Spider-Man 3 Review
Spider-Man reaches its third instalment with most of its principals, on both sides of the camera, still in place. It also assumes that you have seen the first two films – which, considering how much money they made, is a safe bet. By now, the franchise has acquired so much baggage – not just the continuing love story between Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) but a panoply of supporting characters, not to mention three villains, one of whom have character arcs which began in the first film, five years ago. It’s getting a bit much for one film to contain all this comfortably in one film, even one that extends the running time to two and a quarter hours. The frequent result of trying to cram too much in, is a structure that collapses into a series of setpieces and a narrative that doesn’t build as it should. So it is with Spider-Man 3.
The premise this time is that Peter Parker, who by now has reached some accommodation between his life as Spider-Man and his responsibilities towards Mary Jane. Mary Jane’s career is on an upswing, as she makes her debut on Broadway. But Harry Osborn (James Franco) still harbours a grudge against Spider-Man for killing his father (way back in the first film – Willem Defoe’s voice makes a brief appearance here) and begins to take over his father’s old role as the Goblin. Meanwhile, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), the criminal who shot Peter’s Uncle Ben in that first movie, escapes from jail. Accidentally caught in a radiation test, he mutates into Sandman. And that’s not to mention Venom, black gloop from Outer Space, which infects Spidey’s suit and unleashes the darker side of Peter’s personality.
That’s not all. There’s also Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a paparazzo who also makes the acquaintance of Venom. Not to mention Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard in a blonde wig), daughter of the Police Captain (James Cromwell). The script also makes room for appearances from other recurring characters, such as Peter’s Aunt May (Rosemary Harris). Many of these don’t have much of a chance to make an impression. Nice as it is to see an actress like Theresa Russell in a mainstream blockbuster, she’s wasted in a one-scene role as Flint Marko’s mother. Bruce Campbell makes a brief appearance - well, did you suspect otherwise from a Sam Raimi movie?
Some of this works. In particular Thomas Haden Church, buffed up from his role in Sideways, actually manages to do something with a role that’s not much more than walking CGI for the most part. Just as he metamorphosises into Sandman and his body disintegrates, Sam Raimi cuts to a big close-up of his eyes: Haden Church manages to invest this shot with more pain than the film can easily bear. On the other hand, while the CGI in sequences like this is impressive as an absurd spectacle, in other big sequences (such as the one where Spider-Man rescues Gwen from a collapsing building) just can’t overcome the big problem CGI has – it simply doesn’t look real. So no danger and no tension, then.
It’s with this third instalment in the franchise that diminishing returns have set in, let alone an inability to edit oneself. This would be a much better film with something like twenty minutes taken out of it. But since people will be going to see it in their millions worldwide whatever you do, who can be bothered to give it another pass in the editing suite?