Friday, May 04, 2007

Does every movie have to be about race?

If you ask Manohla Dargis from the New York Times, then yes.

The big selling point in “Spider-Man 3” is that Spider-Man or Peter or some combination of the two discovers his so-called dark side when an inky extraterrestrial glob (a symbiote in Marvel-speak) spreads its gooey tentacles over his body, turning his suit and soul black. Though there’s something dubious about the idea that black still conveys evil in our culture, pop or otherwise (tell it to Batman and Barack Obama, for starters), the idea of messing with Spider-Man’s squeaky-clean profile, smearing it with dirt, a touch of naughtiness, seems too good to resist.

Dargis unsurprisingly echoes her colleague A.O. Scott, in his review of 300. Maybe it's simply a form of comic book bias. However it is not even an American phenomenon. British critics of Spiderman 3 have cited the flashy patriotism (because Spidey is shown swinging past the American flag), and decried the 'Sunday School Morality' of the film. Perhaps the film should have been darker and more sadistically violent, such as Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking barrels, or Snatch, or Layer Cake. Those are some quality films which needn't trifle with such mundane issues as right and wrong, or good and evil. Why bother, when you can choreograph myriad gun-wielding action sequences over and over ad nauseum?

It's a comic book movie! What do you expect but hokey Sunday School Morality? And is that not ironic, that one critic decries the racial aspect, while the other emphasizes the good-natured morality?

On a side (but geekier) note... If I had to critique the film (based on the trailers I've seen), it would not relate to the perceived racial overtones (or undertones).

Rather, I would question the casting of Topher Grace, who stands in flaccid, pale comparison the the Eddie Brock of Spiderman Comic Book fame. Undoubtedly, Grace was selected for his youthful appeal, but the older, muscular, darkly brooding Eddie Brock in the Comic Book series suited the sinister idea and appearance of Venom much more appropriately.

Speaking of Venom - all the shots I've seen have been short, but one thing seems certain: Venom is a skinnier, slimier, more alien looking version of the Comic Book villain. That is unfortunate. It's bad enough they discarded Spiderman's black costume, opting for his red & white to be bathed in the black symbiote. Would it have killed them to let the black costume be shown as it appeared in the Comic Book? Doesn't it look way cooler than the traditional costume, which they simply painted over with a metallic black paint brush?

That's it, I've said my piece... until tomorrow afternoon, when I'll have seen the afternoon matinee.

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