Film Reviews

Spider-Man 3 Sam Raimi

Rating - 5/10

There's change brewing in the air, and Spidey is all tangled up.

This could very well be a perfect review opener if it applied to three things: a new director, new bad guys, and the plot itself. Two out of three isn't so bad, but you could have sworn it was three. It's sad to say, but Spider-Man 3, the largest weekend opener in history, is the trilogy's weakest link, all thanks to a bloated plot, too many characters, and an uneven direction by none other than Sam Raimi himself. It also happens to be one of the year's biggest disappointments, especially considering it's following one of the genre's best films. Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

It goes something like this: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary-Jane Watson (Kristen Dunst) are young and in love, but Peter is still on the rocks with childhood friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), who has recently discovered that his father was the Green Goblin and is thinking of exacting revenge on a certain superhero that might have killed his father. Escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) who wants nothing more than to cure his sick daughter accidentally finds himself in a molecular testing field that transforms him into Sandman with the ability to dissolve into and build with the element of sand. New hotshot photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) is taking charge of Peter's job at the Daily Bugle while a meteorite carrying a black sembiotes latch on Peter, giving his suit (and himself) dark, brooding powers that Peter can't control.

On paper, this sounds too much for one film to handle and it shows. Plot points become too easily managed and used for convenience (early into the film, Harry is thrown off his glider in an aerial battle and loses his short-term memory and forgetting not only that his father was the Green Goblin but that Peter is even Spider-man) while characters that were so finely written are now used as plot gimmicks to cause tension. Peter and Mary Jane especially do things that are not normal of their characters, the former becoming a wee-too-arrogant, hotheaded superhero and the latter an emotional wreck that acts too quickly on impulse. These characters so smart and reserved in the past two entries are merely plot contrivances here, toying with the heartstrings of easily wooed audience members.

It doesn't help that Raimi has finally crossed the line into schmaltzy, one-liner territory, making every emotion another chance for the actors to mug the screen. Maguire is over-the-top as the bad-boy Peter Parker (especially in an excruciatingly unfunny Saturday Night Fever montage) while Franco doesn't realize that having short-term memory loss doesn't make you five. Grace and Dunst come out for better, but Grace can't pull off menacing once he becomes the threatening Venom. Dunst sells every false line her character is given and is the only one who cries like she means it (even though Maguire gets to do it at least five times). Church gives the most multi-layered performance and one wishes more time were spent on this CGI spectacle and his back-story.

Raimi can't juggle all these colliding subplots (and I haven't even mentioned Bryce Dallas Howard's completely unnecessary Gwen Stacy character who comes in just as fast as she leaves as a possible love interest). In the end, the overstuffed plot leave a most curious unsatisfied feeling while even the effects (courtesy of one of the most expensive budgets in film history) seem out of place. The Green Goblin's flight seems cut-and-paste while Spider-Man's swinging looks stiff. Only the Sandman looks completely believable and awe-inspiring, while Venom is a menace to behold, even if Grace's stature is too small to be believable.

But I digress; Spider-man 3 isn't that bad. It's just painfully mediocre, save for a beautifully low-key ending that serves the characters just the ending they deserve. There's no need to go onto a Spider-Man 4 from here, but judging by the sales, they probably will. If they do, they'd best follow Spider-Man 2's example and keep it simple. With such simplicity came a more focused script, and there in lies the film's multifaceted eccentricities.

And at least that was fun to watch.