May 05, 2007
Spidey 3: He Gets By with a Little Help from His Friends
But it is Spider-Man who gets religion—and learns that Darth Vader is his father (or something very similar).
Yes, the Spider-Man has a dark side—and don't all superheroes, especially when you have run out of story lines. He also has a wider selection of villains this time around: Gremlin Jr. (James Franco); his rival for the staff position on the Bugle turned evil nemesis (Topher Grace); and, the real star of the gee-whiz CGI show, The Sandman, created when escaped convict Flint Marko tumbles into some nuclear waste and develops the single worst case of eczema in recorded dermatological history.
So: is the negative criticism warranted? This script is a mess, and could afford to lose at least 45 minutes, which is how long it takes before you actually discover there is a story and not just more hemming and hawing over will he or won't he finally pop the question to Mary Jane Whatserface, played by a devotee of maryjane, the loverly Kirsten Dunst.
And when a film becomes excessively self-referential, basking in its own commercial success, you know it is time to pull the plug on this franchise.
But once Spidey 3 gets down to the nitty-gritty, by which I mean more than the sand in Spider-Man's shorts after tussling with Marko, you will enjoy a truly morally inspiring piece of entertainment, in which Evil is depicted as not only a condition of the heart—which can be fostered by rationalizations or foiled by the power of forgiveness—but as something outside oneself that can literally possess you, and which only the tintinnabulation of church bells seems able to eradicate.
"You always have a choice," Spidey tells one antagonist. And while the pelagianism is laid on hot and heavy, given the preponderance of vile messages sent out to kids these days, a reminder that you can always choose to do the right thing, and that there is a very real difference between justice and vengeance, is worth a pass on the theology exam and a few extra theses for a social conscience.
Again, the romantic dribble becomes ponderous, but the last 45 minutes of stupendous special effects and the lessons taught about moral discipline and the value of friendship are well worth the initial tedium.
And so I give Spider-Man 80 Theses.
"But Herr Doktor, your movie-ratings scheme does not allow for 80 theses—only 75 or 85—"
Silence, imaginary interlocutor! Was Luther made for the ratings or the ratings made for Luther? This fell between goodish and good, so shut your pie hole and have another Sno-Cap. Or have another Sno-Cap and then shut your pie hole. Whatever you do, do it quietly!
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