Wednesday, May 09, 2007

George Lucas, Spider-Man 3

This is rich. Here's George Lucas in an exchange with Roger Friedman on the merits of Spider-Man 3:

Lucas told me he has seen all the summer movies since his company, Industrial Light and Magic, does most of the special effects. The only one they didn't work on was "Spider-Man 3." What did he think of it?

"It's silly. It's a silly movie," he said. "There just isn't much there. Once you take it all apart, there's not much story, is there?"

Well, it's not "Star Wars."

"People thought 'Star Wars' was silly, too," he added, with a wink. "But it wasn't."


This from the stern intellect which gave us Ewoks, Jar-Jar, and a Darth Vader acting like Frankenstein.

Be that as it may, pace Anthony Lane and John Podhoretz, I kind of liked Spider-Man 3. The movie had all sorts of problems both in the writing and editing and not-tiny parts of it were ridiculous. Still, as a meditation on forgiveness, it worked for me and I particularly enjoyed the moments when Raimi let the movie be light-hearted--Bruce Campbell's scene, the bad-boy Parker montage, everything with Emil Skoda's J. Jonah Jameson. It was better than the over-praised first Spider-Man, but nowhere as perfect as the second film, which might be the best super-hero movie ever made. (The other contenders being, obviously, Batman, X-Men 2, and The Incredibles.)

But of all the problems with Spider-Man 3, the one that bugged me most--do you still have to have a spoiler alert on a movie that's made over $160M? if so SPOILER--was when Harry Osborn's butler announces that, like Bruce Wayne's Alfred, he was party to all of the Green Goblin's doings and that he himself could testify (how, exactly?) that Osborn Sr. died by his own hand. Only with this revelation does young Harry decide to come to Parker's aid in rescuing Mary Jane.

It's a preposterous deus ex machina, but what's maddening about it is that there's a simple and elegant way to write around it: Peter Parker comes and asks Harry's help in rescuing M.J., but, still blaming Parker for his father's death, Harry refuses. On further reflection of his fondness for M.J., he relents and follows Parker to the fight, surprising him by coming to his aid. Instinctually, he takes a mortal blow aimed for Parker and then, on his deathbed, he forgives Peter even though he still thinks Peter killed his father. Only because of this example is Peter Parker then able to forgive Flint Marko for the murder of Uncle Ben.

Is it just me, or does this solve all sorts of narrative and motivational problems without altering the story in any structural way? Perhaps they should have kept Michael Chabon, who wrote parts of Spider-Man 2 on board for the third installment.

Alternatively, they could have classed the project up by throwing in a '50s-style robot diner.

5 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to go Lucas on this one, and he should know what he's talking about .. his last three Star Wars movie have had ridiculous story problems too .. The first two Spidey movies are nearly perfect in my eyes, but No. 3 was just a big letdown

Juanita's Journal said...

One, I am a fan of Lucas' Prequel Trilogy. In some ways, it is a superior and more mature story than the Original Trilogy . . . even if some diehard SW cannot accept this.

And two, as much as I am a fan of Lucas' movies, I do not agree with his assessment of SPIDR-MAN 3. But I did not care for the ex deux machina that was used to convinced Harry to help Peter against the Sandman and Venom.

As for this suggestion:

"But of all the problems with Spider-Man 3, the one that bugged me most--do you still have to have a spoiler alert on a movie that's made over $160M? if so SPOILER--was when Harry Osborn's butler announces that, like Bruce Wayne's Alfred, he was party to all of the Green Goblin's doings and that he himself could testify (how, exactly?) that Osborn Sr. died by his own hand. Only with this revelation does young Harry decide to come to Parker's aid in rescuing Mary Jane.

It's a preposterous deus ex machina, but what's maddening about it is that there's a simple and elegant way to write around it: Peter Parker comes and asks Harry's help in rescuing M.J., but, still blaming Parker for his father's death, Harry refuses. On further reflection of his fondness for M.J., he relents and follows Parker to the fight, surprising him by coming to his aid.


I can think of a better suggestion. When Peter arrives at the Osborn manor to seek Harry's help, why not simply have him tell the truth about how Norman aka Green Goblin really died and point out the nature of Norman's wound? And when Harry refuses to believe him, Peter leaves. Eventually Harry thinks about and convinced by Peter's argument, leaves to help Spider-Man and MJ.

Anonymous said...

One, I am a fan of Lucas' Prequel Trilogy. In some ways, it is a superior and more mature story than the Original Trilogy .

The first Star Wars movies weren't brilliant, but they were fun. Episode One was a kick to the fans' nards, Episode Two was a kick to EVERYONE's nards, and Episode Three 'succeeded' (in the weakest possible use of the word) purely becuase it's hard to murder children in cold blood and not have it be somewhat dramatic.

Haven't seen SM3 yet but it sounds painful and your fix sounds like a way better idea.

I would also say 'Batman Returns' is underrated as a great superhero movie, especially a 'dark' superhero movie. Batman isn't particularly heroic. The Penguin is a grotesquely pitiable character. Catwoman doesn't take the victory she could have. Nobody wins.

Ralphie said...

JVL - that's good stuff. You should be writing movies. Or at least fan fiction.

Anonymous - murdering children is rendered somewhat less dramatic when said children are referred to as "younglings."

Lorcy said...

still can't believe Lucas laying the boot in, pot to kettle!
the osborne butler was one of the leaps of faith too far for me, who was he? he never turned up in the other movies, like so much in Spidey-3 we just have to assume all makes sense with no eveidence to the contrary, the Stacey's at Osborne's funeral was the worst. there was no connection made during the film that they knew eact other, it's like everyone in the film just goes to the funeral anyway, whether or not their character had any connection with the deceased.