The third installment in the Spider-Man movie franchise is not the pinnacle of moviemaking. It’s not even the apex of superhero cinema. It’s a film rife with coincidence and absurdly simplistic morality, made by people who want to tell us the world is full of shades of grey but who can’t get over the ease of black and white. So when I tell you I loved it, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t sitting there shrugging my shoulders at its rampant stupidity.
But I loved it.
Let me recap: I hated 1. I thought it was cartoonish and silly. 2, somehow, opened up before me as an exploration of the superhero as normal guy; everything I’ve always wanted from a comic book. I’ve always been far more interested in how the heroes’ alter egos live with themselves than in watching them leap tall buildings in a single bound. The second film was a lovely exposition along that theme, with a tastefully relevant villain.
For the third film, it seems that someone decided that it wasn’t enough to play with Peter and MJ’s relationship; not enough to throw Parker’s darker “black Spider-man” at him; not enough to have Harry-son-of-Green Goblin lose his memory, find it again, and come after Peter multiple times; not enough to include not one but two mutant villains; but they all had to be interconnected somehow in a ridiculous, excuse the expression, web of association and happenstance. Oh, and dancing. The movie asks us to believe far too much in its too long 141 minutes; convenience is par for the course in American comics, but played out monthly it’s probably easier to swallow.
At the same time, I ate every bit, and would have sat for more. Because the things I loved about the second film—the missed opportunities, adolescent selfishness and misunderstanding, growing up and apart from friends; with special powers, of course—they were still there. They were hidden in the new effects (mostly occurring at night, which they’ve finally figured out masks much sin) and the loaded (and sometimes cheesy) script and clumsy moralizing, but this is still a story about a guy trying to figure it all out, with just as much to deal with as most of us. And that’s not typical in Hollywood. As silly and transparent as it is, most movies wouldn’t have a fight scene hinge on the fact that a the hero’s more concerned about not losing the ring he wants to propose to his girl with. And I admire that. I also admire any movie where Bruce Campbell attempts to convince us of his accent by informing us he’s French.
So every time I started to scoff at the movie, and mock its attempts to curry favor with fans, I remembered that this guy had made Army of Darkness, and I sat back again to enjoy the ride. I love Army of Darkness. And in the end, the good humor apparent behind both movies won me over, despite all reason. It’s goofy, contradictory and cheesy, but then, so’s my life. And maybe that’s why I relate to it.