*** (out of 5)
May 4, 2007
Tobey Maguire as PETER PARKER/SPIDER-MAN
Kirsten Dunst as MARY JANE WATSON
James Franco as HARRY OSBOURNE/NEW GOBLIN
Thomas Haden Church as FLINT MARKO/SANDMAN
Topher Grace as EDDIE BROCK/VENOM
Bryce Dallas Howard as GWEN STACY
Rosemary Harris as AUNT MAY
J.K. Simmons as J. JONAS JAMESON
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Sam Raimi
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new “Spider-Man” movie out. And once we get past all the trailers, posters and publicity shots, the question on everyone’s mind is whether it lives up to the previous films. For the most part, it does. It’s not as good as “Spider-Man 2,” but then again, that movie was such a great superhero film, it’s hard to beat.
“Spider-Man 3” is on par with the first “Spider-Man,” and that is refreshing. After all, “Spider-Man” helped set the standard for modern superhero movies, and it proved that “X-Men” wasn’t a fluke. Considering that the third movie in a series is often a dud (e.g., “Superman III,” “Batman Forever” and “Leprechaun 3”), it’s great to see the series at least keeping up with itself.
This new movie takes off with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) in love. However, they are having some problems dealing with each other’s fame. Harry Osbourne (James Franco) has resurrected the Green Goblin’s persona as the New Goblin, seeking revenge on Spider-Man.
Meanwhile, the police have found the real killer of Uncle Ben, a two-bit crook named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church). He’s escaped and, due to a freak of science accident, he has been transformed into the Sandman. At the same time, a mysterious black substance from outer space is infecting the Spider-Man suit, making Peter and his alter ego overly aggressive.
There’s a lot of story here, probably enough for two movies, and this seems to be the focus of much of the film’s criticism. I’ll admit that “Spider-Man 3” isn’t perfect, but these early reviews seem a little harsh. While the complaints are not unfounded, the movie’s sins are mostly forgivable (except for this strange little jazz club scene in the middle of the film – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it).
The biggest sticking point is the film’s running time, two hours and twenty minutes. The first two films clocked in at just about two hours each, so “Spider-Man 3” is noticeably longer. However, I would prefer a longer running time to deal with the large cast of characters than to rush the story.
Yes, the script is crowded, but I would hardly say it was convoluted. In fact, I was pretty impressed with how the script managed to juggle so many characters at once and actually make them relevant. “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” this is not. While there are a lot of characters, and maybe too many villains, they all manage to have an important role to the story.
The weak link in the story is Kirsten Dunst. Her character has never been my favorites – a bit of a whiney prima donna if you ask me – and the movie focuses too much on her relationship with Peter. It seems we’ve been down that road already in the past two films. In this sequel, it was nice to see a potential new love interest for Peter with Gwen Stacy, played by an unbelievably hot Bryce Dallas Howard.
And yes, the dialogue is a bit hacky, but that’s nothing new. The “Star Wars” prequels had some of the corniest lines in them, but I still consider them to be fantastic movies. (Well, at least “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” were.) Actually, the somewhat campy script is a bit nostalgic in a way. It reminded me of the rough dialogue given to the web slinger by Stan Lee in the 1960s comic books.
But enough about the movie’s rough spots. There’s a lot to love about this new “Spider-Man.” The biggest win comes from the effects and the action sequences. These are brilliant and thrilling, some of the best you’re gonna see. Even if you don’t like the story, the movie is book-ended with two of the greatest action sequences you’ll see this year.
“Spider-Man 3” is getting a bad rap from some, but that’s because the bar has been set so high from the previous films and superhero films in general today. If a film like “Spider-Man 3” came out ten years ago, it would he heralded as one of the greatest superhero films of all time. Now, compared to the others, it’s not as impressive, but still at the top of a relatively short list.