Eric D. Snider

Spider-Man 3

Movie Review

Spider-Man 3

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: B-

Released: May 4, 2007

 

Directed by:

Cast:

As an ardent admirer of the first two "Spider-Man" films, it brings me no pleasure to say that Part 3 is not great. It's OK, and it seems to have been made uncynically (i.e., not just as a money-maker), but it's not nearly as thrilling, funny, or emotionally powerful as it could be -- no, as it should be, given the materials it has to work with.

It begins just months after Part 2. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) are in love with each other, and all of New York is in love with Spider-Man. M.J. has a leading role in a Broadway show. Peter intends to propose marriage, and saintly old Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) has given both her blessing and her own engagement ring.

But danger lurks on the fringes of Peter's life! Perhaps too much danger, actually, to be adequately addressed in one film. Peter's erstwhile best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) still blames him for his father's death and is following in Dad's footsteps on the path toward total insanity, re-creating his experiments and learning how to use the old man's Green Goblin weaponry for himself. A low-rent criminal named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) has escaped from prison, and while this initially means nothing to Peter, it becomes important when he and Aunt May learn that it was actually Marko who killed dear old Uncle Ben in the first film, not the thief Peter pursued and exacted revenge against. A brash young photographer named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) is trying to replace Peter at The Daily Bugle, and has nearly persuaded J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) to give him a full-time position -- something Peter has never been offered.

There's a hitch in Peter's relationship with M.J., too. Her acting career hits a snag while Spider-Man's star is on the rise, and Spidey gets cozy with a model named Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) during a publicity appearance, thus fueling M.J.'s fairly irrational jealousy and giving her more reasons to be the dour, whiny girlfriend she's become since the last film.

Basically, every aspect of Peter Parker's life -- romantic, professional, familial, fraternal, and heroic -- is thrown into turmoil all at once. And then? A mysterious black goo arrives from space via meteorite, infects Peter, and unleashes his selfish, vengeful, swaggering Id. Now he is at war with himself, along with everyone else. Yeesh.

It is too much. A multitude of villains and threats might sound like a good time, and I understand the urge to raise the stakes with each passing sequel. But part of this franchise's success has lain in its ability to infuse even the bad guys with humanity, to make everyone seem real and relatable. With so much crammed into one film, even a very long film, no character gets the full attention he or she deserves. The only plot thread that is explored in depth is the least interesting one: the stormy romance between Peter and M.J., which is altogether too WB Network for my tastes.

While fleeing the police, Flint Marko stumbles into a particle physics experiment and comes out of it made of sand, with all the powers of, um, sand. As the newly christened Sandman, he wreaks havoc on New York and tussles with Spider-Man over his alleged involvement with Uncle Ben's death -- a bit of revisionist plot history that is way too lame for such a savvy, self-aware series of films. Between that and the outrageous amnesia subplot that affects another character, I have to wonder if director Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Alvin Sargent, have been cribbing from soap operas. What's next? Evil twins? Interrupted weddings?

Ah, but I'm sounding more critical of the movie than I should. Despite these flaws (and some others -- Aunt May is getting way too preachy; there's not enough action; and so forth), I still essentially enjoyed the film, if not nearly as much as the previous ones. It has moments of great humor (Bruce Campbell makes his requisite cameo as a snooty French maitre d'; the sequence in which an emo-looking black-goo-infected Peter Parker struts around town is hilarious) and a few brief action scenes that are truly dazzling. There simply isn't enough of it.

The frustrating part is that all the raw materials for a great film are here. Brock and Marko both have potentially fascinating backstories and motivations. The idea of a self-serving, revenge-minded Spider-Man is intriguing. There are themes of redemption and forgiveness woven throughout the movie, but they're delivered tritely and without the deft touch that characterized the emotional aspects of the other films. Sometimes the film feels chaotic, as though scenes are missing, as if they're still sorting out what to keep and what to throw away. Harry Osborn's misconceptions about his father's death are resolved in 30 seconds by a character we've never seen before -- an outrageously simplified pay-off to his and Peter's struggle. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

But, again, it's not that the movie is bad. It's generally fun and generally pleasant. I can recommend it, halfheartedly. I just hope the other sequels to good movies that we're expecting this summer don't suffer from a similar decline in quality.

Grade: B-

Rated PG-13, a little very mild profanity, a lot of action-related violence

2 hrs., 20 min.

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This item has 35 comments

  1. Andrew D says:

    Three more days! How will I ever make it??

  2. Brent says:

    Andrew D, I understand your sentiment. Are you going to a 12:01 showing? I've been pleased so far with the Spiderman movies. They are well done, and for centering around a comic book superhero, don't seem as shallow as some other comic book hero(ine) type of movies. Many others lack plot, good moral messages (i.e. they are 95% special effects, CGI enhanced, action-laden and 5% story).

  3. Andrew D says:

    Well, I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to see it, since I have a sibling's wedding to attend this weekend. I mostly thought it would be funny to comment on a review that isn't even there.

  4. Brandon says:

    I'ma goin'. Looks fantastic. Hope it's less Power Ranger-y than Spiderman 1. Spiderman 2 was great in that the average citizens didn't defeat the supervillain.

    "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!"

  5. BeeDub says:

    I've read some worrying pre-release reviews on this, several of which are calling it the worst of the trilogy. Yikes.

  6. Brandon says:

    It's the CW network now, Eric.

    Just thought you should know.

  7. G says:

    Dang! Brandon already beat me too it with his comment. But they did have an interrupted wedding in Spiderman 2 and in this one, Spidey is his own evil twin of sorts. So it is a soap opera.

  8. Greg MacLennan says:

    Check it out.

    http://urbanpollution.com/film/sam_raimi/articles/11739

    it's so sexy and so double the spiderman fun.

  9. Eric D. Snider says:

    Sigh. I'm well aware that the WB Network doesn't exist anymore. But it DID exist, and it was well known for featuring soapy teen dramas, hence the reference.

  10. ClobberGirl says:

    /rant

    Damn right WB doesn't exist anymore. We told them we'd boycott and stop watching ALL of their programs if they cancelled Angel early, but nope, nope, they blew us off and didn't listen, and got what was coming to them. Death to the CW network and all WB merger/splinter networks!

    /endrant

  11. Lowdogg says:

    Just saw it and really enjoyed it.

  12. Kaydria says:

    I'm definitely seeing it some day, if only for Bruce Campbell.

  13. Suzzy says:

    Yeah, I think the B- was very generous! I sat there with my friends and made fun of the movie the whole time. Although Bruce Campbell was amazing, it was a sad third attempt to recapture the magic.

  14. Flint Marko says:

    Hi. My name is Flint and I rob banks to help my daughter. No, really.

    What?!? Is this Les Mis?

  15. Bickmo says:

    What is the deal with superhero movies and multiple villains? Is it a rule or something, laid down by the horrible sequels to the original Batman movie? This practice does nothing but dilute the storyline. The first two Spiderman films seemed to understand this. Not Spidey 3. I left the theater rather put out that Sam Raimi dropped the ball on this one. It was a fun show, I suppose, but not a worthy entry in the Spiderman series.

  16. Chocolatestu says:

    I for one am glad that MJ has finally gotten the review I've thought she's deserved all along - WHINY. I hate Kirsten Dunst, though. She has exactly 2 faces - mildly sad, and mildly happy. That's the extent of her acting abilities. I don't think I've seen ONE movie with her in it that hasn't bugged the crap out of me. They should have gotten Bryce Howard in these movies from the beginning and had HER play MJ - she's beautiful, talented, and a natural red-head (I'm pretty sure, anyway). Down with Dunst!

  17. ClobberGirl says:

    #16 -- I couldn't agree with you more. Dunst is and always has been a horrible choice to play MJ. I read some interview with her where she said she thought it'd be a good idea to have Spiderman die in the third film leaving MJ behind with a little "spider baby." That's the kind of idiocy you hear when emotard girls who don't read comics start thinking about how to do comics.

    As for the movie, it was a bad chick flick with Spiderman in it. Definitely a poor finish to the franchise.

  18. Craig says:

    I have to agree with the other commenters who said that a B- was generous. There was good material here for a shorter film, but something had to be stricken, and I would have preferred it be the romantic subplot too.

  19. Lotus says:

    W-O-W. I would not have rated it a B-, it was more of a C-...That's why you're my favorite movie reviewer, though.

  20. Respectable Name says:

    The butler was in the second movie briefly, so he isn't completely out of blue. It was rather stupid that he decided to hide the truth of Mr. Osborns death for like 2 years.

  21. Mandar says:

    As someone from India, who is now sick and tired of the whole comedy, action, drama, tragedy, song and dance routines thingy woven into films, it seems like deja vu when you watch this movie.... (its also long enough to qualify as an indian/hindi movie!)

    Agree with the review.... what could have been an awesome film has been screwed up. Too many cooks......

  22. Dave the Slave says:

    Man o man, we have the first and second spidey movies, and every time we watch em, I cant hear a word in any of the scenes that have MJ in em because my wife wont shut up about what a stupid casting choice it was to have Dunst play MJ. I agree with her, but it seems its the female viewers who are the more vehement of their dislike for poor Ms. Dunst!

    I can't wait to see the movie though, just as soon as it gets to the dollar theatre! :-)

  23. card says:

    Kirsten Dunst isn't THAT bad. What exactly can you do if someone writes in a part where you have to goofily run across the city from your wedding? For me, it's the writing/directing.

    And the movie was enjoyable for me but not memorable. In my book it wasn't that much different from the first two movies. Just more crammed in and underdeveloped.

  24. John Doe says:

    Yeah, I agree with Eric's review. B- because it was enjoyable, I wouldn't complain at a C+. But I feel so ripped off as I was hoping Venom would just appear and left for a sequel. No, they felt it was best to add yet another under developed villain and do the character injustice. Yeah, I'm a fan of comic books and don't care if things aren't perfect, but you have to do the character justice or just don't use him at all.

    Otherwise, the movie was boring slow at times, and then had one-dimensional characters doing stuff in the few action sequences. It's not as bad as Ghost Rider, Hulk, or Fantastic Four, but it wasn't what I'd call good either.

  25. Megan says:

    I agree with your review, Eric. I spent half the movie really enjoying myself and the other half laughing at it. Come on. Harry's evil eyebrow raise in the mirror was too too cheesy. And Spidey happening in front of an American flag, stopping mid-swing for the perfect shot. Meh. Sort of ruined any good feelings I might have come away with.

  26. Andrew D says:

    My favorite line: "What the h*ll?!?"

  27. ClobberGirl says:

    I don't think it's just Kirsten Dunst who sucks as MJ. I've decided that Hollywood just doesn't know how to do good female leads in superhero movies. I mean, in addition to the horrible choice of Dunst as MJ, we got Kate Bosworth as Louis Lane and Katie Holmes as some chick in the Batman movie who never existed in the comics anyways and really shouldn't have been anywhere near the Batman movie (different actress or not, I can't believe they're reprising the character for the sequel... ugh...).

    I can't wrap my head around ANY of those choices. They're all great choices for chick flicks, bad choices for the female leads in superhero movies. We haven't had a good female lead since Elektra in Daredevil. Yes, her sequel was bad, but she was great for Daredevil.

  28. K-Man says:

    That review captured my thoughts exactly. Enjoyable movie, just too many villains. I too was bothered by Harry and Peter's conflicts being resolved by the butler.

  29. Bickmo says:

    ClobberGirl #27 -- Louis Lane? Great typo!

  30. Brandon says:

    Emo Spidey kills me.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=nlV3v-QarEU

  31. Sam says:

    I felt as if I had gone to the bathroom half way through and came back to a different movie. Did Sam Raimey die half way through shooting and a high school drama student take over?

  32. John Doe says:

    Check out howitshouldhaveended.com

    They do an awesome pardoy of Spider-Man 3 which they just put up. Sometimes it's an alternate ending and sometimes it's a parody (if you check out other movies).

    My favorite part is Sandman: "I have a sick daughter, so It's ok for me to commit crimes." Or something like that.

  33. Megan says:

    [SPOILERS] Ok, so I mostly enjoyed this movie, but didn't anyone else notice the awful, twitchy-faced MJ and Spidey at the Harry death scene??? It totally ruined that scene for me, as I couldn't stop laughing at the hilarity of it all.

    Ok, so I guess it sort of counts as a tribute to his death if I laugh so hard I start crying...but seriously.

  34. Lotus says:

    What a shame, considering that this movie had the biggest week gross in box office history. All the people who were let down...

  35. Stephanie B. says:

    We just watched this movie on Blue-Ray (definitely the way to go for an incredibly detailed Sandman).

    I just didn't buy Eddie Brock as someone evil. I'm not sure Topher Grace played it right... he came off as young, naive and willing to cut a few corners. But evil?

    And yeah, the twitchy-face-fest at the end was very distracting.

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