If You Hype It, They Will Come

Spider-Man, Spider-Man,
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies
Look Out!
Here comes the Spider-Man.

Spider-Man 3 might just beet the record for greatest opening set just last year at $135.6 by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It is opening in a record 4,252 screens, the theater I attended it in was completely packed, and it faces little competition. However, this record will be very hollow. This movie was nothing special. The audience reaction was very lukewarm. And the critical response has been poor. This movie better make a lot upfront because word of mouth will not carry Spider-Man 3 all that far.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever see a scene acted worst than Ben Affleck’s “crying” in Jersey Girl. Toby Maguire c’mon down! You’ve easily surpassed the lesser half of Bennifer for most pathetic attempt at emotion on the silver screen. The audience in my theater laughed out loud at the embarrassment that was Toby attempting to show real emotion on camera.

Speaking of Toby’s acting, between Toby and Kirsten Dunst the lead acting was some of the worst in blockbusters for the past decade or so. And yes, that even includes Keanu in The Matrix.

What makes that bad lead acting even more noticeable is the superb job in the supporting department. Thomas Haden Church was wonderful as The Sandman, though his final scene left much to be desired thanks to bad writing. James Franco was awkward initially in the first Spider-Man but he has improved greatly to the point where he steals every scene he is in opposite either Toby or Dunst.

The real scene stealer though was Topher Grace. He was phenomenal as the ethically challenged photographer competitor to Peter Parker, but he took it to an entirely other level in the few scenes where the human face of Venom showed through. I had great doubts over Topher’s ability to play a convincing villain. You can now count me convinced. His abilities really had been wasted for so many years on That 70’s Show. He has shown in both In Good Company and now in Spider-Man 3 that he is a star in the making. I will be waiting anxiously for his pet project, Kids in America.

Acting and hype aside, this movie tries to pack a little too much into one setting. If they could have convinced the cast to all come back for a forth, it would have made sense to split The Sandman and Venom into two separate movies. Considering The Sandman’s motivations and his final scene, it made no sense for him to team up with Venom who at that point was truly evil.

I was rather interested in the initial back story for The Sandman. I really wouldn’t have minded a movie to concentrate on that character as the villain. It would have also required less compromise of the character to meet plot points.

The was zero chemistry between Parker and MJ. There has never been chemistry between them throughout the franchise. On the other hand, MJ and Osborn had good chemistry, and in a weird way so did evil Parker and the landlord’s daughter…

When Parker dons the black symbiont suit, why does he first act like Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and then gain the eyeliner and parted hair falling over eyes of the emo/indie scene? I wasn’t sure whether Toby let Conner Oberst of Bright Eyes take his place during a couple of scenes.

I don’t get Spider-Man. Of all the main superheroes he is easily the least interesting. Superman has to deal with being an alien/god amongst mere mortals when all he wants to do is just fit in. Batman has the whole childhood trauma angle that forces him to wear tights, body army and lots of toys. And then there are the X-Men who are just metaphors for so much from race relations, to gay rights to any other cause you can think of. Spider-Man is just Spider-Man. He’s got the whole existentialist thing going for him, but little else. I don’t understand how it is Spider-Man’s that continually break the opening records.

Even the score was less than inspiring. While Superman gets the John Williams epic treatment, Batman got an underrated Danny Elfman effort, and Batman Begins got a reworked score by Hanz Zimmer, the Spider-Man franchise was given a completely forgettable composition by Elfman. You can probably hum the Superman theme right now, and more than likely the Batman theme as well. A good sign that a movie has reached iconic status is when much of the public knows the musical theme by memory. There is little chance of that for Spider-Man.

My main point is that despite all these records for opening grosses, I question the overall cultural impact that Spider-Man will have. Will we really talk about any of the Spider-Man’s a decade or more from now? Will James Franco’s Green Goblin (Jr) hold up against Jack Nicholson’s Joker or Gene Hackman’s Lex Luther? Will we care in fifteen years when Spider-Man is recast? Are these just a series of summer blockbusters that are soon forgotten and hold little staying power?