Sunday, 13 May 2007

A Spiderman Axis of Evil

Probably most cinema goers will have seen Spiderman 3 by now. I have seen it three times myself and believe I have finally come to my own opinion on the film. I could write a full review, revealing the plot in its entirety and giving my two cents worth on it all but, well, I'm on a revision break and just don't have the time for what would be a pretty lengthy piecd considering the scope of the film. Instead, I have chosen to review the villains of the three films. No matter how great a hero may be, without a truly mighty foe to do battle with they'll always fall short of achieving that 'legendary' status. The villain is also insrtumental in determining the plot of the film and how dramatic, comedic, horrific and so on, a film is.

Villain: The Green Goblin

The first villain of the films, the maniacal and mallicious Green Goblin is a genuinly frightful character and probably the most 'scary' seen in films based on comics. Norman Osborn, driven mad during a trial run of his performance enhancers, becomes Spiderman's first villain. He is formed from Norman's innermost desires, swatting aside those who stand in the way of Osborn. While initially he is satisfied to ensure Oscorp flourishes and that he retains control, he later turns his focus specifically to Spiderman and tormenting him in whaterver way possible targetting Mary Jane Watson and his Aunt May. Despite his unhinged mind, he's a cunning villain setting traps for Spiderman, planting the seed of uncertainty in the young heroes mind and besting the web slinger at in every encounter until the very end. Willem Defoe's portrayal of the Goblin is superb, right down to the sinister voice Norman speaks with while donning the mask. I believe this is the greatest villain of the trilogy in terms of the sheer impact he made on the big screen and for doing what villains do - being evil.

Spiderman 2
Villain: Doctor Octopus
Ah, 'Doc Ock'. Another brilliant scientist turned villain, its a trend for comic books. Still, the twist on the nature of his conversion in the Spiderman 2 film was a novel one. His mechanical arms, designed as part of his system to sustain fusion, have a highly sophisticated form of AI installed. There is also an inhibitor chip the ensures the orders are one way (as in, from Octavius to the arms and not vice versa). During a demonstration, Octavius is blasted by a wayward fusion ray destroying the inhibitor chip. The AI can now influence him. He's not as impressive in appearence as the Goblin was, but proves to be a deadly foe for Spidey going as far as capturing him for the revenge seeking Harry Osborn. Octavius manages some form of redemption at the end as he regains control, hinting that in the film version Ock is more a puppet of the AI rather than genuinly evil. Its not that far removed from Osborn's dual personality from the first film and the creation of Green Goblin, a persona that wishes to fullfill the dreams of the weaker 'good' persona. Still, Ock is a fan favourite and keeps us entertained throughout.

Spiderman 3
Villain: The Sandman
Now here's a villain whose had his role dramatically beefed up on his jump to the big screen. Little more than a frequently occuring pest in the comics, more of a filler villain despite his great powers, Flin Marco is the main antagoniser for most of Spiderman 3. Like the previous two films' villains (Goblin and Ock) Marco has a good introduction and character development. A man on the run from the law who desires nothin more than to see his daughter's health restored, he had resorted to crime to get the needed funds. While on the run, Marco stumbles into a particle testing site and becomes the Sandman. As he struggles to regain control of his now sand made body, its touching to see how he despretley grasps at the necklace of his daughter. He has overwhelming power, easily beating a somewhat cocky Spiderman in their first encounter, though Flin makes it clear that 'I don't want to fight you'. He's not in it for being evil, he just wants the money to save his daughter. A black suited Spiderman pummels Flin upon learning he is Uncle Ben's true killer, though as the film reveals at the end it was an accidental shooting as he attempted to take the car. Flin is influenced by Venom to take on Spiderman one final time, and without Harry's intervention would have killed the web head. All in all, I think this is the greatest villain of the third film and second best of the trilogy next to the Green Goblin. His powers are tremendous and his character well designed and thought out. As Flin says, "I never chose to be this way", and "I'm not a bad person, I've just had bad luck". A man drawn onto the wrong side of the tracks through need to save a person he loves, Flin Marco is a villain who touches all the emotional cords.

Villain: New Goblin
Since witnessing Spiderman laying his fathers lifless body down at the Osborn home, Harry has sought revenge. In the second film he struck a deal with Doctor Octopus and almost stabbed the captured Spiderman until he discovered it was his closest friend, Peter Parker, behind the mask. The second film ends with Harry being haunted by his fathers image and discovering the stash of 'goblin gear'. In the third film, following a brief scene with a young smirking Osborn eyeing Parker in the theatre and a dip in a vapour bath of his fathers performance enhancers, the New Goblin is born. This goblin isn't insane, as was pointed out in the first film insanity was a side effect displayed in only one of the test subjects (Norman just got unlucky). However, a lifetime of failing to live up to his fathers expectations and desire to avenge him has twisted the young Osborn. Though this isn't a standard villain. He's not out for world domination, money or anything really beyond avenging the death of his father. Not unlike the way Spiderman started out hunting down his uncles shooter. Equpped with the glider, pumpkin bombs, razor bats and enhanced human abilities that the previous Goblin had, Harry has the potential to be a serious threat enhanced further by his modifications to the glider (enabling it to pursue Spiderman down narrow alleys) and new weapons. Still, Harry lacks the killer instinct the Green Goblin had and Spiderman is a much more seasoned fighter. After a brush with amnesia and spending a portion of the film as his former self, upon his memory returning Harry makes another attempt on Parker's life but this time is totally overpowered by a black suites spidey. In the end, a scarred Osborn comes to Spiderman's aid as he accepts the harsh reality that his father had turned to evil and had died by his own hand. After fending off the Sandman, he fails in his attempt to slay Venom but not before he sacrifices himself to save Parker, skewered by his own glider (like father like son eh?). Like the sandman, Harry manages a level of redemption at the end. Though he was never truly an evil villain, he just wanted to take down his fathers killer.

Villain: Venom
And here we are, the final villain of the third film. Venom represents the only truly evil villain in this film. The film illustrates the shortcomings of Eddie Brock, a young photographer, and the symbiote's powers a displayed through the black suited Spiderman. When the symbiote and Brock become one, the result is venom. He is a creature born of revenge, hatred and envy. Unlike Parker, Brock claims that 'I likes being evil, it makes me happy' as the symbiote's powers courses through him. Such is the power of this combination that Brock himself appears transformed sporting fangs of his own beneath the nightmarish face of Venom. He wants to humiliate and destroy Peter Parker and convinces the sandman to help him. He appears to be more than a match for Spiderman and kills Harry. Still, once Spiderman realises the symbiote's weakness it is not long before Venom is weakened and finished off with a pumpkin bomb. Venom's screen time is short lived, and for such a powerful and famous foe it seems as if he was cheated. The appearence of the symbiote itself from a meteorite has no explenation in the film either which may bewilder those who have not read the comics. While I do like the portrayal of venom himself, I feel of all the villains in the films so far this is the worst given his lack of developement as Venom, the missing information regarding the symbiote and the way that he goes from being an indomitable foe to a pushover. Granted, the soundwaves as a weakness, though parker seems to quite easily knock him back hown a couple of times as he attempts to escape. A villain a pure mallice with great potential, a missed opportunity I feel. Given his apparent demise, I doubt he will return to the big screen, which is a shame considering what was yet to be explored with this character.

And there you have it, my rundown of Spidey's foes. Who will be in the next installment of the Spiderman on the big screen (which will doubtless appear in a couple of years). Hopefully they'll pick one villain, or maybe two, and give them much more development than was seen in the third. While Harry had been developing over three films and a lot of time devoted to the Sandman, Venom just didn't cut it. There's plenty of villains left, Lizard, Mysterio, Shocker, Scorpion, Carnage, the list goes on. I may review the film itself post exams, or maybe one of the other writers here will take on the task. Still, I would like to make on point clear to people bashing the film on chronological points. This is an ADAPTATION, not a direct copy of the comics, and all in all the characters have been recreated with a great degree of faith. Lets face it, they could have done much worse.


A figleaf of your imagination said...

Great work, great work - I am muchly impressed!!

This piece is actually much better than a film review as it goes into detail about the fictional world of Spiderman. This is the kind of writing I created this blog for so I'm really glad you've come out with something like this. Film reviews are a good thing to do, especially as they create a good way to do regular blogging, but in depth Sci-Fi discussion is soo much better and you've certainly helped set the standard there!

I wonder who the next villain will be - I'm inclined to think Lizard, since Doctor Connnors has had a beefed up role in this film, but I guess it depends on the rights, plus I guess the "good scientist gone mad" has already been done in Spidey 2
Carnage is kinda ruled out 'cause of Venom's death, but no doubt they'd find a way to put him in if they wanted.

Anyway, better go and work! Once the nightmare of coursework/exams is over I'm thinking of setting up a weekly article. I never doubted it, but I can see you're well up to the task!

WelshEd said...

Thanks. And yes, once all this exam/course work saga is over more time can be devoted to this wee blog.
Good news on the rights thing, Lizard and Kraven aren't part of that same deal so there's potential for both of them. I think Kraven or Scorpion would make ideal villains to come out of nowhere into the film, or the likes of Shocker to have a minor menace role. Lizard is the one remaining villain we've seen elements of so far. Venom did die, though there was some of the symbiote with Doctor Connors, maybe enough to regenerate? Maybe the film makers can play on this and introduce a new character, like a Lizard/Venom symbiote. Ah, the possibilities!