Sunday, April 30, 2006

Spider-Man Says Farewell To Euclid Avenue

Here's a quick round-up of the Spider-Man 3 second unit work that took place this week in Cleveland, including some juicy tidbits I haven't seen published anywhere else. I was covering the week's events as they went along, so a little of this has been touched upon here already, but if you're just one half as anxious to see this film as I am, you'll want to read it all. Spider-Man 3 - the best film of 2007?

So, essentially, the scene filmed this week showed Spider-Man duking it out with the Sandman. The Sandman had his sights set on an armoured car, and really, it seems to me that Spider-man shouldn't intervened, just followed at a safe distance, because in the kerfuffle, the two of them certainly made a lot of mess.

But Spidey didn't hang back, he got stuck right in. He gave the Sandman him a good pounding, and as a result he smashed the granulated behemoth right into the cab of the truck, his sandy guts spilling out and burying the driver neck deep - and, of course, they weighied down heavily on the pedal. As a result, the truck shot off, out of control, and movie mayhem ensued.

The armoured car didn't keep a hold of it's back door for the whole chase - gee, thanks, Spidey - so we got a good look at the Sandman, in stripy T-shirt, as he was doing his naughty crimes, right there, in the back of it. Several cars were hit and smashed, any number of NY Taxi cabs collided, and ultimately the armoured car hit a Hicks Sanitation truck and flipped. All very exciting stuff, if relatively linear.

Of course, shooting it didn't go exactly to plan and at least eight extras had their cars damaged in two separate incidents, some only slightly, some moderately, and one or two seriously. One accident seriously damaged a camera also, and probably cost the schedule some precious, expensive time. On accident seemed to be the fault of a big, heavy plate that stunt cars were moored to. It snapped, apparently through no human error, and managed to hit several passing vehciles. In the other accident, it looks as though a cable used to yank a car was unfortunately triggered early. Nobody incurred injuries in either case, thankfully.

For a while, the "background artistes" thought they'd need to be on call for further days of shooting, but as of the moment, and as far as I know, all is done, the scheduled shots are all in the can, and Spidey is bidding adieu to Cleveland.

So, as I said, the armoured car was out of control. Spidey gave chase by web, of course, and one neat shot was essentially his POV as he swooped down from on high, and the crowd of extras got to look right into the lens in awe as the crane swished the camera fairly close to them. It felt like a money shot, if a little similar to some moments I really rather liked in the previous Spider-Man films. Other Spidey-tracking shots were filmed by a camera mounted on a motorbike, chasing the armoured car through traffic and weaving across lanes, and they certainly kept up the very kinetic feeling, live-camera styled action of the two previous Spidey flicks.

After the armoured car was flipped, the Sandman tossed the security guards. Spidey's big save was catching the pair of them in a web that crossed the entire street. Classic Spider-Man stuff.

The stunt doubles for both Spidey and the Sandman were seen throughout the week, and Spidey was very agile while Sandman was very beefy and solid looking. Both were very personable, and Spidey even posed for pictures with local kids.

My favourite extras were the two street-sweepery looking fellas with day-glo orange vests, a chap in glasses and a grey overcoat really hamming it up as he tried to hail a taxi, and some hilarious girl who really thought she was a movie star now, depsite being at the back of a crowd, eighty feet from the camera and sharing the screen, ant-sized, with clashing, smashing stunt drivers.

A female mannequin was seen on set, but I don't know quite where she fits in to the pattern as I've had no indication that she ever went before the cameras. And she certainly didn't look like Teresa Russell.

Also, a DeLorean, of all cars, caught my eye, but I never saw it being driven, just parked right in the middle of the street, safely in the shooting area but also entirely out of the camera's eyeline. It wasn't there by accident, of course, so they must have done something with it when I was either peeing, eating, sneezing or blinking.

No matter how hard I looked, however - and trust me, I looked hard - there was no yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88 to be seen. Not a surprise that Raimi would keep The Classic back for 1st unit work.

Two versions of the "same" New York city bus appeared - they were Burger King branded, product placement fans - one of which had a windshield, one of which did not. Seems like, maybe, the CG Spidey is going to be colliding with it, taking out the glass. Having two buses simply enabled flexibilty in the schedules, allowing shots to be taken out of sequence with less fuss.

Busking cult-figure "Maurice the Sax" was on set all week, playing the Saxophone, of course. As live audio was almost certainly not being recorded at the times I heard him playing, don't expect him to necessarily be the third character in the series-long running gag where buskers knock out the old Spider-Man theme tune, but he might be, and that would be fun.

Prop ads for the Guggenheim were designed with a rather web-like motif created by cropping a picture of the museum. This was one of many nice set-decoration details, amongst german graffiti, posters for fake bands, lost-cat flyers (one of which I may have kept for myself, maybe) and any number of fake storefronts. Cleveland's relative economic depression was an asset here, as Euclid Avenue, where shooting took place, was dormant (some might even say derelict) enough to make a good, blank canvas for a production like this. One witty solution to a building in disrepair was to pretend it was a Loft Apartment development, still being built.

Many of the cars on set were dusted down with a sand-like something, and more fake Sand was seen by a sewer entrance in the climactic shots, so I think we know how the Sandman makes his escape. Eeww. The street was slicked down a little, too, maintaining a rain-proof continuity of colour on the street, as well as perhaps indicating rain in a prior scene - which could be fun for a bit of business with the Sandman. Wouldn't he find even a little shower a bit troublesome?

As I understand it, this whole chase takes place rather early in the film, around the thirty to thirty-five minute mark. Of course, editing has a big effect on pacing, and the scene might move up front a little, or come a teeny bit later, but needless to say, this is by no means third-act conclusion material.

Spidey was in red and blue, and though I couldn't get it absolutely confirmed, the talk on set was that the black suit only comes into play relatively late in the script. So are they only teasing us with the Venom plotline? Will we only be witness to the beginnings of that "saga"? Sounds as though that might just be the case.

Dan Bradley directed the unit here in Cleveland, and accidents aside, all involved seemed to be doing a great job. I'm not so much fussed by Bradley's big awards - for Swordfish and The Bourne Supremacy - as I am impressed by his handling of second unit duties on Spider-Man 2. Every single shot in that film is a gem, no matter which unit captured it. The opening scene to Spider-Man 2, the pizza delivery race, actually had a lot in common with this sequence, mainly in terms of camera, but also, to an extent, in setting and action.

There's a couple of You Tube videos of the shooting below, should you want to sneak a peek. They're literally the result of a spectator pointing and shooting, but there's some fun stuff in there, with collisions and other such silliness.
I'm going to miss my daily fix of Spidey's second unit, and I have no chance of ever steeping foot on the first unit shoot, but now, even more than before, I'm looking forward to May 4, 2007.


Mark said...

Does Sam Raimi slip you five bucks everytime you use the phrase "SPIDER-MAN 3 - the best film of 2007" or what? Anyway, your subliminal brainwashing seems to be working on me. Even if I do think this series has been permanently damaged by some desperate miscasting from the get-go.

Anonymous said...

Of course this new film leave parents all over the world having to deal with screaming children at bed time because their pj's with spidey print are not clean, although comics are a wonderful bribe. Will it be a good film? I reserve my judgement to my harshest little critic, although she does in her weak moments cave into disney: like a mini soul suck that is.

Could do with a good film critic/director here in Coventry, but there you go it's like contacting the dead for any real talent in this world. People dancing with fire in the park, lauhging through coat sleeves: do I live in films or do films live in me, perhaps we are always waiting for the bigger one that will make our lives yet afraid what we will do once we see our lives made.
Chrissie B