Review: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3

Rating



Director

Sam Raimi

Screenplay

Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent

Length

140 min.

Starring

Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, James Cromwell, Theresa Russell, Dylan Baker

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (For sequences of intense action violence)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

Seldom does the final chapter of a trilogy so succinctly and capably wrap up a film series. Spider-Man 3 continues that trend as the comic strip legend limps across the finish line with promises of another trilogy in the future.

When the original Spider-Man hit the scene back in 2002, I entered it with trepidation and came out a shade disappointed with the result. It wasn’t that the film didn’t look good, it was that it lacked substance.

Two years later when the first sequel Spider-Man 2 arrived in theaters, I held out hope that an improvement would occur. Lo and behold, it did. Spider-Man 2 had every bit of what I had missed in the original and made for a slick and engaging middle chapter. So, when they announced a 2007 release for Spider-Man 3, I thought that perhaps they had learned from their mistakes in the first film and would be able to blend that with the successes of the second film.

Then, I watched in horror as villain after villain was added to the cast list. First there was the Green Goblin (James Franco), hinted at since the first film. Then they added Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) who hadn’t figured at all in the first two films. And finally they added Venom (Topher Grace). Three! Even the Batman series, which went spiraling out of control under so much villainy (and at the hands of Joel Schumacher), hadn’t been so bold as to present so many. I became worried that there wouldn’t be enough time to adequately develop back stories for the two that hadn’t already been established.

The preview suggested a very interesting parallel between the various tales of revenge that each of the characters felt. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), Venom and Green Goblin each toiled under that very dangerous emotion. So, I went in expecting that I could be let down but wishing for the best.

The final result was more disappointing than I could have imagined. Not only did they not take what they learned from Spider-Man 2 and put it to work in the final film of the trilogy, they regressed to the faults of the original: namely a lack of character development. They added story elements to tell us who these villains were and what their motives were, but there was no depth of characterization like there was with Dr. Octopus. Instead, we’re left with husks of characters jumping from action scene to action scene all against the backdrop of a love falling into despair.

So focused were the filmmakers on ensuring the audience got a bang for its buck, they forgot to give us a story that didn’t feel as two-dimensional as the paper on which its source material was printed. The performances, as a result suffered. Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were mawkish and underwhelming, Church was completely lacking in emotional depth and Franco was so wrapped up in his story-driven mood swings that he forgot to add nuance. Only left with the inestimable talents of Rosemary Harris as Peter’s elderly Aunt May and the ever-improving Grace as Eddie Brock, the film feels lifeless and uninteresting.

This sense of frustration only deepened with the disjointed nature of the film’s pacing. It bounced back and forth so quickly between stories that it really felt like there were five or six independently-produced short films cut haphazardly together. There is still a question of where they spent the reported $300 million on the budget. Hopefully some of that was marketing because the visual effects, while certainly enjoyable, are undeniably lacking in every one of the all-computerized sequences.

If you want to turn off your thought processing centers, you might enjoy this film immeasurably. There are plenty of twists, turns and action to keep anyone entertained, but be careful when you turn off that brain because you might not be able to follow the strands of the storylines in this jumbled web of a pic.

Review Written

May 12, 2007

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