Film review by: Witney Seibold
“Spider-Man” was a mediocre disappointment. “Spider-Man 2” is one of the best superhero movies to have been made. “Spider-Man 3” cycles back to mediocre disappointment, only this time with a bigger budget, an inflated sense of self-importance, and a tragic, depressing feeling of the missed opportunity to recreate the glory of the previous film. Rather than stick by the practical humanity of “Spider-Man 2,” and once again allowing director Sam Raimi to occasionally cut loose with this trademarked frenetic wackiness (in a fun way), “Spider-Man 3” chooses to stuff itself full of plotlines, characters, plotlines, meaningless fight scenes, and plotlines. Not only is the film bogged down by a glut of happenstance, but doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say about the Spider-Man mythology. Is it about free will?; choosing good over evil? Is it about forgiveness and revenge? Is it about consideration for others over selfishness? It’s about all these things, and more!
The several plotlines:
1) Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is living the high life. Everyone loves his alter-ego of Spider-Man, and he is being praised in press conferences and by the general public. Peter must reconcile his own fame with the fact that his girlfriend Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is not a very talented actress and is not getting the fame she expected. Does he soak up the glory, or help out his girl?
2) Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), the man who really killed Peter’s uncle Ben, has broken out of prison and, in a comic book way, stumbled into a mad scientist testing sit which turns him into sand-like particles. He can blow away on the wind, or grow into a giant sandy rockman. He immediately turns to back robbery, but all so he can afford an operation for his ailing six-year-old daughter. Will Peter kill a hard-working man, even if he is a supervillain? Will he forgive the man for killing his uncle?
3) At the end of “Spider-Man 2,” the son of The Green Goblin, Harry (James Franco) discovered that Spider-Man and Peter Parker were one and the same, and prepared to seek revenge for his father’s death. He figures out how to amplify his body, and goes after Spider-Man, only to hit his head and (I am not making this up) lose his memory. That’s right, he forgets the events of the previous film. Will he remember? Will he still want revenge? Will he set up an overly-complicated plot to hurt Peter? He puts the moves of Mary Jane as well, as she is upset with Peter over his whole Spider-narcissism.
4, and the strangest) a little blob of black goo falls from space and rides on Peter’s scooter back to his apartment. While he’s sleeping in his Spider-jammies, the goo wraps itself around his body, and makes him aggressive and sexual, and makes him a killer dancer. He treats everyone poorly, combs his hair forward, and puts the moves on the pretty blonde Gwen Stacy (a pretty blonde Bryce Dallas Howard). Eventually, he finds that, while he’s exhilarated by the black costume, he must free himself. He tears off the goo, and it attaches itself to Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who becomes an evil Spider-Man-looking monster with big fangs and a lashing tongue. Eddie was an unscrupulous rival of Peter’s at his newspaper job, and is a bit of a bastard to begin with.
5) James Cromwell appears as a police commissioner.
Most of this stuff all comes from the comics, and it’s all familiar to anyone who has played any attention to Spider-Man comics over the years. During my formative years, I did collect Spider-Man comics, so I knew all about Flint Marko, Harry Osbourne/The Second Green Goblin, and the creature known as Venom. Each of these characters had a full backstory in the comics, and was allowed to expand over months and months of serialized sequential art. The movie is less interested in making stories or characters out of these things, and more interested in thrusting comic images up on the screen, mostly without context, in the hope of pleasing the Spider-Fans.
It doesn’t work. Despite the skill and effort that went into many of the CGI action scenes, the film grinds randomly in several directions for nearly two-and-a-half hours, and leaves us feeling nothing, having taken us nowhere. With the budget of a surefire blockbuster (“Spider-Man 3” now holds the highest grosses in history), one would think that Raimi would have had freedom to recreate the success of “Spider-Man 2.” Nothing doing; “Spider-Man 3” reeks of studio interference, director indifference, and endless rewrites. Even the actors seem to be bored by now.
Rent “Spider-Man 2,” and leave it there. We need no more Spider-Men in our lives.