So, after not being able to see it yesterday because the RA messed up, I’ve finally saw Spiderman 3 tonight. What follows is my review of it. Warning, here be spoilers, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. For the FaceBookers: Spiderman 3 Review
Spiderman 3 stars Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker/Spiderman, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn, Rosemary Harris as May Parker, J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom, Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacey, and Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/The Sandman.
The film follows the continued adventures of Peter Parker, as he deals with a new menace. After riding home one night, a mysterious space creature hitches a ride on his scooter. This creature is of symbiotic nature, and later attaches itself to Parker’s Spiderman suit. It alters Parker’s behavior to become more aggressive in contrast to his usually friendly demeanor, and more outspoken and an attention seeker rather than timid and reserved. His change in behavior causes him to alienate his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, to whom Parker has intended to propose. His new aggressive tendencies earn him a full time staff position at The Daily Bugle, but he becomes the target of ire for Eddie Brock, who also was competing for the position, and is already angry at Parker for stealing his love interest. The discovery of a new suspect in the killing of his uncle Ben Parker, Eddie Flint, causes Parker to go on a quest for revenge, for which he succeeds in defeating by not killing Flint. A sideplot involved former friend Harry Osborn seeking his own vengeance for the death of his father, Norman. However, the symbiote allows Peter to easily defeat Osborn (in contrast to Peter’s former tactic of trying to reason with Harry).
Parker is eventually able to overcome his attraction to the symbiote, ripping it off his body in a pivotal scene. Brock discovers Spiderman’s identity as Peter Parker in the same scene, but also becomes victim to the symbiote as Parker tears it off. The symbiote enhances Brock’s aggression toward Parker, and in the climax of the movie, he works with The Sandman by kidnapping Mary Jane in order to lure Parker and kill him. Spiderman is able to save Mary Jane, defeat the symbiote (which is seemingly killed along with Brock in an explosion), and forgives his friend Harry as he dies, as well as forgiving Flint for killing his uncle. The movie ends with Parker and Watson seemingly going their separate ways after Harry’s funeral, seemingly a reference to the end of the first movie, when they also went their separate ways after Norman Osborn’s funeral.
The film uses its two hours and nineteen minutes of running time to tell an immensely complex and complicated story. At three main villains, this movie has the most antagonists of all the Spiderman franchise movies to date. The film must also mix in the changes in Peter’s behavior due to the symbiote, and the effect it has on his personal life, which is already strained from the contrasts in Peter’s fame and success as Spiderman, and the failures in Mary Jane’s work as a Broadway actress. Then the revelation of Ben Parker’s true killer and the completion of that arc is put in as a side story. When all this is added together, it creates a movie that can be hard to tell. For the most part, the movie pulls it off. It certainly allows for a situation where the audience is wondering what will happen next. It also means that a blink of an eye, or trip to the bathroom means something important will be missed.
However, there are some problems to the approach take with this movie. For one, there are perhaps too many villians, and too many threads the audience must be taken along. Since Spiderman 3 is so complex, there is not enough time to flesh out all of the characters is great enough detail. As the main character, Parker is the most fleshed out. Among the antagonists, Osborn is probably the character who is best known, given his participation in the past two movies. However, the Brock and Flint character histories are not given enough screen time. The only thing learned about Brock is that he’s rather annoying, and a paparazzi-style rival to Parker. Flint’s character is even less touched upon, where we only learn that he’s an escaped petty criminal with family problems and a possibly very sick daughter. The thread of Peter’s and Mary Jane’s, though a secondary plot to Parker’s inner struggles, feel rather incomplete, especially at the end of the movie, where the audience is left unsure of the exact relationship the characters now have.
The movie may have benefited from either fewer plot lines, or characters, and perhaps both. Fewer characters would have allowed the others to be fleshed out more, and let their personal histories see more screen time. Fewer plot lines would have allowed the others to be explored in more depth. For example, if The Sandman character were to have been eliminated, Brock’s history, especially his relationship with Gwen Stacey, could have been further explored. At the same time, the Ben Parker death arc would have been eliminated, which would have removed Peter’s thirst for vengeance, and allowed the inner struggle and Peter-MJ stories to get more screen time. However, a lot could be done to make the plot better and flow more smoothly, so it is difficult to judge which characters, arcs, or both, should have been eliminated.
The cinematography for the film was excellent, as it was with the other two movies. For the most part, shots were framed as needed, and lighting was used to provide excellent effect. One scene of particular enjoyment was the one where Parker rips off the Venom suit in a Gothic cathedral. The lighting and choice of shots allowed the audience to see Peter’s torment after the hurt the symbiote had caused in his life. Due to the nature of this movie, it is hard to talk about cinematography with also talking about the special effects, since the two are mixed so much. The special effects artists show their talents here, to create seat gripping battle scenes between Spidey and his adversaries. However (and no fault to the artists themselves), it is partially due to the use of special effects that detracts from some of the plot (a problem in a lot of big budget movies these days).
The acting in the movie was also mostly excellent. McGuire and Dunst again put on a spectacular show, and Frank, Howard, and Harris do well in their supporting roles. If any acting had problems, it was the ones put on by Grace and Church. Grace was rather over-the-top in some scenes, and Church’s apology wasn’t as sincere as it could be, and on his own, his human form probably would have been rather boring. His CG counterpart was certainly a lot more entertaining. However, these may be problems due the script, or how the director wished them to act, so it is difficult to judge.
Overall, the movie is a success, though it does have its problems. It succeeds in containing multiple complex and complicated storylines, though there are some issues with the flow and fleshing out of a few of them. It is successful in portraying its scenes through proper framing and lighting. The CG special effects make for exciting battles, though it is sometimes overused, a problem with many big budget movies in recent times, especially of the fantasy or sci-fi genre. In all, the acting is mostly good. I could find no major issues with the score – it kept the movie flowing along, but nothing specific jumped out at me, good or bad. Director Sam Raimi should be proud of the movie, as should be the studio, as it’s already brought in over $50 million, and as of this writing, the weekend isn’t over yet. Surely a good stepping stone on a green light for a fourth Spiderman film. In conclusion, the movie definitely works, it’s entertaining, visually appealing, and has a good enough story to hold its own. There are some issues, but overall, it works.
Visual Effects: 2/2