An instructive, if ridiculous and slightly unfair, point of comparison for Out 1, the 2.5 hour Spiderman 3 is packed with plot and very fast-moving but feels slight, and does get a little boring. Out 1 buries its (questionable, and occasionally nonexistent) plot points underneath the rhythms and minutiae of everyday life, while Spiderman is so dominated by narrative and so full of action that we never get the chance to know any of the characters. Watching Spiderman is like gathering together a year's worth of comic books and working your way through the pile in 20 minutes, glancing at the pictures while flipping through the pages. It's an outline for a movie whose script remains to be written, filled with high concept plot points but lacking enough details to make it interesting to humans.
Sam Raimi doesn't seem all that into it anymore, except for a single scene in which Tobey Macguire (as an evil, emo-looking Peter Parker) performs a song-and-dance routine - a scene that reminded me of something Raimi said (possibly from my favorite book of interviews ever) about how the climactic fight scene in Army of Darkness was originally supposed to be a grandly choreographed dance. The second Spiderman movie was a wonderfully shameless melodrama, and the first wasn't bad even if it wasn't especially memorable. Raimi's put his time in at the studios and has done quite well for himself. Speaking as a well-wisher and admirer who appreciates the chaotic humor and transparent production of his genre films as well as the taut intelligence of his "serious" prestige indies (though I prefer one over the other, naturally), let's hope Raimi can and will return to more personal projects. As is the case with Peter Jackson, I've given up hope that he will return to the endearing shabbiness of his roots, the slapped-together horror films that had so much humor and energy and seemed willing to try anything. And maybe someday he'll parlay that studio goodwill into a Sam Raimi musical. I'd say he's earned the opportunity, and, regardless of the project, this hypothetical musical already sounds like more fun than all three Spidermans combined with Darkman.
The high point of the film is its quietest section: as the Sandman awakens from a science experiment-inspired loss of consciousness to discover that he's now made of sand, there's an extended sequence of sand moving and shifting and slowly forming into a human-like figure, which then crumbles instantly on contact with anything else. After a while, of course, they have to get on with it because there's so much more narrative to zip through. (Four villains. Five if you count evil Peter Parker.) But before its premature and definite resolution about five minutes in, the scene was quite beautiful and evocative and eery - which is five more minutes of poetry than could be found in the last X-Men movie.
[I caught Spiderman last Friday at the pleasantly shabby - some would say ratty - bargain cinema in Logan Square. The theaters are asymmetrical enough that the best seat in the house is sometimes (depending on which theater you're in) up against the wall to the far left, but the rows don't really line up so your knees might be in for a surprise if you make your way down the wrong row without paying attention. They're notorious for starting films 5-10 minutes early, you have to check your backpack before entering, and the restrooms have single-serving toilet paper - but the folks at the Logan don't hold back with the air conditioning and the $3 ticket price does go a long way towards curing me of indifference towards recent multiplex fare.]