Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 is, of course an obvious continuation of both of the other Spider-Man films, and there’s a lot that goes on in this film- at the start, our man Peter Parker is on top of the world, things are going well for him at school and at work, he’s got the love of his life in Mary Jane Watson, and the city loves him as Spider-Man, although J. Jonah Jameson is still doing his best to tell the city that he’s a menace through his paper, The Daily Bugle. But soon things begin to unravel- Mary Jane appears in a musical that gets less than stellar reviews and sends her into worry, a criminal, named Flint Marko has escaped from prison and soon finds himself transformed into a new super-criminal named the Sandman, up-and-comer photographer Eddie Brock is trying to take Peter Parker’s position at the Daily Bugle from him, a mysterious alien substance crashlands on Earth and begins to attach itself to Parker, and Harry Osborne is still out for revenge, finally making use of his fathers inventions to take Parker out.

That’s quite a laundry list of events for a film like this, and yet it all sort of plays out like you’re reading a year’s worth of Spider-Man comics, which isn’t a bad thing at all… and generally, Spider-Man 3 is a pretty fun movie with a lot of big action scenes with amazing visual effects, some comic moments, a lot of new characters all culled from the comic’s history, and some great moments of poignancy– really all of this feels quite true to it’s source, and that’s the best thing that it can do.

But also, much like the other two movies (which I watched again this past Friday night), there’s a few leaps of faith that it asks you to take as well (with one event with the Sandman being a little detrimental to Spider-Man’s origins) and some little gaps between where something starts off and where it ends up kind of missing that in-between scene that would make a literal-minded audience happy- some of these things can be written off as a read-between-the-lines thing, and others you just sort’ve have to go with.

It’s still a fun ride, and Sam Raimi has certainly packed a lot of meat in his movie- truly if you’re a fan of the character, you’re getting your money’s worth with the film.

Everybody from the previous movies are back (with the exception of Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus- although he is seen in the opening re-cap during the credits)- of course that means Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris, Bruce Campbell, all of the regulars from the Daily Bugle and even Willem Dafoe and Cliff Robertson return for brief cameos… and this time we get some new players to the game including James Cromwell as police Captain Phil Stacy, Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy (and really looking good here too- the blonde look works for her in a big way), Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, and Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko, the Sandman. This is really a solid cast and of course Tobey Maguire gets to shine delivering a huge array of emotions in the film, but I’ve also got to call out all of our villains here too- James Franco delivers a really nice performance, even to the point where you’re just hoping he doesn’t go back down another path- Topher Grace, an actor I don’t really care for a whole lot is of course playing a character from the comics that I don’t really care for at all in Eddie Brock and later transformed as Venom, but I give the young man props, he comes into this most enthusiastically and delivers the goods with this role. A huge round of applause goes to Thomas Haden Church though, who is literally the living interpretation of a Steve Ditko drawing as The Sandman. Church obviously threw himself into this both physically and emotionally and very much plays the part of a tragic character who’s made some wrong choices in life.

Of course, everything else about the film is state-of-the-art… Raimi and his crew have really gotten this down… The only thing really missing here is a full score from Danny Elfman, his themes are used, but it’s composer Christopher Young filling in for him and certainly doing an able job, but not the same thing that Elfman would’ve done.

It really is fun, but… it’s setting some traps for itself that if the series is going to go on beyond this, it really needs to start to avoid these traps… For a lot of filmmakers who make comic-book movies, they really feel the need to turn the whole thing into high opera by it’s very end, usually putting the love interest for the hero in danger and featuring ultimate final confrontations with the villains of the piece (often in some sort of setting that’s high off the ground)… and really, we just don’t need this any more. Mary Jane Watson is not Lois Lane, she doesn’t set out to get herself in the jams that she gets into (and she doesn’t here either, but the script calls for the villains to again find out who Spider-Man really is and attacking him through her) and as an audience for this sort of film, I really don’t think we need to have that moment at the end where the hero defines himself by saving the woman he loves… so even though, this film is fun and it all works- please, Sam Raimi and/or anyone else who’s going to make a Spider-Man movie- stop with throwing Mary Jane in the middle of all at the final confrontation…

Also, these villains need to stop meeting final ends- they continue on in the comics, they can continue on in the films too- Now don’t get me wrong, the death of Norman Osborne in the first film certainly does make sense, and the filmmakers have wisely continued to use him as a spectre that haunts his son… but showing Doctor Octopus drowning in the second film just shouldn’t have been done. And here in Spider-Man 3, we also get some finality with some of the characters, although one of them though makes a lot of sense… I guess the Spider-Man films have a bit of exception to this rule, but still… I think that satisfying comic movies can be made without showing what would appear to be the death of the antagonist of the piece.

And speaking of the villains, y’know, I really don’t have a problem with more than one villain in a film, I just think that if they continue with it, they need to get past the idea that they need to build whole character arcs around them… why not start one of these films with Spider-Man taking down another villain and then just going on into the story proper from there, done well, this will leave an audience wanting way more with the character, and that character could then be used in another film.

Now lately in the news, Maguire and Dunst have sort’ve been playing it blase about whether or not they’d even want to continue this series, and some of it could be holding out for the better payday and some of it could be them being a little full of themsleves- Marvel’s made no secret of the fact that they intend for the series to go on for three more movies, and good… it should, even without Raimi at the helm or Maguire and Dunst in the parts, even though you will get fans who just won’t accept that, this character’s history is rich with material that could keep him going on for awhile in film… I was really glad that they brought Gwen Stacy and Captain Stacy into this- right there is a whole other emotional path they could take Peter Parker down… and as far as villains go, with Dylan Baker playing Dr. Curt Conners, they’ve already set-up the Lizard as a villain (and there’s something in this film that could even take that further if they want) and of course the Spider-Man history is just filled with villains- I’d learned that they’d talked to Ben Kingsley at one point about playing The Vulture- now how cool would that have been? And I’d love to see characters like Electro, Mysterio, and Kraven The Hunter make it to the screen as well- there’s nothing that says this series couldn’t go on for another five or six years quite comfortably…

But back to the film at hand… Spider-Man 3 is certainly rock-solid entertainment and it’s quite fitting with what’s been done with the other two movies… it’s a whole lot of big-time fun and I really doubt that fans of the character will be that disappointed by it… they might see the traps that I describe above, but that’s stuff that can certainly be warded off in future films, and Spider-Man 3 gives them that opportunity to make a few fresh starts in some new directions… highly, highly recommended- go out and have some fun with this.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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