Spider-Man 3

Oh, you knew I’d have to review this one. My head’s still spinning, but I’ll see what I can do. It’s my fault; I went to the theatre with the Ultrascreen across town, and everything was so huge! It was hard to read the credits, and some of the fight scenes left me reeling.

Oh, you knew I’d have to review this one. My head’s still spinning, but I’ll see what I can do. It’s my fault; I went to the theatre with the Ultrascreen across town, and everything was so huge! It was hard to read the credits, and some of the fight scenes left me reeling.

Speaking of fight scenes, I’m sure this isn’t going to help much, but please, people: Don’t bring your four-year-old to this film. In fact, don’t bring your one-year-old, either. There were kids there that young, and I believe they enjoyed the movie about as much as I enjoyed seeing (and hearing) them there — which is to say, not at all. It may be based on a comic book, but that doesn’t mean it’s family-friendly. It’s PG-13 for a reason, people! There’s violence galore, and blood, and death! Relatively sanitized death, but still. And Venom is really pretty creepy. So don’t scar your little children. Also, if they’re not there, they can’t annoy the rest of us by crying for mommy or asking to go to the bathroom three times. Two hours and twenty minutes is an eternity to a child’s bladder.

Anyway, I imagine you know the basics: Spidey’s back, and there’s gonna be trouble. This time, trouble comes in the form of Flint Marko, a.k.a. Sandman (Thomas Haden Church, who I really only know from watching the occasional episode of Wings, years ago, so this was kind of a shock) and Brock, Eddie Brock Jr., a.k.a. Venom (Topher Grace — I hear he was in some other TV show, which I’ve never seen). Neither character gets called Sandman or Venom except in the closing credits, but all the fanboys (and fangirls) know who they are.

Sandy is an escaped convict when we meet him, struggling to find the daughter he loves. He’s in prison because he loves her so much that he robs lots of banks to try and get the money she needs for an operation, or whatever it is that will fix the unnamed disease she has. She needs an oxygen tank to breathe and a crutch to walk, so it must be something pretty serious, but I’m not sure what would cause both those problems. But it requires money to fix anything, and with health-care costs what they are these days, Daddy has to skip the auctions and bake sales and go straight to grand larceny.

Meanwhile, Eddie wants to make a name for himself as a photographer for the Daily Bugle and smarms his way into a job. Peter’s job. I don’t know how good a photographer he is, but he’s great at being smarmy. Unfortunately, he’s also ambitious and very vengeful. Add to that one icky black alien Venom symbiont; and add to our desperate escaped felon one accidental trip into the middle of an experiment in a particle physics lab, and poof! You have two super villains ready to make our hero’s life miserable.

Now, the birth of Sandman is really cool. They borrow the micro-cam from House to show us the freaky cellular process at work in turning a man into sand, and the sequence of him trying to learn to use his powers is fascinating. It just seems odd that a particle physics lab would be running experiments on a big pile of sand in the middle of the night. I’m no physicist, but I think they usually work with much smaller particles than sand. Much smaller. Venom, as previously mentioned, is seriously creepy, but also very cool. He was never my favorite villain, but he was used to excellent effect here.

I could keep going a lot longer and still not tell you everything that happened. This movie, like its two predecessors, was packed with plotlines and characters and all the CGI effects you could possibly want. Just think of the post-production on this baby. It’s now the most expensive movie ever made in non-adjusted U.S. dollars (not quite sure what that means; I’m quoting imdb.com), at nearly 300 million. I’d say that most of that went towards effects, but they had a lot of actors to pay, too. Everyone is in it!

Tobey and Kirsten, James Franco as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin Mark II (though he isn’t very green, so they just call him the New Goblin), Rosemary Harris as the delightful Aunt May, J.K. Simmons as the cigar-chewing J. Jonah Jameson, Dylan Baker as Dr. Curt Conners, still not having turned into the Lizard yet — all your favorites are back, and there’s more. Bryce Dallas Howard (looking lovely and being talented as always) is Gwen Stacy in a small and rather thankless role, and perennial character actor James Cromwell is Capt. Stacy — he was a lousy Zephram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact, but if he’d actually had any real scenes, I think he’d be a great Capt. Stacy.

It all boils down to it being too much of a good thing. There are too many villains, real and imagined, and too many thing happening. I’ve barely mentioned all the problems Peter and Mary Jane have with their relationship, or the whole Goblin thing, and this is already pretty long. Even at nearly two and a half hours, there’s not enough room for everything they try to do. It has all the action you expect and the characters you remember, but it never quite hits the emotional quality of the first two films, especially the second. That wonderful scene with the train passengers tenderly helping the injured Spidey after he saves them is the first thing I think of when I think about these movies, and there’s not a lot here that competes with that. There are some very good scenes with best friends Pete and Harry, but there’s still a certain depth lacking. Let’s not even mention Pete as ladykiller, which only gets embarrassing.

Three idols here. It was enjoyable, and I wouldn’t mind owning it on DVD, but this one was more polished and less endearing than the others, and Spider Man should always be endearing. He’s the underdog, the regular guy doing unbelievable things who we just have to root for. That’s still here, but it’s starting to be clouded over by the glitz. Do see it on the big screen if you get the chance, though crossed eyes and dizziness may occur if you watch it on the really big screen. Just remember: PG-13!

Originally posted May 2007