REVIEW: The Fountain

WARNING: Review will contain minor plot spoilers, and is preceded by lengthy Harry Knowles-ish tangential digression. But you’ll also get a funny clip from YouTube.

Has this ever happened to you?

You see this girl (YES, I call women my own age girls, and I’m sticking with it.) She’s gorgeous. Fascinating. Different. Breath-of-fresh-air. You can tell. Oh, she’s pretty, sure… but thats not the important part. That’s not what made you look twice. No. It’s the “different” part. The “weird” part. Oh, not bad weird. Not “Kathy Bates in ‘Misery’ weird. No… she’s good weird. “Kate Winslet in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ weird. Helena Bonham Carter in “Fight Club” weird. Off-puttingly-adorable-goth-chick-who-works-at-the-music-store weird. We’re all on the same page now, right? HOT weird.

And not just weird… INTERESTING! Maybe you heard her say something super-clever about some obscure topic you swore only you would say something like that about. Maybe it’s the tattoo of unidentifiable origin. Maybe it’s just the six different dye colors in the hair, whatever it is, you’re mind starts going “she’s gotta be fascinating. Deep. Talk to her for hours. New surprise every day.”

So you’re hooked. But you don’t just go ask her out. No, of course not. That’s what rational, proactive people do. That’s what people with guts do. No, your smitten ass has to go “find out” about her. You’ve gotta ask mutual aquaintances about her. “So-and-so? Eh, don’t know her too well outside whatever… but she seems like a TRIP, right?” What’s that, you say? She has a LiveJournal!? Well, let me read THAT whole damn thing… WOW! It’s so weird, so interesting, you were totally right!

So you ask her out. Finally. And she says yes. You pick yourself up off the floor, and you’re PSYCHED. This is it. Good times are coming. She’s gonna expand your mind. Thrill your senses. Maybe you’ll wake up someplace cool, like a belltower; or in some story-worthy condition, like with fang-marks in you’re neck. Or.. y’know, maybe you’ll have great connection over dinner, hit it off and begin a meaningful, fulfilling relationship. Either one is good.

And then you actually go on the date and… Meh. Oh, it’s not a disaster. She’s… nice. Friendly. Pleasant company. Good new aquaintance. But at some point, earlier than you’d have thought, you arrive at a slightly dissapointing feeling: “Hm. She’s not quite as ‘interesting’ as I’d thought she was” (For me, this feeling usually pops up right after “Omigod.. don’tcha just love Meg Ryan?”)

Now, to be fair, most of this is your fault. You’re a male, so you have largely unrealistic expectations of women, and you’re a geek, so the unreality of those expectations is fantastical to the point of absurdity – you’re model of the feminine ideal falls somewhere at an intersection between Chun-Li and Lady Ewoyn.

And then, you get another feeling. Probably right around the time she starts in about something “important.” Oh, don’t misunderstand, she’s still cool. Fun. Good new lady-friend. But you’ve hit a realization that’s a definate buzzkill in terms of attraction: “Uh-oh. She’s not as interesting as SHE thinks she is.”

Eh… y’know what? This “Family Guy” clip says it better than I can:

ACTUAL REVIEW (with minor spoilage) BEGINS HERE

So… finally getting to see “The Fountain” is kind of like that. For me, anyway.

For how long have we been hearing about this movie? This next-step masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky, seemingly doomed but rescued and given a second chance AND a big holiday release? This visual “trip” who’s promotions promised a dizzying time-and-mind-bending rush? The trailer’s, featuring science labs, Spanish conquistadors, magic trees, flaming swords and bubble-based space flight?? There’s that feeling again: It looks different. INTERESTING. HOT weird.

And then you go, you buy the ticket, you’re ready to have you’re mind blown. Here it comes and… Hm. Oh, it’s GOOD. Let’s be clear here. This is a solid, well-made, well-acted peice of moviemaking, certainly more original overall than most other things you could be watching right now. And yet… nope. My mind falls kinda short of “blown.” My senses decidedly not-shredded. I didn’t wake up in the belltower. “It’s not as interesting as I thought it’d be,” yup. And, sadly, “it’s not as deep OR interesting as IT thinks it is,” either. In terms of overall effect, it calls to mind no film more than “What Dreams May Come,” and somehow I don’t think many of us are heading into a promised Darren Aronofsky mind-screw to get the same feeling one gets from a flawed but visually-sumptuous Robin Williams vehicle.

What we have hear are three “parallel” stories which are not exactly parallel but have something or possibly everything to do with one another. In the first, Hugh Jackman is a Conquistador charging into battle against a Mayan shaman to retrieve the sap of the Biblical “Tree of Life” (the “Fountain” of the title is meant as-in “Of Youth,” for the record) for his immortality-seeking Queen (Rachel Weisz) who’s quest for the Fountain has made her the target of an evil Priest who has deemed her quest blasphemous and is using the power of The Inquisition to impede her.

That story occurs in the pages of a book being written by a cancer-ridden woman (Rachel Weisz again) in the modern-set main story. She’s married to a brilliant scientist (Jackman again) who is obsessively trying to save her by researching a miracle cure (get it?) derrived from “a mysterious tree in South America.” What he gets could indeed be called a Fountain of Youth… but it doesn’t cure cancer. In the “final” story, set in either the real or imagined future, Jackman’s scientist is now a bald holy man, practicing Buddhist-style meditations as he hurls through outer space in a magic bubble, the Tree of Life (and his memories) his only companions.

The three stories bend and twist around eachother, eventually wrapping the story up into an intricate narrative not that promises to conceal something deep, profound and fascinating once unfurled. Sadly, that promise isn’t quite delivered on, and all the bombast and weirdness eventually appears designed to conceal how simplistic and (sorry, but it’s true) predictable and mundane it’s themes and messages are.

Tell me, had you heard before that “the quest for Eternal Youth is self-defeating and futile?” Perhaps, I dunno… in every story about Eternal Youth before this? Were you aware that “death is just a part of life?” Or that “you need to learn to let go?” Oh, you were? Well, then, unfortunately “The Fountain” has nothing new to offer you in terms of larger theme, other than the curious way in which it ultra-villianizes it’s Spanish Inquisitor villain only to wind up essentially endorsing his opinion on the subject of Eternal Life (despite having previously revealed him as a torturer, murderer, conspirator and hypocrite.) I’m not saying these aren’t worthy themes, but really now… wrapping up such routine sentiments in the guise of fractured-narratives and metaphysical dream-imagery is the filmmaking equivalent of trying to improve an average Hallmark card by translating it into Enigma Code.

Taking this route actually worked for Aronofsky last time: A veneer of auteur bravado and gotcha shock-value helped cloak the sucker-punch of “Requiem For A Dream’s” eventual revelation as the bluntest “don’t do drugs” statement ever filmmed. But this time, while he’s made a visually beautiful, well-acted and often deeply moving film; he’s also made one that demands a certain amount of intellectual commitment but fails to reward it. “The Fountain” asks it’s audience to dig through dense layers of symbolism and narrative trickery, and all that’s waiting at the bottom is a “truth” so simplistic (as opposed to “simple”) and worn that it would be right at home in a fortune cookie or as a moral lesson from the mouth of Elmo. Heck, if you went through grade school in the 80s or 90s you probably already recieved every “message” this could impart when “Tuck Everlasting” was on the summer reading list.

Still… I’m going to offer that I mostly liked it, and think it’s worth a look. Aronofsky has come up short, but he tried hard to offer something unique and different even if he only partially succeeded. And I’m of the mind that we need to encourage that in our filmmakers. He hasn’t made a bad film, just one that isn’t nearly as good as it ought to be (or, sadly, as it THINKS it is.) And an overall-underwhelming “HOT weird” movie is, like an overall-underwhelming “HOT weird” girl, STILL more fun than a just-plain-boring one of either.

Reccomended… with reservations.


Kid’s today don’t know how lucky they’ve got it…

I know, I know, my whole generation is old before our time (Just think how nostalgiac-yet-bitchy we’ll be when we’re actually OLD!) but still, lemme get something off my chest… This is directed at… basically everyone under the age of 17 who’s any kind of video gamer. Does that describe you? Okay.

Here’s the thing: When I was you’re age (ugh, that feels lame) and we “won” a game where the goal (in the story) was to rescue/impress “the girl” (and that was most of them) here’s basically what we got:

And we were damn glad to get it! You kids have no IDEA how hard games had to be back when you couldn’t count on 1080p HD graphics and a looped Audioslave track to keep you engaged. One run through Level 8-4 of the original “Super Mario Bros.” and Master Chief would piss his armor rusty.

But you get to the end and there she is: The Princess. Granted, she’s only slightly more discernable as a princess than the “springboards” are as springboard (old folks, tell the truth: You wondered why jumping on an hourglass made Mario bounce,) but you’ve got the manual and the merchandising to tell you that those pixels represent a classically-kawaii Manga-esque babe, and she’s all your’s. That was enough.

That was 1986. 20 years ago.

Do you kids have ANY clue how good you have it? That gal was our reward for finishing the whole game! But you guys? This is one of the rewards you get just for doing pretty good for a bit in the new just-for-fun fighting game volleyball spinoff “Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball 2.” Look:

So just THINK about this, y’little rugrats, the next time you decide to complain that the texture mapping isn’t perfect in this title, or that the “hair animation” doesn’t flow right on that character… just remember how lucky you are that that little Russ Meyer-esque throwaway gag above get’s to be part of your adolescence.


Hey, while I’m on “Dead or Alive“… hey, Hollywood! Can we get Corey Yuen’s “DoA” movie into some THEATRES already!? You’ve kept me waiting like a year for this thing:

Can you blame me? Out with it, already!

REVIEW: Happy Feet

George Miller is one of the great eclectic filmmakers to emerge in the previous few decades, an Australian director (and licensed physician) who’s work runs the gamut from his breakthrough in the genre-defining “Mad Max,” to the emotional drama “Lorenzo’s Oil” and even to the producer of both “Babe” movies (and director of the second.)

Counting “Happy Feet,” it can be said that Miller has been behind three phenomenal animal-related family films that all share two common traits: That they are excellent films… and that they are stunningly bizzare in the realm of mass-market family entertainment. “Happy Feet” is, without a doubt, one of the wierdest things that is going to play at a multiplex this year. It begins by (often literally) stacking oddity upon oddity just to set up it’s premise and world, and then proceeds to branch off into a quest story of straight-faced absurdity and metaphysical trippiness likely to rival anything we’re soon to see from “The Fountain.” The film may owe it’s financial backing to the megahit “March of The Penguins,” but it’s closer spiritual cousins are “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” or “Watership Down.”

The story plays out in Anarctica, chiefly among the massive colony of Emperor Penguins that call the vast ice-fields home. Emperor Penguins, we learn, are born with both the ability and the desire to sign pop songs to one-another, especially at mating season where the ability to blend respective “heartsongs” into a duet is paramount to hooking up. Elvis-crooning Alpha-male Memphis (Hugh Jackman) wins the heart of bombshell Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and soon enough a baby is on the way…

…but said Baby, named Mumble HappyFeet (Elijah Wood,) is born, well.. different. He can’t sing, not at all, and doesn’t seem to posess a “heartsong.” The only way he seems comfortable, indeed a prodigy, at expressing himself is through tap-dancing. Dance, however, is apparently “not Penguin,” and soon enough the Elders who reign over the religion practiced by the Penguins are declaring Mumble’s fancy footwork a blasphemy against their god, The Great Guin… and possibly the cause of the increasing fish famine that has imperiled their very existance.

Mumble, however, believes there may be another cause… possibly related to the strange stories of technologically-advanced “alien invaders” who’ve been overfishing the Arctic waters, (guess who,) and sets out on a quest to save his people… even as the Elders continue to insist that all solutions other than increased fealty to The Great Guin will only bring further punishment. His adventure will bring him new friends, harrowing encounters with predators (including the scariest Orcas since, well… “Orca”) clashes with the ideology of the Elders and even his family… and a “the HELL just happened??” third act that calls to mind nothing so much as “2001.”

Here we have it, without a doubt the finest musical ever made about a Penguin battling religious intolerance and “alien” invasions with tap-dancing as his only weapon. And believe it or not, describing it that way makes “Happy Feet” sound MORE normal than it actually is. Compounding the surreality is the atypical realism of the animation; the “humanization” of the characters is very limited, making all the singing and toe-tapping look all the more outlandish coming from what are basically photo-realistic Penguins. And the musical score, often a dizzyingly-complex medley of Penguin-remixed pop-standards, is a wonder of song-choice and sound editing.

George Miller has delivered a poignant, moving and geniunely beautiful film that is also one of the most original and unusually visionary movies of 2006. Listen close: You NEED to see “Happy Feet.”


REVIEW: Casino Royale (2006)

James Bond has been “rebooted” a few times before, in fact the hiring of a new regular actor to take the role has usually led the producers to talk about new directions and big changes. “Casino Royale” is noteworthy because this time they actually mean it, setting the film up as an “origin-story” that officially starts the franchise over from point A.

Newcomer Daniel Craig (what you’ve heard is true) is the freshly-promoted Agent 007, already an overly-aggressive “blunt instrument” of a spy on the outs with his superiors. The mission, tailored to Bond’s in-agency fame as a card shark, is to mess with the poker-playing fortunes of “terrorist banker” Le Chiffre (Mad Mikkelsen) who likes to up his risk-factor by gambling with cash borrowed from his trigger-happy clients.

The thing about the Bond movies is that they are largely famous and beloved for the same things that they are mocked and called “dated” for: The outlandish bad guys, the zany gadgets, the jokingly-named femme fatales, the adherence to formula, and so on. The series’ first great entry was “Goldfinger,” featuring the nutty Fort Knox robbery scheme, the razor-brimmed derby and Pussy Galore; and it’s cast a long shadow over the all the later entries.

“Casino’s” solution, which probably owes it’s entire genesis to the success of “Batman Begins,” is to leave some of the trickier aspects of the series out (no gadgets, no Q, no Moneypenny) and hedge the series’ future bets with the fig leaf of “a new beginning”: The stuff people like will stay, the stuff people don’t can be removed and chalked up to “hey, it was just the origin!”

On it’s own, the film is a solid entry with (probably) the best script of the Bond series and great star debut for Craig, who’s easily the best Bond since Connery and gets the added bonus of playing the closest approximation yet to Ian Fleming’s original conception of a coldly fatalistic secret agent. Though here limited to more “earthbound” foot and car chases, shootouts and a painful-looking torture sequence, the action scenes are stellar and thankfully free of “Bourne”-style shaky-cam nonsense. And it knows not to throw out everything from the past: Dame Judi Dench returns as “M,” a role she’s occupied since the start of the Brosnan run. It was a gag at first, “ha-ha, James Bond takes orders from a tough older lady,” but somehow she feels appropriate for it still.

As for the larger picture of the reboot… I’m not gonna lie, I’ve always preffered the Bond films that more brazenly straddled the line between realism and outright fancy. My favorite installment remains “You Only Live Twice,” featuring the ninja army and the hidden volcano bad guy lair. I appreciate what they’re aiming for here, and understand what necessitated it… but I hope they won’t continue to be as restrictive to the “real” as the new series continues. Reality is fine, but I don’t want to occupy a movie landscape where all the supervillian hideouts are just hotel rooms, and the Oddjobs just carry guns.

…of course, if so, there’s always “The Transporter”…


Only 4 more days until Wii…

Y’ever start out trying to respond to a simple message board topic and you wind up typing a freaking essay? I just did that over at, on a thread about the relevance (or lack thereof) of the Super Mario Bros. game franchise. Came out (I think) decently enough that I figured I’d re-post it here, since the blog could use some lightening up here and there.

This would be the link:

And this would be the actual text:

What’s important about Mario, and why he/it still matters absent the nostalgia factor, is that he’s the “leader” of the ever-shrinking number of viable gaming icons who are unique unto gaming itself, and not a tweaked appropriation of some other trend or archetype. More and more, the “iconic” characters of gaming are simply re-appropriations of movie, TV or pop-culture “in” fixtures: Bad-ass super-soldiers, hip-hop infused ghetto warriors, and so on and so forth. And that’s just the ones who can still charitably be called “characters;” let’s not even go near the ones for whom “character” is beside the point: Does it really matter, in the scheme of things, that Master Chief is a near-total cypher when for 90% of “his” games “he” is just a hand holding a gun? (Hey, now there’s an idea… an FPS where the “hero” is literally just a disembodied hand! Tre-META!!!!)

It’s important, I think, that Mario is more than just an unofficial video game “version” of some other movie or TV hero. That his very LOOK is still defined in terms originally created because he was a game: The hat instead of hair, the mustache (to define the face) the overalls (to define the arms) all existed initially to allow him to be discerned in the limited graphical terms at the very genesis of the medium. As a character-model, he is gaming, born-of gaming; as opposed to gaming, born-of “Starship Troopers” (looking at YOU, Halo) or gaming, born-of whatever subgenre of crime movies Rockstar is riffing on this time (looking at YOU, GTA.)

In addition, I think there is a reason beyond pure nostalgia and “tradition” (and the fact that Miyamoto IS the greatest designer that will ever be and HIS Mario titles have remained consistently popular and re-port-able) that this particular character and franchise have endured. Think about it: It’s 2006. We’re on (at least) the third generation of post-SMB gamers, and Mario is still popular. Were the only “heat” coming from the aging members of Generation-NES, Mario and company would’ve been supplanted “g’bye Alex Kidd hello Sonic”-style years ago by Pokemon as Nintendo’s benchmark franchise. But when Nintendo needs a set of characters to build a party-game or goof-off sports-spoof title around, well… It’s not called “Pikachu Party.” There’s no “Squirtle Superstar Baseball.”

I think there’s a reason, perhaps not always fully realized why this figure still defines “game hero” for so many. Look at him: He’s not ripped, in fact he’s a bit of chub. He wears what are universally recognized as ordinary blue-collar work clothes, and a puffy hat that was out of style even before his silly mustache was. Even if you don’t still take “accidentally-warped Italian plumber from Brooklyn” as canon, everything about him says “this is an ordinary guy.” “This is an average man.” “This is an everyman.” But yet he gets to travel to strange worlds where he is not just a hero, but a super-hero – literally, a “strange visitor from another world with powers and abilities far beyond that of normal me.. er.. mushrooms.” And I’d argue that there’s something about THAT characterization, the unspectacular-spectacular man, that touches on something deep and all-important about WHY we play video games in the first place: A regular person becoming a hero in a strange new world sort-of defines the very act of engrossing oneself in a game, no?

Could it be that this, above all else, is what keeps drawing gamers to Mario? That the simple setup.. average-joe-as-dragonslayer.. serves as a kind of hyperrealized vision of the experience we hope to derive from the most satisfying of times spent gaming? The “fantasy” of the Super Mario Bros. franchise is, when you get down to it, that the ordinary man can be the Super Man. That a short, pudgy, blue-collar guy can travel to a new world, use magical powers, fight the monsters, save the day, become the hero and (especially) bed the hot Anime princess. Does that fantasy not, to a degree, encapsulate why gamers game? Most of us are average people. Most of us will never play in the NFL, fight the terrorists, go to space, fight the monsters OR, sadly, bed the hot Anime princess (though if you’re the guy with the “sweet” hotel room at E3 or ComicCon, you can increase you’re chances of bedding someone dressed just like one.) A good deal of us, I’ll wager (myself included) are even shaped a little bit like Mario, too.

And when we game, we can be like Mario. We can be heroes, we can see and use magic, we can slay the dragon and sometimes we can even save the princess. That’s what it comes down to, I think. Mario is all about what gaming is all about.

Lots of characters are in Video Games. Mario is Video Games.

UPDATE: Toys For Tots gives-in on "Jesus Doll" issue

Even in those instances where one can see it’s for the greater good, I still can’t help but feel sad when I see a Marine have to back down.

From “Toys For Tots'” website:
The Talking Jesus doll issue has been resolved. Toys for Tots has found appropriate places for these items. We have notified the donor of our willingness to handle this transaction.

No big mystery as to what occured here: TFT either found a channel (or one stepped up to provide it on their own) in order to make sure these toys reached (presumably) Christian families (that they might go to families that didn’t want religious-indoctrination toys was the original concern.)

In the broad sense, it makes sense for TFT to find a way to compromise and defuse the situation. Their concern is getting the donations to those who need them, and had they held their ground too sternly it is (depressingly) possible that some Christians who might otherwise have made donations would decide NOT to via this percieved “slight” to “The Reason for The Season.” It sucks, but it’s the way it is.

Doesn’t change the initial issue: This was either a stupid or sleazy thing for the “Jesus Doll” makers to pull, and it’s just slightly annoying that they’re kind of getting away with it.

Y’know what word for "unspeakably rotten" you don’t hear much anymore? "GALLING."

Of all the occupations in this world that can truly be called admirable, I can’t imagine many that ought be closer to the top of the list than United States Marine or Children’s Charity Worker. So you can imagine that I have a deep, abiding respect and admiration for “Toys For Tots,” a Marine Reserves-run program that collects and distributes donated gifts for children in need during the Holidays.

Check them out HERE:
(and maybe show some donation love while you’re at it, eh? Tis the season.)

These people… this program… are good in the plainest, bluntest sense of the word. And anyone who would try to use it for their own ideological agenda, (or worse, for cheap, bad-faith publicity,) anyone who would taint something like this, well… there’s a few other words for that.

And, sadly (but predictably,) when it comes to the tainting of the simply good, no force of the modern age is more brazen or more determined than organized religion.

Set faces to stunned:

“LOS ANGELES – A company that sells Bible-quoting Jesus dolls said it was surprised and disappointed that the Marine Reserves’ Toys for Tots program turned down its offer to donate 4,000 of the talking dolls.”

By the way, “Bible-quoting” is a fairly broad term. Details:

“According to one2believe’s Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus doll recites Scripture such as “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The bolding of the text is mine, for emphasis. Get the problem? This doll doesn’t only talk, and doesn’t only offer “Bible quotes,” it proselytizes for a specific version of a specific religion. Do you think that’s an appropriate thing for a non-denominational charity to be distributing? If you do, would you object to Richard Dawkins dropping 4,000 “there is no god”-emblazzoned teddy bears into his nearest Toys For Tots bin? If the local chapter of Hezbollah wants to toss in some “Baby’s First Burka” kits, are you cool with that, too? Howard Deans wants to kick-in his brand new mascot “Zowie-Howie The Bush-Whackin’ Donkey?” Hm?

Here’s the Marines’ reasoned response:

“Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va., said the offer was turned down because Toys for Tots doesn’t know anything about the religious affiliations of the children who receive its gifts.

“We can’t take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family,” Grein said Tuesday. “Kids want a gift for the holiday season that is fun.”

How much y’wanna bet he said this with an unsubtle hint of “you’ve got to be f*cking kidding me” to his voice at the idea that his organization even has to respond to something like this.

And by the way, I’m not buying for a second “one2believe” had no idea this was going to be an issue. They’re a business, which requires a certain amount of competency and common sense to exist. This was likely, in my estimation, a deliberate, knowing act either to use Toys For Tots to send indoctrination materials to children; or maybe even worse… to use them for a sleazy publicity grab.

Think about that second one: This is a religious organization, which means they probably know at least one, oh, I dunno… CHURCH!? Which tend to have their own ties to very powerful and well-organized charities? Ones that could garauntee that these Christian toys reached Christian children (or at least don’t have the ethical objections otherwise that Toys For Tots does?) So why go to the trouble of wrapping up 4,000 dolls for a secular charity which common sense would dictate MIGHT have an issue with them?

Could it be that they knew (or at least were pretty certain, this MUST have come up before) that the donation would be refused and did it purely for the media attention on them and their movement that this would innevitably garner? Hm? After all, it makes a catchy headline, even my local news carried the story. And it’s garaunteed to gin-up the “They’re takin’ the Christ outta Christmas!!!” contingent, so don’t be surprised if you see this as a “special report” from Bill O’Reilly as part of his asinine “War on Christmas” bitching.

If anyone from “one2believe” is reading this, let me be clear: There’s two possibilities, neither of them good. Either you really did have no clue this would be a problem, in which case you are unbelievably dense and deserve to be ridiculed for it…

…OR you knew exactly what you were doing, in which case you tried to use a charitable organization run by the United States Marines to (one way or another) propagandize on behalf of your agenda, in which case you deserve far worse than ridicule. I happen to believe that at least ONE of those dolls you made is based on a real person, and if I know anything at all about Him, He is not thrilled with you right now.

Merry Christmas.

Look at this quick! (UPDATED! You too slow!)

…because Marvel/Sony will probably ask everyone to “cease and desist” showing this pretty soon. (Hat-tip to AICN)

What we’ve got here looks to be a good-quality copy of the “for fans only” ComicCon teaser for “Spider-Man 3.” It’s rough, with unfinished FX work, animatics and storyboards standing in for some of the bigger moments (which you’ve now seen in-full in the official new trailer) but it’s the one little tag at the very end that’s the reason to look: A fast but final-looking shot of VENOM.

(Note: Non-fans looking to remain 100% pre-info free may want to think twice, as this WILL essentially tell you where Topher Grace’s character’s story seems to be going.)

UPDATE! Told ya that wouldn’t be up for long. Hope most of you got to look at it here or elsewhere, at least. For now, here’s the screen-grab that matters:

One thing immediately jumps to me: This would indicate that Venom won’t be in the actual movie until at or near the very end. Check out the clip, it’s pretty evocative of a “Jason-jumping-up-out-of-the-lake” “Boo!” moment; the type that ideally comes right before or after “The End.” Me, I think that’d make a pretty kick-ass way to tell everyone to start anticipating “Spider-Man 4,” but maybe some might end up feeling gyped? Thoughts?

NEW Spider-Man 3 trailer!

From iFilm:

And the direct link:

So… Color me interested.

First, it’s a cracking good trailer. Second, like most good trailers for a film of this type, it’s very good at saying two very different sets of things to fans and non-fans.

To non-fans (or, more accurately, those with decidedly less than Official Hanbook of The Marvel Universe-level familiarity with the pre-movies history of the franchise) it says: “Yup, Spider-Man is back! The story continues! Check out our big new villian, he’s made of SAND! And the cool new black costume is made of some kinda creepy living goo, betcha’ wanna know what THAT’S about! Coming Soon!”

To fans, on the other hand, it’s designed primarily to bring up talking points and questions about canonical fidelity, the better to keep it at or near the forefront of the Film Geek collective experience until the next big trailer and/or casting announcement.

In this case, the main “WTF!??”-generating element (NOT a spoiler cuz it’s in the trailer) is the apparent revelation of what is at least part of the film’s main storyline: Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) is apparently responsible for the murder of Uncle Ben Parker back in movie #1 (not sure how that works yet… the car-thief guy had an accomplice?)

Make no mistake, letting this point out early is probably very deliberate: The “bad guy just happens to have had hand in heroes formative-tragedy” bit was a groaner waaaay back in the 1989 “Batman” and has remained a sore-spot for fans ever since (see: “Daredevil.”) So getting it out of the way now is a preemptive move. Also, going back to the non-fans, it allows them to set up the idea of Sandman as the film’s major source of evil… and in doing so, give fans a peek at what might shape up to be an interest plot-point involving the mysterious Black Costume.

Fans, y’see, are pre-aware that the Black Costume is not only alive, it’s a bad thing and the eventual heralding of super-baddie Venom (aka “the BAD Spider-Man.”) They also know that, in most tellings of this story, the Black Costume (aka “Symbiote-Suit”) causes trouble by driving Peter Parker toward his darker, nastier impulses. If you watch the trailer close, it’s clear that Sandman isn’t exactly a master-of-evil… he’s a thug, scared witless and out of his league, and doesn’t even seem to have much enjoyment over his newfound super-powers.

Translation: This will be a big part of the “inner conflict” being represented by the classic-suit vs. black-suit outer conflict; Spidey fighting the urge to revenge-murder Sandman and instead do the right thing and bring him to proper justice.

I like it.