Well, I finally got around to seeing SPIDER-MAN 3, and having had no real expectations for it I got exactly what I expected.
The film is a bloated, near-two-and-a-half hour desperate attempt at prolonging a franchise, and for what is purportedly the most expensive movie ever made I’d really like to know where all the money went. The script has more holes than an 8th Avenue porno shop, drags along without doing a good job of holding the average viewer’s interest, has some really, REALLY stupid shit happen, and while all that holds true I have to say I have seen many films that are far worse. The real problem here is that SPIDER-MAN 3 is nothing more than product, trying to force the emotional heart found in the first two installments and falling flat.
Here’s the part where I start citing some of the problems, so if you hate spoilers I’d advise you to stop reading and instead watch the recent ultra-loaded Criterion edition of Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, one of the greatest films ever made in any country and a textbook example of a film that perfectly blends action, involving characters, tense situations, and raw human emotion. Anyway, HERE COME THE SPOILERS!!!
THE PLOT: it’s two years since Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) became Spider-Man, and New York City is finally embracing him as its own hometown hero, rather than vilifying him as J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle would have it. Life’s so good for Peter that he’s ready to propose to Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), but when her Broadway career nosedives down the bowl Peter makes a dorky ass out of himself and the lovers have a potentially relationship-ending row. Harry Osborn (James Franco) still wants revenge against Peter for allegedly killing his supervillain father, so he undergoes the same genetic resequencing that turned his pop into the Green Goblin, gets some badass threads and weapons, hops on a flying snowboard and goes in search of Spidey’s head. Harry then suffers a concussion that erases his knowledge of Peter’s secret, but that doesn’t last long and he comes back more pissed off and homicidal than ever. And as if all that wasn’t enough, the Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), and Venom (a black load of parasitic, extraterrestrial CGI cum) are thrown in to cause more mayhem; the Sandman can turn into — SURPRISE! — sand and kick much ass, but he’s actually just robbing, causing billions of dollars in property damage and injuring countless innocent bystanders in an effort to garner enough cash to pay for his seriously ill daughter’s medical treatments (her illness is never explained). And, in a bit of from-out-of-nowhere plot chicanery we learn that the Sandman is the guy who really murdered Peter’s Uncle Ben. Peter and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) are alerted to this, and once Peter bonds with the black space-spooge, he becomes more aggressive, sports an ebony version of his fightin’ P.J.’s and goes hunting for the Sandman. That space-jizz also brings out Peter’s inner assholism to a sickening degree, so as the story spirals to its conclusion Peter must deal with his romantic mishegas, Brock’s hatred of him — made lethal when Brock and space-spunk merge — a final showdown with the Sandman and Harry, and his own inner demons.
THE PROBLEMS: there are many, but I’ll concentrate on the stuff that seriously irked my beige ass.
IT’S NEEDLESSLY OVERLONG. Self-explanatory.
THERE’S TOO MUCH SHIT GOING ON. You have three villains, two of whom are sort of uninteresting, vying for screen time alongside the continuing soap opera that is Peter’s life, plus retroactive continuity adjustments (more on that shortly) and it’s like trying to fit ten pounds of shit into a three pound sack. The film would have been okay with one solid bad guy and the counterpoint of the mushy stuff. Speaking of which…
IT’S A FUCKING CHICK FLICK. Seriously, with its overwhelming focus on the romance stuff and everybody’s conflicted feelings and betrayals and crying and shit, the movie really is a chick flick that happens to have Spider-Man in it. They even haul out Gwen Stacy — a major character in the first decade of Spidey’s comics run; look her up because it’s too much to go into here — so Evil Peter can fuck with Mary Jane’s head, and Gwen’s inclusion goes absolutely nowhere. If you bring a date, have tissues at the ready and be prepared to feel the testosterone leech out of your body. Although, I gotta give the casting agent props for finding an actress who looks exactly like Gwen as drawn by John Romita, Sr.
THE FX ARE WILDLY UNEVEN. Considering the film’s price tag, the CGI on Spidey and Goblin Junior look like half-finished or rushed video game characters, and there’s really no adequate excuse for that, a point brought home when weighed against some of the spectacular work done on the Sandman, especially when he’s giant-monster-sized during the final throwdown.
THE INCLUSION OF SPACE-CUM, er, VENOM. This one’s strictly a personal thing. I fucking hate venom, and have hated him from the second he showed up in the comics, so his inclusion was like having a rusty crochet needle slowly stuffed up my urethra. Oh, and Topher “That ‘70’s Show” Grace sucked out loud.
THE SANDMAN DID IT. By retroactively telling us that the Sandman killed Uncle Ben, accidentally or otherwise, the tragedy of that death is rendered moot by placing a face and background on the culprit rather than having Peter’s uncle fall victim to a random, pointless killing at the hands of a Joe Nobody. The fact that he’s sorry about it and receives Peter’s forgiveness comes off as trite, a real “who the fuck cares?” moment made worse when the Sandman, now absolved, allows himself to poignantly blow away into the sky over Midtown Manhattan, presumably to start a new career as yet another airborne pollutant.
TERPSICHOREAN OVERKILL. Translation: too much dancing. Yes, DANCING. When Peter starts becoming aggressive thanks to the space-spackle, he starts feeling like a funky dude and begins strutting down the street in a failed attempt to be cool and sexy, looking like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER’s Tony Manero as a retard (in other words, looking like Tony Manero). That shit was funny, but when Peter drags Gwen Stacy to the jazz club where MJ works as a singing waitress, the film morphs into FUCK YOU! THE MUSICAL as Peter transforms into a piano virtuoso and channels his inner Fred Astaire, publicly executing gravity-defying moves that would cause anyone with half a brain to observe, “Yeah, that guy’s Spider-Man.” This annoying display reaches the nadir of unpleasantness when bouncers attempt to physically eject Peter, and in the decidedly one-sided ass-kicking that ensues Peter accidentally punches Mary Jane square in the kisser, and, unintentional or not, that’s something I do not want to see.
MY SPIDER-SENSE ISN’T TINGLING. Since several developments in the plot could not have happened if Peter’s “spider-sense,” an extra-sensory perception that unfailingly warns him of imminent danger, had been working, the writers conveniently (read “lazily”) ignore it, despite it having been used to indelible effect before (most notably in SPIDER-MAN 2 when he anticipates a car hurled through a coffee shop window by Doctor Octopus). This gaffe is equivalent to a Superman flick where Supes has no cool ocular powers; that would suck, and the analog in this film totally sucks.
ALFRED, BUT NOT. A from-out-of-nowhere plot device that verges on a non-sequitor is the Osborn family’s butler, Houseman (John Paxton), previously seen for a nano-second in SPIDER-MAN 2. He’s apparently the only person in the Osborn mansion other than Harry, and when he sees Harry fuming after he’s had his ass soundly and disfiguringly kicked by Evil Peter, Houseman volunteers the fact when he dressed the dying Norman (the Green Goblin) Osborn’s wounds it was clear that he was killed by his own glider and Peter was not responsible. If I had written that scene, Harry would have looked at Houseman and said, in Richard Pryor’s voice, “Muthafukka, you couldn’t have told me that shit TWO YEARS AGO?!!?”
So yeah, SPIDER-MAN 3 is a washout, and according to the Internet Movie Database its ticket sales are already slowing, so it looks like word of mouth is more dangerous to Ol’ Webhead than the three villains in this movie combined.
But the one bright spot in the whole thing was more screen time for Mageina Tovah, the charming actress who plays Ursula, the dorky-beautiful beanpole daughter of Peter’s landlord.
If they make another one of these, even with a different main cast, Ursula must return.
THE BOTTOM LINE: simply put, SPIDER-MAN 3 could have done with a lot more thought being put into it, and I pray Columbia learns from this slapdash mistake. It’s too bad that Maguire and Dunst may not return for future chapters, because SPIDER-MAN 3 is not a worthy coda to what could have been an exemplary comic book-based trilogy. Not quite worthy of the epithet "cocksucker," but not all that hot either.