11 May 2007

I enjoyed Spider-Man 3 far more than the lukewarm reviews had led me to expect, and it's infinitely brisker and more entertaining than the lugubrious Superman Returns. Afterwards, though, I found myself reflecting on the many missed opportunities, of which I'll only mention one.

The casting of Topher Grace as Venom, which seemed curious at the time, turns out to be a conceptual masterstroke. Clearly, he was cast for his resemblance to Tobey Maguire, which is uncanny, but he's much more than a doppelganger: his approach to acting is wonderfully mannered and quick where Maguire is reserved and sly, and the contrast between their acting styles, combined with their physical similarities, could have resulted in the most interesting comic book confrontation in years.

Alas, they're kept apart for most of the movie, and when they're onscreen together, the results feel lukewarm. Maybe it was the distraction of so many villains, or the need to keep Venom offscreen until the third act, but we're left with frustrating glimpses of a movie that would have outdone Face/Off in its hero/villain dynamics. It isn't clear if Venom will return for a sequel, but it's obvious that somebody needs to make a more fully realized version of Tobey vs. Topher. And it would probably star Elijah Wood.

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