(2007)3.5Jeremy WheelerThird outings can be a complicated concoction with popular franchises, and Spidey 3 is no different. Crackling with breakneck energy and rousing humor, this entry strives to up the entertainment ante, even if it tends to jump through some major hoops to try and get there. First and foremost, this big basket of characters is an unruly handful. This is one bulky storyline that Sam and his brother Ivan Raimi have cooked up, so do they pull it off perfectly? Not at all. But is it a fun ride? That depends on one's tastes. In a way, it's tragic, since these two (with the help of co-scripter Alvin Sargent) obviously had a lot to live up to. The second film easily earned every bit of its adoring following; it's got heart, soul, and demands respect in so many areas that any follow-up was bound to be somewhat of a letdown. And as far as piecing together the puzzle they cut up for themselves, it's evident that things don't flow quite as organically as the filmmakers would have liked. A good number of convenient plot twists are thrown in the audience's direction for them to either scarf up or heavily frown upon. Side characters are built up, then left in the background, while others suffer the fate of just being pawns in the flick's cinematic playing field. Indeed, if looked at with a critical eye, this sucker has some major blemishes in its structure, easily lessening many viewers' feelings about the overall package. Thankfully for those who can roll with its wild punches, Spider-Man 3 serves as a wonderful popcorn flick that manages to keep enough of the integrity of the series, while still brewing up a new crazy adventure for everyone's favorite wall crawler.
Even if the wonky dealing of its cards invites skepticism, there's little doubt that the majority of the players still retain their weight as solid characters. As for the new additions to the cast, again, it's a mixed bag. Topher Grace provides a creepy manic energy to the film as Eddie Brock, a welcome contribution to the ensemble, who'll inevitably attract more grumblings from those who feel that he should have played good old Petey in the series. A bit of saddened humanity is added with Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko, whose backstory resonates just as much as his monstrous effects work dazzles (see the first appearance of Sandman for heartbreaking proof). Unfortunately, they both get shortchanged by the scope of the movie -- something that Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) knows all too well, thanks to her underdeveloped role in the flick. Comic fans might have a tough time with this, though they might be happy to know that the door is still open for her in the series. Comparatively, the film's treatment of Venom is the most major stumbling block for the legion of hardcore fans. As a monster that Spidey has to pummel, he does his job, but gone is the duality that could have been mined if Raimi had cared a bit more about the character and not been begrudgingly forced by the producers to fit him into this entry. As for the returning cast, they've continued to flesh out their roles in the series in an admirable fashion. And while it's not all fun and games for characters like Mary Jane, Kirsten Dunst rolls with the script's punches and sells the drama -- of which there's a good amount. Sadly, one thing that the film lacks is an emotional center in the same way that Aunt Mae (Rosemary Harris) broke everyone's heart in the previous film. With Peter dealing with so much inner guilt and emo-riffic mood swings, the weight of the film lies more with Harry Osbourne's (James Franco) rejuvenated friendships with Peter and Mary Jane, yet their triangle never quite packs the emotional wallop that audiences are used to. That said, Franco's story arc provides the film with a splendid surprise that thankfully puts an end to his tiresome brooding in previous entries.
And maybe that's the key to this film -- should every Spider-Man film be as heavy as the one that came before? Is there room for a few errors as long as the newest continuation is an entertaining one? And, have no doubt, this entry aims to please. It's easily the most outrageous of the series and delivers such a refreshingly humorous punch. With broad comedic strokes shared by most of the cast -- including a drop-dead funny cameo by Bruce Campbell -- there are plenty of laughs to go around as Peter learns to deal with his continually growing ego (relayed with a Saturday Night Fever gag). Of course, the high-priced action is outstanding as well, with one fight scene after another adding its own flavor to the overall package -- delivering sights and sounds that live up to the spectacle. In the end, despite the numberous stumbles the movie makes, its universe has been kept enough intact so that the film feels like a natural progression for all of the characters, which is the most important thing for a solid series such as this. If the same cast and crew continue on, then this entry hasn't ruined anything other than the patience of its quite vocal distractors. Maybe a bit of the movie's forgiving theme is in order for those who still yearn for more. A little forgiveness and acceptance can go a long way when dealing with a flick as eager-to-please as this, a moral that could benefit many when looking back on Spidey's third big-screen adventure.
Your friendly neighborhood web-slinger is back, only this time his sunny outlook has become partially overcast in the third chapter of director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man saga. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco return to reprise their roles from the previous two installments, with Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, and Bryce Dallas Howard making their first appearances in the series as Flint Marko (aka Sandman), Eddie Brock (aka Venom), and Gwen Stacy, respectively. Peter Parker (Maguire) has finally leaned to walk the middle ground between being the superhero that his city needs and the man that Mary Jane (Dunst) loves. All is well in New York City until one night, as Peter and M.J. sit gazing at the stars, a falling comet streams across the sky and crashes into the ground close by. But this isn't any ordinary shooting star, and upon impact the mysterious space rock is split open to reveal a shape-shifting symbiote with the power to overtake anything that it comes into contact with. Later, as Harry Osborn (James Franco) acquires his late father's flying board, engineers a powerful new Goblin outfit, and takes to the sky to avenge dad's death, the mysterious space sludge infects both Peter's Spider-Man suit and ambitious street photographer Eddie Brock (Grace). Peter's strange new suit gives him a newfound sense of power as it gradually overpowers his personality, and he discovers that escaped convict Flint Marko was in fact the man responsible for the death of Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Unfortunately for Peter, Marko has recently acquired the power to morph at will and quickly completes his transformation into the dreaded Sandman. As the Sandman gives in to his darkest criminal instincts and the slithering space symbiote transforms Eddie Brock into the nightmarish fanged villain known as Venom, the citizens of New York City must once again call on Spider-Man to fend off destructive forces that are far too powerful for the likes of mortal man.