Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spiderman-3: Where's Our Beloved Hero?

After his tiring and not so successful first encounter with Sandman, Peter Parker/Spiderman sits on a parapet of a building and makes a purportedly funny observation – "Where do all these guys come from?" Exactly.

Rather, the more relevant question is "Why" instead of "Where". Sam Raimi's third installment of the Spiderman franchise is peopled with so many characters – specifically bad guys – that you wonder what the filmmakers were trying to do here. Did they really believe that more is better? How much can you cramp in a 140 minute movie anyway? Especially when you want to emphasize – rather overemphasize – the humanization and the emotions that worked so wonderfully in Spiderman-2.

The problem actually is not there are too many characters, it's just that in order to do some sort of justice to the multitude of characters, the film gets overburdened with too many plot elements, some penned so perfunctorily that it almost seems like the work of an out-of-work Hindi film screenwriter from the 80s.

Consider this: a love triangle, a son's vow of revenge; friends turned foes; temporary loss of memory; a last minute revelation that makes foe turn friend again only to sacrifice his life for his 'friend'. That's just one side of the story. Then you have this funny track of a MaĆ®tre d’ that underscores a poignant moment, or the back stories of the bad guys – Sandman and Venom… All this is classic Hindi film formula. Pack everything you can in one film…

Before you get me wrong, let me clarify that I'm not trying to be dismissive of Hindi films (how can I, when I'm so addicted to them?). My point is that you need almost a juggler's skill to pull off such diverse elements in a single film. Hindi film makers have mastered this skill and elevated it to the level of art. Hollywood, however, is not very adept at it. And this is fairly obvious in Spiderman-3.

In some ways Spiderman-3 reminded me of Krrish. Both were meant to be – at least promoted as - superhero films, but the emphasis on other side-plots in both the films is a wee bit too much. I'm all for humanizing superheroes (the reason why I like Spiderman-2 and Superman Returns more than any other superhero flick), but after a point it's good old superhero stuff that one expects and looks forward to in these films. That's what Krrish lacked, and that's where Spiderman-3 lags behind.

There's nothing heroic about Spiderman in this film. Except for saving Gwen Stacy (a dramatic departure from the original Marvel character) from a disaster early on in the film, there's not even a single heroic moment that Peter Parker can be proud of (as he keeps claiming proudly – "people like me'). This is particularly unpardonable given the fact that there is not one but three adversaries (or is it 4, if one were to count the symbiote?) our friendly neighborhood Spiderman confronts in this film. Couldn't they think of even one heroic moment for our hero? Just one?

It's not that this film is a complete downer. There are moments of individual brilliance – like the initial chase between Spidey and the New Goblin, or the sequence where Flint Marko transforms into Sandman, or the delightful and bang-on portrayal of the editor by J.K Simmons.

Sadly, all these get lost in the convoluted web that the screenwriters spin so incompetently.