Friday, May 04, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Title: Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Dir: Sam Raimi
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

I had such incredibly high hopes for this movie. Spider-Man 2 was perfect, and this time around Sam and Ivan Raimi were holding the pen. What could possibly go wrong? *sigh*

The third Spidey installment is all about the evil that lies within each of us, even superheroes. Spider-Man is now a huge New York City celebrity, and the fame goes to Peter Parker's head. But he is still tortured by his Uncle Ben's death after learning the true killer - Flint Marco - is still at large. Peter inadvertently isolates his girlfriend Mary Jane, who is struggling with her own failing career. Making matters worse, Peter spends a little too much time with a beautiful model named Gwen Stacy, who has the hots for Spidey. Still with me?

Anyway, a meteor hits the earth and releases a black symbiote which is drawn to Peter's hubris and vengefulness. It takes him over and brings out his dark side. Meanwhle, Flint Marco is stealing money to save his dying daughter. While running from the cops, he has an accident that transforms his cells into sand - thus The Sandman is born. Then there's also Eddie Brock, a competing photographer who wants Peter Parker dead. Oh, and did I mention that Harry Osborne is still pissed off about his father and wants Peter dead, too?

Clearly, the plot of Spider-Man 3 is WAY too much for one film. This is the movie's biggest downfall - it forces far too many characters and plotlines into a two-hour picture. Consequently, iconic Spider-Man characters like Gwen Stacy and Eddie Brock are wasted. And it leaves the audience confused and overwhelmed. I don't think this was entirely the Raimis' fault. I know Sam was pressured to include Eddie Brock/Venom and that inclusion really tipped the scales. Venom is possibly the coolest and best known Marvel villain, and deserves far more screentime than this. He should have been saved for a separate film. It's a damn shame.

I did enjoy Topher Grace as Brock, though. While he doesn't physically match his comic book counterpart, he excels as an evil mirror image of Parker. That was a great casting choice. Grace is deliciously tongue-in-cheek. My only issues with the character are how little he was used and Sam's choice to have Venom's face retract. I know why he did it (Raimi hates covering actor's faces - found that out with SM1), but it made me uneasy. All the more reason Venom should have been left out altogether. Raimi was backed into a corner and forced to adapt a character he never wanted in the first place.

Okay, I'll step off my soap-box about Venom now. I'll quickly say that Gwen Stacy was also wasted here, as was Bryce Dallas Howard's flawless performance. She is everything Gwen should be, and truthfully, she would have made a much better MJ, too. But more on my hatred for Kirsten Dunst later...Bryce was great, and I wish she was more than a tool to make Mary Jane jealous in this movie.

Some other great performances include the ever-wonderful J.K. Simmons and Ted Raimi, though they are not quite as funny as before. Bruce Campbell, on the other hand, gives his best cameo yet. He practically steals the movie! As for the main characters, I have never been a fan of Tobey doofus Maguire or Kirsten dead-eyes Dunst. And for the first time, I really hated their characters in Spider-Man 3. They are both such complete assholes that I had to laugh a couple times.

I love the basic idea for this installment - Spidey fighting with his own darkness, as visually expressed through the iconic symbiote. The script was mostly on the right track, but sadly fell short of greatness. I hate to say it, but some of the dialogue is just terrible. And the film is just way too heavy-handed. We have characters cheating, and breaking up, and murdering, and a dying child, and everybody is crying, crying, crying! Ugh! And I will utter my final complaint in just two words: the butler.

Despite all my bitching, Spider-Man 3 had some great aspects. There are some ground-breaking special FX (particularly Sandman) and as I said, I love the moral theme of the film. And Sam Raimi still delivers on the daring visuals as always. But he broke my heart a little this time around.