I’m not what you’d call a hard-core comic book fan. In fact, with the exception of the occasional graphic novel I really don’t find them that appealing, especially with today’s multi-fragmented, super marketed versions showing every single possibility and story arch you’d ever imagine a character could take. All yours for four bucks a pop.
But I do like the Spiderman character, anyway I can get him. Over the years I’ve enjoyed seeing him on cheesy live-action television shows, the various animated versions, and I’ll go on record stating how incredibly cool he was in the several Capcom fighting games. But more so than anywhere else I feel the best connection I’ve had with the character has been the newer movies that have blasted theaters, simultaneously re-inventing the comic-book movie and finally making the public realize that superheroes had more potential than bats and men from Krypton.
Just so there’s no mistake, I really liked the original Spiderman, and quote-unquote loved the second. Despite some technical hiccups, I felt the first true Spiderman film was a breath of fresh air, and did wonders to restore the wonders and possibilities of translating otherwise strange comic creations to life on the big screen. Spiderman 2 took all the goodwill from the first and fleshed out these characters, continuing the adventures of Peter Parker and Company, without compromising the source material or disrespecting its fanbase.
The online reports of this third film being a disaster are largely unfounded, as most online reports regularly are. The movie isn’t terrible, horrible, or nearly as damaged as some critics are making it out to be. In fact, this is emphatically the BEST Part 3 of any comic-book movie adaptation ever made, although that might not elicit much confidence with many of you. It’s certainly better than Superman 3, it’s heads-above Batman Forever, and way-cooler than Blade Trinity. I’m not sure if you’ll consider Toxic Avenger 3 a comic-book movie, but I’ll include it because it’s better than that one, too.
You’re probably already familiar with the story, which takes place directly after part two, and introduces quite a few new characters into the mix. Perhaps too many, as there’s definitely too much going on to keep proper track of things. There’s a whopping three villains to keep track of (all in constant emotional crisis), relationship problems, cameos to be had, and epic fights to be fought. It’s the longest of the three films, yet the most disjointed.
But even when things become a tad muddled, it’s never as bad as things got with Batman and Robin…but just a bit of overkill. Multiple baddies mixed with multiple emotional issues don’t always make for the best mix…even with the extended running time, things still seem a bit rushed and under-developed. You’ll probably end up wishing such-and-such character had more screen time, such-and-such character had less screen time, and most likely everyone will agree with one thing – Bruce Campbell rocks.
What I Really Liked!
I’ve always liked the chemistry between Parker and MaryJane. It’s probably the most realistic romance I’ve ever seen in a full-blown action epic, as we can see why Parker would fall for a girl like Jane (even with the va-va-voom Gwen Stacy bopping around).
The dance sequences. Who knew that Saturday Night Fever Peter would be so funny? Maguire really looks like he’s having fun here, and it’s a nice humanizing moment you never really see in movies like this. Emo Peter? Not so much…but still funny!
The birth of Sandman. There’s no speaking, just the fluidity of the sand against a hauntingly beautiful musical score. This entire scene, from his first steps to taking human form, is by far the most complete and best part of the entire movie. Amazing!
What Could Have Been Better…
In all honesty, the fight scenes could have been a bit better. For the most part they look cool, but most of the fights end up being “Spiderman Hits Girder”, or even worse “Spiderman Hits Object”. Talk about your scenery chewing, but then again I’m not watching for the fights only.
Venom is here. Not my favorite Spiderman baddie, but I know the folks seem to love him. Still, his inclusion here seems like a favor to someone (certainly not McFarlane, right?), as he’s horribly underused and plays what’s essentially a cameo. Too bad, because this comes at the expense of far more interesting and much cooler Sandman character.
Not enough J.K. Simmons! The funniest character in the series, and he’s barely here! But hey, at least Campbell gets his due, so it’s a trade-off.
In much the same way Christopher Reeve embodied Superman, Tobey McGuire continues to prove he was always destined to fill Parker’s shoes. Although he seems a bit too doughy-eyed at times, during the movie’s several (yup, several) dance numbers he comes alive and really kicks things into gear. Kirstin Dunst is cute as ever, although you’d think Spidey would use some of that web-glob to shut her mouth at times. Thomas Hayden Church is pretty cool as Sandman, although if you’re like me you’d wish he had more screentime when he’s in human form, and less as sand. Topher Grace as Brock/Venom is Topher Grace…he’s a fine actor and gifted comedian, but he’s exactly the same here as he always is. No real complaints from those folks…although to be perfectly honest I’m not that much a fan of James Franco, and always felt he was terribly miscast. Playing Harry/Goblin or whatever he plays, he’s just not that interesting an actor to hold the part.
But much love to our hero Bruce Campbell in his longest, most extensive Spiderman role yet! Do I smell shades of John Cleese? This is probably the only area where I agree with the online nerd-base, so that’s saying something. The audience I was with (midnight show, baby!) ate his snooty French waiter up like a cup ‘o noodles, and if Sam Raimi doesn’t get a move on with the ever-delayed Evil Dead movie, it’ll be a crime against humanity. More Bruce, please!
Many of the complaints (aka critical whining) have come from those claiming this movie over-stuffed, undefined, and in the most anal of analities, suffering from a bad script. Would-be script-writers are never much happy with Summer Blockbusters, because they tend to forgo much plot development and characterization in favor of Big Bangs, Explosions, and More Explosions Still. Ironically, the Spiderman series has always crossed both lines fairly well, giving both movie fans and critics the rare thing to agree upon. So it’s not really surprising that any dip in quality from one avenue for another would have these people up in arms, but it’s mostly over-done. So I won’t deal with exposition and character narrative that’s probably not as developed as they could be, or whether or not a particular character is fleshed out like they should have been….because this is what we’ve got, and for the most part it’s pretty darn good.
In fact, I’m really hoping that you’re not basing your decision to see Spiderman 3 on how well its reviews are, because that would be a mistake. Much like “Star Wars” this one is critic-proof, if only because the previous entries have become so popular and much loved by the one crowd they were intended for – the general public. Comic book nerds and hardheads will of course be fuming, but if there was ever a group that couldn’t be pleased, it’d be them. To paraphrase the always-excellent Abraham Lincoln, you can please all the comic nerds some of the time, please some of them all the time, but never please all of them all of the time. Spiderman 3 succeeds because it entertained me, and I suspect you’ll enjoy it, too.
Yes, even you hard-core comic book nerds. Open minds, people!
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Walt Disney Studios