- Sam Raimi
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Spider-man, aka Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), has become the town’s hero, with people embracing him and enemies dreading him. His girlfriend Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has gotten the lead role in a Broadway play and it all seems to be going fine between them. But Harry Osborn (James Franco) is still planning on revenge against Peter; a convict, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), becomes Sandman after being in the wrong place at the wrong time and plans on stealing to help his sick daughter; and a new photographer, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), threatens Peter’s job at the Daily Bugle.
Sam Raimi is once again at the helm of this epic movie (the most expensive ever made) based on a script of his own along with Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent. I feel bad giving the guy a hard time because in the previous installments he really got it. Unfortunately here the main problems lie in the script, where bad choice was made after bad choice. It’s such a massacre of bad ideas that I couldn’t believe it was the same talented people who had done so good before. But the series has clearly run into a fatigue phase, and if they go ahead with a fourth episode a lot of retooling will have to be made.
Where to begin? I am not against coincidences in movies as long as they are well-handled and make sense, but this movie is an insult in this regard. The mere inclusion of Venom relies heavily on them, starting with the ridiculous notion that the meteor fell just where Peter was and culminating in the more ridiculous notion that Brock happened to be there when Peter decided to shed the costume. Looking back on the highly over-plotted movie I believe the appearance of this villain was unnecessary and under-handled. Besides, he looks scary when completely covered, but when Brock shows his face (and those teeth!) he becomes almost laughable.
Most of the structure of the previous movies also appears here but to tiresome and repetitive effects. Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) is still giving long and inspirational speeches that are sleep-inducing; Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) shows in a flashback depicting a scene from the first movie but looking ages older; Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) once again appears to his son. And yes, Peter and Mary Jane are still struggling to keep their relationship afloat, but to be fair their problems are different and understandable.
This takes me to the whole rebellious Spidey episode. When the symbiote gets hold of Peter he goes into insufferable mode, changing his haircut, his outfits and acting out on his impulses. This whole bit is not bad, it’s ghastly. I’ve seen the movie twice and both times my urge was to look away from the screen; it is so embarrassing. A dance number and a subsequent bar brawl are especially cringe-inducing.
The subplot involving Harry Osborn is hit-and-miss. The first big set-piece in the movie has him (with more advanced gadgets) trying to kill Peter. This is, in my opinion, the best action scene in the movie. It is fast, exciting and truly menacing; it is also character-driven down to the end. And then what? Amnesia! Yes... amnesia! Oh boy, cue melodrama. From there on his inclusion in the story, and the obligatory triangle that forms between Peter, Mary Jane and him, comes right out of a bad soap-opera. And you just know he’s going to remember everything at some point, which is where his story becomes interesting again. Too bad his butler’s inclusion, as a clear deus-ex-machina, feels so forced.
Sandman’s story is also a collection of good and bad. The very best scene of the movie belongs to him. It is where he struggles to become human for the first time; a triumph of character and special-effects that is Raimi at his best. His dilemma and motivations also make of him an intriguing subject. But when he goes into full-villain mode at the end everything’s thrown down the toilet. I believe the intention was to end the movie on a spectacular way, but the final battle is poorly handled and he’s one of the reasons. Why does Sandman need to become this huge clumsy mass-monster when he is clearly more dynamic and dangerous when he is normal-sized and dusty? Mary Jane once again becomes a screaming queen, doing acrobatics that are just not believable. The sequence keeps cutting to a reporter down there and a television broadcast, both of which are lame, lame, lame. And the visual effects are not as flawless here as they should, I’m afraid. But coming back to Sandman, his involvement in Uncle Ben’s death is another terrible idea, just a lame excuse for Peter to have something strong against him.
What else? Gwen Stacy’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) introduction is fortunate, I loved the character. Too bad she mostly serves as an object of jealousy; I would’ve loved a little more content. Her father’s reaction when she’s on the verge of death is laughable, he couldn’t care less! And what about the Batman & Robin-esque moments in which Spider-man appears in public and even talks to people? The “engagement” scene at the restaurant is really good, funny and emotional. And every scene at the Daily Bugle is a hoot; I love that place and its inhabitants.
Acting-wise the movie, once again, delivers mixed results. I’ve always loved Tobey Maguire in the character, but there are scenes here where he makes a complete fool of himself. I know he has to trust his director (and in this case a very good one), but this is bad. Kirsten Dunst, on the hand, is excellent with the material she’s given. I really appreciated her work even though it might not stand out at first glance. James Franco is his usual self. Topher Grace didn’t convince me at all once he became a truly bad guy. Thomas Haden Church is extraordinary as Sandman, I wish he had had more to do with his part. Bryce Dallas Howard is radiant and adorable, she truly lights up the screen. Rosemary Harris is ok I guess. James Cromwell has a thankless role. Theresa Russell has a small bit as Marko’s wife and she leaves a strong impression; as does Bruce Campbell. And finally, J.K. Simmons and Elizabeth Banks are hilarious.
“I hate those things!”
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Other reviews of Spider-Man 3 (2007): Groucho
- Sam Raimi
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, May 10, 2007
The story continues as that young nerd, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), continues to split his time between his job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, his school where he’s a model student, his relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and, last but never least, his heroic antics as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The webslinger has it better than ever, loved by people and government alike, and cheered at every turn.
This goes up to Peter’s head and he becomes quite cocky, wanting to marry M.J. though she’s having serious issues about their relationship and her career as an actress. Peter selfishly ignores all this and continues to show off as a superhero and go forward with his plans with M.J. like she’s perfectly OK with it while she’s not.
In the meantime, Peter’s pal Harry Osborn (James Franco), sure that Spider-Man killed his father Norman, the “Green Goblin” (Willem Dafoe), and after finding out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, sets to avenge his dad and becomes the New Goblin, using his father’s legacy for it. Also in the meantime, a man named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), who turns out to be Uncle Ben’s actual killer, escapes from jail and accidentally gets involved in an experiment that affects his molecules and turns him into a man made of sand… And also in the meantime, an envious photographer called Eddie Brock, Jr. (Topher Grace) develops a grudge against Peter Parker. Oh! And how could I forget that also in the meantime, a symbiotic alien entity invades Spider-Man’s suit and gives him extra abilities while making him a tad more reckless.
Yeah, talk about saturation. I don’t get it… Why make it like this if there’s enough material here for at least three movies? The result is quite obvious: under-development of every subplot and an excess in every regard. I thought they could pull it off, but nah! And even the bits that get more space don’t get a worthy treatment. At start it looks quite good: Peter and Mary Jane’s drama is potent, as is Harry’s. Then the whole amnesia subplot is laughable, and when supporting characters start pouring in you relax because you know this can’t be serious. Then dialogue becomes laughable too and by the end it’s all a mess. I was in for the fun and I still loved the essence and much about the Spider-Man spirit but I couldn’t deny I was watching a true mess.
Stories can rely on coincidences and that’s a trademark of comic books, but after the more or less logical storylines of the first two movies you can’t help but question things like Sandman’s connection to Uncle Ben or the alien entity’s choice for a first host. But it’s unforgivable to rely on coincidence or easy escapes for a resolution and there’s a lot of that in the end. The participation of a butler is especially ludicrous, and what about “Dear God, I want you to kill Peter Parker”… beautifully hilarious. While the dilemma of characters like Peter and Harry is more or less believable, you just don’t swallow that of any other character, particularly Eddie, so most of it is trash.
The cast does a good work considering, but they’re helpless with the material. Poor James Franco, waiting for several years and two movies for his big shot, got a pretty bad subplot, but at least not half as bad as that of Thomas Haden Church or Topher Grace. Pretty Bryce Dallas Howard plays legendary character Gwen Stacy, who only serves as a poorly used plot device and doesn’t add up to much. The worst bit of casting is that of James Cromwell as Gwen’s dad and Captain of Police, a character so poor and a great actor so wasted that it’s just a shame. J.K. Simmons comes back to provide the yucks as J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Bugle, and that’s quite successful. Rosemary Harris comes back as Aunt May and serves her purpose OK but also somewhat irrelevantly.
The bit where Spidey is black is the best. The suit gives Peter Parker a dark side that’s as delicious as any dark side in any story and luckily it’s developed better than other subplots. They go too far when Peter dances in a bar but otherwise I liked his mood and enjoyed the consequences, even the negative ones. I thought it was the best sequence of the movie, though that’s not saying much.
As for the action sequences, they’re as excessive as anything else here and visual effects are just too obvious. I didn’t mind in the first one but by the last one I was puking, in part because the set-up was too contrived, obvious, and much like every superhero movie out there. It was all cliché.
But I enjoyed it, I really did!! Only that I know that as many Spider-Man movies as there may be, they’ll belong to the category begun in number 3. Only the first 2 are really worthwhile, but they’re so good I can live with that.
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Other reviews of Spider-Man 3 (2007): Morris