WE CAN FIX IT: ‘Spider-Man 3’ and ‘The Proposal’
Welcome back to We Can Fix It, where we take broken movies and, well… fix them. Yeah, we think it’s a good title too. In the past we’ve devoted pages and pages to fixing such intrinsically flawed films as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Skyline, but not every film requires that much attention. There are a lot of movies out there that get it mostly right, but have a single, glaring flaw that brings the entire production down as a result. This bi-week, we’re going to take a look at two films with two distinct, easily fixable problems. Easily fixable during the production phase, at least. No one ever asks us until it’s too late.
Let’s get cracking with a We Can Fix It Grab Bag Edition, featuring Spider-Man 3 and The Proposal. What do they have in common? Besides being broke? We haven't a clue. That's why it's a "grab bag," people.
You may be surprised to learn that Spider-Man 3 has only one flaw in it. Lots of people can find dozens. But whether they hated the musical numbers, the over-the-top comedy, the crowded plotline or just plain Topher Grace, all of these problems (assuming you think they’re all problems, that is) have one, simple solution:
DON’T PUT VENOM IN A MOVIE. EVER.
Director Sam Raimi has openly confessed that he only put Venom in Spider-Man 3 because the studio said that’s what fans wanted. We sympathize with his plight, but the problem starts right here. Movies studios and fanboys are more similar than you’d think. Studios want movies to make money, and fanboys want movies to be good. But a lot of the time neither of these entities actually know how to make that happen. Fanboys said they wanted Venom in a Spider-Man movie, thinking that it would result in the good movie that they wanted. Sony put Venom in the movie, thinking it would please the fanboys and make the studio more money. On one hand, they succeeded: Spider-Man 3 was the biggest moneymaker of 2007. On the other hand, they made a very bad Venom movie, pissing off the fanboys and squandering the good will built up by the previous films in the franchise, forcing Sony to reboot the franchise entirely with the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man just to get the stink off.
In short, the fans didn’t knew what they "wanted” but didn’t know that it was a bad idea, and the studios listened to them anyway, not realizing – as Sam Raimi apparently did – that Venom has no place whatsoever in a Spider-Man movie. Why? Because there’s only one good Venom story, and it doesn’t fit into the blockbuster three-act structure. In order to tell the Venom origin story in a manner Hollywood would find palatable, Spider-Man has to spend more than half the film encountering the symbiotic suit, enjoying its power, going too far, realizing that he’s gone too far, and getting rid of it before Venom can even show up. To tell that story properly takes time, relegating Venom – the actual character we wanted to see – to a third act villain who doesn’t have the wiggle room necessary to make a real impact. As such, the first two-thirds of the film have to be padded considerably as we wait for the good stuff, leaving even a talented director like Raimi spinning his wheels in a desperate attempt to give his hero something to do.
The result was all the stuff you hated: superfluous villains to give Spider-Man someone to fight before the last half hour of the film, extended sequences of Peter Parker acting woefully out of character, musical sequences (which admittedly only Sam Raimi would ever think of using to make the film more palatable), all in an effort to disguise the fact that the entire structure of the film falls apart because Venom has no place in the movie. Some people think it could be pulled off as a two-parter, with the origin of Venom acting as the cliffhanger between films, but we don’t think that would work either. We can hear the complaints now. “We sat through an entire Spider-Man movie only to have to wait until next summer to get the showdown we wanted?!” Geez… Would you like cheese with that whine?
If someone, someday, makes Venom work in a Spider-Man movie we won’t eat our hats, since anything is technically possible, but we’ll be very impressed since he has everything going against him from a story perspective. We know you want to see a good Venom movie, but you also want to see Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba make out in your living room, and that’s probably not going to happen either. Live with it.
NEXT: The smash romantic comedy hit The Proposal one flaw that utterly ruins it. Can you guess what it is…?
Romantic comedies are just fine by us here at We Can Fix It. They may not be your bag, but if you’ve ever cleaved to one specific genre then you don’t have any right to deny romantic comedy fans their right to enjoy them. Romantic comedies are a lot like slashers, in that they’re popular because they adhere to a specific formula that pleases repeat audiences. If you don’t like the formula, then it’s not for you. But if you do like the romantic comedy formula, then the odds are good that you liked The Proposal, which followed it to a “t.”
It’s a solid – if unremarkable – romantic comedy… until the guy speaking at 3:43 in this scene ruined it forever. (Sorry, it’s not embeddable.) We’d declare a SPOILER ALERT, but even if you haven’t seen The Proposal yet we think you can probably guess how it ends. There’s that formula again.
SHUT THAT GUY THE F**K UP.
The Proposal tells the simple story of Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), whose mean-spirited boss Margaret (Sandra Bullock) needs a green card so bad that she blackmails him into marrying her. She accompanies Andrew on a trip to Alaska to meet his family, where his folks get so excited about the upcoming nuptials that they want them to get married right away so his aging grandmother (Betty White) can live to see it. This leads to a series of misunderstandings, well-intentioned fibs and awkward romantic moments that ultimately lead to our two protagonists falling in love. But The Proposal couldn’t end happily with their entire relationship built on a lie, so Margaret ultimately reveals the truth and leaves, assuming that the romance was never meant to be. At the end of the film, linked above, Andrew confronts Margaret in front of the entire office (for no particular reason other than to make a familiar scene a little less so), confesses his love, and they kiss and make up. And while they kiss, just before the closing credits, some a**hole in the background yells “Yeah! Show her who’s boss, Andrew!”
And thus the entire god damned thing falls apart, with seconds to go, all thanks to some sexist jerk who never even appears on screen.
Before this climactic encounter, The Proposal told a story of two strong personalities clashing. Margaret was in a position of authority over Andrew, her assistant, forcing him to take her barbs with a smile on his face. But the tables turn once Andrew realizes that Margaret needs him even more than he needs her, and the power dynamic shifts. She needs to keep him happy for a change, and learns a lesson in humility. But Andrew also learns to relate to Margaret as a human being, and even falls in love with her. The point of the film is that their dominant/submissive dynamic, in both of its forms, is impeding their personal growth. Only when they learn to treat each other as equals do they finally fall in love, and have a legitimate shot at living happily ever after. So when some random schmuck decides ends the film with a line of dialogue that joyfully declares that Andrew is “showing her who’s boss,” it completely nullifies the point of the film, and any chance of their future happiness. What’s more, both Andrew and Margaret smile and chuckle to themselves after hearing it, implying that they agree with the assessment. Andrew is in a position of power now, and that is supposedly a good thing.
We suspect that the line of dialogue was added in post-production, since it comes from off-screen and no screenwriter worth their salt would contradict the entire thesis of their story on the last page in an otherwise conventional romance, but we can’t say for certain. Either way, someone screwed up an entire movie with a single line of dialogue. That’s an impressive accomplishment. Luckily, we can fix it.
That’s it for We Can Fix It this week, but come back in 14 days for the first of two Halloween-themed editions of “Too Little, Too Late” film criticism!