Super Movie Monday – The Amazing Spider-Man, Part 3

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Continuing our look back at The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot of the Spider-Man series directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Two-thirds of the way through, the movie is a mixed bag. The attempt to update Peter Parker as a skateboarding slacker feels odd, but I think there are a lot of things that work about it. Garfield has great chemistry with Stone as Gwen Stacy. Martin Sheen and Sally Field make a pretty decent Uncle Ben and Aunt May. The costume is not classic Spider-Man, but it works okay.

On the other hand, the attempts at visual flash don’t always work well. The dark lighting makes some of the action hard to follow. It’s interesting that they’ve dug deeper into Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery for this film’s villain, but so far, the Lizard has only been barely glimpsed and we haven’t seen what his endgame is.

However, that’s about to change now that Dr. Connors knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

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The Lizard bursts up through the floor into the school bathroom. Peter changes into Spider-Man and fights the Lizard through the halls of the school. The fight is not bad, with Spider-Man having to try increasingly desperate gambits to try to stop a villain who is essentially a scaly Hulk with claws. Detachable tail optional.

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We also get one of the funniest Stan Lee cameos ever, with Lee playing a man so lost in appreciation of fine music that he doesn’t notice the battle raging right behind him.

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But even though there are several entertaining bits in the battle, like Peter telling Gwen he’s going to throw her out the window right before he throws her out the window, overall the fight is underwhelming. The Lizard is a bit one-note as a villain, and though Peter is clever and inventive, the emphasis on Peter’s fast reflexes makes the rhythm off-kilter.

The Lizard disappears as soon as he hears police sirens approaching, making the entire episode kind of pointless. It seemed like he was there to kill Spider-Man, but he takes off without a word, even though nothing Spider-Man did seemed to hurt him.

Peter follows him into the sewers and calls Gwen to ask her to make an antidote to the serum at Oscorp. Not long after, he finds the Lizard’s secret lab, where he has helpfully left an animated graphic looping on a computer monitor illustrating his plan to use the MacGuffin device introduced earlier in the movie to dose the entire city with Lizard serum. Kind of a double danger signal. Not only is this obviously a blatant ploy to get the plot moving, but it’s kind of a stupid plot. The Lizard can only stay a lizard for a few hours at a time. Dosing the city with the serum might cause pandemonium, but it will be a very a short-lived pandemonium.

So the Lizard sets out for Oscorp with Spider-Man on his tail (heh), but the cops attack Spidey and zap him with some kind of taser dart that puts him down for the count.

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Captain Stacy rips off his mask, and though Peter tries to keep his face hidden as he fights his way free, the Captain discovers his secret. Peter tells him that Gwen is in danger, and Captain Stacy lets him go, but another cop shoots Peter in the leg.

Meanwhile, Gwen has ignored Peter’s phoned plea to escape, because the antidote only has a few minutes left before it’s ready. The Lizard bursts into the lab, seeking the dispersal device, which Gwen is hiding with. The Lizard sniffs her out with his tongue and takes the device, but doesn’t bother hurting her.

Peter’s leg wound is really hurting, and it looks like he might not make it in time. But it turns out that the guy whose son he saved on the Williamsburg Bridge is a crane operator, and he calls all the other crane operators on Sixth Avenue and has them line up their crane arms so Spider-Man will have a clear path.

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This scene comes in for a lot of ridicule, and I can see why. I see what they were going for, wanting something like that heartwarming moment where the crowd takes Spider-Man’s side against Green Goblin in the first Raimi film, but there are a bunch of small sillinesses all adding up to a big ridiculousness.

First, there’s the idea that Spider-Man even needs the cranes at all, when we’ve clearly seen that he has no problem swinging from building to building. Then there’s the fact that this one guy can easily get all these guys to ignore an evacuation order. Then there’s the fact that there are like six or seven cranes more or less evenly spaced along this small stretch of street. Then there’s the fact that Spider-Man sprays a web bandage over his bullet wound and suddenly he’s fine again with barely a limp after two or three steps.

Captain Stacy reaches the Oscorp building and meets Gwen coming out with the antidote. He tells Gwen he knows Peter’s secret and she gives him the antidote for Peter to use on the Lizard.

Upstairs, Peter fights his final battle against the Lizard, but Connors is just too big and strong and invulnerable. Until Captain Stacy appears and uses a shotgun to shoot a canister of liquid nitrogen, which weakens the Lizard’s cold-blooded metabolism and also makes his body brittle and easily shattered. The Lizard is on the ropes.

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Captain Stacy gives Peter the antidote, but instead of injecting Connors with it, Peter decides to put it in the dispersal device. Meanwhile, the suspiciously large number of liquid nitrogen canisters on the roof (exactly why do they need so much liquid nitrogen up there, anyway? To supercool their cellular phone tower or something?) runs out and the Lizard is able to regenerate his shattered limbs and kill Captain Stacy.

He leaps up to stop Peter from disabling his device, but Peter is able to switch out the antidote at the last moment, and we can see the horror in Dr. Connor’s eyes as he begins to change back to human.

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There’s a little bit of random destruction, and Dr. Connors saves Peter from falling to his death. Captain Stacy dies from his wounds, but not before making Peter promise to stay away from Gwen for her safety, which makes for a dour last few minutes, until in the last moments, Peter implies that he has no intention of keeping that promise. Happy ending, I guess!

So I come out of the movie feeling definitely ambivalent. There are a lot of things the film does well, and I do really like the different interpretation that Andrew Garfield brings to the role. But as they say, a movie is only as good as its villain, and the Lizard ends up being one-note and kind of boring. Also, the movie’s strongest dramatic moments are in the early parts and the middle, where we see Peter working out his anger and see the chemistry develop between Peter and Gwen. Once the action starts, it seems to get progressively duller.

But it does get the iconic Spider-Man poses right. So a mixed success, I’d say. Very flawed but watchable. I’m almost afraid to revisit the sequel now, considering how much vilification it gets now. I guess we’ll see, although it might not be next week. I have a vacation coming up.

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Super Movie Monday – The Amazing Spider-Man, Part 2

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Continuing our in-depth recap of Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot of Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. When we left off, Peter Parker had learned two things: that his spider-enhanced abilities gave him a unique ability to get justice (or revenge) on the man who killed his Uncle Ben, and that it might be a good idea to cover his face during his nightly escapades.

At first, he goes out in normal street clothes with a mask he has designed with lenses that cover his eyes.

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Over time, Spider-Man begins to develop a reputation as a vigilante, getting onto the radar of Police Captain Stacy (Gwen’s father, played by Denis Leary) once he starts delivering webbed-up criminals directly to police headquarters. At school, Gwen Stacy also notices Peter’s knuckles are scraped like hes been fighting.

Then he starts getting more creative, ordering a racing suit worn by lugers (this film’s apparent explanation for the whole costume bit is barely hinted at sideways in a scene where a couple of nerds talk about the speed at which a pendulum swings being determined in part by wind resistance, hence the luge suit), and silk-screening a spider emblem onto it. The other, more controversial thing he does is mail-order a bunch of Oscorp Biocable (the stuff being produced by the spiders in the lab, including the one that bit him), hundreds of miles of spider-silk in tiny canisters. Peter designs a special wrist-worn web-shooter that enables him to deploy it quickly and precisely, after a couple of false starts.

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While I appreciate the full-circle-ness of Peter perfecting a product originally developed by his father (who bred the spiders), it opens up so many questions in terms of both the police and Oscorp potentially being able to track down Spider-Man once they realize he’s using Oscorp Biocable. The questions are never really addressed, except in one throwaway line where Dr. Connors later recognizes the webbing as an Oscorp product.

Finally, once the costume is completely finished, Peter catches a car thief in a scene which contains so many things which I like and dislike almost in equal measure. The good: I like Peter’s cockiness and sense of humor. One thing the Raimi films never quite nailed was Spider-Man’s tendency to wisecrack in costume. Tobey Maguire tries, but even when he’s cracking wise, he just sounds so Magiure-ly earnest and soft-spoken. Garfield nails the attitude, even when the lines he’s saying are kind of stupid (yelling “CROTCH!” before leaping up and wrapping his legs around the crook’s head, for instance).

I kind of like Spidey’s weirdly angular body language in this, but also kind of hate it. It gives him a strangeness factor that really works in moments like the one when he has the crook trapped and then moves in to check for the tattoo. But other times, you just want to smack him and say “stand up straight!”

The bad: in their efforts to make Spider-Man come off as cool and super, they have him appear and disappear in ways that are physically impossible unless he can literally dematerialize and walk through walls. Also, the editing of theaction is too fast and off-rhythm. I get that they’re trying to emphasize his freaky-fast speed and reflexes, but the dark lighting and the spotty editing frustrate me more than excite me.

All that said, the close-up when Spidey goes quiet and we move in on that eyeless face is genuinely a little disturbing. This is the effect that Batman is always trying to achieve on-screen, and never quite hitting, mainly because you can see his eyes.

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The cops show up and try to arrest Spider-Man, so he has to flee. But the cops are nothing next to Aunt May, who is waiting up when he gets home and is horrified to see his banged-up face. I’m not a huge fan of Sally Field, but she plays Aunt May’s horror and frustration at what Peter is doing to himself really well here.

Back at Oscorp, Dr. Connors’s boss is impressed by the rat’s regrown leg and wants to try the serum out on humans.  He proposes giving “vitamin supplement” shots to veterans. Connors refuses, and the boss tells him he’s fired, since the corporation owns the serum anyway. Connors panics, injects himself with his own serum and passes out, Dr. Jekyll style.  At school,Gwen asks Peter to dinner at her house.

Later, Dr. Connors awakes with a new, not-quite-fully-finished arm.

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At Gwen’s place, Peter has dinner with her, her parents and her brothers. Captain Stacy starts talking about how this spider-vigilante is an amateur and a menace who needs to be taken off the streets. Peter disagrees and an argument starts that Gwen defuses by taking Peter to the roof where he demonstrates his secret to her by webbing her butt and yanking her into his arms.

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But they are interrupted, first by Gwen’s mom, and then by sirens. Turns out that Dr. Connors, in trying to catch his boss who is on his way to a veteran’s hospital, has turned into a giant lizard-man and is terrorizing the Williamsburg Bridge.

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Peter uses his webs to stop several cars from plunging into the water and then saves a young boy who is trapped in one of the cars. It’s a good scene in which Peter takes off his mask to establish a rapport with the boy and also in which Peter realizes that there’s more he can do with his powers than just hunt down the guy who shot Uncle Ben (who is still not caught and will be forgotten from now on).

Peter goes to visit Dr. Connors (who is now human and one-armed again) to see if he can help figure out how to stop the Lizard (Connors apparently managed to kill his boss before he could turn in that ‘Dr. Connors is fired’ paperwork). Peter starts to suspect something is wrong because one, Connors is acting super-sketchy, two, he has a weird scaly patch of skin on his neck, and three, Freddie the rat has turned into a super-strong lizard Muto-Rat who has broken out of his cage, killed and eaten his fellow rats.

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Connors heads down to build a secret lab in the sewer. Peter goes to Captain Stacy to report Dr. Connors, but he sounds like a crazy man because it’s a crazy story. As he’s leaving the station, Peter sees lizards heading into a sewer grate, so he goes down into the sewer in costume and spins a web. His plan is to catch photos of the Lizard with a camera he has rigged to shoot when the web is tripped. He is discovered by the Lizard, and the two fight. Spider-Man barely escapes with his life.

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Peter goes to Gwen’s to get help with his wounds. The Lizard discovers the automatic camera with “Property of Peter Parker” on the back. He now knows Spider-Man’s secret identity. That’s not good.

Got to say, so far, I kind of like the reboot. There are things I miss about Sam Raimi’s version, but there are things I think this version actually does better.  If this movie can stick the landing, it will be a respectable contender.

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New Video Posted: Superman/Batman Criss-Cross

So the latest video is up. I have been trying to keep a buffer of between one and two weeks between the time I finish the video and the time it goes up on Youtube. However, this latest video ate up all that buffer.

Part of the problem is just that it was so long, around twice as long as my shortest videos, so it took longer to edit together. Also, there’s just a lot more subject to cover, so I had to gather a lot of reference material.

But there were two reasons above all why it took so long. First, I decided to ask my work buddy Sam Carrico, who also has a Youtube channel (and whose youthful enthusiasm for his led me to take mine up again), to interview some of his friends on camera to illustrate the point I wanted to make, and having just started school again, it took him a while to find the time to do it. And once I got the footage from him, it was a completely different kind of challenge to find a way to boil almost 20 minutes of interviews into a minute-and-a-half of comprehensible information. I think it works really well in the finished video, but it took a lot of work.

And second, I decided to add animation to the videos. I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but finally found a way I could afford that could give good results. I had considered springing for the $20-a-month Adobe After Effects subscription, but then I discovered that Blackmagic (the company that makes the awesome free editor I use, Davinci Resolve) also had a video compositing/special effects program called Fusion.

Learning Fusion from scratch was its own special kind of hell, but I ended up making six different animated bits, from a simple custom transition to a fairly elaborate (for a beginner, at least) main title animation. I’m really happy with the results, but once again, a lot of extra work.

So here’s the video, which features the phrase “Trump in a cape” not once, but twice. I hope you enjoy it. I don’t know what I’m doing for next week. I know what video I want to make, but I don’t want to rush it too much, and I really want that buffer back. We’ll see.

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Monday Cancelled on Tuesday

So it’s Tuesday, and I missed updating Super Movie Monday yesterday. I tweeted that it would probably be going up today, but there’s just no way. I didn’t think my ambitions for this Friday’s “Hero Go Home Presents…” video were too high, but I WAY underestimated the amount of work needed to make this thing. When you see it, I hope you understand. Interviews, animations, custom wipes: I’m throwing the kitchen sink at this thing trying to bring it up to a fairly professional level. I’m not planning on making anything else quite this elaborate for a while, but it’s a great learning experience. However, it is also crowding out the considerable amount of time I need to do screen grabs and write Super Movie Monday. So with luck, I’ll be done editing the video tomorrow, and I can get Super Movie Monday back on track by next Monday. Thanks for your understanding.

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New Video Posted: The Superman Continuum

Hey guys, guess what? It’s a new video to close out my unofficial Superman month on the Youtube channel. This time, I’m addressing the idea that many of the things people know about Superman originated not in the comics, but in other media, and that most of the media depictions of Superman are based on three basic sources.

Hope you enjoy it. Next week, we’ll be talking about Superman and Batman, and there will be some enhancements that I hope you’ll like. Working hard on improving these videos every time until I get a really professional-looking product.

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Super Movie Monday – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Part 1

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Five years after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 came out to critical and fan disdain, Sony decided to release a new Spider-Man film. It’s easy to understand why they would take such a step; despite its critical drubbing, Spider-Man 3 made a pile of money. But they broke away from the Raimi/Maguire films and rebooted, in part because Raimi said he couldn’t deliver a satisfying number four on their deadline. I’m thinking it’s also because they were looking at marketing research numbers and wanted to skew a little younger.

Which makes sense because time was taking its toll. At the time that The Amazing Spider-Man came out, Tobey Maguire was on the wrong side of 35, not great for a character whose major appeal is his youth. So no matter how much loyalists loved him in the role and some still cry for a Tobey comeback,  Tobey Maguire (now over 40) will not be playing Peter Parker again unless they do a Spider-Man Beyond, with Maguire as a grizzled old Parker coaching a kid to take over the mantle of Spider-Man.

So they brought in director Marc Webb, a music video director who had done just one feature previously, with a new script from a story written by James Vanderbilt (who had also been one of the screenwriters of the aborted Spider-Man 4 movie). Alvin Sargent, credited screenwriter for Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 and 3, also got a screenplay credit, as did Steve Kloves, who had just spent apparently half a lifetime writing scripts for ALL SEVEN Harry Potter films.

At first, it’s hard to tell just what’s supposed to be different, as the opening credits feature the same sort of 3-D animated flybys of spider webs that opened all three Raimi films. But then things take a decidedly different turn.

We see young Peter playing hide-and-seek with his dad (and in a nice bit of foreshadowing of this film’s villain, we see a toy dinosaur on the coffee table in the background of one shot). Peter discovers that his dad’s office has been broken into, which freaks Dad out so much that he grabs Mom and Peter (and an official-looking file that he stuffs into his briefcase) and flees the house, leaving Peter with Uncle Ben and Aunt May before disappearing into the night.

Fast-forward to now, with Peter Parker now a teenager (played by a decidedly non-teenage Andrew Garfield, almost 30 when the movie came out).

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Peter is a skateboarding slacker, shy with girls, but not afraid to be brave when the situation demands it. When he sees mean jock Flash Thompson picking on a smaller kid, Peter draws Thompson’s ire onto himself by committing the unspeakable sin of using Flash’s given name, Eugene.

Flash beats Peter prettily mercilessly, until he is saved by the arrival of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who is tutoring Flash after school.

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She saves him, get it? It’s like backwards and feminist and shit. Gwen talks Flash down. He’s obviously intimidated by her, not just because she’s smart and pretty, but because (although it’s never mentioned in the film) she holds his sports eligibility in the palm of her hand. Later in class, Gwen flirts with Peter a little, which Peter thinks is cool, because he has been staring at her from afar (and taking pictures, which is jest a little stalkery).

After school, Peter returns home to Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and they have gone a little star-crazy on the casting with Martin Sheen and Sally Field, although I don’t mind that they’ve made Aunt May look a little younger. It may not be comics accurate, but I always thought the comic book Aunt May (and Rosemary Harris in the Raimi movies, as much as I love her) looked more like Peter’s grandmother than his aunt (then again, this is apparently based more on the comic book Ultimate Spider-Man, which I never read, so…).

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Peter manages to deflect their concern about his facial bruises with some help from a timely basement flood. In the process of rescuing stuff from the water, Peter finds his father’s briefcase, which includes this ominous security badge.

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So Peter’s dad wasn’t just some random office schlub, but a genetics researcher at Oscorp. And we know what species he was working on, because we saw a spider mounted under glass on his desk in the first scene. Also, Peter finds that secret file we saw his father shove into the briefcase earlier, hidden behind the lining of one section of the case.

Urgh, so many mixed feelings. On the one hand, I like the fact that we’re actually talking about Peter’s parents, who have been mostly treated as if they never existed over the course of the Spider-Man series (comics and movies). But on the other hand, I always side-eye attempts in the movies to tie everything together.

Uncle Ben comes in later to tell Peter that his father’s former co-worker, Dr. Curt Connors, might have some information on why Peter’s father left so suddenly. To the Internet! Peter learns that Connors is researching cross-species genetics, trying to eliminate all human weakness to create a master race, because that never goes wrong.

Peter goes to visit the Oscorp offices, featuring a giant holographic portrait of “Our Founder” Norman Osborn with the face almost completely in shadow which is not just the most sinister thing ever.

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Who would ever want to work here if they have to walk past that every day? They must have a great health plan, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, Peter is mistaken for an intern and is able to infiltrate a tour group led by… Gwen Stacy, which seems awfully convenient. Gwen is smart and all, but a high school student as the “head intern” on a cutting-edge science project? Wouldn’t that go to a college student, and even more, like a college senior rather than a high schooler? But it does let us meet Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), whose interest in Gwen may not be entirely about her brain, if you know what I mean. I mean, the script never goes there, but there’s a vibe in this first scene. Oh, and he only has one arm.

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Peter sneaks away from the tour group almost immediately after seeing a sketchy corporate dude with a file that bears the same special characters–Ø Ø–as the file in Peter’s father’s briefcase.

Which leads him to the “Biocable Development Unit” and this creepy room full of hundreds of spiders.

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While Peter is in the spider room, Sketchy Dude meets with Curt Connors and we learn that the secret purpose of the entire project is to save Norman Osborn from some unspecified medical condition. And time is apparently running out, because old Norman is in his last stages. Awfully convenient timing, given that the project was apparently started back before Peter’s dad left, and Dr. Connors has apparently never figured out the formula that Peter’s dad stole away in the ten-plus intervening years. How has this incompetent hack managed to keep his job all this time? Was he just a quota hire to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Back in the spider room, Peter stupidly twangs a web, which sets off an alarm and causes a dozen or more spiders to fall on him. He brushes them off and flees the lab before he’s caught, but he runs into Gwen on his way out, just in time to get bitten by one last spider he missed. His fake intern badge is confiscated and he is ejected from the building. He takes the subway home, and the spider bite is already affecting him. His senses and reflexes are heightened, and his hands randomly stick to things, like the shirt he rips off a pretty woman, leading to a fight with five or six dudes (the editing in the action scenes is often confusing) who all end up on the floor.

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The fight is actually pretty funny, with Peter constantly apologizing as his reflexes and strength act almost without his conscious control. This continues the next morning as he accidentally destroys the bathroom in the process of brushing his teeth (echoing a similar scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is not a movie you should be reminding people of, just saying). He ends up holed up in his room, flinching at every random noise, realizing this all came about because of that spider bite.

To the Internet! He researches spiders and spider bites, until he has to stop because his keyboard keys are all stuck to his fingers. Instead, he visits Dr. Connors at his home, where he finds out that Richard Parker (his father) is the one who bred the super-spiders.

Back at school, Flash Thompson is picking on another innocent victim when Peter decides to intervene. Only this time, Peter isn’t helpless, so he hits Flash where it hurts, by out-basketballing him in front of all his teammates and then knocking him down as he’s driving to the hole. This white man CAN jump.

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He shatters the backboard, and once again, the movie loses all credibility. Because instead of immediately being recruited for the basketball team, Peter is instead sent to the principal’s office, where he has to deal with a furious Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben tells him he has to pick up Aunt May that night.

Peter and Gwen have a cute moment where he kinda-sorta asks her out in a someday-maybe sort of way. Then he goes skateboarding and has a quick training montage where he learns to use his powers more fully. Then he is with Dr. Connors, where he gives him the formula that Peter’s dad apparently died to keep away from him. Way to go, Peter.

They test the formula on a computer-simulated rat, and it works perfectly in helping the three-legged virtual rat regrow its virtual missing limb, because no matter all the lip service about curing Norman Osborn’s Macguffinitis, we know it’s really about Dr. Connors’s missing arm. So they mix up the formula and give it to a real rat to see what happens.

Peter returns home to an even more furious Uncle Ben, because Peter forgot to pick up Aunt May. Wait, all that stuff happened on the same day? Uncle Ben chews out Peter and Peter blows right back up at him, where we learn the extent of the anger Peter usually keeps bottled up at his parents for abandoning him.

And this scene I love, because it’s raw and honest and gives Peter a reason to eventually go out and beat up on people. One place where the first Raimi Spider-Man stumbled was depicting the transition from shy, bookish Peter to masked-man-who-beats-up-on-criminals. We saw why he could do it with the guy who shot Uncle Ben, but why keep doing it? We get that here, and Garfield plays the hell out of it.

Oh, and speaking of Uncle Ben getting shot…

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Peter runs out of the house after the argument. Instead of the classic comics tale of Peter entering a contest to stay in the ring with a professional wrestler, Peter goes to a convenience store, where he gets in an argument with the cashier over the Take-a-Penny-Leave-a-Penny bin. It’s ridiculously petty, so you can understand Peter not caring much when the store gets robbed.

But then the crook runs into Uncle Ben, searching for Peter, and Uncle Ben is shot. While I kind of like the new version of Peter’s letting the thief get away, the way the shooting is staged isn’t as effective.

Peter is grief-stricken, so full of guilt and rage that even Flash Thompson feels sorry for him, which is a nice moment for his otherwise really one-note character. Peter has a copy of the police sketch of the crook, plus a description of the star tattoo on his wrist. One night as he’s walking down the street, he sees a girl in an alley arguing with a guy who might be the guy. So Peter goes up and starts punching him, which is when the dude’s friends come out to play.

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There’s a quick frantic battle between Peter, who at this point is just trying to get away in one piece, and all of these guys who seem to be almost as fast as he is, because no matter what wall he scales or how far he jumps, there always seems to be a guy or two right on his tail. The action choreography and editing are not top-notch in this movie, is my point.

Finally Peter manages to isolate the first guy on a rooftop and realize he doesn’t have the star tattoo. Then he falls through a roof and we finally get the pro-wrestling callback we didn’t have earlier in his origin story. As the gang members are yelling that they know his face, Peter looks up and sees this.

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So now Peter Parker must become El Hombre Araña!

Be here next week to see him in an Amazing Grudge Match in Part 2 of our recap.

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New Video Posted: A Sinister Theory

New Hero Go Home Presents… video posted to my Youtube channel today, Superman Returns: A Sinister Theory. This is the third entry in my unofficial Superman month of videos. Next week will be something I call The Superman Continuum, and then we’re off of Superman (slightly) for a video I’m currently calling Superman/Batman: Criss-Cross.

Why all the Superman stuff all at once? Two reasons. Number one, I figured that with Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year and Justice League on its way that Superman might draw some attention to the channel. And second, doing a lot of Superman videos all at once might save me a little work, by letting me reuse clips from one video in one or two others (which has happened, although I don’t know how much work it actually saved).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please share.

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Super Movie Monday – Spider-Man 3, Part 3

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Wrapping up our three-part in-depth look at Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. When we left off, Peter and Harry had just had a knock-down, drag-out fight which ended with Harry blowed up real good with his own grenade.

And as I said last time, the movie is surprisingly not horrible at this point. The Uncle Ben retcon is horrible and unnecessary, Mary Jane has spent the movie being insipid, and there are so many sub-plots that none of them get fleshed out beyond nodding toward cliches.

But Peter and Harry have an interesting dynamic, the special effects are good, and the emotional baseline of the story works pretty well. And the next scene is pretty decent.

Peter, having seen the latest Daily Bugle which features a picture of black-suited Spider-Man on the cover in front of the bank Sandman robbed, goes to the Bugle to confront Eddie Brock, who has just won the competition and landed the staff photographer job. Peter reveals to Robbie and Jonah that Eddie actually ‘shopped in a photo of Spider-Man that Peter had taken and recolored his suit to black.

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Once again, for all his clownishness, we see for just a second that J. Jonah Jameson actually has some journalistic ethics and is a serious person at heart.

Thus Eddie is destroyed, earning Peter his undying enmity, and by the way, not only is Eddie’s journalistic career over, but so is the part of the movie that is any good whatsoever. The rest of the movie is a descent into horribility that must be experienced more than described, but I will do my best.

Now we begin the infamous Evil Douchebag Montage, in which Peter (with the black suit on under his clothes) is strutting down the street to the strains of James Brown’s “Drive That Funky Soul,” finger-gunning every woman in sight. It’s a very uncomfortable sequence; the German word for my feeling in this sequence (and I think most of the people watching) is fremdschämen, feeling embarrassed for someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t feel embarrassed for themselves.

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This sequence has its apologists, who mainly say that this is Peter acting in the way he thinks a cool badass would act, and because Peter is a dork, his idea of a cool badass is also by definition dorky, thus the fremdschämen. This may in fact be the explanation, but I don’t think it’s an artistic choice that works. I think it’s a failed attempt to hang onto audience sympathy for Peter after showing him doing some authentically dark things: blowing up his best friend and killing (as far as he knows) Flint Marko. It’s an attempt at a takeback, saying look, Evil Peter isn’t really evil. He may try to be bad, but he’s a failure at it.

But not only does that attempted takeback feel clumsy in and of itself, it’s also badly executed. The shots in this montage seem to have been meant to build in a certain order, but got out of whack in the editing process. First, we see Peter talking to Dr. Connors on the phone, who is concerned about how the symbiote feeds off of aggression (to which I can only say, “Welcome to the party, pal!”). As Dr. Connors is talking, Ursula is feeding Peter cookies as he orders her around, and it seems like her crush is back in full force.

Then we get the strutting and finger-gunning with women on the street looking at him like a freak, intercut with Peter flirting heavily with Betty, to the point that she’s about to make out with him right there in the office. Jonah shuts that down, but Peter offers him new shots of black-suit Spider-Man, that show Spidey beating crooks down far more thoroughly than before, and when Jonah asks him what he wants, he confidently says he’ll take the staff job.

And I should add that the scene before the montage, where Peter sees the headline, we see women in the street looking at him admiringly. So at first, Bad Peter is also Hot Peter. This is reinforced with Ursula worshipfully feeding him cookies and fetching him milk. But then we get this weird pair of shots that show women grimacing at him from the front (who is this weirdo finger-gunning at me?), with a reverse angle of women ADMIRING him from behind, followed by Betty nearly jamming her tongue down his throat, followed by more women treating him like he’s toxic.

And I think the initial idea of the sequence was that it gets worse over time, that when Peter first lets himself run with his dark side, some women find it hot, but the further he goes, the worse he gets. But the shots aren’t shown in that order, so you start looking for more explanations, like is it all in his head? Does he think women are turned on by him, but they’re really turned off? No, because the angles are backwards. Does the suit itself exert some kind of mind control on the women he flirts with? Maybe, but it’s never discussed.  It’s just the viewer’s mind trying to find rational ways to reconcile contradictory data before giving up and saying, “Okay, this just sucks and there’s no good explanation for it.”

Urgh. I’ve spent way too much time trying to explain that mess, so let’s move on. Turns out Flint Marko’s not dead, it just took him a while to reconstitute.

So next Peter takes Gwen Stacy to the jazz club where Mary Jane is working (and once again, Bryce Dallas Howard is in one of the weight camouflage outfits that just draws attention to what they’re trying to distract from). Mary Jane gets up to sing, and Peter somehow manages to start playing the piano, totally distracting from Mary Jane’s performance. And suddenly, it’s a musical… again.

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And once again, it’s confusing, because last we saw, everybody who encountered Evil Peter seemed to think he was a total idiot. But now when he gets up and starts dancing through the club, with Gwen joining in for part of it, everybody seems to love it (lending validity to that mind control theory I totally just made up?). Gwen totally doesn’t understand that Peter’s just using her to hurt MJ until the dance is over. Gwen runs out, devastated.

Peter then confronts Mary Jane, but for what purpose, we never find out, because the manager and bouncers suddenly decide to throw Peter out. And as he’s wiping the floor with them, Mary Jane decides to get in the middle of it, with the predictable result that Peter knocks her to the floor.

That seems to sober him up, because he decides to get rid of the black suit once and for all. But once again, we get one of these weirdly random moments where stuff just happens the way it does because the plot needs for it to happen. In the comics, Peter goes to a church bell tower to get rid of the symbiote because Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, who has been studying the symbiote (the way Dr. Connors has in the movie), tells him the symbiote can be weakened by loud sounds. Peter chooses the bell tower strategically.

In the movie, Peter chooses the bell tower just because it happens to be close by. He discovers the thing’s weakness quite by accident.

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Also randomly, Eddie Brock just happens to be in the same church, praying for God to kill Peter. When he hears the bell ringing, he goes into the base of the bell tower to see what’s up (not any of the other people we see in the church, just him, conveniently), where two things happen. He sees Peter getting rid of the black suit (thus learning his secret identity), and he gets covered in the goop himself, becoming Venom.

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We have finally been introduced to the final villain of the piece, and the movie is now 3/4ths done. Not much time to flesh out this plotline, is there?

Peter sulks in his apartment and gets a pep talk from Aunt May. This scene seems to exist only to allow for some separation between Venom’s creation and the moment he finds Sandman in an alley, where they decide to team up to kill Peter. The visual look of Venom is very much in keeping with the comics, but he has Topher Grace’s voice, so there’s no real menace here.

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After another quick filler scene, we see Venom kidnap Mary Jane and we’re into the climax. Television news reports show Mary Jane trapped in a cab that has been webbed up twenty stories next to a building under construction. It’s efficient exposition, but also incredibly clumsy (and contrary to what I said before, the news reports do actually name Marko “the Sandman”).

Peter sees the news reports and puts on his old red-and-blue uniform. Before going after Mary Jane, he stops by Harry’s penthouse to recruit his help. Turns out Harry wasn’t killed by the grenade, but horribly scarred on one side of his face. Or I should say, he has facial scars carefully calibrated to make sure he can still retain our sympathy–damaged, but not too damaged.

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Peter tries to convince Harry to help him rescue MJ, but Harry sends him away.

After Peter leaves, Butler Bernard enters and tells Harry that the wounds on his father’s dead body confirm that he had been killed by his own glider, and therefore Peter is innocent. The way it’s written, it seems as if Bernard was always in on Norman Osborn’s secret (he can identify wounds received from the glider, for instance). He’s like the evil version of Batman’s Alfred or something, not the doddering old fool he’s always appeared to be. Still, it’s not a very convincing speech, clumsily written with no real proof in it, and the delivery is barely competent. In fact, Bernard–who has been in all three movies–has always been played by a man who seems barely able to deliver dialogue at all.

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Because you remember how I’ve mentioned in the previous movie recaps that Raimi likes to give minor roles to family members of cast and crew? Well, turns out that Bernard is played by one of those. The actor’s name is John Paxton, and he is the father of Bill Paxton, who starred in Raimi’s A Simple Plan. John Paxton had his first role for Raimi in that film, and has since appeared in at least five other Raimi films. He’s a horrible actor, but Raimi seems to feel a loyalty toward him such that he keeps casting him.

So Peter heads to the construction site, which just happens to be located in Uncanny Valley.

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Look, I can understand being confident in your digital doubles, and I have seen how they can make for more exciting and dynamic superhero action sequences. But for whatever reason, either the long takes they work on here or just the fact that they were rushing to finish a climax nobody was particularly excited to work on, the effects just don’t convince.

Venom and Sandman double-team Spidey, with the predictable result that he ends up pretty much helpless between the two of them, Venom holding him down while Sandman beats him to death. Remember this image, because I’ll be referring back to it in a bit.

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Of course, the day is saved by the arrival of Harry and his Goblin tech, yada-yada-yada. There’s some wisecracking and some teamwork and the cameos you expect from (this time) Sam Raimi’s kids. The whole thing ends up with Sandman being destroyed by Goblin bombs and Venom being destroyed by loud clanging sounds… and a Goblin bomb.

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Happy endings all around, except for the fact that (as foreshadowed earlier) Harry ends up fatally wounded in the confrontation. Oh, and Sandman isn’t actually dead.

He and Peter have a final moment where Marko says he is sorry for killing Uncle Ben and Peter forgives him. And then he blows away.

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And I get that they’re trying to end on a grace note, giving Sandman a kind of redemption and Peter a chance to let go of the vengeance in his heart, but holy God, nothing in this entire Sandman plotline works. From the very first moments where he’s justifying his crimes to his wife (“I’m not a bad person. I’ve just had bad luck.”), the unspecified medical condition his daughter has, the unspecified experiment that “kills” him, the unspeakable retcon of Uncle Ben’s death, to this final moment of forgiveness just minutes after that moment above where Sandman was BEATING PETER TO DEATH, I just don’t buy any of it.

And the worst part of it is, there are hints of what could have been a really good story in there. Thomas Haden Church is better in the role than I thought he’d be, and the whole idea of a pile of sand animated by the ghost of a man with only one overriding goal–to save his daughter–makes me really want this to be better every time I rewatch it. It’s just that all of the Venom and Vengeance stuff forced in (apparently by studio decree) makes the whole thing into an overstuffed muddle, with an emotional throughline that doesn’t just not work for me, but comes close to offending me with the insincere manipulations it goes through.

And maybe the worst thing of all is the way it happens right before Harry’s big death scene, because I’ve still got such a bad taste in my mouth from the Sandman bullshit that it poisons what should be a very affecting moment, the culmination of three films’ worth of development.

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There’s some wordless grief at Harry’s funeral (well wordless other than Peter’s narration), where not only are Peter and Mary Jane and Aunt May and Bernard present, but also classmate Flash Thompson (last seen getting his ass kicked by  Peter in the high school hallway way back in the first film) and Captain Stacy and Gwen, for some reason.

Final scene: Mary Jane is singing in the club where she still works (“I’m Through With Love”), and Peter walks up. Mary Jane stops in mid-lyric (does she ever sing a song all the way though in this club?). Peter holds out his hand. Mary Jane takes it. They embrace and begin to dance.

But neither of them seems particularly happy about it. They haven’t actually worked out any of the issues that drove them apart in the first place. It’s a weirdly grief-stricken and bitter ending, two people stuck together because neither seems to have anyplace else to go. What an awful way to end a trilogy that was so good just one film earlier. Not only does this film end badly, but it seems to drain away all of the goodwill from the earlier films and exhaust any character development possibilities for Peter and Mary Jane in the process. I really don’t want to follow Peter any further on this path.

Which may be why it’s just as well that Sony ended up rebooting the franchise instead of going forward with the Spider-Man 4 they were developing. But given the fan reaction to the reboot, maybe not.

But that’s next week.

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New Video Posted – More Time Trouble

The third video in my new “Hero Go Home Presents…” series is up on Youtube now. This is the first video I’ve made using Da Vinci Resolve, which is giving me more professional results than my previous software. Enjoy the 720p goodness!

Oh, and you might like the content of the video as well, talking about the passage of time in Superman 3. Next week continues Superman Month with a sinister theory.

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Super Movie Monday – Spider-Man 3, Part 2

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Continuing our in-depth recap of Spider-Man 3 from 2007, starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and directed by Sam Raimi. Last time, everything was going well for Spidey. Peter was dating the girl of his dreams, doing well in school, and New York was in love with Spider-Man, so much so that they were throwing a ceremony in his honor, culminating with giving him the key to the city.

Before the ceremony begins, we get a couple of nicely parallel scenes. Eddie Brock uses his Daily Bugle press credentials as an excuse to shoot some pictures of Gwen Stacy, and it turns out that they are not in fact dating or anywhere close to getting married, as he has been telling people. They had coffee one night, which Brock has apparently turned into an obsession.

Meanwhile, Peter uses his Daily Bugle press credentials as an excuse to shoot some pictures of Mary Jane (and not incidentally, some of the pro-Spider-Man banners behind her as well). She is still upset about being fired, but gets pissed at Peter because he doesn’t understand how she feels. Of course, she has never told him she got fired, but that’s no excuse. Rather than telepathically sense her problems, he tells her they won’t care about that bad review the next day (when he plans to propose, presumably), and then he goes off to get ready for his big entrance.

Meanwhile, a couple of cops spot escaped convict Flint Marko on the street and chase him. He ducks behind a sand truck and disappears. They assume he’s hiding in the sand, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re right, sort of.

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The cops shoot at the giant sand beast, and the bullets actually seem to hurt him for some reason. He transforms into a giant cloud of sand and blows away up the street.

Back at the ceremony, Harry runs into Mary Jane and they talk. They have an easy chemistry that she doesn’t have with Peter. In fact, seeing this, that whole “Harry dating MJ” sub-plot from the first film that seemed to come from out of nowhere and then disappeared without a trace now makes more sense. Also, Harry’s left eye is droopy, I’m guessing from the head wound. I don’t know if this is just the way James Franco looks and I never noticed before, or if this is something he’s doing as part of his performance (looks awfully natural, if so), or if this is some kind of make-up or digital effect, but whatever it is, it really helps sell the whole personality-change-from-a-head-wound plot.

Their conversation is interrupted by Gwen Stacy, who stands at the podium and gives a glowing introduction of Spider-Man as a guy who risks his life to save people and asks for nothing in return, after which Spidey swings in and high-fives some people in the crowd and shows off. He lowers himself down on a webline, hanging upside down, and when people in the crowd yell for a kiss, he tells Gwen to “Lay one on me.” And this happens.

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Which pisses Mary Jane off, because the upside-down kiss was their thing, their iconic moment from the first film. And as ridiculous as I think the rest of MJ’s plotline in this movie is, I kind of feel for her right here. Especially since, as we know now and MJ will learn later, Peter knows Gwen in a friendly, maybe-flirty way. Mary Jane runs away in a huff.

She doesn’t miss anything, because the crowd in the park is suddenly panicked by a mysterious sand storm which blows through. Elsewhere, an armored truck is transporting money when the sand cloud attacks and coalesces into Marko again. But Spider-Man has followed the mysterious phenomenon and now that he has a bad guy to fight, he leaps into action, for all the good it does him.

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As you will learn by the end of Part 3 of this recap, I hate pretty much everything about the Sandman plotline in this film, but one thing I have to admit: visually, their take on Sandman and his powers is a note-perfect adaptation of Ditko’s original vision of the character.

And this is no small thing. Because as a comics fan, I had spent 40+ years resigned to the fact that I would never see anything close to an accurate translation of comics to screen, because number one, Hollywood would constantly be trying to make the costumes and powers more realistic and down-to-earth (unless they were going for parody, in which case they would do a very accurate, but cheaply-made version of said costume), and number two, the realities of movie budgets and the limitations of special effects technology made it literally impossible. Until it suddenly wasn’t.

Their fight doesn’t last long. In the end, Spider-Man saves the lives of the armored car drivers, but Sandman (who is never identified by this name in the movie, but I’ll keep using it anyway) gets away. Without the money he was trying to steal, which means he will try again soon.

So now comes the night of the big proposal. Peter arrives at the restaurant, and here’s our old friend Bruce Campbell doing yet another cameo role completely unrelated to his previous two. It’s a funny bit (I especially like the way he blows a whistle to have someone deliver him a pen, nestled on a pillow carried on a silver tray–that’s some pen).

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Now bear with me for a second while I get fan-wonky. One thing Sam Raimi did absolutely right in building his Spider-Man universe was to set up  a number of potential future adversaries in his movies, planting seeds that could be used later (one reason why the reboot was an ill-considered idea). The obvious ones, you probably know: setting up Harry’s revenge arc in Spider-Man 3 at the end of the first film and letting it simmer over the course of the second. and introducing Dylan Baker’s Dr. Curt Connors as Peter’s science teacher (name-checked in the first film, shown on screen in 2 and 3).

But there are more. Venom’s character, Eddie Brock, is name-checked in the first film (when someone refers to “Eddie” being unable to get a photo of Spider-Man). Granted, this was probably just an Easter egg, but still. Also, the series not only contains the antagonistic relationship with J. Jonah Jameson that launched several villains in the comics series (the Scorpion and the Spider-Slayer robots, for instance), but also Jonah’s astronaut son John Jameson, who battled Spider-Man a few times with powers picked up on his space journeys and eventually became Man-Wolf.

So could we suppose (just for the sake of argument) that all of these lookalike characters Peter keeps encountering are actually non-unrelated? Could they in fact be… clones? Given that clones have figured prominently (and infamously) in Spider-Man’s comics history, could all of these Bruces be setting up a potential Cinematic Clone Saga? Food for thought.

Anyway, back to the story. Peter’s plan is to have the waiter bring champagne in a glass with the ring in it, and is rehearsing not so much how he’ll pop the question, but how he’ll react to Mary Jane’s obvious joy at being asked, when Mary Jane arrives, pissed off because she’s had to walk to the restaurant past front-page photos of Spider-Man kissing Gwen Stacy. It doesn’t help her mood when Gwen stops by the table and MJ finds out that they are friends. And of course, she STILL doesn’t tell Peter that she got fired from her Broadway show, leading Peter to prattle cluelessly about how he also has trouble handling all the fame and success coming his way. At least until MJ storms out.

And now we finally come to it: the moment when the movie decides to flush itself down the toilet. Up to now, the movie hasn’t been all that bad. A little aimless, with some deliberately bad characterization of Peter and MJ to stir up drama, and some silly cliches like head-wound-induced amnesia and an unspecified medical condition leading Sandman to steal money to help his daughter. But the actors are still basically appealing and Raimi has been doing his best to maintain the balance between Spider-Angst and Spider-Fun.

But now Peter, anxiously waiting for a call from Mary Jane, gets a call from the cops instead. Turns out the guy who shot Uncle Ben in the first movie wasn’t the guy who shot Uncle Ben. There was a second gunman who did the actual shooting, and the guy on the grassy knoll was… FLINT MARKO!

Now, I react especially badly to this, because it’s a pet peeve of mine, the whole “This time it’s personal because the dude killed the hero’s father” thing. I think it’s unnecessary, and I think it assumes the audience are a bunch of amoral idiots who can’t relate to a hero with actual, you know, principles. Nope, principles aren’t enough. We have to make it a vendetta, so the audience will care or something. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Tim Burton’s Batman, and now Spider-Man 3. They all piss me off.

I understand why they do it here; they need for Peter’s pursuit of Marko to be intense and personal in order to drive the Venom storyline, and they’ve gone to the MJ-in-danger well a few times already (and will again before the end). But instead of making me empathize with Peter’s rage or worry for Peter’s emotional health, it just makes me mad AT THE MOVIE and drop out of any emotional stakes I had in the outcome of the story, SINCE IF THEY COULD PULL THE RUG OUT WITH UNCLE BEN’S DEATH, THEY COULD DO IT WITH ANYTHING.

I don’t mean to shout, but I think it’s an important point. So many times, on so many subjects, people assume that if you don’t agree, you don’t understand. It is possible to understand why something was done, and even empathize with the reasons, and still think it was the wrong way to go.

So Mary Jane visits Peter to see if he’s okay, and he is obsessively listening to the police scanner and doesn’t have time for any of her “Me-me-me” drama right now. She says that she and Aunt May are worried about him, and there’s a great moment where she asks him to turn off the scanner and he gives her this, “You have forfeited the right to tell me what to do” look before turning it down–slightly.

Mary Jane gives another line that foreshadows the ending when she says, “Everybody needs help sometimes, Peter,” which is just twisting the knife in the wound. Because Alvin Sargent, the credited screenwriter returning from Spider-Man 2, is doing all sorts of technically competent and even cool things, but they’re in service to a story that is broken in very large ways that make the film’s failure feel even worse, less a failure than a betrayal.

Peter goes to bed with the scanner on, has nightmares about Flint Marko shooting Uncle Ben, and the black goo that we had almost forgotten about comes crawling out, once again looking like a grasping clawed hand sometimes. And then this happens.

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Peter’s suit has turned black. And it apparently feels awesome.

This black suit is a little more low-key than the version from the comics, which was not just a dark monochrome version of Spider-Man’s regular suit. Once again, I understand why they did it, and it does have its cool aspects, but it’s a little drab compared to the comics suit or the upcoming Venom.

Peter takes a sample of the black stuff to Dr. Connors, who is worried about its symbiotic tendencies. He warns Peter not to let any of it touch him. As if.

Peter returns home and hears on the scanner about a mysterious sandstorm. He decides to suit up, and suddenly he has two costumes, one normal one and the new black one (I thought the black costume was his old one with the black goo covering it, but suddenly’ it’s like Peter now had a spare costume all along). He suits up in the black one, smashes Eddie Brock’s camera when Eddie tries to take a picture of him in it, and then descends into the sewers/subway tunnels to confront the Sandman.

They have a brutal fight in which Spider-Man appears much more savage than we’ve seen him previously.

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Peter once again separates Marko from the money before apparently killing him by washing him away with a flood of water from a burst water main.

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I do like the way Peter reacts to Marko’s apparent death by simply saying “Good riddance.” This fight really sells the seductive power of the black suit way more than the infamous bits coming up.

So Peter returns home, but notices in his reflection in a store window that he suddenly has Hitler hair, then when he arrives at his building, he yells at landlord Ditkovich (hounding him for rent as always) to “fix this damn door!” His uncontrollable anger scares Peter so much that he hides the black costume away in his closet… but he doesn’t get rid of it.

The next day, Peter tells Aunt May that Spider-Man killed Flint Marko and is surprised when she isn’t happy at the news. Mary Jane, meanwhile, goes back to waiting tables at a jazz club that’s looking for a “waitress/singer.” Depressed, she considers calling Peter, but calls old boyfriend Harry instead. We see where this is going.

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MJ and Harry make omelets and dance the twist, culminating in a kiss that sends MJ running away. An upset Harry starts to drink and suddenly, his father’s ghost begins speaking to him and he gets all his memories back and remembers why he hates Peter. Because MJ’s kisses are magic, and we need to do something radical to get this plot moving again.

When Mary Jane gets back to her apartment, Harry–now in his New Goblin attire–slams her up against the wall and tells her to follow his orders if she wants Peter to live.

Next day, Mary Jane calls Peter (and Ursula, landlord Ditkovich’s daughter who seems to have such a hopeless crush on Peter, is totally on Team MJ for some reason). Mary Jane asks Peter to meet her in the park, where she tells him they’re through because she’s in love with someone else.

Heartbreak! Peter meets Harry at a place called Esposito Coffee (calling back to Mike Esposito, longtime Spider-Man inker in the comics), where they commiserate over MJ’s sudden departure, before Harry breaks the news that he is the other man Mary Jane is in love with. It doesn’t help that the reasons he gives for why she was dissatisfied with her relationship with Peter are all the actual reasons–he was never there for her, he didn’t even know she was fired. Peter stumbles out into the street, dazed. Harry’s happy.

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Revenge is a dish best served with pie.

Peter looks back to see Harry toss him a wink, and suddenly he realizes the truth: Harry’s memory is back. He rushes home to put on the black suit before confronting Harry in his apartment. Harry and Peter have a savage fight, which ends up with Harry lying helpless at Peter’s mercy. Maguire and Franco really sell this confrontation, and Maguire is especially good as Peter coldly tells Harry that his father never loved him, was in fact ashamed of him, and then taunts his weakness before walking away. Harry takes the opportunity to lob a Goblin grenade at Peter’s back, but Peter senses it and slings it right back.

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Harry is caught in the explosion. Peter doesn’t look back. He’s got a new, evil future to look forward to.

We’re now about two-thirds of the way through, and the movie, with the exception of that hideous Uncle Ben retcon, is still not all that bad. It’s weak, but not awful. But awful is coming very, very soon.

Which is to say next week, in our final installment. See you then.

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