Film Threat’s Don Lewis has a a big appetite”¦for movies. In “”I Can’t Believe I Ate Watched the Whole Franchise!” he sits down and watches all the movies from a franchise in one sitting. That’s right, all the movies in a row. Spoilers will abound so beware!

This Week Don devours the “”Spiderman” Franchise!!!

Spiderman, Spiderman”¦makes boatloads of money like no one can! My task seemed simple enough. Grab my “”Spiderman” and “”Spiderman 2″ DVD’s, watch them and then head out to see “”Spiderman 3″ in a local theater. Aside from swinging through a good six-plus hours straight with everyone’s favorite webslinger, I was actually kind of excited to get reacquainted with Peter Parker and company. That is until I sat through all three films in a row.

The original film of the series, 2002’s “”Spiderman,” was such a joy when I first watched it. It felt as though the viewer was learning how Spiderman came to be right along with Peter Parker. Of course in the first film, we see Peter Parker as a dweeby soon-to-be high school graduate. We feel the bond he has with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May and also feel the love pangs of having a crush on your hot next door neighbor. However these elements, while nice and tidy for character development, just aren’t strong enough to build a franchise on and that’s exactly what the “”Spiderman” movies try to do. There’s no singular arch-nemesis to be found aside from Peter trying to decide if he can handle great power and great responsibility. While I hadn’t watched “”Spiderman” in quite a few years, it still held up pretty well. The film manages to perfectly blend the campy comic fun inherent in the Spiderman comics yet also make the hero cool. Or at least, building towards being cool.

“”Spiderman 2″ was up next and I noticed something sort of alarming. Namely, it’s the same movie as the first one. Peter is still trying to figure out if he can be with Mary Jane and he still feels like it was his fault Uncle Ben died. But what really struck me that I hadn’t noticed before is that Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin are the same character. Both feature brilliant men who use themselves as guinea pigs in their own experiment that goes wrong. The experiment then opens up split personalities (the Goblin has Norman behind the mask with a split persona and Doc Ock has his mind controlled by the mechanical arms) and then the villain they become wreaks havoc on the person (or people) who took away their funding. In the original, Norman takes down the military and in part two, Doc Ock goes after Harry and “”Oscorp” to get more trinium to run his fusion experiment.

Also irritatingly similar is the fact that both of these villains were men Peter Parker has sort of, made into surrogate fathers. While the Osborne father figure thing works great because it places Harry (Norman’s son and Peter’s best friend) and Peter at odds, the father fixation with Dr. Octavious sort of nullifies the Osborne relationship. Peter is basically looking for a daddy anywhere he can find one. Preferably a rich and brilliant one, thank you. Word to future daddy figures: don’t get too close to Parker or you’ll turn into a power mad comic book villain with a split personality.

Another thing that really caught my attention as I watched the first two films is, Peter Parker is really kind of a jerk. He’s a goofy kid and he’s charming and that’s about all he offers. I fully realize that the big conflict Peter has is whether or not he can be responsible to his loved ones as well as be a hero, but lets look at the facts. First off, he treats Mary Jane like garbage. They’re on again, they’re off again. Whenever he tells her to get lost, she finds someone else and then Peter steals her back again. He did it to Harry Osbourne in the first film and then he steals MJ again in part two”¦on her wedding day. That’s serious a-hole material. Granted, these things do come into play in “”Spiderman 3,” but it doesn’t change the fact we’re following around a creepy kid who seems to take a perverse pleasure in messing with a women’s minds. I guess what I’m saying is, Peter Parker isn’t exactly a likeable guy and thus, it’s tough to care about him over three films. Plus, if I were Harry Osborne, I would hate Peter Parker too. He’s basically gummed up the guys life and the only inclination we have towards disliking Harry is he’s spoiled and rich. Like most character traits in this franchise, that’s just not a good enough reason to feel compelled by the story.

By the time I hit the midnight showing of “”Spiderman 3,” I admit, I was pretty Spidied out. However the film looked exciting. It has Venom in it! Yet part three drops the ball in such a huge way, that’s a whole other article that I need to write. Since I’m just writing about the three films as a franchise, I’ll skip my issues with it”¦for now. “”Spiderman 3″ is the closing chapter for the first part of what will surely be a huge cash cow franchise for years to come. But the thing is, I could care less about Peter Parker and his issues by chapter three. Storytelling norms dictate that in the final act (here, the final film as it were) all the loose ends set in motion in the first act (or, film) will be tied up. But lets get real for a second. Hasn’t Peter saved enough lives by doing the right thing and being Spiderman to somehow salve the wound he feels for “”allowing” Uncle Ben to die? And aside from a few carefully inserted (and equally similar in all the films) scenes with Peter and Aunt May having a heart-to-heart, he seems to be just fine with who he has become. That is until the films ham-handedly decide time and time again to remind us Peter supposedly caused his the death of his Uncle and thus give motivation and “”conflict.” Yawn.

Speaking of clumsy writing flaws, it’s just a lame and frankly stupid plot point to have Flint Marko (ie; Sandman) suddenly become the “”real” man responsible for killing Uncle Ben. It’s as if the writers suddenly realized Peter had accidentally killed the guy who he thought was responsible in the first film and now needed to find some way to let little Peter have some closure. Deux e machina much guys? “”Spiderman 3″ kind of sums up what I feel is the issue with the whole franchise.

We all know Spiderman movies are going to keep continuing whether or not Raimi, Dunst and Maguire are on-board. That’s fine. But these three films are basically all the same film and unless you’re making a trilogy, which some can argue Raimi has done, you simply need stronger character traits to keep it interesting. I think another major flaw here is in Raimi trying to walk the line between making films that have his personal touch while still appeasing the money hungry powers that be. It’s as if they let Raimi take their fancy franchise out for a spin, as long as he doesn’t damage it. There’s several great “”Raimi moments” in “”Spiderman 2″ (namely the scene when Doc Ock’s arms come alive and we get separate screens and shots for each arm”¦brilliant!) but “”Spiderman” and “”Spiderman 3″ are cookie cutter CGI blockbusters.

Overall, I still enjoy the “”Spiderman” films. Yet after watching them back to back to back, some annoying similarities and flaws emerge. The characters are wishy-washy and tough to root for, the plot lines are almost exactly the same each time and Sam Raimi’s directorial touches are totally lost by the time the third film rolls credits. It will be interesting to see where “”Spiderman 4″ takes us, hopefully it will spin a web of uncharted territory unlike it’s three predecessors.

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  1. Dave Lawler says:

    I think what we’re looking at here is a replay of the first “Batman” franchise. The producers (with no apparent understanding of the original comic) are throwing as much as they can into the movies, possibly for the benefit of the audience, not the fans, but the audience.

    Remember the first “Batman” movie where it was an earlier incarnation of the Joker that killed Bruce Wayne’s parents? Same scenario here for the benfit of tying up loose ends for an increasingly impatient audience, and not the comic book purists. They were just happy to be along for the ride, however inaccurate that ride might be.

  2. Quote from Don: “The characters are wishy-washy and tough to root for, the plot lines are almost exactly the same each time…”

    I’ve been saying that same thing about the plots for years. People always tell me, “but that’s the comics dude.” Yeah? Well then Spider-Man sucks it. Period.

    Don, I really enjoyed your rehash of a series. Keep it up son.

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