Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3

**

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

I am inevitably going to compare the second sequel to its immediate prequel. Spider-Man 2 is one of the finest comic-book movies ever made, a film of uniform excellence. The story had mythic resonance, was wonderfully acted and Sam Raimi directed like an excited mad scientist; exciting and dazzling his audience in equal measure.

The same talent - the credits are nearly identical, other than the new additions to the cast - does not deliver a movie of equal quality. In this vein, Spider-Man 3 is a monumental disappointment. It is a chronic miscalculation of what made Spider-Man 2 great, sporting a paper-thin story, characters that do not develop, villains that aren't given enough time to do much other than snarl and look buff, and a hero that becomes a bastard.

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Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire, 31, and still looking scarily youthful) has none of the problems that plagued him in Spider-Man 2. He's keeping on top of undergraduate college study, has a steady freelance job at the Daily Bugle (JK Simmons, as the editor, continues to provide a laugh every single time we see him onscreen) and is ready to marry the love of his life - Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Life couldn't be better.

Mary Jane is struggling. Her recent Broadway career has the critics firing stink bombs. All she wants is a shoulder to cry on while her little world falls down around her ears. All Parker has to offer is platitudes about being Spidey. And Parker's former best friend, Harry Osbourne (James Franco), continues to harbour a grudge against Spider-Man for his father's death. He discovers his dad's stash of body enhancing doobriewidgets, grenades and blades, and uses them to make the arachnid pay.

The visceral stuff is well done on a nuts and bolts workmanlike level, although it has to be said that whooshing through and between buildings at high speed over and over again feels like an overdose of Ritalin. A noteworthy moment is saving Gwen Stacy (a wasted Bryce Dallas Howard) from a shocking sequence where a crane smashes through a skyscraper. I guess it's now acceptable to assault the cultural and visual impact of the Twin Towers in mainstream movies again. The high point is a visually marvellous dive, dodging debris and saving the lady from a 64-storey drop. The visual effects are technically flawless throughout.

Escaped convict, Flint Marco (Thomas Haden Church), through yet more silly science - "demolecularisation" anyone? - becomes The Sandman. He also happens to be the true killer of Parker's Uncle Ben. The Sandman is a character visually reminiscent of the cooler bits of Stephen Sommers' The Mummy and the T-1000. I doubt that Church has more than a dozen lines throughout the entire film, but he does try to sell the character's morality and bad luck, while Raimi sells his invincibility in marvellously executed visual effects sequences.

Completing the rogues’ gallery is Venom, a polymorphous black blob from a meteor. It lands 20-feet from Parker, oozes out of its meteor and attaches itself to him. Yes, you read that right; a blob from space is a major character. Excuse me while I stop caring. It amplifies strength and aggression, making our hero bad, and gifts Spidey with a nifty new black outfit.

He discards the symbiote after realising what he's become. It then attaches itself to disgraced Daily Bugle photographer Eddie Brock, whom Parker caught being too liberal with Photoshop. The Eighties visual design of Venom is disturbingly out of sync with the rest of the timeless Spider-Man characters, like Doctor Octopus. Either way, it's one underwritten villain too many, haphazardly thrown into the mix, and causes the rest of the film to fold under its own weight. The three-way baddie climax is nauseating, unexciting and full of contrivances.

Raimi, a genius at breathing visual and kinetic life, needs a solid backbone of a script before he can deliver a film of the quality of his immediate prequel. He shares story duties with his brother, Ivan Raimi – Spider-Man 2's sole screenwriter Alvin Sargent gets a screenplay credit. We don't need Spidey Sense to realise that this is uneventful, thinly scripted rubbish. The story is self-cannibalising and ultimately tries too hard to be everything to everybody. He mixes campy comedy with overwrought visual design and a nasty sense of self-righteousness. Spider-Man 2, to its credit, kept the story well in check, delivering motivation, character and real honest-to-goodness belief in itself. At least, Bruce Campbell gets another hilarious cameo.

I don't like writing reviews for critic-proof movies. As someone who loves cinema, I can't help but feel that while I try to convince the intrinsic worth (or lack thereof) of a film, ultimately it is fruitless against a mighty marketing machine. I guess I'm going to have to learn to deal with it. I recall a quote from Angus Wolfe Murray on Spider-Man 2 - "It makes you feel that there are people in Hollywood who care."

Angus, it's time to take it back.

Reviewed on: 06 May 2007
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Spider-Man fights three villains, and himself.
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Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, JK Simmons, James Cromwell, Theresa Russell, Dylan Baker, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell

Year: 2007

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: USA

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