Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Pair of Threequels

Now that we’re back home where our trusty DVD player is and are starting to catch up on everything we got behind on while we were at the coast, we’re watching a few movies again. Last night we watched a couple that are the third entries in their respective series, SHREK THE THIRD and SPIDER-MAN 3.

If you saw the first two Shrek movies, you know what to expect in this one: fast-paced silliness laced with pop-culture references. And that’s pretty much what you get. The old king of Far, Far Away dies, leaving his son-in-law Shrek the ogre faced with the choice of taking over as king or going off on a quest to find the only other heir, Fiona’s cousin Arthur. Shrek doesn’t want the responsibility of ruling a kingdom, so off he goes, accompanied by his usual companions, Donkey and Puss in Boots. But while they’re gone, the evil Prince Charming takes advantage of the opportunity to seize power in Far, Far Away.

I agree with the critics who said this is the weakest of the three Shrek movies, with the laughs not coming as frequently, but it’s still pretty funny in a lot of places and it has more action than the first two. If you liked the other Shrek movies you ought to like this one, and in my opinion it’s well worth watching.

So is SPIDER-MAN 3, but again, it’s the weakest of the trilogy as far as I’m concerned. We get two new villains, the Sandman (a very well-cast Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (a not-so-well-cast Topher Grace), plus the return of the Green Goblin, plus the introduction of Gwen Stacy and her father, police captain George Stacy. In other words, the filmmakers have taken bits and pieces from more than twenty years of comic-book continuity and crammed them together into one story. It makes for an awfully crowded movie, but I’ll admit that when everything comes together in the end it does create a definite epic feeling.

I don’t think I’m a fanatical purist about these things, but I’ll also admit that it bothers me how each movie in this series gets further and further away from the comic-book continuity. The X-Men movies were the same way, and I liked them less as they went along, too. At least the Spider-Man movies still get the heart and soul of the characters pretty much right, and Stan Lee has a nice cameo.

Speaking of Stan, SPIDER-MAN 3 is the first movie in the series to feature a main character (Venom) that wasn’t created by Stan and Steve Ditko during the first three years of the comic. In fact, I find it interesting that all three of these highly successful movies have used a version of Spider-Man that has been all but retconned and rebooted out of existence. The comics industry turned some corners I didn’t like, first in the Eighties with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and then later in the Nineties with the reboot of Superman and the lengthy run of retconning at Marvel that I absolutely hated. By now, of course, the thirty years or more of continuity in which I had an investment as a reader is long gone. I still read comics, but mostly reprints of old stuff or newer stuff that at least resembles the titles I used to know, like JONAH HEX and BATMAN. I realize the industry doesn’t care that much about the geezer market . . . but at times I still miss the experience of going to the drugstore every Tuesday after school to pick up the new comics off the spinner rack.

That’s enough ranting and nostalgia-wallowing. SHREK THE THIRD and SPIDER-MAN 3 are both pretty good. Good enough to get my recommendation, anyway.


Vince said...

If Hollywood has to make threequels, they could do a lot worse than the two Matt Damon was in this summer, Ocean's 13 and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Mark Terry said...

I was pretty disappointed in Spider Man 3. I thought the action sequences and acting, etc., were fine, but I wasn't too wild about Harry's redemption at the end, among other things. And I one of the problems with all three movies has been what my sons (ages 9 and 14) say: "Too much Peter Parker." I like Toby Maguire a lot, but sometimes I think filmmakers (see the Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Snoozer as a prime example) start having inferiority complexes about doing movies about super heroes, so they want to focus on the real people, "We're not JUST making a movie about super heroes and comic books, we're making movies about FEELINGS and REAL PEOPLE," which to my mind tends to forget why we're going to see the movie in the first place.

Ah well.