Some people are, quite simply, fans. As Sarah said to me when I offered to write a proper review, give her two plus hours of Spider-Man on a gigantic screen, and she’s as pleased as can be regardless of the context. Others (me) are more critical of our Big Dumb Summer Popcorn movies, especially considering the high standards that Spider-Man 2 set for the franchise.
I don’t want to bore everyone by giving a boring by-the-numbers critical review the likes of which you can find anywhere pompous movie fans gather and pretend to be smarter than they are, so I’ll give you one of the reviews I’m known for, in which I make fun of everything I don’t like about the movie. For the record, it’s a solid rental, but not as good as it should have been had they done things right rather than be sloppy with the film.
Mary Jane Watson AKA Hortense the Mule-Faced Girl: Okay, so I’m not a Kirsten Dunst fan. Not in the slightest. If anything, she is to this movie what Katie Holmes was to Batman Begins: a poor casting job and a terrible actress who looks like she should’ve been running in the Kentucky Derby rather than opening the biggest blockbuster film of the summer. She’s blown off the screen by Bryce Dallas Howard (who looks exactly like Gwen Stacy from the comics), who would make a much better Mary Jane (please make this happen, I’m tired of watching a blonde play a fake redhead and a redhead play a fake blonde). To make things worse, MJ has somehow decided that she wants to be a singer (which I must havemissed or blocked out from the previous two movies), which leads to some absolutely terrible musical numbers. Speaking of segues…
Terrible Musical Numbers: MJ’s lousy singing aside, this whole filmstrays entirely too far into goofy territory when it comes to a few dumb moments that make the scene where Tony Manero walks down the street in Saturday Night Fever look like the height of cinema excellence. Yes, I now it was meant to be funny, and meant to be an homage to Travolta’s starring vehicle, but it went on entirely too long. Less time strutting, more time developing characters. Speaking of more segues…Too Many Villains/Too Much Wasted Time: Way to rush through the entire movie, Raimi. At two and a half hours (roughly), the movie moves wickedly fast and skips out on the whole part where we’re supposed to feel menaced by the villains, sorry for Spider-Man, and empathetic with everyone else. The pacing is a bit off. Too much time is spent on characters who really aren’t important, and not enough time is spent developing the villains. I know Raimi and company wanted resolution for Harry Osborne, but the man who should be a formidable villain is an afterthought. Venom looks coolest and is the most menacing, Sandman has the coolest special effects in the film, and Harry has a Back to the Future hover-board on steroids.
We get a lot of Aunt May and Uncle Ben in this film, unfortunately. They merely add to the amount of clumsy subplots that end up wasting a character who could have been the big baddie in the upcoming Spider-Man 4 (Sony is already making plans for three more Spider-Films), instead of merely a supporting character lost in a sea of other villains. He deserved better, Harry Osborne deserved better, and Venom deserved better. The ret-con necessary to make the plot of 3 feasible is entirely too clumsy, and The Sandman would have worked better in Spidey 4 (when rumour has it, The Kingpin will show up as we all pretend Daredevil never happened). That’s not mentioning the pointless landlord daughter character, the wasted James Cromwell, and the relatively pointless aside from a plot convenience Gwen.Nobody Cares Any More: I’ve never seen more money spent on a film in which nobody really gives a damn about the final product. Tobey Maguire has wanted out since the first film. Kirsten Dunst may or may not care but she sucks so much it doesn’t matter. Sam Raimi is bored and tired of the Spider-Universe. James Cromwell was a throwaway part. The only people who looked like they really wanted to be there were James Franco, Thomas Hayden Church, and possibly Topher Grace (though he just acted like Eric Forman from “That 70’s Show” with frosted hair). Bryce Dallas Howard just has to look pretty (and is successful, thanks to getting to stand next to Hortense the Mule-Faced Girl). It’s hard to have a GOODmovie when the film is controlled by a bunch of people who are justplaying out their contractual obligations.
So, for Spidey 4, 5, and 6, Sony has a choice. They can either waituntil Tobey Maguire realizes Spider-Man is the only thing he can play any more, which will take too long, or they can bite the bullet and recast the lead characters. Once upon a time I heard Jake Gyllenhaal was rumored to replace Maguire when he was whining about having to make millions of dollars for “Spider-Man 2.” So, give him a call. Swap the old-looking Kirsten Dunst (MJ shouldn’t have wrinkles) for Bryce Dallas Howard and let her have her natural hair color. Keep J.K. Simmons, Elizabeth Banks, and the supporting cast in place.
Things have to change if they really want to keep telling Spider-Stories. It’s obvious by now that there needs to be an injection of new blood (possibly radioactive blood) to keep these movies from becoming stagnant. This isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t a good movie. It simply is, and that’s not a condition I want from MY friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. I expect… no, I demand better.