MATT RAUB: Spider-Man 3 Review
So here we are, one day before the highest anticipated film of 2007, Spider-Man 3, gets released into a record 4,252 theaters. I, just like about a billion other fans, couldn’t wait to see this flick, mostly because this is the film where we get the infamous Venom as a villain, along with a laundry list of other storylines. But before I get too deep into that, lets break it down. Usually when reviewing comic book movies, I like to break the critique down into three separate sections: the Acting, the Story, and the FX.
Lets begin with my least favorite part of the entire film: the acting. Now I may be a bit jaded, but I’ve never really got into having Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. This is where doing a book or comic adaptation gets funky, because originally the character’s voice and overall demeanor is up to their interpretation. A perfect example of this is the Harry Potter film franchise. The casting of those films were almost spot-on with the fan’s interpretation of the characters, and they didn’t even have the visual aids that comic books have.
With that said, in my head Spidey was the nerdy, quiet kid before bitten by the radioactive/genetically enhanced spider, but then gains self-confidence while still keeping his puerile attitude towards life. This is how we get the wisecracking interpretation in modern books. But with Maguire’s performance, we are constantly treated to the somber, “woe is me” Spider-Man who, granted, still jumps, swings, and does whatever a spider can, but in between those periods is constantly in a state of teary-eyed misery. Even in the second film where he is convinced that being Spider-Man is a curse, and trashes the costume, he still looks like at any moment, he could burst into tears. Some could attribute this to Maguire’s incredible range, but if I wanted that, I’d go see Seabiscuit again.
Spider-Man is the comic relief of the New Avengers, and even in the Ultimate books, he may cry, but when he’s in the suit, he’s a regular swinging Henny Youngman. The same goes for this film, in the times that the mask isn’t on (which is way too much to begin with), his eyes are constantly filled with tears.
Moving on to our leading lady, Kirsten Dunst, I have a whole different problem. In the first film, I was starting to get into the idea of having a non-supermodel quality Mary Jane Watson and by the end of the second film, I was completely sold, though she looked like she hadn’t eaten since Jumanji. And just then, as if it was her master plan to get us all to love her, and then crush us, in a press junket for Spider-Man 2, Dunst was quoted in saying that her ideal plot for another sequel would be where our webbed hero dies in the first act, and the rest of the film is about Mary Jane coping in the modern world with an unborn Spider-Baby as a single mother. Some of you remember this quote as “The Day We Started to Hate Kirsten Dunst.” I don’t know what it is about female actors and preaching their ideas when the majority of the audience paying attention to them are people who could care less about them. We go to superhero movies to see superheroes, not their girlfriends.
With that said, this film was all about Mary Jane. From the very start we are treated to an entire song from her Broadway musical. And from then on, Parker is treated like the dweeb who’s in love with the supermodel, but doesn’t get the same back. The big climax in the relationship is when Mary Jane gets let go from her show on Broadway on the same day New York holds “Spider-Man Day.” Of course, being a struggling actress in New York City is far more important that being a superhero who saves the day on an hourly basis.
Nothing from titles to credits of this movie made me want to like Dunst’s character. She goes from miserable, to bitter, to being the victim, and by the end of the film I’m literally rooting for her death. I consider Mary Jane to be the film’s fourth villain, because the entire time she’s only looking out for herself, in effect devastating the hero.
To sum up, the majority of the acting was great in this film, with the previously mentioned exceptions, were great. We are treated to tons of comic relief, from the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, to Opie’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard as the much-hotter-than-Dunst Gwen Stacy, and yes, even Bruce Campbell returns for yet another memorable performance.
Finally we get our three major villains (other than the previously mentioned MJ). Thomas Haden Church plays Sandman Flint Marko to a tee. He played the rugged, meathead with a heart of gold that we all love to hate in the books with nearly no changes in the adaptation. While the same can’t be said about Topher Grace’s Venom, the character was still done well. Instead of the bulked up jerk Eddie Brock, we get the meager, misunderstood Edward Brock Jr.
Finally we get the return of James Franco as the not-Hobgoblin. This is the biggest change from the comics, as young Harry Osborn comes back to avenge his father’s death as the New Goblin, a hipper version of his father’s alter ego, dressed in glorified paintball attire on a flying snowboard. Franco’s performance was somewhat flaccid, considering the storyline he was thrust into… which brings us into our next portion of the review: the story.
The interesting thing, among a few, about this film is that there were no less than four stories going on at once throughout the film. Some can say this is the curse of Batman Returns with having too many villains, but if Raimi and the gang were convinced this was the last film (which I now doubt), they wanted to go out with a bang. The very beginning of the film is when the New Goblin surprise attacks Peter (we’ll get to the “surprise” thing later) and in the fight, Osborn gets a head wound and suffers from short-term amnesia! Conveniently, he forgets everything beyond high school, including his father’s alter ego, the Green Goblin, and his inevitable death. This just started the film off. From here, we get a half-assed origin of both Venom and Sandman in a total of about six minutes. Flint Marko is on the run and stumbles onto a government particle physics testing site, where he gets zapped and turned into the Sandman.
Among all of them, the one storyline that I had hoped they wouldn’t half-ass was Venom’s origin, but I guess my prayers didn’t get answered. Did we get John Jameson going into space or a cure for cancer? No. We got a meteor that landed about ten feet from where Peter and Mary Jane were making out in the park, and an ooze leaks out of the rock, and hitches a ride on the back of Parker’s bike. Beyond that, we aren’t treated with much of an explanation. Much like Jon Stewart said in his interview with Maguire, “I buy into a radioactive spider biting you, giving you the same powers of a spider. But a goo from outer space that makes you evil and changes your costume? Bit of a stretch.” This was where at least ten minutes of explanation needed to be, because not all six billion people who Sony hopes will see this movie are going to right off the bat see some black Gak and go “Oh, that’s Venom.” Of course, the comic fans and friends of the comic fans are going to get this, but an eight year old who has never picked up a comic is just going to get lost.
The biggest problem with having so many storylines going on at once is that the movie becomes incongruous with the emotions. I laughed, slept, jumped and screamed throughout the entire movie, which is normally great, but at times it felt a little misplaced. For example, when Peter is taken over by the evil symbiote, he becomes completely care free. He takes Gwen Stacy to the restaurant that his now ex-girlfriend Mary Jane works at, and in an attempt to make MJ jealous, there is a dance sequence very reminiscent of The Mask where Peter does flips, plays the piano, and twirls Gwen Stacy around. A really fun scene, but really made no sense in comparison to the rest of the film.
Moving on to the last section, the FX, I’ve got nothing but praise. I was the first guy in Spider-Man 1 to complain about the gumby-esque look of the hero and how none of it looked real, but they have come a long way in three movies. One of my concerns was that the Sandman scenes would look like rejected scenes from The Mummy but there were scenes where we zoom into each particle of sand that makes up the character, and it was amazing. The stuff done with Venom was also great, though I had a bit of a problem with the way Venom’s face looked in true form (which makes sense why they are keeping that part out of all the trailers). I was very impressed with the overall feel of the film, including the final fight scene. My only complaint about that scene is that Spider-Man’s mask is off WAY too much. I can only imagine what the action looks like on an IMAX screen, and I hope I don’t get a seizure.
Overall, The film is a lot of fun, I may have had some issues with a few elements in it. But I would definitely see it again, and most definitely buy it on DVD. If this was the end of a trilogy, then it was a good sendoff. But if there is a chance we’ll see another one in the future, you can count me in. I give this flick an overall 7/10 with the only thing holding me back from a 10 being my complete disdain for Kirsten Dunst.
Hold on tight from here on out, because the next couple of weeks are chock-full of Blockbustery goodness!
(Matt Raub reviews movies and television for ComicMix.com and for The Big ComicMix Broadcast.)