On some occasions Anthony Lane of the New Yorker is a real mug. However, he certainly was right in his Spider-Man 3 review. He wrote that the transformation--a literal pulverization, a "turning into powder"--of Thomas Haden Church's Flint Marko was the most interesting part of the blockbuster. But isn't this always the case? Superhero movies quicken the adolescent inside a viewer, and the most savory part is the detail about how people are warped into super-villains. Ex-teens remember the horrific transformations. the mysterious energies and compulsions, and the new, secret identities we grew.
Beside this, it seems that Sam Raimi is trying to channel certain silent movie ideas in his Spider-Man series. Peter Parker must have been based by Steve Ditko on the figure of Harold Lloyd, eager bespectacled kid that he is. It's easy to juxtapose the climb up the tower in Lloyd's Safety Last with Doctor Octopus pursuing Spider-Man up the clock-tower of a skyscraper in Spider-Man 2. Watching Thomas Hayden Church in Spider-Man 3 was a different kind of flashback. With his jaw filled out with some kind of prosthetic, and his ears pushed forward, and that old-time bully's sweater (the kind that thugs used to wear 80 years ago, along with derbies and checked suits) Hayden seems to be honoring the monarch of all screen villains, Lon Chaney. And an excellent place to start a study of Chaney is with one of his most insane films, 1920's The Penalty.