Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Spider-Man 3


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 5/6/07 w/ Additional Edits.


Ever since Sam Raimi's film adaptation of the Spider-Man comic was released in 2002, the film was a smashing success as it proved that there's new life for film versions of comic books. Marvel's X-Men franchise and Hellboy both were big success though other comic book films like Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and The Punisher weren't well-received or beloved as other films. DC Comics even brought back old franchises of Batman and Superman with new films while in 2004, Sam Raimi released a new sequel to Spider-Man that drew rave reviews and huge box office. With the success of both films, it's no surprise that a third film would be made as Sam Raimi decides that this probably might be the last one for him.

Spider-Man 3 tells the story of Peter Parker's acceptance in being Spider-Man while finally gaining the love of his longtime sweetheart Mary Jane who accepts him both as Parker and as Spider-Man. Things seem to go right but until new villains arrive in the form of a man who has been revealed to be the real killer of his uncle while Harry Osborn has chosen to avenge his father in being the new Goblin. Making things worse is a new photographer vying for Parker's job while an alien lifeform has touched Peter's costume giving him newer, darker powers as well as changes to his personality. Based on the comic by Steve Dikto and Stan Lee, Spider-Man 3 is a more complex, darker story that reveals more of Parker's role in being himself and Spider-Man. With a screenplay written by Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi, and Alvin Sargent, director Sam Raimi goes for more drama and action in this new film.

With an all-star cast that includes returning franchise players Tobey Maguire in the title role along with Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Dylan Baker, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, and Bill Nunn. Joining the franchise for this third installment are Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Theresa Russell, Bryce Dallas Howard, and James Cromwell. Oh, there's also the often-needed appearance from Bruce Campbell. Spider-Man 3 brings all the thrills, chills, action, and everything expect in a blockbuster. Only problem is, it brings in too much of all that with no cohesive story.

Peter Parker's life is on the upswing as he's found a balance in being himself and being Spider-Man.  He's got everything going well for him while his love life with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is going great as she is about to star at a new Broadway play.  The only thing in Peter's life that hasn't been resolved is the strained friendship with Harry Osborn (James Franco) over the death of Harry's father and the revelation that Peter is Spider-Man.  Still overjoyed about his relationship with Mary Jane, Peter visit his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) as she gives him the old engagement ring Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) gave her years ago.  Unfortunately, Peter's new happy life is briefly interrupted by Harry's attack as the new Green Goblin as well as a nearby meteor crash.

Peter's fight with Harry ends up having Harry unconscious as he suffers temporary amnesia where Peter feels like he's regained his old friend again.  Just as things are going well for Peter, Mary Jane is hit with bad reviews over her Broadway performance as she sinks into despair as Peter tries to comfort her.  When news that a convict named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) has escaped and landed into an experimental sandpit, Peter learns from Captain Stacy (James Cromwell) about Marko who is revealed to be the man who killed his Uncle Ben.  Wanting revenge, Peter goes after Marko who is now the Sandman while dealing with a new young photographer named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who is after the staff photographer job at the Daily Bugle that Peter wants.

With Mary Jane's career going into a downward spiral and bothered by the presence of Peter's college classmate Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) whom Peter kissed as Spider-Man during a ceremony.  Meanwhile, a black substance appears into Peter's room where it changes Peter's attitude and makes his Spider-Man suit black as it plays into his new dark persona.  It would impact various relationships including Harry and Mary Jane as it would eventually tackle into Peter's state of mind as he fights not only the Sandman but another villain named Venom prompting Peter to get some unexpected help.

When films like comic book adaptations become franchises, sometimes they succeed in giving more time for character development and new adventures that will let the audience enjoy themselves. Then there's the idea where after one or two successful films, the next one has to be bigger and more appealing to a wider audience. For Spider-Man 3, it falls into the latter. While Sam Raimi does create what is expected in a blockbuster. Entertaining thrills and chills with lots of action, some romance, comedy, and such. The only problems is, he throws it all at once and overwhelms the audience. Even with a budget of $270 million plus a running time of nearly two-and-a-half hours, the result is a very bloated film.

One of those reasons is the script. The Raimi brothers plus Alvin Sargent clearly tried to put too many stories and subplot into one film. It starts out fine with the audience knowing what Peter Parker is up to, how happy he is and everything while having to deal with the new Goblin, Mary Jane's problem, and a separate scene involving Flint Marko.

Then, the film becomes episodic in some ways. Several scenes on their own are great to watch like the entire Bruce Campbell sequence as a French waiter with Peter's proposal plans is great on its own. Another group of scenes that was great is Peter Parker acting all super-cool with the black suit. The problems with those scenes is that it doesn't connect with the rest of the film. The script feels cramped with so many subplots, villains, and such. The story is lost with too many things. Even the theme of revenge, which is main moral purpose of the film, gets overwhelmed by the many stories that the writers tried to pull.

Then there's Raimi's direction. While Raimi is very good at capturing moments of drama, comedy, action, and all of that stuff. The problem is that he tries to give the audience everything they want. The result is a very inconsistent film that has a lot of great scenes and action. He just didn't know what to do with them. Even character favorites like Aunt May, Jonah Jameson, and Venom don't appear very much and have little to do. Then we have the new characters, with the exception of Flint Marko and Eddie Brock, that arrive and they're not really given much to do. Even Venom, who should've been in another movie with an entirely different story.

It's the excess that mars the film despite its emphasis to entertain. Still, Raimi does bring in a lot of fun to the film with references to previous Spider-Man movies. While fans of the previous films will enjoy that, they might feel that this third installment might not bring them enough closure or satisfaction. Though Raimi's intentions were good from the beginning, the result is clear that he tried to do too much.

Cinematographer Bill Pope brings some nice, stylish camera work that is just as intense than in previous films. Unfortunately, there's nothing new that hasn't been seen in those previous films. Though Pope has done good work and even better in the last film, he takes a step backwards and doesn't bring anything new. Production designers J. Michael Riva and Neil Spisak do fine work in creating some of the scenes but again, nothing new or exciting is created.

Costume designer James Acheson along with Katina Le Kerr create wonderful costumes with Acheson actually bringing something really cool to the black-suit Spider-Man wears along with new looks for the new Goblin. Editor Bob Murawski does some nice work on the editing in some sequences without going into the fast-cutting style that's in most blockbusters. Unfortunately, other sequences tend to drag which is really more Raimi's fault in his direction. Sound designer Paul N.J. Ottosson doesn’t bring anything new other than what's expected in a blockbuster film like this.

Visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk does create a lot of nice special effects with some great moments in the battle sequences. It's a highlight somewhat in the film but like the film itself, falls into the same trap of its excess. Taking over for Danny Elfman who scored the previous films is Christopher Young. While continuing to use the same themes that Elfman had created in the previous films. Young's score isn't very memorable as the ones Elfman had made. Though some of the jazz touches in a few of the scenes and show tunes are good, they don't work as a whole but only as individual moments.

The film's soundtrack again, is used for commercial purposes yet is more superior than previous films. With great cuts from Snow Patrol, the Killers, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Walkmen, and Flaming Lips, the soundtrack definitely leans towards indie music though cuts from bands like Jet and Beat Steaks aren't very good. A great track from the legendary Chubby Checker appears but doesn't fit in with the rest of the film.

Then there's the film's large cast. With small cameos from the likes of Raimi's own family like his kids plus brother Ted as Jameson's assistant Hoffman, Cliff Robertson in a brief flashback as Ben Parker, Bill Nunn as Robbie Robertson, and Stan Lee. The cameos are fun and nice to watch though one cameo from Willem Dafoe doesn't work this time around. While he had a nice cameo in the last film, Dafoe is mis-directed by giving a hammy performance that doesn't work.

Other small performances from Elya Baskin as Peter's landlord from the last film, Mageina Tovah as the cookie girl from that same film, and Elizabeth Banks as Miss Brandt are nice to watch, even in scenes where Tovah and Banks are being flirted by the bad Peter. Dylan Baker is good in a brief role as Parker's professor who studies what the symbiote does while Perla Haney-Jardine is good in her small role as Penny Marko.

While the talents of people like Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, and Theresa Russell are wonderful to watch. They have the unfortunate of appearing in the film very briefly. Theresa Russell only has one scene as Flint's frustrated, protective wife who despises her husband and it's too short. J.K. Simmons, who was a joy to watch in the last movie, doesn't appear as much as audiences would've wanted. It's a shame since he is one of the film's comic relief and Simmons always gives a great performance. Sadly, there's not enough of him.

The same for Rosemary Harris who had a lot to do in the last one but only appears in five scenes. While she is great in being the wise, maternal figure that Peter needed, she's just not there enough and often has to pop up when the film has to call her. It's a shame that she's not used enough. One performance that is good yet feels out-of-place is Harry's butler played by John Paxton. While he has appeared briefly in previous films, he has more but brings a lot of confusion to audiences in why he's here. He's good but feels out-of-place and what he tells Harry does create a plot-hole that would affect the entire trilogy.

There is no doubt that Bryce Dallas Howard is a very good actress despite appearing in two very bad films by M. Night Shymalan. Howard is really given nothing to do but look pretty, act like she gets in trouble and become a new love interest. It's obvious comic book purists won't like the way Gwen Stacy is used since she is the only other female friend in Peter's age group that he has aside from Mary Jane. Howard, despite what she has to do isn’t given anything to do. Topher Grace fares better in his role as the arrogant, competitive Eddie Brock who is kind of Peter's opposite in terms of trying to get a good photo and such. Yet, when Brock loses everything, Grace shows depth in Brock's despair and later, his transformation where Grace really proves his range that he can play creepy characters.

Thomas Haden Church gives an excellent performance as Flint Marko/Sandman. While having a similar presence to what Alfred Molina have as Doc Ock in the previous film, Church managed to sell his complex performance as a man who runs into bad luck in his attempt to do the right thing. While Church managed to be interesting as Sandman, he does fell for the same kind of villainous trap that's been seen in other films. It's the script that fails him a bit later on though Church's performance is a standout. James Franco is good when he's being bad but when he's acting like all good, it doesn't work. Plus, he has a tendency to overact when he's being really emotional which makes his entire performance uneven.

Kirsten Dunst gives probably her best performance in the entire franchise. Probably because her character has to deal with realism and being the role of Spider-Man/Peter Parker's girlfriend. Dunst truly sells herself with a restraint and maturity that is very different from her previous roles. While she does have to be the same damsel-in-distress that she has done in other films, at least she got more to do.

Tobey Maguire is again, excellent in his performance as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Maguire sells the good boy performance while adding more flaws to the character as Parker acts over-confident and such. Yet, when McGuire starts to act bad, it's all done in comic gold. Maguire looks like he's having fun in playing bad and even when he's good, he's still having fun. Maguire gives a great performance though kind of fall shorts from the one he gave in the last one. The film's best performance is indeed, Bruce Campbell. Though it's only for less than 10 minutes, his entire sequence is truly one of the best. Campbell definitely sells himself with a bad French accent, waiting for Parker to give a signal and such. The man should be rewarded. He played Ash and Bubba Ho-Tep. This film is not about Spider-Man, it's about a guy named BBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

While the film does bring in what is expected in high-octane entertainment, Spider-Man 3 falls very short of its expectations and in comparison to its predecessor, the weakest so far. While the film has a nice cast, some cool visual effects, action and such. The end result is a film that falls into the cliche of bigger is better mentality. While it's no doubt Sam Raimi is a great director, he definitely fumbles in trying to create a film for everyone which is impossible.  The overall result is a very bloated and excessive film that tries to please everyone only to leave everyone disappointed.

Sam Raimi Films: The Evil Dead - (Crimewave) - Evil Dead II - (Darkman) - Army of Darkness - (The Quick & the Dead) - (A Simple Plan) - (For the Love of the Game) - (The Gift) - Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - (Drag Me to Hell) - (Oz the Great and Powerful)

© thevoid99 2011

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