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Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Thought it was great
Let me start by saying I see some reasons why fan boys are upset, and some of the issues people had problems with. Yes, it packed a ton of things into it, but it made it feel more like an event. I have read comics in my life, mainly Spider-Man and Batman comics... I'm familiar with the original comics origin story of Venom and all of these characters before they hit movie screens, but I still can't understand some of the hatred and criticism that the film got. There are issues, which I'll list below, but the film has a strong emotional core with its characters that shines through here.
The dramatic elements, according to many reviewers and critics are done poorly here, but that's not the case. It's easy to feel the hurt Peter feels when MJ has to break some horrible news to him, you see his anger when he realizes Marko's connection to his murdered uncle, Ben, and the roller coaster that is Harry throughout the film even lets you sympathize with his position because you see, for the first time since the first film and done even better here, a more "innocent" side to Harry, though it doesn't last long.
Also, I did read plenty of online reviews prior to viewing and many of them gave me the feeling that the only way Peter's anger and 'dark side' is shown is through a dance number in a jazz club, which is not the case at all. You see Peter going overboard and saying and doing hurtful things all throughout the mid-section of the film, causing problems for himself and other characters and fully descending deeper and deeper into his own vengeance and anger. A lot of this part of the film is lightened with comedic elements, which is true. There is indeed a dance number, but there's a point to it and plays into a more emotionally charged scene later on. If you've read anything about tonal shifts or the film being called a "mess", I'd say don't believe it. It's done with class and maturity to make it a bit more fun, yet it doesn't take away from the more emotional and mature scenes that come prior and afterward.
Of the fight scenes, all were done well. Sandman's scenes throughout are usually the most beautiful and interesting, while Venom is done quite well too. One thing I did sorely miss was the use of the plural speech from Venom. A "We're not Brock... we are Venom!" line might have been nice. Its a minor grievance though, and all of the action scenes are done quite well, specifically the first and last.
The film is flawed, yes, but it's also quite fun. This is a small list of issues that are present throughout the film that are result of mostly lazy scriptwriting/storytelling, but didn't ruin the movie, at least for me.
Issues: - Harry's Amnesia: Amnesia always feels like lazy writing, in almost every case (except maybe Memento). In this case, it's fairly weak but its forgivable as it allows you to see a side of Harry that hasn't been seen in a long while. It opens him up to more feelings and truly allows for sympathy when things go bad for him, and particularly the end. So, to me, it was quite forgivable as I saw why they used it.
- Suit's Introduction: Yeah, the odds of the meteor crashing right next to Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man are quite slim. The comic origin is out, of course, but perhaps tying Jameson's astronaut son from the second film by having his ship be attacked by the suit and need rescue from Spidey would have been a better way to incorporate the suit... it would have allowed for another action sequence, tie in MJ's ex-boyfriend and tied the symbiote in a little more neatly. However, perhaps such a sequence would put the budget or time limit too high.
- Butler: He mostly kept his mouth shut through the first two films, but in this one he delivers an important message to one of the characters that changes the course of the film. It's slightly forgivable because he's given a more humanized part in this film, but it's still a display of some lazy writing.
Aside from those issues, I disagreed with many of the other critiques that I've read. I don't find the comic aspects disheartening, they were done well, but from the reviews I thought it would be light on the serious and dramatic content of the films, ie, I wouldn't be emotionally invested in the characters this time around. That turned out to be false though, at least it was for me. The special effects were great, the action was great, the acting was great... but what really holds this film and makes it all feel worth it is the emotional attachment to its characters and the way it builds your feelings for them. All of these characters are flawed, some very seriously, but you care about what happens to them all and brings the first two films full-circle in terms of pretty much everything. It wraps up what's been done in the previous two and does some of those things even better.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
If you think you might have missed the point (or there is no point) of the film...
... than you may care to read this. Be wary, this is only after you've seen the movie and is simply an account of the thematic elements, not a complete review of the film... there are spoilers.
One of the most notable themes/messages from the movie is how a parent's totalitarian, overprotective ways can suffocate children and cause them to lash out in numerous ways. Of course, ultimately the parents suffocation of the girls leads them to kill themselves, as well as a string of things prior to that, all throughout the film... most notable is Lux's various acts of rebelliousness. Ex: running out to the car to make out with Trip, making love to seemingly random guys on the rooftop, smoking, drinking, breaking curfew, doing several of these things simultaneously...)
This theme can be examined, expanded upon and applied to parents, their parental strategies and their mistakes all over the world, everywhere, everyday to varying degrees. I hardly think the parents of this film would ever admit, acknowledge or even realize they are the primary cause for their children's suicides. They had love for their children, but solely because they had total control over their every action. Whenever a child (like Lux) disobeyed them or broke one of their overbearing rules, the love seems to be pushed to the background and replaced with strict discipline in the most relentless ways.
Another strong element is the message of how the death of someone, in this case a suicide of several people, can affect many people, even people that you might not think would be so affected. And, it can affect and shake people on many different levels. (The aftermath shows glimpses of the parents, the boys, the boys' parents and the reporters, all affected, at different levels.) Personally, though, I find the Trip Fontaine/Lux relationship the most compelling part of the film... most notably the climax of it, and the aftermath. Lux is clearly the most dominant sister of the film... and the scene of her waking up in the field, alone with her dance crown, slipping her shoes on before she sits in the back seat of the taxi, driving home in the morning, knowing the punishment she's about to endure.. It is the most poignant sequence of the movie in my eyes.
The reason that part, I think, is the most powerful (at least to me) is that Lux is seemingly untouchable throughout a major portion of the film. She appeared to be the most mysterious, even as other guys claimed to have talked to her and done things with her, she seemed rather untouchable, the most majestic of the girls. Finally, she opened up to a guy that worked hard to win her over, Trip... his name on her underwear. Finally she's opened up to a guy, only to wake up in a field alone... hours after her curfew, no way home.
Fast forward to the snapshot of Trip in the present. He recalls the relationship as a bittersweet nostalgia for him... claiming it was just "different" for him when he woke up in the field next to her. He had conquered her, and to him he had unraveled the mystery that was Lux by getting into her pants, though he didn't really unveil who she really was. The older trip remains ignorant of the effect his actions that night had on her, the pain that he caused her, just how wrong what he did was to her. It's a stronger expression of a statement many other TV shows and other films have tried to depict of the teenage male dominance mindset that some, not all, males have... as soon as they have sex with the girl there's less mystique to them, and rather there's nothing left for them to do but move on.
Then there are the boys... so deeply enthralled by the girls even after their deaths, for years, according to the narrations. One has to wonder at the close of the film, would the boys still be putting together the pieces of the girls' lives together to figure out just who they were if they had the same experience that Trip had in the field? Might they have lost interest and let the girls fade from their lives and memories once they thought they discovered who they really were by seeing their name on their underwear. Would they have lost interest once they thought the veil was pulled... or perhaps did the girls really just lose, within minutes or hours, their chance of encountering a love that just might have saved their lives from boys who were as dedicated more than anyone, even their parents, to finding out who those five girls were and what made them feel the way they did?
All in all, the film has a lot of thematic elements that can be pondered for hours into the night. I have encountered many other films that are more keen to discussion than this, but there is definitely bait for intelligent and thoughtful conversation if you give it some thought and some time.