As much as I hated the first Spiderman, the 2nd installment hit it out of the park and raised the bar so high that it would be almost impossible for a 3rd installment to reach the same level of achievement. So let's get this out of the way first, Spiderman 3 is nowhere near the level of the previous one, but it's a hell of a lot better than the first one.
When I walked into the theater, I wasn't expecting much, I was kind of ambivalent. Sure, I wanted to see it, but didn't feel like this was a run out at midnight type of thing for me, within the first five minutes I was sucked back into this world. The opening credit sequence does a beautiful job of showing highlights from the previous two movies and gets you ready for this one.
This time the film is set an indeterminate amount of time after the 2nd one. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is living his dream life – he and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) are going strong, he's at the top of his College Class, Spiderman is beloved by the city and has achieved icon status. What could go wrong?
For starters all of this success starts to go to his head, he becomes self-involved and starts to ignore MJ's problems whose life is starting to go downhill after she gets fired from her Broadway show. MJ gets jealous of Peter's relationship with his lab partner Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). Then his best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco) tries to kill him. He gets beat by Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) a man made of sand, who it turns out killed his Uncle Ben. Then there's Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) a jealous photographer. And you can see how things spiral out of control really quickly.
I won't go any further into the 20 million different plot threads in this. Usually a summer tent pole film is criticized for being all action and very little plot, Spiderman 3 is the exact opposite there's not enough action and too much plot. Director Sam Raimi must have thought that this would be his last Spiderman film so he threw everything into this, including the kitchen sink.
There's the Raimi touch of having (Bruce Campbell) make another appearance, this time as a pseudo French Maître d', the Stan Lee payola cameo where he has to make a cameo in every single Marvel superhero film (I'm all for giving the great man his due, but his cameos are getting a little annoying), and of course the reappearance of Sam's car. Then there's the typical moment where Spiderman does something in front of the cheering NYC crowd. Haven't these people heard of the concept of getting out of the way? Instead they just stand there and watch the battles when buildings and debris are falling around them. Can we please have Spiderman fight ONE villain WITHOUT removing his mask in the middle of the fight? It's amazing everyone in NY doesn't know who he is by now!
McGuire seems to be bored with the entire exercise. There's no spark or excitement in his performance, the only time he comes to life is when he gets to play the role of "sex god," thanks in part to the Alien costume slowly taking over Peter's personality and making him more aggressive and arrogant.
Then there's the idea of bringing in the iconic Gwen Stacy, who many fans of the Spiderman comic book knows has a major impact on our hero's life. The problem is, Stacy's impact is felt early on in his career and introducing her into the film world this way and at this time makes absolutely no sense. If they wanted to introduce a woman to make MJ jealous then this character would have been fine, as long as she was called something other than Gwen Stacy.
I really liked what they did with the Sandman character and the resolution at the end, but I also hated the revisionist way they turned Sandman into the killer of Uncle Ben. The storyline was handled well, but it felt too much like the original Batman film where they had to make the hero invested by saying hey, I killed your Uncle.
The stuff with Harry was fantastic it really shows that James Franco is developing as an actor. As a general rule I really dislike him but here he really gets to display a real emotional range. The new Goblin designs were real bad ass, everything from the black leather suit, to the mask, to the redesigned Goblin glider were fantastic. I actually felt that yeah, this is a guy who could kick Spidey's butt. The reason I despised the first film so much was because of everything surrounding the Goblin. Now the reason the 3rd film works is because of him.
As good as everything with the Goblin and the Sandman were. Everything surrounding Venom was terrible. The way he moved in his liquid form, to how he looked once it bonded with Brock. I've never been a fan of the comic book venom and the film version doesn't change my mind.
The CGI in this takes a radical step back to the crap that was in the first film. If anything at times it was worse, Spiderman swinging around town looked like a tiny animated spec, just like the first film every time they showed it, it took me out of the movie. The stuff with the Sandman was about as good as it could probably be. Where does he get all the sand from to grow into a 30 story sand monster?
Too many characters is not the problem with this film. Raimi actually juggles everyone fairly well. It's the expectation game. We expect Spiderman 2 level excellence and we get Spiderman 1.5. Everything is just a little off, or takes a step back. I loved the ending, it made me tear up, not just because I spent $10 on this. Even if it was the same ending they used in the first film.
Final Grade B
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally posted 5/5/07