Spider-Man spins web around space robots

Tobey Maguire stars as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man 3.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

They were the two biggest action movies of the summer - a pair of big-budget blockbusters with big-name directors, big-time special effects and massive, rousing fight scenes. And now that both movies have come home to roost on DVD, it's time to settle the score once and for all: Who reigns supreme, Spider-Man or the Transformers?

In this corner, wearing red-and-blue spandex, weighing 120 pounds tops and hailing from New York City, it's the box office champion of the summer, "Spider-Man 3."

Everyone's favorite hard-luck superhero is back, but this time life is a little different for Peter Parker. He is engaged to smokin' hot Mary Jane, his job is going well and his alter ego, Spider-Man, is the toast of the town. He has a little problem with the misunderstood villain Sandman (he's tough to vanquish - how do you beat up sand?) but all in all he is on top of the world.

Suddenly and without any attempt of an explanation, a gooey black parasite from space lands next to Peter and slithers onto his body. This symbiote makes Spidey even faster and stronger, but also more arrogant and aggressive. Factor in a new Green Goblin hell-bent on Spidey's blood and a professional rival who will do anything to eliminate Peter Parker, and you've got a whole lot of scores to settle.

The first two "Spider-Man" movies were more about character than action. They both delivered some big-time action scenes and special effects, of course, but neither of them had the fast pace and explosive excitement of this movie. "Spider-Man 3" dials back on the drama, and turns up the adrenaline for a series of amazing chase scenes and confrontations.

This works both ways. As a film, maybe "Spider-Man 3" doesn't stack up to the last one. The acting is more cartoonish and the story a lot sillier. There is a dance sequence, for crying out loud.

But on the other hand, this is a comic book movie so why shouldn't it be cartoonish? Instead of trying to root the story in reality, it goes for broke and delivers all the crazy action and smack-downs one could expect from a movie about a guy with the powers of a radioactive spider. There are a lot of big fights, several dazzling high speed chases and a few impressive moments where the Sandman struts his stuff.

If anything, "Spider-Man 3" moves too fast for its own good. There are so many characters, so many feuds and so many subplots that many of them seem rushed. Fortunately, this movie has the cast, the director, the energy and the talent to pull it off.

I really liked "Spider-Man 3," but hey, I'm an old-school comic-book nerd.

And in this corner, in the form of a car, weighing fifty tons, and hailing from the planet Cybertron, the surprise break-out summer blockbuster, "Transformers."

True story: As a movie critic, I constantly get people giving me their opinions on movies, which is something that I genuinely enjoy about this gig. After "Transformers" was released in theatres, I had at least two dozen people tell me what they thought. Without fail, every person said "You won't believe this, but it's actually good."

At first, I didn't believe them. How could I? It is a Michael Bay movie, first of all, and it's based on a children's toy. And yet, due to the sheer strength of numbers I started to believe them. Maybe this movie would be good after all.

In retrospect, I now think all of those people were pulling my leg. They all got together in a conspiratorial cabal and decided to have a little fun at my expense by tricking me into thinking "Transformers" would be good. And to these people I say, "You got me good that time!" As I put the DVD into the player I actually believed for a split second that this would be a fun time at the movies.

The joke was on me.

As it turns out, "Transformers" is a grea-looking piece of detritus, filled with amazing special effects and big explosions, and also stupid characters, painfully bad dialogue and a plot that is perfectly suited to the burgeoning intelligence of an 8-year-old.

Briefly, there is a war between two different races of space robots that can transform into cars, jets and giant scorpions. The war comes to earth as the car-bots chase their Holy Grail, a box called the "Allspark" that can make any machine turn into a vicious cybernetic monster. The good-guy carbots want to destroy the Allspark, the bad guy carbots want to destroy Earth with it. And caught in the middle is a dopey teenager played by Shia LeBeouf, who currently makes a living playing dopey teenagers.

There are a lot of little touches that made me laugh when I wasn't supposed to: The fact that the robot with the black voice uses jive talk; that the robots are bullet proof but can be brought down with some rope; that John Turturro, a wonderful actor, gives the worst performance of his life. Oddly enough, when the movie wanted me to laugh, I didn't - two different urine jokes, sandwiching a bizarre scene where the giant space robots all hide from LeBeouf's dad so he doesn't get "time out" in the corner.

"Transformers" has incredible special effects and big action sequences, but it also has irritating characters and is amazingly stupid. At one point a character says, "This is about a hundred times cooler than Armageddon." Yes, this is true, but I would suggest that tripping and cracking your head on the edge of a coffee table is also a hundred times cooler than watching "Armageddon."

It does blow stuff up real well, however. And so if neat effects and big explosions is all you want from a movie, this may be the one for you.

"Transformers" is a bad movie, no doubt, but the sad fact is that it might very well be Michael Bay's best movie ever. As stupid as it is, it is still better than "Armageddon," "Bad Boys 2," "Pearl Harbor" and "The Island" put together.

Your winner by knock-out in the first round, "Spider-Man 3."

High praise and caustic rebukes to Rewindcolumn@hotmail.com.

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