movie film review | chris tookey

Spider-Man 3

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  Spider-Man 3 Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
6.36 /10
Peter Parker/Spider-Man: Tobey Maguire , Mary Jane Watson: Kirsten Dunst Harry Osborn: James Franco
Full Cast >

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Alvin Sargent, Sam Raimi

Released: 2007
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 140

At the end of the first two Spider-Man movies, I felt elated. Long before the end of the new one, reputedly the most expensive movie ever made (some say it cost as much as $500 million) my principal emotion was fatigue.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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If the subject of the first two movies was the importance of responsibility, the third is about the futility of revenge.

Handsome hunk Harry Osborn, alias Goblin (James Franco) is still trying to kill former best friend Peter Parker/ Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire). That’s in revenge for Spidey murdering Harry’s insane father Norman (Willem Dafoe), alias the Green Goblin.

Peter wishes to avenge the murder of his dear old uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) by escaped bank-robber Flint Marko who because of an accident has acquired the monstrous alter ego of Sandman (that’s Sideways star Thomas Haden Church, plus several million quid’s worth of CGI effects).

And there’s a mutually vengeful relationship between Parker and his new rival for the staff photographer’s job at the Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). As a committed member of the gutter press, Brock is not above faking a Spider-Man-slanderous photo to further his career. Eventually, he even acquires his own monstrous alternate identity, the black-suited, sharp-toothed Venom (good name for a critic, that).

“Where do all these guys come from?” complains Peter. He may well ask. As if three arachnaphobic super-villains aren’t more than enough, vile, extra-terrestrial gunk has bonded with Peter.

Where it comes from, or why it’s picked on Peter, is never explained. But it changes our hero from a cheerful nerd faithful to his long-term girl-friend Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) into a cockily aggressive, womanising big-head. Prince William, please note.

As in Spider-Man 2, the special effects are spectacular, and the transitions between human and computer-generated impressively imperceptible. But there aren’t enough gags, and Spider-Man 3 runs 140 minutes. That’s 19 minutes longer than the first movie, and 15 longer than the second. It’s the same duration as the overblown Superman Returns. This is not good.

The troubled relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane is stretched to mind-numbing length. By the end of the movie, I sensed that the audience was bored stiff by both of them. Just as fatally, the plotting has become arbitrary and convoluted. Several characters – especially hunky Harry Osborn - flip-flop between good and evil for no persuasive reason.

Far too much of the plot emanates from authorial contrivance rather than character. The extra-terrestrial gunk is an especially slovenly story device. Not only is it completely unexplained; the rules governing its behaviour seem to be made up as the film goes along. If Peter’s changes of personality had come from within, they would have been far more plausible and effective.

The movie won’t alienate hard-line devotees but will disappoint those – like me – who felt Spider-Man 2 lifted comic-book cinema to new heights and were hoping that the bar would be raised once again.

In peddling the line that revenge is wrong and we should try to forgive our attackers, Raimi is clearly attempting to influence American feelings about global terrorism - a consistent theme of the first two Spider-Man movies.

But he does so here in a way that’s off-puttingly pompous and didactic. Especially unbearable are the long, ponderous scenes where Peter’s Auntie May (Rosemary Harris) sermonises about forgiveness. It’s as though director Sam Raimi and his co-writer Alvin Sargent have forgotten that their story is based on a Marvel comic, not the kind of emetically smug discourse on Thought For Today that has thousands of listeners rushing to the loo.

Despite all the special effects, Raimi has mislaid his eye for a telling, iconic image. And he has – quite literally – lost his sense of proportion. Sandman ranges in size from humanoid to super-King Kong, for no reason I could see except narrative convenience.

Nothing I write will prevent Spider-Man 3 from being a hit on the strength of the first two outstanding episodes, but its weaknesses are bound to shorten the lifespan of what until now looked like a never-ending franchise.

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