4.30.2008

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Director - Sam Raimi

Starring -
Tobey Maguire -
Peter Parker/Spider-ManKirsten Dunst - Mary Jane Watson
James Franco - Harry Osborn/New Goblin
Thomas Haden Church - Flint Marko/Sandman
Topher Grace - Eddie Brock/Venom
Rosemary Harris -
May ParkerJ.K. Simmons - J. Jonah JamesonBryce Dallas Howard - Gwen Stacy

Year - 2007

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4


Three is not a lucky number in the movie biz. Batman Forever. Jaws 3-D. Godfather Part III. Halloween III [ugh]. Superman III [double ugh]. X-Men: The Last Stand. I'm sure there are others. Add Spider-Man 3 to the list, because the third time was certainly not the charm. It's a shame because I really was hoping it'd be at least on the same level as Spider-Man 2, which in my opinion is the best superhero film ever made. But I knew that with three villains and a time of about 2 and a half hours, I was gonna be disappointed. Thankfully it was more X-Men: The Last Stand disappointed than Superman III disappointed.
I saw this film before it was released everywhere in a special screening [I love the perks of being a film major] and was very upset at what I had just watched. I was about to rate the movie a 2 outta 4 and just go off on the mistakes Sam Raimi and company put on film. But after watching it a second time with my cousins this weekend, I actually liked it more for some reason. I noticed a lot of things that I didn't see before and kinda enjoyed the quirky humor and camp with most of the scenes. Even with that though, the negatives still bug me and I can't give this film more than a 2.5.
PLOT
Let's see if I can make the film's bloated plot as simple as possible. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is enjoying his career as Spider-Man, since the people of NYC love him. He grows a bit of an ego and his overconfidence blinds him to the fact that his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), is suffering from losing her acting job on broadway and Peter can't seem to understand her misery. This ruins his plans of proposing to Mary Jane, as Spider-Man [again] comes in between their relationship. Not to mention the fact that a black goo from a fallen meteorite [oh, how original] takes a liking to Peter, possessing him [giving him a black suit], and augmenting his powers and evil feelings.

Meanwhile, Peter is confronted by his former best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), who's taken over for his late father as The New Goblin. They do battle and Peter knocks Harry unconsciousness, leading to Harry's short-term memory and a renewed friendship with Peter. This doesn't last, as Harry is haunted by his father Norman (Willem Dafoe), who reminds him of his mission to kill Peter.
Then, we have Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), who escapes from prison to see his sick daughter. He runs from the cops and gets stuck in some kind of molecular experiment where he turns into the Sandman, giving him the ability to turn himself into forms of sand. Peter finds out that The Sandman was the one responsible for his Uncle Ben's death, so Peter decides to get revenge on him as Spider-Man.
Plus we have Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who is competing with Peter for lead photographer at the Daily Bugle. Eddie's girlfriend and Peter's lab partner, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), takes a liking to Peter, leading to jealousy on Mary Jane's part, which sends MJ into the arms of Harry. Plus, when Peter costs Eddie his job, Eddie gets possessed by the black symbiote as Peter rips his suit apart in a bell tower. This possession transforms Eddie into Venom, an evil doppelganger of Spider-Man.
Did you get all that? Whew...
REVIEW
I can do a normal review about this movie, but it'll take me forever. So I'm just gonna list what I liked and what I didn't like.

POSITIVES1) Direction - Sam Raimi doesn't disappoint as his filmmaking genius gives us fantastic glimpses of Spider-Man swinging, fighting bad guys, and saving people. I honestly believed that this was the first film where Spider-Man actually FELT and LOOKED like Spider-Man - just very heroic looking and a lot of the postures were dead-on. And even with all the many storylines going on, he somehow managed to make the film less of a mess than it really was. Though many things were happening all at once, Raimi's direction kept the pace going where I didn't feel bored. Plus, I liked the darker tone of the film - which was such a contrast to Spider-Man 2. So for me, the direction was a highlight.
2) Acting - Most of it was very good, though 2 people were borderline excellent in my opinion. Tobey Maguire did his thing as Peter and as Spider-Man. He made me laugh, he made me feel for him, he made me glad to know that he cared about his role and seemed to enjoy himself when he was playing against type as a "bad guy". Plus the dude can cry on cue. Topher Grace was a better Eddie Brock than I expected. He doesn't look at all like the comic book Eddie [that version was a middle-aged bodybuilder], but I thought Grace brought an evil [finally, a villain I can HATE], sarcastic kind of energy to the film, which I enjoyed. There was a lot of Eric Foreman in his performance, but it didn't bother me. Too bad I can't say the same when he became Venom. Oy. Rosemary Harris did good as Aunt May again, though it seemed forced that she would appear whenever Peter needed advice or guidance. J.K. Simmons rocked as J. Jonah Jameson again. His medication bit at the Daily Bugle was hilarious. Wish there was more of him though. Bryce Dallas Howard also did good with what she was given as Gwen Stacy, which wasn't much. She seemed real and sympathetic and I actually liked her more than Mary Jane. Why Peter didn't dump MJ for Gwen, I don't know. She was bangin'! I also have to give credit to Bruce Campbell for his cameo as a French maitre d'. He was absolutely hilarious and it was his best cameo of all three films. LOVED it.
Then there are the two performances that save this film from being a disaster. Thomas Haden Church did a great job as The Sandman. I'll be honest: I wish The Sandman wasn't in this film [not a big fan of him - would have preferred The Lizard, Vulture, or Mysterio if they had to add in another villain] but Church's acting made me feel for the guy. He only did what he did to save his daughter, and you can do nothing but admire that. Too bad most of his scenes were CGI, but I dug Church's humanistic performance in such a fictional background.
And last but not least, James Franco stole the film as Harry Osborn. He played a great villain [I love pie too] and when he lost his memory, he played an even better good guy. I've been reading alot of reviews criticizing the guy and the storyline he was given. I don't understand the hate for Mr. Franco. Maybe it's jealousy that he's a good looking guy or something, but I think this was his best performance on film since at least City By The Sea in 2002. He perfectly displayed the internal conflict he had when it came to his friendship with Peter. His scenes with Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were the best scenes in the entire film. And I have to believe it was because he was totally into the role and seemed to be having fun with it. And because of that, his co-stars were having fun as well. As for the amnesia storyline, there should be no complaints. In the comics, the same thing happens to him, where he forgets about Peter's secret until something triggers his memory back. And at the end [in both versions], he sides with Peter. I don't care what anyone has to say - James Franco made this film for me. His biggest role in the trilogy, he knocked it out of the park. It's a shame too, since his fate was sealed the moment he appeared in the first part [every comic book Spidey fan knew what was gonna eventually happen with Harry]. But what a great ride it was. Hopefully he'll be back in part 4 in some capacity.
3) CGI & Action - I think it was on par with Spider-Man 2: nicely done and not too cartoony most of the time. I dug the Sandman scenes, though it felt like I was watching The Mummy. And Venom looked good for the most part. And the action was well choregraphed, especially the first and last sequences. Definitely felt more like a comic book movie than the previous two, and that's not really a bad thing. I was highly entertained by what I saw.

NEGATIVES
1) Kirsten Dunst - Replace her. I don't care if the old cast comes back for Part 4 or not. She needs to go. What a dull and boring performance for a lead actress. She was so likeable in the first one and so mature in the second. But h
ere? I just wanted her to go away. Dunst just didn't seem to be enjoying herself at all as Mary Jane. I was feeling that she's bored and tired of the character. Now that I really blame her really. All she does is cry and get kidnapped in every single film. Doesn't excuse her performance, however. If you're being paid $10 million to play a role, earn the damn check. I think they need to put MJ on the backburner in the next one. Have Peter do something with Gwen Stacy, or bring Black Cat in and do something with that. I was so disappointed with Kirsten Dunst here.
2) Pointless Characters & Other Things In General - What was the point of The Sandman in this film? Or Gwen Stacy? Or her father? And why have Venom appear for only the LAST TWENTY MINUTES OF THE FILM!!?? Hell, the black suit didn't make an appearance until the MIDDLE of the movie! The whole Sandman/Uncle Ben thing was a cop-out and so unfaithful to the comics that it hurt. Wasn't necessary and the character could have been edited out and wouldn't have really affected the movie. And we have a beautiful blonde Gwen, who was only used as a PROP to make MJ jealous. Gwen used to be [and still kinda is] an integral part of the Spider-Man mythos. I wouldn't have cared if she and Peter never got together. But at least develop the girl and give us a reason to care about her. And I'm not gonna even talk about Venom talking with Topher Grace's voice instead of a demon one, or his use of singular pronouns instead of plural ones. If I were writing and directing this film, I would have just focused on Peter, MJ, and Harry. That was the only storyline I really gave a damn about. And if another villain had to be added, it should have been someone more interesting than The Sandman. I would have also saved Venom for part 4, because he deserved to spotlight in a film. That still might happen, but using one of the better and more interesting Spider-villains for a 20 minute cameo is sacrilege.
3) The Script - I'm looking at you, Sam Raimi. I understand Raimi loves his stories, but this movie wasted too much time on the love story between Peter and MJ. I think by now, we understand the relationship is gonna be tough with Peter's gig as Spider-Man. I didn't need to see them whine and cry about it. And what was up with Peter's transformation!? THAT'S supposed to be EVIL!? Dancing like a fool in the streets? Ordering a neighbor for cookies and milk!? Playing a piano and playing Fred Astaire in a jazz club to make your girlfriend jealous!? I laughed at all of that! Maybe that was the intention, I dunno, but the emo look doesn't give me an impression of evil. And if Raimi didn't like Venom, why put him in the movie? Because the fans wanted it? If you're not passionate about writing for someone you're not a fan of, then don't write him in! Venom should not be used as a prop to move a story along. He deserves his own film because he's the total opposite of Spider-Man - which would actually make an interesting and much darker film. But what I saw was a wasted opportunity. Fortunately, it could have been Batman & Robin bad, and it was light years better than that. I just wish the script was more cohesive. There was a great movie here underneath the mess. I know there was.
THE FINAL HOWL
I'm on the fence with this film. As a comic book fan, I was disappointed in the ways Sam Raimi used some of the characters that have been such an important part in Spider-Man's history. As a movie goer, I was definitely entertained [for all the wrong reasons]. Just an average flick in my opinion. There was just too much content being thrown on the screen at once, where there should have been just the conclusion of the Osborn saga and maybe the set-up for Venom in the next sequel. If you want to have a good time at the movies, I recommend the film whether you're a Spidey fan or not. Plus, I got the DVD just for James Franco and Thomas Haden Church alone [as well to complete my collection]. They carried this film for me, which is sad since that was Maguire's and Dunst's job. I'm praying things get back on track for Spider-Man 4, but this time, I'm not gonna get too excited about it.

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