When Spider-Man emerged in 2002, it energized audiences. Far from a masterpiece, the film got fans’ feet wet. As Spider-Man 2 hit theatres in 2004, it immediately earned honors as one of the best comic book-to-motion picture adaptations of all time. By way of a bigger budget and tighter script, 2 dove into the pool headfirst and succeeded without a splash. Unfortunately, with Spider-Man 3, the result is a two hour and twenty minute shard of escapism that only offers glimmers of what made 2 great.
For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), life is grand: college is a cinch, the people of New York absolutely adore Spider-Man, and, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is about to become Spider-Man’s fiancée.
Peter’s sky begins to turn gray when a strange black substance arrives via meteor and bonds to his Spidey suit and body. What’s more, Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn/New Goblin (James Franco) still seeks to avenge his father’s death, while Peter’s uncle’s actual killer, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), is still at large. When Marko accidentally enters a particle research center, he is transformed into the Sandman – a seemingly indestructible villain.
Into the bargain, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) looks to one-up Peter Parker as the Daily Bugle’s photographer, and in the process, Brock becomes Venom. Moreover, Mary Jane loses sight of Peter’s commitment. With so much trouble headed Peter’s way, he must conquer his greatest threat yet and win back the woman he loves.
Sam Raimi directs a few fine action sequences and works with a superb cast –- Grace, Haden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Bruce Campbell (Raimi’s must-include) especially –- and CGI team. On the downside, Raimi chooses to have Spidey exude an odd aura as the character becomes both uncomfortably flirty with women who walk by on the street, and uncommonly active in a jazz club. Instead of adapting a dark, mysterious tone with the arrival of the symbiote suit, Raimi heads for cheese, Goth, and hedonism.
2 is a more entertaining movie than 3 because 2 possesses an inner character conflict in Parker struggling between being Peter and a superhero. With 3, it feels like Peter doesn’t have a worry in the world (other than losing MJ). He flies around the city unmasked, jumps from his own apartment window each time the police scanner becomes active (as if no one would see him), and allows the police chief’s daughter to partially pull off his mask in front of a large crowd of onlookers. With these moves, one loses a sense of seriousness, suspense, and in turn, interest.
To continue adding tick-marks to the unwise side of the chalkboard, only allowing Venom 30 minutes or less of screen time (considering he is Spider-Man’s arch nemesis throughout the comic book series) is an injustice. Venom deserves to be the main villain in his own film — not just an afterthought to throw into the mix. With that said, too many villains compromise the plot. In addition, a 140-minute running time is a little overboard (especially at this film’s uneven pace). Furthermore, hastily wrapping up all the loose ends was a mistake. Not to say that the door is closed on the series, but it’s certainly not looking as inviting.
With all three Spider-Man movies now on the table, it is evident that (much like the X-Men series) the second chapter is the meat in between two not-so-fresh slices of bread. Compared to the preceding achievement, 3 feels more like a disappointment than anything else. It is uncharacteristically dim-witted and hardly acceptable.