Space Ramblings

SpiderMan 3 Review

Like “X-Men The Last Stand”, Spider-Man 3 was the third film in a popular Marvel Comics adaptation of extremely popular Marvel characters that would be criticized for being overloaded with storylines and characters too big for the movie to contain. But where X-Men The Last Stand was a calculated act of self-destruction beginning with the removal of Bryan Singer from the project and ending with the deaths of many of the major X-Men characters– Sony kept Sam Raimi on board and he reemerged with a Spider-Man 3 that is not a swan song but the most epic of the Spider-Man movies to date.

Spider-Man 3 was the most expensive of the movies to date. It was also loaded to the gills with three villains, with multiple subsidiary characters and plot twists. By all rights it should have spiraled out of control and then finally sputtered and died as “X-Men The Last Stand” did. Yet somehow director Sam Raimi manages to keep all the balls in the air and rarely drops them. Spider-Man 3 is certainly not perfect, but it is a great piece of work and a vast improvement over the mediocre Spider-Man 2.

The rebirth of the superhero movie all too often brought with it a kind of smallness of scope and vision. The Bryan Singer X-Men movies and his Superman Returns have suffered from that, lacking any real epic sense to them. Spider-Man emerged through swinging high above Manhattan and Spider Man 3 culminates in an epic battle above the city that is as big as anything Godzilla or King Kong has to offer. While the same critics who praised Spider-Man 2, shrugged or outright sneered at Spider-Man 3, the public voted with their feet giving Spider-Man 3 a fantastic opening weekend and week that left every other movie in a distant box office gulag. This was not too dissimilar to what had happened with X-Men 3: The Last Stand or even Fantastic 4. For all the flaws of these movies the public responds to the massive scope and the epic scale. And Spider-Man 3 delivers.

Spider-Man 3 features– appropriately enough– three villains, yet none of them are true villains.

Thomas Haden Church, a sadly underrated actor, plays Sandman as a struggling small time crook transformed into a unwilling monster who only wants to reach out to his daughter. For all his battles with Spider-Man, he is ultimately only a flawed man guilty of an accidental crime.

Harry Osborn as The New Goblin, alternately battles Peter Parker’s Spider-Man whom he blames for his father’s death and alternately saves him and in the end dies fighting Venom by his side.

Venom is a greedy alien symbiont– without personality or voice, but rabidly hungry– which attaches itself to Eddie Brock Jr., a glad handling wannabe photographer who tries to displace Peter Parker only to be brought down by him.

Venom is the closest thing to a real villain in Spider-Man 3– that is a villain who remains a villain– but Venom itself contaminates Peter Parker who wears the symbiont as a suit for some time and is affected by it and driven to dark and abuse behaviors. In doing so Peter also gains insight into ‘the villain in each of us’, the darker sides of human nature that pull us into doing the things we should not do and that we know are wrong. Driven by the revelation that Flint Marko, Sandman, was his uncle’s real killer, Peter Parker is consumed by revenge and a mission to destroy him. Brushing aside Mary Jane and Aunt May who try to serve as connections for him to the voice of conscience and right and wrong, he pursues and believes he has destroyed Sandman. This parralels Peter’s first brush with vengeance in pursuit of his uncle’s killer in which guilt mingled with hatred resulted in an act of vengeance.

While Spider-Man 2’s Doc Ock was not a true villain and neither of Spider Man 3’s villains being true villains, only the first Spider-Man film’s Norman Osborn can even be considered a real villain and he returns briefly now still driving the son he despised to fulfill his vengeful destiny– as he did in Spider-Man 2.

Spider-Man 3 is not always ideal. Peter Parker under the influence of Venom is more comical and silly than anything else. From his big jazz club scene to strolling down Broadway making finger gun motions at women– Tobey Maguire plays Dark Peter Parker as being dorkier than ever. A haircut and a general look that seems to be part Goth and part Black Sabbath by way of the nearest shopping mall really doesn’t help.

Sandman is most interesting when portrayed as a man by Thomas Haden Church. His climatic battle with Spider-Man goes on much too long and when he becomes expanded to ten times his normal size and portrayed as a giant composed of dust– the interest factor quickly fades. Sam Raimi should have learned from Godzilla or Peter Jackson’s King Kong that showing a giant monster smashing up New York quickly loses interest– especially since there’s not much new to offer in special effects.

Venom’s personality has no real development. Sam Raimi is clearly not comfortable with Venom and the movie shows it. Peter Parker’s dark moments as Venom are the movie’s weakest point and once Venom is introduced, Raimi seems almost eager to dispose of him. While Venom in the comic books is a symbiont with a personality, in Spider-Man 3 he’s nothing more than a monster and later a monstrous addiction for Eddie Brock Jr.

Unlike Spider-Man 2 most of the unnecessary exposition has been trimmed from the movie, but one particularly egregious offender remains– notably the Osborn family butler delivering an all too perfectly timed speech about the death of Norman Osborn to Harry right after Peter Parker’s departure. Not only is the delivery of the actor portraying the butler sadly lacking– but the speech itself goes on too long at a critical moment and gives far too much motivation to Harry Osborn to help Peter Parker save Mary Jane at a time when the audience should be kept in suspense of the final outcome.

All told though, Sam Raimi has managed a major achievement with Spider-Man 3– an achievement best measured by comparison to outright failures like X-Men The Last Stand or Superman Returns. Making a superhero movie isn’t easy. Making a third movie in a series is enormously difficult. But for the third time, Raimi and Spider-Man come through.

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