While Americans must wait until this weekend to see if Peter Parker survives Spider-Man 3 (spoiler: he doesn’t), the rest of the world is already getting to ogle the new black suit, the birth of Venom, and Sandman getting right up in Mary Jane’s vagina and turning into a pearl. And it seems like everybody in Asia and Europe have plunked their funny-looking foreign currency down in the last couple of days: Spider-Man 3 has been breaking records in Italy, Germany, and France. It took in 4 million dollars in Italy, making it the biggest opening day in that greasy country’s history, blowing past The Da Vinci Code’s 2.5 million opening – and that movie had an Eyetalian in the title! It also shattered records in Japan and South Korea.
The movie is already breaking one record in the US – at 4,253 theaters, Spider-Man 3 will have the widest North American opening ever. They've actually rented out space on the backs of fat guys' t-shirts to project the fucking thing. With the big box office overseas and a release and publicity campaign perhaps best called carpet bombing, why is Sony worried? I mean, they must be, as CHUD alum Smilin’ Jack Ruby has pointed out that their latest TV ads quote Earl Dittman, known as the go-to guy for a blurb about your shitty movie. Or a big fat whore, depending on your regional terminology.
It seems weird that Sony couldn’t get anyone other than Dittman to give a quote. Shit, Shawn Edwards, streetwalker for Fox, or Maxim’s in-house version of a crackwhore giving blow jobs at the bus station, Pete Hammond (he called The Number 23 a ‘must see movie,’ by the way), weren’t available? This seems bizarre to me, especially since I’ve seen the movie, and it certainly isn’t Dittman-worthy.
Of course I had to beg and plead to see the movie. Getting in to a Spider-Man 3 screening in New York City has been only slightly easier than getting an audience with the Pope, and some people speculated that the studio was keeping the film away from onliners because it was a disappointment and that we’d break for the interwebs with our dismay immediately (this is despite the fact that all the LA onliners saw the damn movie a week earlier, but whatever). I didn’t find it to be a disappointment – better than 1, not as good as 2, major third act issues – but it’s intriguing that I was embargoed on reviewing the film until release. Is it possible that Sony themselves think they have a turkey on their hands?
I think there’s a complex series of interconnected events going on here. For one thing, there’s been a major critical backlash brewing – the first two Spider-Mans were objectively good and well-made films, and that sort of irks some writers. They would like to dismiss a big, expensive blockbuster out of hand, but they couldn’t. 3 is much more flawed than the previous two, offering a real in for people who want to be able to finally make a little hay with the franchise. Also, the movie is, by all standards, goddamned expensive, and there’s a knee-jerk reaction to that as well. Sony’s afraid of that backlash, and while the Rotten Tomatoes meter still has the movie at a fresh rating, many of the positive quotes are middling at best.
For the blurbing sluts, Spider-Man 3 is an opportunity to get a little cred. This is a movie they can bat around a bit, showing that they don’t give every movie a good review. They don’t have to worry about the studio being mad at them since Spider-Man 3 is bigger than any mere mortal – Pete Hammond won’t make or break this one. Of course they could still show up in ads, but at the moment it looks like they’re keeping their distance.
Also possibly informing Sony’s decision to blurb Earl Dittman is the idea that Spider-Man 3 is dark, which many perceive as a strike against a major summer blockbuster. This has been floating around a lot, and I guess it comes from the ad campaigns, because it doesn’t come from the movie itself. There’s not much real darkness in Spider-Man 3 – if anything, I’d say that this one has the most Raimi-esque slapstick and comedy of the series to date. Even when he’s wearing the black suit, which makes him more aggressive, Peter Parker never gets half as dark as Clark Kent in Superman III. He just sort of becomes a creepy stud, a Tony Manero as Nick rightly pointed out in his review. There’s emotional turmoil here, but that’s nothing new, and it rarely rises far above the point of soap opera – this isn’t exactly gut-wrenching stuff.
I wonder if Sony’s seeming lack of confidence in the film (come on, how else am I supposed to read a fucking Earl Dittman blurb?) comes from the feeling that maybe there’s not enough action. There were rumors flying around that Raimi had to go back and punch up the action scenes after principle photography, and I kind of believe that – Spider-Man 3 is not packed with action. The action that is there is great, but the film has long and talky stretches.
Of course what’s really probably scaring Sony are the fins in the water – Shrek and Pirates 3. There’s no doubt that Spidey will open big, but will it last? Maybe that anxiety is leading them to slather Dittman on an otherwise respectable ad.
Reading back on this stream of consciousness bit, I have to admit that I remain stumped as to why they went with Earl. After all, they print his name in such microscopic letters that it could have been anyone blurbing the film, and I know that the LA junket was full of unscrupulous types – web and print – who would gladly sign their name to any quote handed to them by the publicity staff (and don’t think this doesn’t happen with the big studios). The best I can tell you is to take heart – the Dittman quote isn’t an indicator of the film’s overall quality.