Debates about why the superhero film seems to speak compellingly to a contemporary audience are all very well, but preceding such discussions should come the question of whether or not the films are actually good. Spider-Man 3, despite all the hype, despite the returning director and stars, despite the overall quality of the first two installments, isn?t. Not that it’s not entertaining, exactly the special effects are eye-popping, and the action sequences are as good as in either of the first two films ? but it?s clunky and overlong and frequently preposterous in a way that recalls to memory the days of X-Men 3.
There’s a lot going on in this movieÂ too much, in factÂ so you’ll forgive me if I don’t get all the details correct, but the plot goes something like this:
1) Guy (Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church) who turns out to be the actual killer of Ben Parker escapes from jail, falls into a particle testing pit, and gets turned into the Sandman.
2) Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), while on a romantic evening out with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), happens to be around the area where a meteorite falls to earth. Weird black goo comes out of meteorite and takes a ride on Parker?s motorcycle as he’s driving back home.
3) Peter Parker finds out about Ben Parker’s real killer. The black goo takes control of his Spider-Man suit. It turns out that this amplifies negative emotions
4) Meanwhile, Harry Osborn (James Franco) is the New Goblin. He lands in the hospital after a run-in with Spider-man and loses his memory. (Yeah, I don’t know either)
5) Something with a rival photographer (Topher Grace).
6) Peter Parker becomes a total d-bag and starts dying his hair.
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera; it continues on like this for a long time.
And the actors seem to have lost something since the second Spidey installment. Tobey Maguire, always kind of a wuss, is simply ridiculous in a lot of this movie, much of which is entertaining but also really dumb (Peter Parker’s transformation into a revenge-driven emo jerk, for example, is amusing but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). Kirsten Dunst and James Franco struggle with their parts. Topher Grace doesn?t do a whole lot for anyone. Thomas Haden Church does his sour-faced best with an awful script, but can’t make much headway as he battles with bad dialogue, illogical narrative structure, and a series of poorly-constructed dues ex machine plot devices.
The greatest sin here, though, is Sam Raimi’s, who directed and co-wrote the film, and who sees fit to scatter pearls of Sam Raimi-wisdom throughout, bashing the viewer over and over with overt symbolism and blatant morals that do the film no good ? my personal favorite comes when an old man walks up to Peter Parker on the street and, pointing to a billboard about Spider-Man, that ?It just goes to show that one person really can make a difference!?
As I said, it?s not all bad, and if you look past all the bad parts there?s an entertaining movie to be found somewhere it’s certainly not boring, and the pacing is all rightÂ but the movie needs to be a good forty minutes shorter, the script needs to be pruned down and made logical, and Sam Raimi needs to be fired. An extra half-star for the fantastic special effects.
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