Directed by: Sam Raimi
Premise: In this third film in the Spider-Man franchise, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) encounters an extraterrestrial substance that amplifies his aggression and causes him to act in less than heroic ways. At the same time, his relationship to Mary Jane is disrupted and the city is threatened by three new super villains.
What Works: Spider-Man 3 has the sense of being the ending of the series and the film ties up many of its loose ends, namely the conflict between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Harry Osborn/New Goblin (James Franco). Something unique about Spider-Man 3 both within this series and within the comic book genre is that the story is more about Peter Parker than it is about his superhero alter ego and this Spider-Man film gives Parker more interesting things to do, pushing into darker areas and questioning what it means to be a hero. There are some very well done moments between Parker and Mary Jane that would play well in a straight drama and give Spider-Man 3 a level of dramatic authority that is rare in the comic book genre. The film’s scope is very ambitious and the story is well unified both within this installment and in relation to the other films in the series.
What Doesn’t: On the whole this Spider-Man installment seems to be repeating a lot of things seen in the first two pictures. The ups and downs in the relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), the conflict with Harry, and the various action sequences come across as rehashes of scenes from the previous installments. The action sequences are bigger, the conflicts are louder, but all in all Spider-Man 3 has very little material that is new. Part of the trouble is that the filmmakers are so busy trying to cram as much of the Spider-Man mythos into the picture as possible that it becomes bloated with introductions of characters and concepts but it does not have the space to develop them properly. For instance, Spider-Man 3 includes three super villains, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Venom (Topher Grace), and New Goblin, and while the film cuts between them fairly well, none get much treatment as characters or as antagonists. As a consequence, the film spends a great deal of its time setting up the new characters rather than ramping up their conflict with Spider-Man into an appropriate climax.
Bottom Line: Spider-Man 3 is a middle tier comic book film. In many ways it is better than the original film but so much is recycled from previous adventures that this Spider-Man feels more like a trailer than an actual film.
Episode: #140 (May 6, 2007)