Hollywood has a tendency to do things big. They take a winning formula and decide that hey, since those elements worked well together last time, why not futz with them and churn out something better? If for example, the last film cost $150 million to make, why not spend $250 million on the next one? If there was only one villain in the previous film, why not have three villains? And instead of just one love interest, how about two? More is better, right?
Before I begin, let me leave a brief message to the fanboys: Please save your venomous attacks. I was really looking forward to this film, as was my boyfriend, who is a Spider-Man fanboy himself. We enjoyed the first two films, especially the second, so we had high hopes for this one. We had a lot of trust that director Sam Raimi was going to continue his magic. Alas, it seems that Raimi has finally gone Hollywood.
Spider-Man 3 starts off on a different note than its predecessor. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is finally living the good life. He's at the top of his class at college, he and his girlfriend, Broadway actress Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) are madly in love and doing well, and best of all, the whole city loves Spider-Man.
However, Peter's rose-colored glasses prevent him from seeing the number of warning signs ahead of him. His ex-best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) still blames Peter/Spider-Man for his father's (Willem Dafoe) death and plots revenge. Mary Jane isn't that successful an actress and also somewhat resents the attention Spider-Man receives. Meanwhile, more trouble comes his way, in the form of escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), annoying rival photojournalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), and an alien symbiote. Sounds like a lot for Peter to handle, doesn't it? Well, it's a lot to handle for the audience as well.
First, the positives. The special effects were terrific. If you're wondering how they spent $250 million, I'm guessing that a good chunk of it went into the sand-related effects. They were admittedly amazing. The fights were also very cool. Although it was short and too near the beginning of the film, I liked Peter and Harry's alley fight. It was fast and brutal, especially when you consider that the two characters used to be best friends.
But most of all, I liked Church's portrayal of Flint, who, because of a freak accident with a particle accelerator machine, becomes the Sandman. Flint isn't a bad guy but rather has made some really bad decisions in his life because he desperately needs money for his sick daughter. When he encounters Spider-Man for the first time, the first thing he says is, "I don't want to hurt you." Church does a great job by saying little and letting his facial expressions do all the work. For example, you see pain, guilt, and love written all over his face when he watches his little girl sleep, and you can't help but feel sorry for him.
And now, the negatives. The acting was horrible, as was the script. So many lines were pure cheese. It's disappointing that Dunst hasn't acted well in anything since Interview With the Vampire, when she was only 11 years old. Meanwhile, Maguire's version of "emo Peter" was just ridiculous. Oooh, Peter has jet-black hair, combed his bangs over his face, has dark circles under his eyes, and is wearing all black. That means that something is wrong with him.
There were too many dragged out or unnecessary scenes. Yes, the "emo Peter" scenes were kind of necessary since they paralleled the "happy-go-lucky Peter" scenes in Spider-Man 2, but it dragged for far too long. We certainly did not need to see Mary Jane and Harry do the twist while they made dinner, and we absolutely did not need to see Mary Jane singing.
As cool as it must have sounded on paper, Spider-Man 3 did not need three villains. Perhaps two might not have been so bad, but three was just ridiculous. Some of the villains conveniently vanish for a good chunk of the film, and others (like the much-hyped Venom) are introduced way too late in the film, therefore not having enough screen time. It would have been best if Venom was saved for a sequel.
It didn't make any sense to introduce Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). As any Spider-Man fan knows, Gwen – not Mary Jane – was Peter's actual first girlfriend back in high school, and she died when Peter tried to save her from the Green Goblin. Now, Gwen is Peter's lab partner at college. Yes, a comic book movie can bend and twist a story to suit its purpose, but since Gwen was taken out of the picture very early on, why introduce her character at all?
Finally, there were too many convenient coincidences. Using coincidences too often in a film indicates weak or lazy script writing. The writers couldn't think of a better way to introduce a character or tie two story elements together, so they rely on coincidence. For example, it was such a coincidence that the meteor that carried the alien symbiote crash landed not too far from Peter's location. But the coincidence that really bugged me was when Raimi decided to alter the history of the first film to make Flint the real killer of Peter's beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). How absurd is that?
I'm disappointed in Raimi. Rumors have cropped up that he was interested in directing The Hobbit. Being a fan of the Lord of the Rings films, I naturally have my misgivings that anyone other than Peter Jackson can do a good job, but I figured that Raimi might do a relatively okay job. But after seeing Spider-Man 3, I now think that the New Line Cinema execs should keep Raimi far, far away from Middle-Earth.
Spider-Man 3 is no doubt the weakest film in the trilogy, while Spider-Man 2 is the best film among the three. Of course, people will still watch it and I know that it's already made a ton of money in the few days it's been out, but that's just because everyone was waiting for this film and needed to see it. Overall it's still a fun film to watch, but don't expect a lot out of it.
Then again, I'm sure that it's still a whole lot better than the upcoming Fantastic Four sequel.
Title: Spider-Man 3
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace