Spider-Man 3 — review

Adapted by Alvin Sargent, Ivan Raimi and Sam Raimi from Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee.

 

What made Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 so great was Peter Parker’s character development, and how that transcended the story to become relatable for all of us, while also running parallel with other characters, who were experiencing their own equivalent. It also felt natural, with everything a discrete progression in line with what Uncle Ben said in Spider-Man of these years in Parker’s life being what will turn him into the man he’ll be for the rest of his life. And so, because Sony weren’t sure whether Spider-Man 4 would happen, Spider-Man 3 was written as the conclusion to a trilogy. In doing so, it attempted to wrap everything up rather than do what the previous two had done, which was to just make an enjoyable story. Spider-Man 2 doesn’t completely wrap things up, but it could have made its duology. Spider-Man 3, however, rushed itself to include everything it wanted to, even if most of those things weren’t needed at all.

The main thing about Spider-Man 3 is Venom, as he’s the person who takes Parker to the dark side. Venom then becomes Eddie Brock, who’s like a darker Parker himself. That formula was a good one to start with, and had the story been about Parker and Venom/Brock, it could have been an interesting character piece. But Venom’s relevance is as a manifestation of a person’s darker side. Curt Connors even explains that it amplifies a person’s traits, and so Parker becomes a vengeful vigilante, and learns that he isn’t above these people, who aren’t heartless. But that was already apparent from his relationship with Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2; what made Octavius such a popular villain is the way he was treated as a real person, and that’s what made Spider-Man 2 great for everybody, as did the way it balanced the light and the dark. Whereas Spider-Man 3 is almost trying too hard to be dark, and isn’t trying hard enough to be light. It’s almost as if Venom is bringing out the darker side of the trilogy itself.

So while Venom’s inclusion is based on recycled ideas, it would have still been a clever continuation of the trilogy’s dualistic themes. It could even ended with Brock becoming Spider-Man – that would have really added something to the story in motion and kept it new. But instead, Flint Marko’s Sandman’s added as well, and that’s the main problem with Spider-Man 3: it doesn’t know how to handle multiple villains. The same criticism is given of Akiva Goldsman’s Batman & Robin, which included Victor “Mr. Freeze” Fries, Pamela “Poison Ivey” Isley and Antonio “Bane” Diego. But multiple villains isn’t the problem with either Spider-Man 3 or Batman & Robin, it’s that neither can handle them. The Nolans’ The Dark Knight features The Joker, Two-Face and Salvatore Maroni, yet balances them in a way that makes it considered the best Batman adaptation. Multiple villains isn’t what makes Spider-Man 3 just not work, but the lack of cohesion in them.

Marko contributes absolutely nothing. He’s introduced completely separately to the story, just so we can see his family background and understand what kind of a person he is. And his transformation into Sandman also has nothing to do with Spider-Man. And ultimately, all he does with Spider-Man is just cause a few public disturbances. It’s explained that he killed Uncle Ben, but the way it’s done shows just how much of a retcon this is – that it was never a plan, and was only included just make the same point being made by Venom. And yet Venom gets much less screentime than desired because of it.

And yet, Marko isn’t even defeated. He just explains to Parker what happened, and Parker forgives him, like it was an accident. But it wasn’t an accident – he killed Uncle Ben because he has a really itchy trigger finger. And then Marko just goes away and is never seen again. When the tertiary villain isn’t defeated, clearly, he doesn’t need to be there. But instead, he makes a verbal point to Parker about forgiveness, even though this would have been much more subtle if the story had the confidence to stick with Venom, and what it meant for Parker rather than giving him a straight-out lecture. It’s as if the creative team had suddenly forgotten how to write Spider-Man and tried to compensate for it by being unexpectedly dark. But it isn’t really that dark, because Venom’s screentime is taken-up by a villain who’s only there because he was clumsily retconned into the trilogy in order to do exactly the same thing as the very villain he’s replacing.

And then there’s Harry Osborn. Great God, Harry Osborn. People say the worst thing about Spider-Man 3 is “emo Peter Parker” and his dancing, but it isn’t. Because at least there he’s being affected be Venom (of course, dark doesn’t equal emo, and emos don’t tend to dance to jazz music, but whatever). No. The actual worst thing about Spider-Man 3 is Harry Osborn and “that bit in the kitchen” in-which he dances with Mary Watson. It’s absolutely awful, because it’s totally out of character. I wonder if James Franco, a wonderfully charismatic actor, really hates Sam Raimi now. Probably not, to be honest, since Raimi himself admits Spider-Man 3 sucks. And if the director says that, there really is no hope for it.

Not to mention that Osborn has a horrible conclusion to his plotline. With Venom and Marko already pushing each-other out of the doorway to the story, Osborn is sidelined in the quickest (and unimaginable) way possible: he’s given amnesia. We begin with him chasing Parker through New York, even though he shouldn’t really hate him anymore. He’s discovered his father was Green Goblin, so it makes sense for him to understand why he had to die. But apparently not. Then he’s ejected into hospital with no memory of anything, until his butler reveals that Norman Osborn was killed by his own glider. Why he’s waited this long to tell him really makes no sense. And his butler knew all this time that Norman Osborn was Green Goblin? And he never said? So finally, he forgives Parker and sacrifices himself to save him by taking the bullet, even though the clear third option was just to take-on Venom himself. Or to maybe deal with Marko.

All of this happens in a very haphazard third act that looks more like fanfiction than anything else. Everyone’s teamed-up to stop Marko, though Marko himself has no qualification to be here and ultimately isn’t stopped anyway. I’d make some sort of conclusion about it, but the multiple plot arcs have no cohesion and there isn’t a through-line to anything. It really just isn’t very good.

 

Spider-Man 3: wrong choices and no cohesion 2/10.

Screenplay by Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi and Alving Sargent

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Where to see BAFTA’s Best Screenplay nominations

The most important day in the industry is almost upon us, and BAFTA’s Best Screenplay nominations have been announced. These are the products considered to have the best story, and you can see them all now:

Original

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is now available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, Michel Litvak, and David Lancaster’s Whiplash is now playing.

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler hasn’t been released.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo’s Birdman is now playing.

Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood is now playing.

Adapted

Jason Hall’s American Sniper is now playing.

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is now available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. (“Worth buying” – Jeremy Jahns)

Paul King and Hamish McColl’s Paddington is now playing.

Anthony McCarten‘s The Theory of Everything is now playing.

Graham Moore’s The Imitation Game is now playing.

 

The 68th British Academy Film Awards will be simulcast on 2nd February on BBC One and BBC Three.

 

2014’s winners were Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell’s American Hustle for Best Original Screenplay and Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s Philomena for Best Adapted Screenplay.

10 Things I Hate About You — review

Adapted by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith from The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.

 

The main reason I watched 10 Things I Hate About You recently is because of the cast. And when I say “cast”, I mean Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both of whom went-on to feature in The Dark Knight Trilogy as the Joker, the greatest on-screen comic book villain, and an actor renowned for being America’s Hugh Grant. Not to mention that it’s a modernisation of Shakespeare, and one of his comedies too. What made Shakespearean comedies so popular is their uplifting tone – they were amongst the first written farces, and ended with everyone happy with their new situation. Basically, if Shakespeare wrote it and nobody died, it’s a comedy.

And that’s what the teen genre is really about. There are recognisable characters who face a few challenges, but the ending leaves them in a new state of being that they prefer to that of the beginning. They’re relatable, because it’s an accurate and nostalgic look-back at the best days of our lives. Or, in some cases, appreciating them while they’re still here. And 10 Things I Hate About You is parodic in nature: while teenage communities will be highly influenced by each person’s relationship with the next, the two protagonists are teenagers who insert a mutative catalyst into the status quo in order to put two characters together. Ergo, it’s in watching these two characters go through the process of pretending to love each other to pretending to hate each other that makes the story interesting, especially because there isn’t a moment of change. Rather, there’s a discrete metamorphosis with no clear distinction, which makes the ending all the more satisfying.

The best scene is that which has become the go-to scene for clip shows for inclusion of 10 Things I Hate About You, in-which Ledger interrupts Julia Stiles’ game to perform an impromptu cover of You’re Just Too Good to be True, accompanied by a flash-mob orchestra and then proceed to flee security while carrying-on. Yes, it’s cliched, and has been done countless other times in other romantic comedies, but that’s not the point. The romantic comedy’s rule of thumb is that if it feels good, do it. So all the other teen stereotypes featured only compliment the story. This isn’t a mish-mash of what worked for everything else, because most others used scenes from this and just remixed it. Instead, it’s more of the de facto or archetypal teen rom-com. And if it teaches the genre anything, it’s that you can’t beat the Bard of Avon. So you may as well join him.

 

10 Things I Hate About You: legitimate teen issues handled respectively. 6/10

BBC features – Friday 16th to Sunday 18th Janauary 2015

Saturday 17th

06:40 Skyrunners (Richard C. Okie/Adam Wilson/Melanie Wilson)

Sci-fi adventure about two brothers who discover a crashed UFO and decide to take it home. When younger brother Nick takes a trip into space, he discovers upon his return that he now has superhuman powers, turning his life upside down.

08:10 Henry VIII and his Six Wives (Ian Thorne)

Historical drama. On his deathbed, King Henry VIII recalls how he wooed and wed his six wives – and disposed of five of them – in a bid to secure the succession to the throne with a male heir. Despite his manymarriages and the crowded court, Henry remains essentially lonely. Adapted from the successful BBC TV series, with Keith Michell reprising his award-winning role.

13:35 The Wind and the Lion (John Milius)

Action drama about the kidnapping of an American widow and her children in Tangier in 1904, loosely based on fact. Recently elected president Roosevelt prepares to send in the marines, but in the interim Germany seeks to exploit the situation by landing troops in North Africa. Against this backdrop of power politics, a relationship develops between the woman and her abductor.

21:00 Armageddon (Jonathan Hensleigh/Tony Gilroy/Shane Salerno/Robert Roy Pool)

Sci-fi thriller in which the American government discovers that it has just 18 days to save the world from an approaching asteroid.

Undeterred by the threat of extinction, a brave though motley crew of oil drillers sets out to intercept the object and plant nuclear devices in its core.

22:30 All Good Things (Marcus Hinchey/Marc Smerling)

Tense crime drama tracing the mysterious and troubled relationship of a New York couple.

Sunday 18th

01:10 Phantoms (Dean R. Koontz)

Suspenseful thriller in which two sisters return to their Colorado home town only to find that the whole population has been wiped out by a mysterious force. Teaming up with the sheriff, his lecherous deputy and an ex-FBI agent, they are then terrorised by a supernatural power responsible for mass human disappearances throughout history.

16:10 Shrek the Third (Jeffrey Price/Peter S Seaman/William Steig/Jon Zack)

Second sequel in the popular animated fantasy franchise. Newlyweds Shrek and Fiona face their first marital hurdle when the sudden death of King Harold means Shrek himself is next in line. However, with fatherhood looming, Shrek is reluctant. He decides to try and find the true heir – Fiona’s errant, rebellious cousin. But while Shrek and his faithful companions Donkey and Puss in Boots go off in search of the heir, handsome rogue Prince Charming stages a coup at the castle.

23:00 Last Orders (Fred Schepisi/Graham Swift)

A group of lifelong friends gather together after the death of one of their number, a London butcher. The remaining buddies embark on a trip to scatter his ashes off the pier in Margate – the place where he wished to retire – and as the journey progresses they each reflect on the impact their deceased friend had on their lives.

Spider-Man 2 — review

Adapted by Alvin Sargent from Spider-Man no More! by Stan Lee.

 

What’s so great about Spider-Man? I’ll tell you what’s so great about Spider-Man – this.

I’ve recently been going through the Spider-Man series, and eventually got to this one, having heard the legends of its greatness and legacy. Honestly, I still think it’s underrated.

The hero’s journey formula might be criticised regularly, but Spider-Man 2 shows what it’s capable of when done exactly right. Having done a more-than-satisfactory origin story, Sam Raimi, the director I’d aspire to be like, rolls-out the main event: the sequel. With everything established, we can go into a story allowed to have more time due out of not needing set-up. And at the heart of it’s Peter Parker, a protagonist I often say is the most relatable and inspiring. I myself have many moments through the day when I feel like him, and this motion picture was almost therapy, especially because I’m feeling quite low at the moment.
Ultimately, it’s a story of priorities. Parker has so much stuff happening in his life that each aspect of himself begins to wane, to the point that he realises he has to pick himself up and decide what he really wants, and to chase it.

And “what I want” is the theme of the story for everyone. Parker still desires Mary Watson, who in-turn discovers she really loves him. Aunt May wants to move-on from Uncle Ben’s death, John Jameson switches between wanting Spider-Man stopped and then wanting him back, while Harry Osborn wants to discover who Spider-Man is to kill him.
Following the narrative begun in Spider-Man, the dualism remains the driving factor, with Parker and Osborn against each-other by the time the story’s concluded, but it’s executed in a way I’d willingly compare to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark is young, and must decide if what he wants is valuable enough to endure the challenges it brings, or to give-up. Parker gives a similar speech during Spider-Man 2 in the window of his apartment, while Osborn discovers who Spider-Man really is, and drops his knife, and falls back into his chair out of pure shock. And it ends with a wedding, and everyone’s happy.

But it’s not just that. Osborn and Otto Octavius aren’t the only protagonists, but so is Parker himself. They exist on the fringes of his perception of the world, and the real battle is fought within him as he learns how to be happy, and to appreciate what he’s got and who he is. By the time the credits rolled, I’d shed a few tears. I’m not afraid to admit that. It’s a movie. But it speaks to all of us in a way personal and specific, and it’s an excellent example of how we all consume cinema in our, unique way. The one factor of Spider-Man 2 I appreciate the most is its representation of the Human condition, and that makes Spider-Man more superhuman than anyone. It does exactly what Spider-Man did – take the characters to challenging places, and build them up even higher. It just takes them to more extremes.
Spider-Man 2: the best superhero’s best film. 10/10Screenplay by Alvin Sargent

Batman — review

Adapted by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren from The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.

 

Tim Burton must dream of being the Joker. And probably Batman. Because it’s clear in Batman that he understands those characters more than anyone else, and that’s why he conducted it as an opera. Which makes complete sense, because Gotham City is very operatic.  Batman Begins includes opera analogies, and here it’s the Batman and the Joker dancing at the top of a clock tower amid romantic accusations of creating each other, with references to other works like Beauty and the Beast. The way Burton sees Batman is that it’s the sum of a culture, which come together in such a way to create a tale of two men wanting revenge against the people that wronged them, and begin driven crazy as a result. Indeed, the scene involving the Joker improving the paintings while dancing to Prince is by far the best, and most interesting part. The Joker says he’s “the world’s first, fully-functioning, homicidal artist”, who “makes art until someone dies”. He even says that, as an artist, he shouldn’t be compared to normal people. Anyone familiar with the works of Burton, including Edward Scissorhands and Alice in Wonderland, need not be told that this is Burton himself speaking through these characters. Everything, from the production design, to the performances, to the artistic decisions made, are an extension of him, and it’s surprising that his name doesn’t precede the main title, possessively: Tim Burton’s Batman is what this really should have been called.

Is it like the comic books? Well… no. But that’s good. Because one of the most annoying things about comic book adaptations is that studios expect people to want the same thing every time. And we don’t. Just… make something unique, and it will probably stand the test of time that way. Burton is an auteur, and you can tell with this. It’s obvious that everything on screen has gone through him, and all of it’s threaded together, with the assistance of Michael Keaton. Keaton is by far the best Batman, because he was working with the director that understands him the most. Instead of being an intelligent forensics analyst, he’s truly insane. Many have attempted to make a man dressing as a bat to fight crime look understandable, but Burton understood that it can’t be, and decided to theme everything around that. Wayne is insane, the Joker is insane. And so they’ll dance together. The two freaks, who are the most liberated people for being out of touch with reality.

What Batman did for the character is to unmask him. To show us that, as much as we like to pretend to, we don’t really know him, and shouldn’t try to. Because he’s dangerous. It shows us all we should see of him, and then takes us out of it knowing that he shouldn’t be touched, because ultimately he’s warped and, as a result of trauma, reacts by making people like the Joker. There are many stories, like The Killing Joke, that makes Batman and the Joker look the same, but none of them accomplished it quite like Batman, because that retcons the Joker into also creating him. The theme of the story is that these people were made for each other, because only they are as insane as each other. And that’s quite beautiful, in a gothic kind of way.

 

Batman: operatic analogies justify character mythologies. 8/10

Screenplay by Sam Hamm and Waren Skaaren

Edward Scissorhands — review

Written by Caroline Thompson

 

To say Edward Scissorhands the first collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, and that Burton and composer Danny Elfman consider it their favourite production, says a lot about its pretense. Because it – and “it” in this case is the protagonist and his single quirk – is only really a novelty for five minutes. And that’s a problem when trying to carry something for about two hours.

Edward Scissorhands, as a character, is Johnny Depp’s breakthrough role, and his entire performance is in the eyes. His hands might be scissors, but the character is all in the face. At times, it reminded me of Kate Bush. But the backstory is introduced in such a haphazard style that you can’t tell what kind of story Edward Scissorhands wants to be, and it doesn’t seem to be able to tell either. It begins with a bedtime story telling the legend of the character, before cutting to a gothic castle, and then a colour neighbourhood ala The Stepford Wives. One of Burton’s signature styles is to combine fantasy with normality, and to make normality more of a fantasy than the actual fantasy elements. And that’s because Burton is an art director. He’s the most arty director there is, and yet Edward Scissorhands is an attempt at mainstream cinema. But this just doesn’t work because mainstream cinema requires certain narrative pillars, whereas Edward Scissorhands would have been much better suited to a release in an art house rather than global cinemas.

Really, the problem in it is that the protagonist isn’t developed. The story sways between one sight gag to another, with him reacting to a variety of domestic things in the style that one would if one had scissors for hands and no understanding of the world. There isn’t a story here, it’s really just a novelty. And it wears off very quickly.

 

Edward Scissorhands: inconsistent sight gags prove disappointing. 4/10

Still, at least it isn’t Edward Penishands.