Spider-Man 3 - Review
Review by Jack Foley
SUMMER sequels frequently operate by the law of diminishing returns. The bigger the budget, the lesser the enjoyment.
With Spider-Man 2, however, director Sam Raimi bucked that trend by creating a follow-up that successfully surpassed the achievements of the excellent original in many ways. And with Spider-Man 3 he almost repeats the trick.
But while the film is consistently very good it falls just short of being great on several counts.
By creating a web of intrigue, angst and betrayal that’s ultimately too tangled for its own good, Raimi often feels like he’s trying to cram too much in and the film lacks the focus of its predecessors.
Not content with one villain, the director opts for three as well as a twisted Peter Parker and further romantic entanglements.
But in spite of such burdens, Spider-Man 3 still kickstarts the summer season in supremely enjoyable fashion, thereby ensuring that there’s plenty of life in the franchise should the director and his stars wish to pursue things further.
The film picks up as Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is happily in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and settling into his new level of celebrity. But his stability is short-lived as he faces retribution from former best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), now the embittered New Goblin, as well as a ghost from the past in the form of escaped convict Flint Marko (aka The Sandman), who emerges as the real killer of his beloved Uncle Ben.
Consumed with rage, Parker is drawn to a darker side of his personality by a mysteriously gloopy alien substance that turns his spider-suit black and prompts him to rebel, thereby shutting out his friends and family in the process.
Hence, Mary Jane seeks solace in the arms of Harry and Peter pursues other romantic options with his new lab partner Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), whilst also fending off workplace rivalry with hotshot new photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace).
Of the new characters, it’s Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman who leaves the most lasting impression having been cut from the same cloth as both The Green Goblin and Doc Ock. But just when it seems he’s about to present a formidable foe for the new-look Spider-Man, he disappears from the scene for a long space of time.
Topher Grace is also good value as the brash Eddie Brock but his transformation to Venom feels rushed and could perhaps have benefited from a movie of his own, while Bryce Dalls Howard is afforded too little screen-time to really make the love triangle between Stacy, Parker and MJ appear anything other than a contrived plot device.
Even James Franco drifts in and out of proceedings when a little more focus on his moral dilemma might have leant proceedings a sharper cutting edge.
Yet in spite of this, the film does keep you hooked in spite of its lengthy running time and includes several moments to savour – not least in the confrontations between Spidey and Sandman that occur throughout the city.
There’s also plenty of humour, including an extended sequence where Peter Parker explores his dark side, several soundbites from JK Simmons’ loud mouthed editor and – best of all – a wonderful moment in a restaurant in which Raimi regular Bruce Campbell gets to work some magic complete with a dodgy French accent.
The emotional investment is still high, particularly during the latter stages, and there are even a couple of surprises for anyone who doesn’t possess an intimate knowledge of the comics.
The end result is a summer blockbuster that manages to combine spectacle with intelligence that sits comfortably alongside the other two films in the series.
Running time: 139mins
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- Spider-Man 3 smashes US box office record
- Tobey Maguire interview
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- Thomas Haden Church (Sandman) interview
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- Maguire hints at Spider-Man departure