Well, summer is almost upon us! And us movie geeks knows what that means... The Season of Generic Sequels is upon us! To be entirely honest, I was dreading the results of this film. After hearing so much negative buzz right before the film's release, I was almost certain that the entire thing was going to be one big giant train wreck. Either that or it was going to be another half-assed attempt by Hollywood to farm every last dollar they could from a franchise that would have been better off being left alone (example: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest). I sat down in my local multiplex, and braced myself for the worst. Afterall, the last super hero film I had the displeasure to digest (X-Men 3: The Last Stand) left me feeling so empty and utterly dissapointed that I couldn't help but distrust nearly every sequel before I actually sit down and watch it.
This film really caught me by surprise... it didn't suck! But was it a great movie? No! It is filled with a laundry lists of flaws, many of which were clearly present in the last two films of the series. So if you didn't mind the average acting and completely unbelievable feats of gravity defying action the first time around, you won't notice it here either. Which brings us to one of the other questions that everyone has been asking about Spider-Man 3.. is it as good as the first two? Well, you'll just have to keep on reading to find out, won't cha?
First thing I would like to point out is that this is a considerably darker film then the first two, well deserving of its PG-13 rating. They never show anything particularly graphic or bloody, but the violence has been ramped up quite a bit. One thing to note is Spider-man's sudden shift in personality which effects his actions a good portion of the picture's 2 1/2 hour running time. I could see kids being slightly disturbed by the fact that Peter Parker is all of a sudden slamming people violently up against walls and wrecking havoc around New York City. Spider-man is back to normal by the film's conclusion, but I couldn't help but feel just a tad sad for the parents who brought their younger kids to go see it. This isn't a film designed with especially young children in mind, and I thought it was weird just how many five and six year old kids were in the theatre. Not so nice when you a hear toddler softly crying in the very back while you're trying to get emotinally involed with the story. Parents, be aware of the content in Spider-man 3 before you take your tyke! It gets just a tad scary, especially in the Venom/Eddie Brock church scene, where Brock seeking revenge turns into something truly ugly (more on that later)!
If he was this cool throughout the whole film, this would be one of the top movies of the summer. Unfortuantely, he's played by The 70's Show's Topher Grace. Doh!
Besides the clear shifts in tone, this is a Spider-man movie through and through. From the opening credits to the music, everything here feels authentic to the mythos that the first two films so clearly defined. You have your high-flying web-slinging antics, you have your slightly corny yet undeniably sweet romantic dialouge, and the usual mix of drama with superhero camp. What Spider-man 3 does is deliver everything that you come to expect from the series, but gives you three times more of it. Three times the villans, three times the drama, and three times the camp factor! Unfortuantely, the actual quality of the matieral is a real mixed bag.
I personally think more elements of the film should have been left underwraps. Imagine how awesome it would have been if we didn't know that Venom was in the film. I would have passed out in the theatre (probably not.. but you get my point).
Any review of Spider-Man 3 can't go without saying how dissaponting the villans were. Even though they're completely fleshed out and have understandable motives, they lack any kind of real menace. A severe case of mis-casting, giving such important adversary roles as Venom to the one and only.... Topher Grace from That 70's Show? You've gotta be kidding me right?! I think I have more menace in my left pinky then 'Eric Foreman' does! Why didn't it get cast in the role! Same goes for the Sandman... maybe a better title for him would be Can't-Act-Man. Impressive sand effects aside, his entire role felt rather tacked on to just throw another super villan into the frey. Is it really necessary to have three of them? Quality over quantity, my dear director. The only real redeeming factors of these two is the fact that.. well... they have cool visual effects embedded in their very souls! xD Just needed to say something postive here.
The real core of the story, however, is just as strong as it was in Spider-Man 2. Peter Parker is still your average neighbor Spider-Man, building up the courage to ask the love of his life (Mary Jane Watson) to marry him. Unfortuantely, things don't go so hot, and they start having issues. Major issues! I'm not going to leak any spoliers here, but let's just say that the reapperance of Harry Osbourne and a certain alien blob from outer space turns their entire world upside down. There are quite a few surprises along the way, so don't go in expecting the same ol' story, same ol' song and dance (Kirsten Dunst actually sings twice in the film.. random fact of the week). Infact, the plot often veered itself into directions I didn't expect, which for long time Spidey-fans is either going to ratchet up the tension... or cause them all to rise up and write director Sam Raimi some very angry hate mail! I personally found it all rather entertaining, but I've read many reviews from people how have thought differently. Personally, I feel I must applaud the filmmakers for trying something orginal instead of rehasing the orginals. In an age of uninspired sequels, this one at least has the guts to create something unique.
Holy towering mass of sand Spider-Man! Are we running out of villian ideas or what?!
Something that has really bugs me about these movies, but is something that everyone else seems to pass by... is the overall quality of the acting. The main cast delivers some decent performances, but most of the supporting characters are mostly unbelievable and overdrawn. I know it's a comic book movie, but we as audiences have grown up since the orginal Spider-man. There have been superhero films (like Batman Begins) that are not only great pieces of popcorn entertainment, but also deliver characters and scenarios that actually feel like they could exist in the real world, regardless of how ridicoulous they sound on paper. And that was mostly because the actors took their roles seriously, instead of camping it up because it's just another "superhero movie." The most obvious instance of this is when Topher Grace is in the church asking God to "Please, kill Peter Parker!" What could have been a really powerful and emotinal scene ends up falling flat because Mr. Grace is hamming it up so much that it seems more like he's auditioning for a play then asking The Lord to commit an act of unspeakable evil.
This acting problem even glistens through some of the scenes between Peter and MJ. Much like the orginal films, these are really quite sweet.. but they can also feel quite awkward and artifical. It doesn't happen on a frequent basis, but occasionally they'll say something that just sounds ridiculous or forced. I can't quite explain why I felt this way.. but something bothered me about some of the dialouge. It didn't feel natural, it didn't flow at times. But again, I felt that way about the first two movies. So if you're a fan of the series thus far, you'll find very little to complain about. The acting isn't terrible, it just didn't meet the potential I would expect from the last chapter of a comic book epic.
Despite all my complaing, Spider-Man 3 was still pretty decent!
What is so surprising is that besides all of its flaws, Spider-Man 3 manages to be an entertaining flick. The plot is very engaging, and the main characters are just as endearing and memorable as they were before. The action is exciting, the turns are surprising enough to keep your interest, and the ending is completely and utterly upsurd. Just to express how silly this conclusion feels without leaking spoliers.. I'll just say it's about the equivalence of getting the crap beat out of you by a bully. You decide not to turn the other way, and you decide to kick his butt! Then the bully gets all weepy-eyed, which makes you feel bad and you start to get weepy eyed. You both have a big hug, and you forgive the bully for all that horrid torture he put you through...... Yeah. Not the most inspired or imaginative ending in the world. Which is a shame, because the build-up was pretty intense.
So how did I feel after leaving the theatre? I'll just say that I left feeling satisfied and entertained, and isn't that what going to the movies is all about? It won't be winning any awards, and some fans will hate it, but I still think it is one of the most orginal sequels I've seen in a very long time. Not a great movie, not even a particularly well-structured movie, but still a worthy popcorn flick that most Spidey-fans will enjoy. Worth the price of admission, but not the best fly in the spider's web.