So were were out at the Ridge Theatre in New Berlin at 9:00AM on May 5th for the first show of the day. After the half-hour of unexpectedly light-handed agitprop, we settled in to enjoy the movie.
Critics aside, we found the movie very good. We were reading Spider-Man comics regularly during the orginal "black suit" storyline and so were able to follow the allegedly convoluted plot quite well. In fact, perhaps being comics readers, we didn't find the plot all that convoluted. There is actually a very strong unifying theme about the corrosive effects of the lust for revenge. Harry Osborne (James Franco) wants revenge on Peter/Spider-Man for the death of his father, and takes the mind-altering Goblin potion to do it, using some upgrade to his father's old gear. Peter, agression amped up by the alien symbiote, takes a really spiteful revenge on Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) for having dumped him, publicly humiliates his photographic rival, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace); and engages Harry in a vicious fight fueled as much by testosterone as by their mutual demons. Brock of course wants revenge on Peter for getting him fired and joins with the alien symbiote (ticked off at having been abandoned by Peter) to become the monsterous Venom. When Peter learns tha an escaped convict, Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), now the Sandman, may have been the "real" killer of Uncle Ben, Peter gives into rage fighting him, and exults in his seeming demise until brought up short by his Aunt May in a scene some have wrongly described as "preachy."
Marko is about the only major character who isn't at some point motivated by rage and spite. With his heavy build, stoic face, and growly, apologetic voice, Church invokes the late Lon Chaney Jr. in "accidental monster" roles such as "The Indestructible Man". In fact, Church said in an interview that he was inspired by Chaney, and it shows, sttongly, but subtly, in the scenes surrounding his transformation. Sandman,is an esentially hard-luck character, and is more reactive than active in what happens to him.
Special effects were, of course, "spectacular" and I was very interested in the producer's choices. Peter's aeiral battle with Harry is breathaking in its speed and violence. Sandman, with his malleable body giving him enormous reach, and ability to climb walls digging sand grains into crevices, and abilty to slough off webbing, was one of the earlier villains designed to give Spider-Man a fight in his own element, although he lost out becasue he was slower and less agile. The movie version is more powerful, able to travel through the air as a sandstorm and to animate huge amounts of sand, becoming a colossus. Even though much of Sandman's on-screen action is CGI, trivia about this movie notes the extent to which Church was beaten up in the making of it. (more to come).