REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN 1,2 & 3

CAST

Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Janes Franco (This Is The End)
Cliff Robertson (Escape From L.A.)
Rosemary Harris (This Means War)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Joe Manganiello (True Blood)
Bill Nunn (True Crime)
Michael Papajohn (Predator 2)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Ron Perkins (House)
Randy Savage (Bolt)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Lucy Lawless (Xena)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Ted Raimi (Odyssey 5)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

This film spends a lot of its time on the origin of Spider-Man. Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maguire) is an ordinary unpopular high school student. At the beginning of the movie we hear a narration by Peter that says this story is like every other story in that it is all about a girl. The girl in this case is Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Peter has had a crush on MJ since he was 6 years old, but obviously MJ has not reciprocated the feelings. Problem is Peter is not the kind of person to express his feelings to MJ, he instead lets everyone else know what he feels for MJ. It is the classic “everyone knows except for the person it involves” scenario. Peter admires her from afar and seems to always be there to bring her spirits up.

One day Peter and MJ’s class go to Columbia University for a field trip about spiders. We find out that the people here have been studying spiders and then creating super-spiders through genetic manipulation. One of the spiders gets loose and as Peter is taking pictures of MJ for the school paper, he is bit by it. Here is where the origin of Spider-Man begins. The first hour is spent with Peter getting used to the special powers he has gotten and refining them. He is both scared and excited by what he can do and Maguire makes Peter seem like one of us. This is the core of why Spider-Man is so great. It shows that even someone with a normal upbringing and great powers can have a difficult life. This is very much in contrast with heroes like Batman and Superman who either grew up in a rich family or is from another planet. Peter Parker is like many of us. He has a normal life like the rest of us. This is why it is so easy to sympathize with his character.

The other part of the first hour is about Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), the CEO and of Oscorp. He has been working on a super serum that will give a human super strength. However one animal died during the testing of the serum. The military is getting tired of Osborn not having a human test of this serum. They give him two weeks to test it to success on a human, but if he is not able to do so they will stop funding on the project and hand it over to another corporation. Osborn decides he is going to be the human guinea pig and exposes himself to the serum in a self-contained vessel. For a while his heart stops and his assistant comes in to revive him. Osborn’s heart revives at a faster rate and he has super strength. He turns into the Green Goblin and employs a rocket-powered glider to get around New York City. You can somewhat sympathize with Osborn in the fact that he is very close to his company losing the contract and him possibly losing the company itself. He takes a liking to Peter and treats him like his son, much to the chagrin of his real son, Harry (James Franco). The best parts with Willem Dafoe are when his two personalities (Norman and the Goblin) have a conversation with each other. Norman is obviously insane after being subjected to the serum, but he is still a human that is, albeit very little, trying to fight his Goblin personality. The rest of the movie is spent between Spider-Man and Green Goblin having some encounters here and there and a big encounter at the end.

Spider-Man is a movie not to be missed. If you have never been introduced to Spider-Man, this movie does a good job with his origin and one of his greatest enemies. This movie has a great plot (written by David Koepp) and is easily going to be a huge moneymaker. Some of the special effects may look unrealistic or maybe you will not notice them at all. This is a movie you can enjoy both from a story and action angle.

CAST

Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Janes Franco (This Is The End)
Alfred Molina (Frida)
Rosemary Harris (This Means War)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Donna Murphy (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Daniel Gillies (The Originals)
Dylan Baker (The Cell)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Mageina Tovah (Sleepover)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Joel McHale (Ted)
Hal Sparks (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Cliff Robertson (Escape From L.A.)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Elya Baskin (October Sky)
Ted Raimi (Odyssey 5)
Bill Nunn (True Crime)

This time around, New York City is plagued by the nefarious Doctor Octopus. When famed scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) designs a fusion device that can generate enough power to make limitless amounts of affordable electricity, the experiment goes horribly wrong and the four mechanical arms that he uses to run the experiment become fused to his spine and his cerebellum. Whereas prior to this Octavius controlled the arms, now it seems that they control him and he goes on a crime spree across the city, robbing banks in order to further fund the experiments he so desperately wants to finish. While all this is going on, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is wrestling with whether or not he should make his movie on his one true love, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), trying not to flunk out of school, and trying to get his rent paid on time.

This second film brings Peter Parker into the real world, so to speak. Part of what made the comic series so great was the fact that Parker was someone we could relate to on one level or another. Sure, he was a superhero but he had real world problems. He didn’t always get the girl, he couldn’t always pay his rent, and he had trouble getting to class on time. In the first film we didn’t get to dig on that aspect of the character as the film had to setup how and why he becomes Spider-Man. Here we know that part already and so the film effectively takes things up a notch in terms of character development and action.

It’s precisely these changes in tone that makes Spider-Man 2 so much fun. It makes it feel like more of a comic book come to life.  Molina shines in his role as the mad scientist with the mechanical arms and proves to be a much better foe for Spidey than the Goblin was in the first film. He’s not quite as over the top and maniacal, but still sufficiently evil enough that we want Spidey to give him what for. The fight scenes between the hero and the villain, particularly the final showdown, are harder, faster, and more intense, which gives the movie a faster pace which works in it’s favor.  Those who enjoy the ‘little touches’ that Raimi is known for scattering throughout his films going all the way back to the first Evil Dead film will find lots of nice little details to look for. Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi have fun cameo roles once more, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Raimi movie without the car showing up once or twice. Little details like this make the humor work nicely within the context of what is essentially an action movie.

In short, the movie flows better. The characters progress nicely from the events in the first film. The effects are bigger and better and more effective. It feels like a comic book movie should feel like. It’s a more fluid.

spider-man 3

CAST

Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Janes Franco (This Is The End)
Thomas Haden Church (Sideways)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World)
Rosemary Harris (This Means War)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact)
Dylan Baker (The Cell)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Cliff Robertson (Escape From L.A.)
Elya Baskin (October Sky)
Ted Raimi (Odyssey 5)
Mageina Tovah (Sleepover)
Michael Papajohn (Predator 2)
Joe Manganiello (True Blood)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Bill Nunn (True Crime)
Steve Valentine (Mike & Molly)

Picking up shortly after the exploits chronicled in Spider-man 2, the new film finds things having turned around for Peter. Where he was once misunderstood by the city he protects from all manner of crime and villainy, he is now New York’s favorite son. Everywhere Peter Parker turns (Tobey Maguire), there are signs of the undying adoration being heaped on his crime-fighting alter ego. But even for Peter, whose life seldom shares the same glory as his other persona, things aren’t going all that bad. Sure he’s still broke and over-worked as he tries to balance college, work and saving the day, but things are seemingly going well with the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).

He even plans on asking her to marry him. A wrench, however, is waiting to screw up the machine, coming in the form of Peter’s former best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco). Harry blames Peter for the death of his father, who, as the Green Goblin, tangled with Spider-man in the first film, and lost his life. Harry has armed himself with his father’s arsenal, and in the first of many spectacular action sequences that dominate Spider-man 3, attacks Peter. A defining, special effects extravaganza that kick starts the movie into high gear, the battle doesn’t even have Peter in his Spider-man costume. It is an interesting choice to have such a pivotal sequence take place without Spider-man present, but it serves as fast-paced foreshadowing of the personal battles that Peter will be experiencing over the duration of the film. Where the first film introduced Peter Parker and Spider-man, the second film developed the crime fighter, and the third film is more about the man who wears the costume.Fresh from his battle with Harry, Peter must face two new challenges. First, his relationship with Mary Jane is starting to strain, because she can’t handle the fact that Spider-man is so popular. Then, he learns that the crook who killed his Uncle Ben in the first film was not really the killer after all. The real killer was Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), an escaped convict who, through a series of events that only happens in comic books and films that adapt them, is turned into Sandman, a mutated creature made of sand that can manipulate his size and shape. And as if that wasn’t enough, there is also Spidey’s new black suit, which is actually an alien life form that has formed a symbiotic relationship with Peter. The gooey black creature attaches itself to Peter, manifesting itself as the new black costume, and bringing with it increased strength for Spider-man, as well as a new level of confidence, and aggression for Peter. Soon, the suit becomes a villain, and Peter must fight to gain control of his life (not to mention battle Sandman, Harry, and try to restore his relationship with Mary Jane).There is no getting around the fact that Spider-man 3 is the weakest of the three films in the franchise, at least in terms of script and story. As is the case with other superhero sequels, this film suffers, from among other things, introducing too many characters into the mythology. But the script also has some leaps in logic, a few contrived coincidences and a plot hole or two that seem excusable at first glance, but start to nag after the final credits have rolled. Clocking in at well over two hours, there are times when it feels like a good twenty or thirty minutes have been trimmed from the film in order to make for a more reasonable run time, resulting in a poor sense of character development, and a frantic pace where there should be a bit more exposition. The first act takes special care to introduce Sandman as a morally complex, tragic villain, but most of that is jettisoned as the story moves into the second and third acts. Likewise, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), Peter’s rival who will eventually don the black costume and become Venom, seems to make a huge leap from annoying twerp to murderous psycho.The problems that weigh down Spider-man 3 begin to emerge near the end of the first act, as weaknesses in the script begin to pop up. Where the first two films tried to keep things as grounded as possible given the outrageous subject matter, Spider-man 3 throws caution to the wind, throwing the film off balance. Both of the earlier films went out of their way to paint the villains as somewhat believable within the context of the on-screen world. But in this new film, no such attempts are made. And so while it is cool to see Venom, the half-ass explanation of what the creature is carries no weight. Ten minutes after the movie is over, you can’t help but start asking questions like, “Where did this thing come from?” And then those questions open up another line of inquiry that starts picking apart all of the ridiculous coincidences that riddle the film.The biggest problem with Spider-man 3 are two separate sequences that are meant to show how much the new alien costume has effected Peter Parker’s personality. The first sequence is silly, and by comparison rather innocuous. But the second scene, involving Peter’s attempt to woo new love interest Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard), while making Mary Jane jealous, is just plain ridiculous. Comic book purists will hate this scene, and even die-hard fans of the films may find it a bit out of place within the cinematic universe.But despite the problems that plague Spider-man 3, it is still an incredibly fun film. Director Sam Raimi once again delivers the superheroic goods. And in terms of how the action sequences and special effects have been put together this time around, Raimi leaves the first two films in the dust. This is clearly the best of the three from that standpoint, as the action comes alive in sequences that would have been impossible cinematically less than a decade ago. In fact, the action may even be more spectacular than anything you could see in a comic book. Unfortunately, the film never manages to be anything more than a sequel. What made Spider-man 2 such an amazing film was that it managed to emerge from the shadow of its predecessor, standing on its own as a superior movie. Spider-man 3, however, is never able to come out from the massive shadow cast by the first two installments.

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