Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The one thing that disappointed me about the first two Spider-Man films was that Sam Raimi, at least on paper, didn't write them.  I came to find out later that a good portion of both stories, as well as the key action sequences, were his ideas.  Still, I missed the good old days when Sam and his brother Ivan would come up with a wild script full of stuff that one would think definitely shouldn't work, but did.  Darkman was the perfect example, with over-the-top corny dialogue and violence. 

The fact that they were more involved with the actual writing of the third installment gave me some hope that a bit of the weirdness would return.  It did, but unfortunately it came with a lot of studio interference.  And, to make matters worse, the parts that were pure Raimi did not fit at all with the rest of the movie.  Instead, Spider-Man 3 became quite a mess, and spelled the end of what was supposed to go on at least another three films. 

Spider-Man 3 begins not long after Spider-Man 2.  Spidey's reputation has definitely improved and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is enjoying his role in keeping New York clean.  Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is making her Broadway debut and Parker is doing well in school.  Unfortunately, things can't just stay copacetic in Parker's world; Harry Morgan (James Franco), Parker's former best friend, has been injecting himself with his dad's serum and preparing his revenge against Parker for his father's death. Meanwhile, a new threat comes to New York in the form of Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), aka the Sandman.  

Parker also becomes the unwitting host to a symbiotic alien life form that takes the form of a black spider suit and starts to influence his life in a number of negative ways.  This can't come at a worse time, with a new photographer with the Daily Bugle named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) doing what he can to catch Spider-Man not being heroic.  With his relationship with Mary Jane on the rocks, Harry bent for revenge and revelations that Marko may have been involved in his Uncle Ben's death, Peter Parker must fight not only his new enemies but his own dark persona. 

One of the major problems with Spider-Man 3 is there is too much going on.  Originally, after deciding to wait on the Lizard and Carnage as villains, Raimi settled on the Sandman.  The story of Harry's evolution into the New Goblin would continue, but the focus otherwise would be the tragic character of Flint Marko, a small-time crook trying to good by his daughter.  The the new challenges were to open Parker's eyes to the fact that the world is more than just black and white and good and evil. 

Unfortunately, Sony wanted to push the Venom storyline, which had been popular in the comics during the 1980s.  Raimi at first didn't wish to go there, but eventually acquiesced, with cowriter Alvin Sargent originally seeing if maybe the two plots could be divided into two movies.  It would have been better if they had been as the Venom plot brings the movie to a grinding halt.  There is too much of "emo Spider-Man" at this point, with Tobey Maguire sporting a slightly goth hairstyle, dancing down the streets of New York and generally acting like a jerk to everyone.

It is the most Raimi thing in the film, but it seems like it belongs in a completely different movie.  It's the reason the run-time is so long, and it is about 20 minutes that could be erased from the film without damaging the story at all; in fact, they could have kept the Venom plot while skipping  the drama between Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Mary Jane.  An encounter between Harry and Spider-Man in his Venom mode happens prior to the movie derailing says all that needs to be said.  From there it could have got on to Spider-Man being forced to choose between being good and evil and let Venom find its new host.  Instead a whole lot of nothing happens before we suddenly get to a finale involving Spider-Man fighting Sandman and Venom.

Flint Marko is certainly an interesting character, but because there is ultimately no room for any of the villains at this point we never get the chance to sympathize with him like we should.  Instead he disappears for large portions of the movie, making the plot that much less coherent.  By the time the finale comes it is too late, and any tension there would be fails, as most viewers are just watching the clock to see when the movie will end.

Supposedly this is one of the most expensive movies ever made with a lot of money going into developing the effects.  Unfortunately, 15 years down the road, they look worse than the first two films.  The complete lack of detail in both the transition of Sandman to and from his human form and the horrible job on Venom are striking, and many times instead of integrating the actors or stunt people we are treated to poorly rendered pixels jumping all over the place.  In addition to failing to successfully bring his usual quirky style to life properly in the script Raimi does an uncharacteristically disappointing job of directing this entry.  There is little of his usual flair or energy.

To his credit he knew he had dropped the ball and hoped to make it up with the fourth, finally giving the audience the hinted at appearance of the Lizard, the alter-ego of Dr. Curt Conners (Dylan Baker), who just happens to be Parker's physics professor.  Unfortunately the studio wanted to meddle even more with the next and, with Spider-Man 3 suffering bad reactions from both critics and audiences, the series was suddenly rebooted five years later.  Normally this would have been painful, but one of the few things this movie does right is wrap up most of the personal drama from the first two films, meaning that Raimi probably meant to focus more on Spider-Man being a superhero than on Peter Parker's personal relationships.  In truth, until the film comes to a crashing halt, Spider-Man 3 is still halfway decent for a good portion of its runtime, so it would have been interesting to see if Raimi was able to do a better job with the next story.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Time: 139 minutes
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: Sam Raimi



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