period was by 2010. See, there's an unwritten agreement in Broadway that critics don't formally review a show until it officially opens, even if they see the show during a preview period. This way, the production can iron out all the wrinkles before show time, and potential audience members aren't scared away by early troubles. Apparently, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark attempted to get around this by extending the preview period again and again, and the critics got wise to the trick.

I bring this up because this movie seems to unintentionally imply that either this critic is nitpicking one thing that happened during one performance... or Mary Jane Watson's mic has been improperly set up for the entirety of the preview period and the sound department never got around to fixing it.

Peter Parker: "That's a critic. This is something you're gonna have to get used to."

Mmmm… too easy.

Peter Parker: "Believe me, I know. Spider-Man gets attacked all the time."
Mary Jane: "This isn't about you. This is about me. It's about my career."

Fair point, Peter. Don't make this all about you.

True story: This scene can actually teach you how to be a good boyfriend/girlfriend.

Lesson 1: See what Peter did by talking about his own problems when Mary Jane brought hers up?
Don't do that. Don’t make other people’s problems all about you.

Lesson 2: Peter's encouragement?
Don't do that. ...Not like Peter, at least.

Mary Jane doesn't want Peter to "fix" her problem. She needs emotional support, and all Peter can do is talk about himself and tell her to suck it up because these things happen.

I bring this up because this shows that Peter Parker is not putting Mary Jane before himself. Not that he isn't trying, but because he's apparently unable to view the world in terms that don't involve him in it.

Mary Jane: "This isn't about you. This is about me. It's about my career."
Peter Parker: "I know, and I'm just saying, you can't let it... you can't let it bring you down. You just gotta believe in yourself, and pull yourself together..."

Literally, in some cases.
Peter Parker: "...you get right back on the horse, and-" 
Mary Jane: "Don't give me the horse thing."

"This isn't about Seabiscuit, either, Peter."
But don't get me wrong; I'm not criticizing the direction of the character. I want to point out that Peter is supposed to be a flawed, somewhat self-absorbed hero at this point as a counterpoint to the Sandman, a criminal who's motivated by selflessness.

Unfortunately, Mary Jane doesn't need a flawed hero. She needs someone to be there for her.

Mary Jane: "I look at these words... and it's like my father wrote them."

Whoa. We're getting pretty deep here, bringing in her emotional trauma at the hands of a verbally abusive parent. This is the cue for Peter to sit down, put his arm around her, and help her find her way through the utter demolition of everything she's worked her butt off for. Unfortunately, this never happens, because Peter's police scanner goes off.

It sucks, but Spider-Man is needed. And what Mary Jane needs to know right now is that Peter will be thinking about her and her struggles while he's out there. To know that the person closest to her cares about her and will help her through this.

Peter Parker: "...'Go get 'em, Tiger'?"

So much for that, then.

Spidey swings away on his secretions and MJ leaves, just narrowly avoiding seeing the black alien goo crawl around the room.

Coming up in Part 2! Three-to-four plots fight for screen time! Which one will emerge victorious?

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, Marvel should honor Mr Cooper somehow. And yet, the best thing I can think is that Carlie Cooper's sounds like female variant of his name.

    ...I would like to apologise for Marvel, Mr Cooper.

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    Replies
    1. I think it'd be nice if they honored him somehow. I mean, every single version of the Marvel Studios intro takes cues from the original page-flip version.

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