Directed By: Sam Raimi
Distributed By: Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
Since I was a very small child, I have loved Spider-man. I was the younger sister of two avid comic book reading siblings, and so I immersed myself in comic book lore. It was no surprise to anybody that I grew up encircled by friends and a husband who loved comic books as much as I did. With the May releases of many Blockbuster comic book based movies, it became tradition amongst my circle to treat my best friend William to a Superhero movie for his birthday (which also falls in May). So, this year, we were very anxious to take in Spider-man 3, the third edition of a franchise we had all been obsessed with in the past. The third installment was promised to be the most action packed of the series, so who could wait?
This time out, the action revolved around a Spidey who was now loved by the city. Reveling in the love of a city that once vilified him, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire, Seabiscuit, Cider House Rules, Pleasantville) has gotten a bit of a swelled head, and its hurting his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst, Marie Antoinette, Elizabethtown, Interview with the Vampire). While her career is fledgling, his life has taken a fantastic turn and he’s not as understanding as he should be. Peter wants to propose and doesn’t even realize there are any problems. Things keep going wrong. Peter’s old friend Harry (James Franco, Tristan & Isolde, Deuces Wild) is still out to get him for the death of his father in the first movie. And it turns out that the man who killed Peter’s uncle Ben may actually be Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways, Spanglish) who, while on the run from the police, walks into a scientific testing field and gets turned into the Sandman. Also, a meteorite has crashed on the Earth bringing with it an alien creature that looks like black goo – this is a symbiote and it attaches itself to Peter, making him what seems to be a meaner Spidey. Combine that to the fact that photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace, That 70’s Show, In Good Company) is out to take the new Staff Photographer position where Peter works, The Daily Bugle, and Peter has a full plate.
Which is exactly the problem - the full plate. You see, the people who made this film were trying to squeeze far too much into it, and in doing so, paid nothing its due. The relationship problems between Mary Jane and Peter felt strained, and the addition of Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard, Lady in the Water, The Village) into the already existing love triangle of Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry was unnecessary and the possibilities of such a character were used poorly. Fans of the comic book series that know of Gwen’s ultimate fate would understand this. Sandman was cheesy and though visually stunning, was time wasted in the actual story. His introduction as Uncle Ben’s true killer was offensive, even if you’d only seen the movies. It’s one sin not to follow the comic book lore. It’s a far deadlier sin to contradict something that was already stated in the movie series. The resolution of his story was probably worse, as it was so incredible cliché and not even remotely like it belonged in Spider-man, but in a more touchy-feely drama.
Harry Osbourne’s story was interesting, but I couldn’t help but get the distinct feeling that he and the other two main actors were phoning it in. The acting was overdone. Even the story was over-written. Anyone who knows anything about Spiderman knows that the symbiote that becomes Venom makes Peter Parker evil. I will give you one sentence that will make you understand why I so passionately hated this movie. Ready? It’s great: The Symbiote makes Peter Parker dance in a jazz club! Yeah, you read that correctly. And, just to be sure you did, I made it bigger for you! What was once the serious take-off of a comic became a joke and Peter became Emo-Spidey, with his hair brushed forward. He might was well have been voted most likely to sing a Simple Plan song while swinging on a web!
There were good things about Spider-man 3. Some of Peter’s badass behavior was funny (in a not cheesy way like the one listed above) and other moments were dead on and frightening. The casting of Topher Grace as Eddie Brock was well done. As a human he was smarmy, as Venom he was downright frightening, despite the bad CGI and the lack of a good voice for Venom. J.K. Simmons is always fun as J. Jonah Jameson, the owner of The Daily Bugle. And the many action scenes were visually stunning and fun to watch.
When it comes right down to it, I know how this movie could have been better. For one thing, the Sandman storyline should have been completely cut to provide space for the other two villains. Then, instead of spending all of their money on CGI, the Spider-man creators could have…um…I don’t know, given Dunst, Franco and most appallingly Maguire some acting refresher courses or perhaps, additional takes! They also should have elongated the Venom story, instead of leaving one of the most popular Spidey villains to the last half hour of a long dismal movie. Maybe then this movie could have reached its full potential. But, as it stands, Spider-man 3 is a pale shell of its former incarnations. Wait for video, if you even want to. William, I am sorry your birthday gift blew.