He’s Black. He’s Bad.
She’ll Crack. Be Sad.
And there, in rushed poem form, is the plot for what could be the biggest film of the year. Most movies that you can sum up in a couple of lines – or limerick – tend to suck like a suction cap. In the case of the latest cinematic ‘day in the life of Peter Parker’ journal, it may encompass a short outline on paper, but its mostly immense in value.
The “Spider-Man” movies are like your favourite nightclub – you never mind paying the admission price because you’re always guaranteed a good time, whether or not the night is full of surprises or not. And “Spider-Man 3” is no exception; it’s a one-night stand with the hottest thing in town… and that little black number? Wow.
This time, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has a lot more problems to deal with besides keeping his secret identity, well, secret. There’s revenge-seeking Harry Osborne (James Franco); a guy made of Sand (Thomas Haden Church) on his case, and a cocky new photographer (Topher Grace) that wants to dethrone him as the Bugle’s best picture man. To make matters worse, a black spacely organism has made its way into the Spider-Man suit and transformed Peter into something vastly different (think Clark Kent on ‘Red’ Kryptonite), which as good as puts the nail in the coffin of his failing relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst).
Despite the fact that there’s been five-hundred other comic book movies (that’s an exaggeration; not far off the mark though) since the release of 2002’s “Spider-Man,” Director Sam Raimi’s early entry in the superhero genre still remains a high point for film-fans and comic-fans alike. Its solid storytelling; awesome special effects and divine performances were just three super elements of a film where each seemingly just came together.
“Spider-Man 2,” released in 2004, was just as superb – if not better. It ramped up the action; tortured the characters a little more and gave us some of the best looking popcorn cinema since the Gremlins pushed that old bitch out the window of her house on the Warner back lot.
Is third time the charm with “Spider-Man 3”?
Unfortunately, no, it isn’t. Not to say it’s a bad film, it’s not, in fact it’s a very good film – just one that suffers from the curse of the ‘3’s. It happened with “Batman Forever,” “The Godfather III,” “Return of the Jedi” and “Terminator 3” as well. All good films that sadly just couldn’t live up to their awesome predecessors – they were the light or diet versions of their super fathers. I think we’ve begun to expect so much from the “Spider-Man” movies that when one isn’t quite as good as the other it stands out like a wart on an ear lobe.
There’s a recurring joke in the movie about the front door of Peter Parker’s rundown flat: it works, but it’s in dire need of an oil and grease and it could really do with some trimming (on the sides) to make it close better. The same can be applied to the movie. The script needed a good oil and grease – it just seems quite dumb and laughably obvious when compared to the creative and masterful work of the original film – and the film could really have benefited from a good trimming… say, cutting all those dull bits out that occupy the film’s lost middle.
There’s a great film in here somewhere, it’s just bogged down by too much mediocrity – as a consequence, you don’t feel so much for the characters as you did in the first two movies. That wonderful combination of ‘story’ and ‘stunts’ that we’ve grown to love about these movies is now, pretty much, just ‘stunts’.
The blame may lie on the producers – who demanded Raimi inject characters and themes into the film that he didn’t necessarily want to. As a consequence, the director was forced to work with too many sub-plots; too many villains (including one he didn’t like) and too many stories calling for each of their own resolution. At the end of the day, it seems there’s been too much to do… and Raimi just ended up shoving it “all in”… putting the producers’ “wish list” above the wants and needs of an audience. (And as a result of jamming everything in, nobody besides the lead characters – for instance, Gwen Stacey and Eddie Brock – gets much of a chance to shine).
The villains are good, albeit like the movie a bit underwhelming, with Venom (the character that most old-school fans are annoyed about being included in the film the most) probably the most entertaining. The inclusion of the spacely organism gives Maguire some of his best moments in the movie – and some of the funniest moments of the whole series!
What saves “Spider-Man 3” from becoming well, “Superman III,” is the fact that it’s still a solid film that packs a punch when it comes to turn on the spectacle. The action sequences and special effects are as eye-popping as ever; the actors are as good as ever (Maguire and Dunst, especially); and the storyline is as fun as it is predicable.
When Spandau Ballet sang ‘Gold!’… they weren’t referring to “Spider-Man 3,” but it set such high standards for itself that it was going to have its work cut out for it if it were ever going to get anything but a silver ribbon.
(One thing’s for sure,, this will probably be the last of the ‘good’ “Spider-Man” movies. Despite the fact that the studio has also guaranteed a 4,5 and 6 are on the way, the actors and original director still seem a little hesitant in returning. I don’t think they’ll be back. I’d say, expect a whole new cast, a new director and possibly, Dylan Baker (whose character in the past two movies STILL hasn’t turned into his alter-ego) will get a chance to play ‘The Lizard’.)