(You can email Jeff about his review right here)
An entertaining, albeit bloated, summer blockbuster.
Everyone is back for this third installment in the mega-popular Spider-Man movie franchise. While questions of whether director Sam Raimi will return (Various rumors link him to New Line's The Hobbit) for the 4th movie (Sony intends continue the franchise regardless) persist and it's all but a foregone conclusion Dunst and Maguire won't return, Spidey 3 attempts to resolve nearly every character arch from the entire trilogy, whilst also introducing a plethora of new ones.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is finishing school while moonlighting as everyone's favorite web crawler. He's still in love with his childhood sweetheart, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and still at odds with his former best friend Harry Osborn over the death of Harry's father. Spider-Man has become a phenomenon and Parker has let the success go to his head a bit. He's planning to propose to Mary Jane, but his alter-ego is taking its toll on their relationship. So those are the overlying themes of Spider-Man 3, but beware, sub-plots are abound.
I will try my best to condense them all here. A black fluid has fallen from space and ended up latching on to Parker. It thrives on aggression and gives Spidey (and Parker) a whole new attitude. Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) is an escaped convict who it turns out may have been linked to the death of Parker's Uncle Ben. While running from police, he unwittingly falls into a science experiment and becomes Sandman. Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) is a new photographer on the scene competing with Peter Parker for his job at the Bugle snapping candid pics of Spidey. His girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), is infatuated with Spider-Man and, oh yeah, she's also the daughter of police captain George Stacy (James Cromwell).
Smaller character themes include Watson's fledgling career on Broadway, Marko's quest to help his ill daughter and Brock's desire to become the next big thing on the photography scene at any cost. The supporting characters from the first two films all return, including J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Rosemary Harris as Aunt May, Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant and numerous other familiar faces including a certain large-chinned individual fans always love.
Effects-wise, Spider-Man 3 is spectacular. Raimi and co. have really outdone themselves here. The Sandman effects, in particular, are just awesome to behold. The venom liquid effects are cool as well, but for me, it was the Sandman that stole the show. As far as high-intensity action, over-the-top thrill sequences, Raimi pretty much has a stranglehold on the market here. Few, if any, have done it better. Two scenes already released on the net, Goblin's attack on Parker and the Crane Disaster, are expanded a bit here and are totally breathtaking. Spider-Man 3 is packed with action sequences. There's often so many, they seem to come a little too abruptly, but that's a minor quibble.
Maguire is good as always, as is Dunst, but neither is especially spectacular this time around. At times they are both a little flat, their once-great chemistry fading. Dunst, in particular, really seems to be phoning the part in at this point. Seriously, would anyone notice if another cute blonde (Reese Witherspoon, Elisha Cuthbert, etc.) was thrown in in her place? I still wonder what could've happened (or still could) were once-rumored replacement Jake Gyllenhaal to take over the role. I can see him selling Parker's battle with the Venom evil much more convincingly. When Parker gets a rush of coolness from the suit, it's played to comic effect (a choice that will surely anger comic fan boys). It works okay, but that's also really the only choice with Maguire. He's good at playing the goofy, nerdy kid, but he hasn't matured much in the role in the course of three films. This isn't mean as a tirade on Maguire and Dunst, but it just felt as if, on the third go round, they aren't giving it the all they once did. I think new blood could do the series some good.
Thomas Haden Church is great as Flint Marko/Sandman and Topher Grace fits the part of Eddie Brock nicely. Both get snubbed a bit on storyline and characterization due to the simple fact that there is just entirely too much going on in Spidey 3 to give much focus to any one character. Why is Brock such a jerk? Doesn't Marko's connection to Uncle Ben's death seem kinda thrown in? It's silly and, to top that, has no connection to the comic book. It seems more like a quick-fix plot point in place of better character development.
Even Harry Osborn's transition into Green Goblin 2 is glossed over as a result of the bloated storytelling. Franco is a talented actor who is often overlooked and this is his meatiest part of the three movies. We saw him enter his father's Goblin chamber at the end of part 2, and here he is already an expert with the weaponry and fighting techniques. Where did all this newfound ability come from? A late revelatory scene with his Butler drew snickers from the crowd.
Spider-Man 3 has enough going on for at least two movies, so why cram so much into one entry? Did Raimi just want to make sure he got to do everything before departing the franchise? It really sells such a great series short in the end. Venom is a great character in the comics and here he is relegated to a mere afterthought. Sandman gets a bit more attention, but still feels less complete than he could be. Surely fans of the comics would agree that either of these villains would provide just as much fodder for a full movie of their own as Doc Ock and The Green Goblin, especially when you already have the Harry Osborne story as a fallback support. In addition to that, you throw in Gwen Stacy and even her father (Is there any reason James Cromwell is in this movie?). It's all just too much.
But, at the end of the day, Spider-Man 3 is still an entertaining popcorn flick. The action is top notch and that trademark sense of humor and fun remains. The characterization suffers from onee-dimensionality simply because the