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Movie Review: Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Alvin Sargent based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

How could I not be prepared for absolute greatness after Spider-Man 2, in which Sam Raimi took full control of his powers and knocked a grand slam into the upper deck three years ago?  A trailer for the new chapter appeared last year and it focused on Peter Parker’s discovery that it was not the small-time crook he offed in Chapter 1 who killed his Uncle Ben, but some other dude who would later be Sandman, complete with jaw-dropping CGI showing a split second of the new kickass villain.  All well and good so far.

But then another trailer came out and it had something to do with Eddie Brock, later Venom, and Spidey’s ever-growing dark side advanced due to a creepy-crawly extra-terrestrial symbiote.  Another trailer showcased his battle with former best friend Harry Osborn, later “New Goblin,” who wanted revenge for the death of his father.  All the while, we knew that his romance with Mary Jane was going to get shaky.  Where exactly was this movie going to focus?

Spider-Man 3 commits that cardinal sin of a multi-tasking comic book movie, one that tries to fit in a power load of characters and storylines.  There is so much good in this movie, it’s a shame some extra care couldn’t have intervened and tightened this thing up a little better.

Once again, a multi-faceted storyline that we have come to appreciate from the Spider-Man movies, only this time more due to the fact that there are so many stories.  Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) are enjoying a truly commited relationship, but Parker is beginning to get a little stuck on himself and thinks his problems can solve his girlfriend’s, like when she gets a bad review after a performance in one of her plays.  Watching and scheming is Harry Osborn (James Franco), who wants revenge after he finds out that his best friend was Spider-Man all along and was responsible for his father’s death.

And, he’s not the only one looking for revenge it seems.  Parker finds out from Captain Stacy (James Cromwell) that, in actuality, a man named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) killed his Uncle Ben, and thus seeks this new villain out.  Marko needs money to find a cure for his daughter, and while being hunted down by the police, he stumbles into some scientific gizmo that mixes his DNA with sand.  He thus becomes a man who can change into sand and gets bigger the more sand he can find.  So, this guy is going to be harder to beat than the lowlife Parker threw out of a building in part 1.

On the professional side, Parker is being rivalled by Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who is finding new, exciting pictures for J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) and the Daily Bugle.  Brock believes he and Captain Stacy’s daughter Gwen (Bryce Dallas Howard) are hardcore lovers and becomes jealous when Gwen is saved by Spidey and seems to be falling in love with him.  Oh, and an indiscretion from Peter during a “Spider-Man day” raises the ire of Mary Jane Watson as well, opening the door back up for Harry Osborn, who after an early battle with Spidey in the film, doesn’t remember anything about revenge or hating Peter and has become docile.

And, there’s the matter of that symbiote, that black material that lands to Earth and attaches itself to Peter/Spider-Man and turns him towards the dark side, even changing his suit from mostly red to all black.  Peter needs to battle the temptation, getting sound advice from his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and his professor Curt Connors (Dylan Baker), who is studying the symbiote and discovers its evil qualities.  Eventually, as we all know from the trailers, he pulls the suit off and the symbiote descends upon Brock, who turns into the nasty Venom.

To me, the movie could have had Parker turning towards the dark side a lot earlier, and made the main villain Venom.  As cool as The Sandman is, and believe me, the effects are pretty dandy, he belongs in another chapter.  I have no problem with Harry and the “New Goblin” stuff.  But this story is so personal to Peter Parker already, I wonder why Sandman needed to be done now and not later.  Perhaps the answer lies in the usual noncommital banter we’ve heard lately about Sam Raimi not wanting to return for Spider-Man 4, and how Maguire and Dunst would also be gone if Raimi didn’t come back.  Maybe there was a need to take all of these ideas and do it in one movie, but it shortchanges us on a lot of things.

First off, we barely get to know Flint Marko before he’s getting that comic book DNA-splicing treatment, which strays from the previous chapters by setting up the villain as a tragic figure who we care about and wince once he turns from good to evil.  Marko/Sandman’s need…money, is kind of lame even though we know it’s for a good cause, but we don’t really know what the cause is or to whom he can give this money.

The action scenes are a mixed bag of fairly good stuff with your typical summer blockbuster fare.  Nothing approaches the well-planned scenes of Spider-Man 2, nor does Raimi seem to be enjoying himself as much with this installment,  which takes me to the great part of Spider-Man 3: when Parker begins to show his bad side, Raimi is clearly in his element here because he can mix dark stuff with really, really funny character development and it goes right into his wheelhouse.  The most enjoyable section of this film is not an action scene, it’s a montage.

Can I really sum this experience up?  I think you can tell the disappointment as I write about this film, and so it’s hard to explain that I think this is an overall good flick.  I just think Raimi and crew went way overboard here and just couldn’t wait to spring all these ideas on us, and for me, I could have waited to see any of the three villains in future chapters.  The Sandman and Venom and “New Goblin” don’t mix well into a distinctive, well-planned story.  I also hate when villains decide to “join forces.”  It’s just way too much, and especially in this movie.  It also doesn’t make much sense with the Marko character.

I’ll leave it like this: Spider-Man 3 is going to please most people, and it’s chock full of action.  I enjoyed myself a great deal, but it pales to the first two.

Follows: Spider-Man 2


Comment from KW
Time: May 2, 2007, 9:59 am

Maybe you were just tired from all the hours you spent there? Or you were in a bad mood because one of the starlets wouldn’t give you her number?

Ahhhh, I’m sure you weren’t. You’re probably right on about this one, which is sad to me, because I love and adore the first two Spiderman movies.

I’ll be in a crowded afternoon showing on Saturday. Hopefully my expectations will be down after this review…so maybe I’ll end up surprisingly happy with it. Who knows?

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: May 2, 2007, 11:45 am

When I see this again, I’ll write an “eating crow” review if it changes my mind. I’ll be seeing it at least once more on Thursday, if not twice more.

Comment from KW
Time: May 2, 2007, 4:02 pm

Well, I don’t expect it to change your mind. I just really, really, really wanted to love this movie.

Maybe I will. There have been times when you and I have differed in our opinion of a film…though that’s pretty rare.

Honestly, Spiderman 2 was so good that it would have been a minor miracle if 3 wasn’t a step back a bit.

Comment from sbohn bcp
Time: May 13, 2007, 9:49 am

Your right this movie was to cramped and ruined a perfectly good story.

With Raimi it leads us to the question; Why does hollywood care more about themselfs than making money? If they had focused this one more it would have better reviews and a greater longevity making more money. Then they could of released a spidy 4 with a solid story as well.

Spiderman 3 could of easily been three different movies but thanks to the pride of a certain man it was ended with a subpar performance that cheater movie goers around the world.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: May 14, 2007, 8:23 am

Thanks for stopping by. I think the whole “thinking of themselves” thing certainly led to the kitchen sink being thrown in this chapter and we got a movie where there was a lot to love, a lot to hate.

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