Spider-Man 3

Spidey Goes Goth

Spider-Man is back! The web-slinger returns to excite crowds and rake in a ton of cash as the first official summer movie, Spider-Man 3. All the principals have returned, others have joined, and the running time is very long. Does this arachnid chapter measure up to the last two, or does it suffer from sequelitis? Critic-proof as it is (it’s already made $247 million as of this writing), does it deliver? While it is entertaining, SM3 suffers from lack of focus, hyperactive action, and too much blubbering.

Spider-Man has become a celebrity. New York loves him. Long time love Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is worried about his newfound fame, and lack of attention to her. Big fan Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) might get in the way, but the real threats are from the trio of the betrayed friend (the new Green Goblin), escaped mutated criminal (Sandman), and alien goo (Venom). How is Peter Parker (Tobey MacGuire) going to take on all these baddies and pay the rent?

The biggest problem this movie has is that it develops a less interesting storyline (Sandman), at the expense of a very interesting one (Venom). Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways) does okay with the material he is given, but the story is trite (sad sack crook who just wants to pay for his daughter’s treatments), and doesn’t fit well into the Peter Parker universe, even though the writers try to shoehorn it in there.

The Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) character, is far more interesting. He hates Parker, and just wants him dead. When he becomes Venom, is a formidable foe and quiet scary at times. His plot takes far too long to develop, and when it finally does, the movie is over. This is an oversight on the screenplay level, and Sandman should have been dropped to give the Brock/Venom story room to breathe. As it stands it’s okay, but like Darth Maul, Venom is gone just as he was becoming relevant.

Another problem is the frantic pace of the action sequences. Director Sam Raimi is noteworthy for how much control he exhibits on the screen, but he seems to have lost some of that here. The first clash between Spidey and the New Goblin is so out of control, you can’t follow it, and often suffer from vertigo due to the rapid movement and cutting. Things do settle down after this, but this should be a lesson to any filmmaker: faster is not better, only more confusing.

Despite all this, I did like the movie. It is exciting, has a good foundation of familiar characters, a well paced (if misdirected) story, and a good message. Spider-Man is a hero we can all like, and would want to be (minus the poverty). Saving New York should always be this fun. I just hope this is the low point and not the high point of the 2007 summer blockbuster season.