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May 5, 2007

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Movie Review – Spider-Man 3 (2007)

by RISHI AGRAWAL

Spider-Man 3 050507

Studios regularly fudge their numbers when it comes to budgets of films, but it seems that Spider-Man 3 can now claim the title of the most expensive film ever made. Director Sam Raimi knows how to put good use to those dollars and few can argue that the movie looks great. With special effects, many times, bigger is better. However, the main problem is that the same philosophy was applied to all aspects of the film, turning the whole thing into a bloated mess.

Tobey Maguire reprises his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The film starts off with an unusual sight: a very happy Peter Parker. Spider-Man is loved by all of New York City, and Parker is doing well in school and in his love life with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Unfortunately for Peter, Harry Osborne (James Franco) also appears in this film and blames Peter for the death of his father, all the way back in the first film. Harry has discovered his father’s toys and takes on the mantle of the Goblin.

New characters also appear in this film, including Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), a schoolmate of Peter’s who is enamored with both Peter and Spider-Man, causing a rift between Peter and Mary Jane. Also added to the mix are two new villains: Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), a petty crook who is trying to get money so that his daughter can afford an operation and Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a rival photographer at the Daily Bugle.

Meanwhile, Peter runs across an alien life form, which forms into an all-new black suit for Spider-Man. It enhances his powers but makes him more aggressive and hostile. The suit also finds a host in Eddie, who is transformed into the vicious and cruel Venom, a demonic take on Spider-Man. Flint, on the other hand, runs across a government experiment and finds the molecules of his body are transformed into sand, which Flint can control and reshape, making him the Sandman. (On a side note, these villains are never referred to as “Venom” or “Sandman” within the film. I am bringing in outside knowledge here.)

If it sounds like there is a lot going on, that is because there is. If you consider each of the three villains as a major plotline in the film, and add in a fourth plotline exploring the Mary Jane-Peter-Gwen love triangle that has developed, then there is a lot to process. Throw in subplots and intermingling of the main plotlines and you have an extremely complicated film. This is certainly not a film that I would recommend if you have not seen the first two movies.

With so much narrative packed into a single film, a lot of things are left unexplained. Occasionally characters will know things that they shouldn’t – secrets that the other characters are trying to keep. Sure, there are plausible explanations how the characters could have learned these things, but we’re never shown those explanations in the film. Certain plotlines are dropped and barely resolved. Others are wrapped up so quickly that they are not done any justice. We see characters undergo deep emotional changes in the film, and instead of letting those emotions play out, the characters resolve their inner turmoil within seconds. I am sure these plotlines could be handled very well if they were explored with depth – Raimi has done it with the first two Spider-Man films. Unfortunately, there is no time to explore all the themes in this movie.

Despite the large plot, the film does have large payoffs, including a really exciting action sequence towards the end that involves almost all the major characters. Though the motivation of the characters in the battle scene might be suspect, that doesn’t mean the scene is any less amazing. The special effects in general are well-handled. I think the Sandman character, in particular, was well-animated. There is one scene, soon after Flint’s accident, where the camera starts at a microscopic level. As it pans across the shifting sand, it zooms out, eventually giving us a glimpse of the creature that Flint has become. This creature forms back into human shape, slowly and subtly. You can see Flint learning to use his new powers in that scene, through trial and error. It is almost as memorable as the scene in the first film where Peter discovers his new abilities.

The other thing that should be noted is that the movie is extremely funny. Raimi is able to pull off a tone that ping-pongs between despair and levity. The film is both dark and lighthearted at the same time. Sometimes the lighter moments can be slightly over-the-top, especially during a dance sequence thrown into the middle of the film. But, in general, they work in giving the movie a playful tone, while still maintaining the drama.

When this film is good, it is really good. To some, the action sequences may seem chaotic and rushed, but that’s what made them interesting to me. I think there were enough reference points that we were still able to follow what was going on. If you love Spider-Man and want to be thrilled, then I would certainly think you would enjoy this movie. However, if you are looking for a film that recaptures the deep storylines and character development of the first two films, along with your action sequences, then I probably would advise you to look elsewhere.

2 1/2 stars


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 7 2007

    Agreed on all counts… I think the movie did refer to the Sandman as “the Sandman” one time, via a news cast. I think.

  2. Jeff Faulkner
    May 9 2007

    I thought the film was on par with the first. It’s the accumulation of bigger, better, more that tends to stick with franchises. Yes the plot was way too much, but that’s because they felt it would be the end of the franchise. With the cash it is making, it is not likely. My thoughts were just to separate the story lines of Venom and Sandman. Sandman first, then deal with Venom on it’s own. It’s what I actually expected going in. I didn’t mind the “dance” sequence, simply because number 2 got that silly in the middle. I also didn’t mind seeing the continuation of a Spiderman story with past characters carrying on. It was not a boring movie to me. The action beats were worth the price of admission. It wasn’t as good as 2, but it was solid enough for me even with the duo villain tag team at the end.

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