REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 [2007]

“I’d give my life for them”

So here it is, the final piece to the Raimi/Maguire trilogy of superheroes and love conquering all. The first two installments in the franchise helped rejuvenate the comic book movie, making them be taken seriously and showing that a little imagination surrounded by the real world could create suspense, action, and heart. Spider-Man 3 had a lot of expectations to live up to, and not just to be cohesive and complete with three villains and a couple new faces on the side. I know I myself went into the film to see whether Sam Raimi and company could round the story out and keep true to what had come before. By the end, while not completely satisfied and somewhat letdown at times, I found that I could still come out with a smile. The arcs of our principal characters come to a close and the presentation is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, with all the spectacle, money, and talent going into it, I just wished it would have stayed truer in tone and brought a little more to the table.

First off, the acting is fantastic as usual; if nothing else, the trio of films showed that comic book films didn’t need to be campy. Tobey Maguire proves again why he was, and is, the only choice to play the titular role. If Sony backs up their statements that a fourth go is in store with or without him, I may join the masses in boycotting it and taking a stand for artistic credibility rather than financial gain. Even when Maguire needed to ham it up (more on this later), he is the perfect mixture of geek and cool to pull it off perfectly. Kirsten Dunst does well again, showing some emotion in what is more simply a damsel-in-distress role than the previous films and James Franco is good also. Franco needs to show some huge range going from villain to amnesiac happy-go-lucky kid, and while he goes a tad overboard on the giddiness, the part works. As for the newcomers, Raimi shows once again that he has some clout and Hollywood cred, assembling one of the biggest casts with people doing very little. Bryce Dallas Howard is little more than a pawn at the expense of the plot and James Cromwell is a blink and you’ll miss him blip on the screen. Even our new villains are given much less screen time than anticipated, however, they step it up and really steal the show.

Thomas Haden Church truly inhabits the inner conflicted soul of Sandman. Everything he does is for love and while he may not want to do some things, he has no problem doing them if it may bring him closer to his daughter. Church gives a layered and nuanced performance, never falling into the one-dimensional villain trap a character like this usually does. As for the long awaited arrival of Venom, Topher Grace shows why he deserves the big budget roles to go along with his more accomplished indie porfolio. The malice and manic hysteria that comes out of him is both fun and frightening and he becomes an enjoyable foe to our hero. Along with the superb acting, we are given some spectacular visual effects. While some set pieces and background animation at many times looks cartoony and unpolished, you cannot fault the sandwork or the alien symbiote creature. The amount of detail taken on these two villains definitely shows where the enormous budget went, and it is good to see it was used to great effect.

Where the film ultimately falls apart, in my opinion, is with the story itself. This is the first of the trilogy not to have a comic book mythology veteran behind the script. With most coming from Raimi himself and his brother, it shows a bit of a lack of stakes that the previous two had. Instead we are given a complete tonal change and a ton of slapstick and comedic moments. Some sequences, like that of Maguire dancing through the streets, confidence oozing from him due to the symbiote, really slow the film down to a crawl. The movie tries at too many times to be cute and while this might work to offset the dark and suspenseful moments in other films, Spider-Man 3 doesn’t really have many rough spots to counteract. Sure the fight scenes are spectacular, but they just lack the sense of urgency from the past installments, always keeping the viewer removed from what is happening, just waiting for the heroes to be victorious. What started as a dark tale of heroism and the battle of one’s own demons, with the first two chapters, concludes in a very heavy-handed and sentimental way.

By no means am I not recommending this film though—I enjoyed it throughout and only in a few instances did I feel its length. It is just that with the second part upping the ante like it did from its already great predecessor, I was disappointed that this final chapter ended up being the least successful of the three. Maybe it was because so much was happening and it all had to be resolved in one film, maybe it was that this is possibly the last Spider-Man from Raimi and he needed to end it all on his terms, I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that the writing is not as intelligent as it was and sappiness, along with unintentional laughs, sometimes made me cringe. However, when the fighting started and emotions ran high, you can’t not be caught up in it all…at least until the dust settles.

Spider-Man 3 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

[1] Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire, right) takes on Venom (Topher Grace, left) in Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man 3. Photo Credit: Courtesy Columbia Pictures. Copyright© 2006 Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
[2] Sandman (Thomas Haden Church, pictured) stars in Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man 3. Photo Credit: Merie W. Wallace. Copyright© 2006 Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.


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