SPIDER-MAN ™ 3
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

The third installments in series sometimes tend
to give the creative teams the most problems.
In fact, if one looks back on sequels and
trilogies over the last say three decades, the
pesky third entry is usually sub par. Think back
to the original
STARS WARS movies -- THE
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
is considered to be the
best.
THE GODFATHER trilogy -- yup, PART II
reigns supreme.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS may
be the exception. Even the comic book movies
that have reached two, three or four parts hit
their peak with the second entry; the rest fall
somewhat behind the curve. And it pains me to
say that
SPIDER-MAN™ 3 also falls somewhat
into that category. Taken as part of a trilogy, it
doesn't really advance the story too far. In fact,
there are deliberate echoes of the first two
movies and a little bit of rewriting of history to
accommodate the backstory of one of the
villains. If anything, this film is overstuffed with
plot and it ends up giving short shrift to beloved
characters as well as to potentially interesting
newcomers.

The screenplay credited to Sam Raimi (who also
directs) & Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent is
chockablock filled with not one, not two but
three villains. Plus there's a strange substance
from outer space that causes Peter Parker
(Tobey Maguire) to sort of head to the dark side
-- except the filmmakers tend to mine that
subplot for comic effect which dilutes what the
story's intention seems to be.

And yet -- watching the film, I found myself
enjoying some aspects of it. There are some
terrific action set pieces, particularly a chase
through the skyscrapers of Manhattan with
Spider-Man (Maguire) swinging from his
Tobey Maguire stars
as Peter Parker/
Spider-Man in
Columbia Pictures’
SPIDER-MAN™ 3   


Photo Credit:
Merrick Morton
vehicle. Scenes like that are what audiences
expect -- pure popcorn action and entertainment.
After all,
SPIDER-MAN™ 3 is kicking off the
summer movie season and doing it with a bang.

It's only in retrospect that one begins to realize
that there are deficiencies. For instance, the
Peter Parker doppelganger Eddie Brock (Topher
Grace), a freelance photographer who wants not
only Parker's gig photography Spider-Man but
also a staff position, turns into the villainous
Venom. No problem there, except he keeps
harping that Peter stole his girlfriend. I finally
remembered that there's a bit of dialogue that
indicates that Brock was supposedly dating Gwen
Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), the police chief's
daughter.

The basic theme for this movie seems to be how
to negotiate the transition from adolescence to
adulthood. Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is
trying to forge her own identity as an actress,
with limited results. Harry Osborn is trying to
find his place, possibly as the successor to his
father. Peter Parker thinks he's ready for
marriage but the adulation he receives as Spider-
Man is turning him into an egotistical and
insufferable idiot. When a mysterious blob of
black goo from a meteorite crawls spider-like
into his life, this "symbiote" (something that
becomes attached to a host and magnifies its
darker impulses) overtakes Parker and creates a
black-suited Spider-Man. To signify the changes
in Peter Parker, Maguire brushes his hair forward
and struts down the street in a bad imitation of
John Travolta at the beginning of
SATURDAY
NIGHT FEVER
. He later brings Gwen on a date
to a jazz club where Mary Jane works as a
singing waitress and upstages her performance.
It's an amusing set piece but it doesn't go far
enough.

I haven't even gotten into the other plot strands
like those involving Flint Marko (Thomas Haden
Church) who stumbles into a restricted area just
as an experiment is occurring, resulting in an
alteration of his DNA. He thus becomes the
Sandman, a creature who can turn to dust at will
and who cannot take a punch. Yet he's also able
to maintain his "human" form in a manner that is
not explained. I guess one has to take it on face
value, but when he cannot be punched in one
scene or is cut down at the knees (literally) and
then turns around and forms a hammer with his
fist -- the logic escaped me. Marko is meant to
be a tragic anti-hero, a man who does bad things
in order to help his sick child. Perhaps if more
time had been spent on the character, I might
have cared more. But like Eddie Brock/Venom in
the movie, he is merely there to move the action
and to take part in some CGI-enhanced battles.

The cast does what it can with their roles.
Maguire is solid as Parker/Spider-Man, having
grown into the role. Dunst's Mary Jane is a young
woman in the throes of finding herself and she
shares nice chemistry with both Maguire and
Franco (who does a fine job as Harry, Peter's pal,
sometime romantic rival and sometime enemy).
Howard is not given much to do as Gwen and the
great Rosemary Harris as Aunt May is reduced to
giving pep talks to Maguire's Peter. There's a
terrific cameo appearance by Bruce Campbell
that livens up the film for a few brief moments.

I had wanted to like
SPIDER-MAN™ 3 more.
It was an enjoyable ride and the moral lesson of
learning to accept and to forgive is an important
one. It just may get lost in all the special effects.


Rating:                B-
MPAA Rating:     PG-13 for sequences of
                         intense action violence
Running time:    139 mins.
L to R: Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson and
James Franco as Harry Osborn in Columbia Pictures’
SPIDER-MAN™ 3   

Photo Credit: Merie W. Wallace