Spider-Man, Again

Robert Farley, writing at Tapped, has an excellent review of the new Spider-Man movie. I think he perfectly summarizes the film's good points and bad points. He makes the point, exactly right in my opinion, that it's not that Spider-Man III is unusually bad, it's that Spider-Man II was unusually good. I've placed two excerpts below the fold:

I suspect that much of the negativity about the third film stems from how poorly it stands up to the second. I think that we have an Empire Strikes Back problem. Thinking people everywhere understand that Empire was, by far, the best of the original Star Wars trilogy. Jedi appears to be a weak entry in large part because of the strength of the second film, but Empire is the real outlier. Similarly, Spiderman III really isn't any worse than the first Spiderman flick. The problem is that Spiderman II was much, much better than it had any right being. One of my favorite scenes from the second movie comes when Ursula (Peter Parker's next door neighbor) brings him some milk and cake. He accepts, and they sit down and eat the cake. It's a complex, interesting, understated, and generally outstanding scene, but what struck me as most notable is that it had no business whatsoever appearing in a summer popcorn blockbuster. For whatever reason, Spiderman II, like Empire, transcended the form. A repeat performance was too much to expect. Nevertheless, there were some genuine problems with the execution of Spiderman III.


Each approach has its merits, and Spiderman's focus on smaller problems (street crime, saving babies from fires, etc.) is probably more true to the ethos of the character than some grand fight against ideologically driven supervillains. It's Superman (who I believe is an illegal alien) who has always been burdened with the ideological baggage. Of Batman I have little to say. Anyway, the critics are correct to say that Spiderman III is overlong and has some serious structural flaws. Nevertheless, I found the film entertaining, and I think that there's still some value in exploring the Spiderman character.

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Jason, I haven't seen "Spider-Man 2" (or 3, obviously), but I have seen the full Star Wars saga; and I have to tell you, I think that Mr. Farley here is out of his freakin' mind. "Empire" was by far the WEAKEST of the first three movies; it provided some interesting new information and development, but there was nothing whatsoever "transcendent" about it.

"Empire" was structurally weak, as well it could hardly avoid being, since it began and ended still in the middle of a longer story; and while certain scenes in it were quite good, there is no way that either the second or the third Star Wars movie, as a whole, was up to the level of the original. (As for the rest, I won't even go there.)

Second: It's spelled "Spider-hyphen-capital-M-Man," for Stan's sake! Sheesh! If the guy can't even get the NAME right for the character (and movies), why should I consider his opinion of it the least bit authoritative? He clearly can't even pay attention to basic details!

Third: As for Superman being an "illegal alien," he gets points for moderate wit, but loses them again since young Kal-El was a foundling legally adopted by Johnathan and Martha Kent, making him a citizen.

~David D.G.

By David D.G. (not verified) on 09 May 2007 #permalink

I couldn't stand Spiderman 2 (at the risk of sounding like a geek). The science aspects were so ridiculous that I couldn't really enjoy the rest of the movie (although I did enjoy parts of it).

Well, I didn't especially like any of the six Star Wars movies. But I think Farley has a lot of people on his side in describing Empire as the best of the original three. There's no accounting for taste!

And somehow I don't think the Kents were completely honest about their son's origins when they filled out whatever paperwork was involved with the adoption. That probably has some legal significance regarding his immigration status.

I liked all three of the Spider-Man movies, and I agree that the second one was the best. On the other hand, I'm just inherently a big Spider-Man fan. I also think that Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are so charismatic that it would be hard to make a bad movie that had them in it.

EMPIRE the weakest? Taste is subjective, yes, but I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more minority opinion than that.

By Vincent Kargatis (not verified) on 09 May 2007 #permalink

I'm still waiting for someone to discover that a self-sustaining fusion reaction really doesn't get "drowned" by water, and that in fact the entire earth is about to become a very brief star...

I much preferred the third film to the other two. This was pure schmaltz comic book. As it ought to be.

EMPIRE the weakest? Taste is subjective, yes, but I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more minority opinion than that.

Vincent, I'll admit that I haven't conducted any formal polls, but that has consistently been the opinion that I have encountered among people I've discussed it with (mostly friends, of course, but certainly not exclusively) ever since "Empire" came out: that it just wasn't nearly as strong or cohesive a movie as the original. Even critics at the time agreed (but, no, I don't recall a specific source; it's been, what, over 25 years since it came out?). I can't recall a single dissenting opinion from that -- until this thread came along. I am truly astounded that multiple people disagree with me on this. Not offended, of course, just greatly surprised.

Back to Spider-Man: I'll definitely watch the second film, now that it's gotten such consistent acclaim, and go on to watch the third; up until now, I hadn't really gotten much feedback on the movies. I still cringe at the organic web source, but I guess I'll learn to deal with it.

~David D.G.

By David D.G. (not verified) on 10 May 2007 #permalink

My vote: Empire was the best and I consider Jedi the second best (i loved the battle sequence between the ewoks and the empires troops - a section of the movie that causes a number of people I know to cring)

I have a hard time comparing Spiderman (who cares how its supposed to be spelled) to Star Wars. Empire was a transitional movie where Spiderman 2 can live and die on its own. Spiderman 3 was just a mess - classic example on trying to take on too much.