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"Spider-Man 3"

Directed by Sam Raimi.
Written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Alvin Sargent.  Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and others. 
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  5/6/07


I liked "Spider-Man", I loved "Spider-Man 2"...but, I was very unimpressed by "Spider-Man 3."  That came early, was repeated often, and during a shocking stretch at the three-quarters mark, I didn't know what this film had turned into.

Truly a creature of excess, "Spider-Man 3" has a number of problems that I'm sure many of you identified even in the trailers for this movie.  The movie itself follows our man Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), as he tries to pin down the funds for an engagement ring to offer to his babe, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).  This is tricky because 1) he's only a lowly photographer for the Daily Bugle, 2) he's always in class trying to earn a degree, and 3) he's always at home listening to his police scanner because he's out fighting crime literally all the time now.  (This is a lot of places to "always" be.)  MJ is a struggling actress on Broadway and is having a hard time figuring out Peter's commitments.  While all of the romantic struggles are going on, Spidey's got bigger problems: an escaped convict named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church, by far this film's best consistent human asset) is on the run and considered dangerous because he likes to rob banks; and, a rival photographer at the Bugle, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), loses his job and eventually wants Parker dead for ratting him out at the paper.  Oh, shit, wait...there's a third bad guy, too, in the form of Peter's best friend Harry (James Franco), who is STILL pissed off that Peter--who Harry knows is Spider-Man--killed Harry's dad (Willem Dafoe) in the first movie.  Dubbing himself New Goblin, he uses some of his dad's leftover technology and comes after Peter, too.

There are backstories behind the bad guys that you'll see in the movie, and of course, the romantic angle between Peter and MJ takes up a good portion of this very long movie.  I'm leaving it out because in the scheme of things, it didn't really matter in this movie--I just wasn't having it during my screening on Friday afternoon, and neither was my sold-out audience, which was quiet throughout the film's running time.

I'll give director Sam Raimi credit--he clearly had the approval of studio management to spend and write whatever he wanted, and this turns the film into an opus that is very un-big-summer-movie-y; you can tell from the script that Raimi set out to make a film that is very different from the norm and in some ways, he succeeds, especially in establishing the Marko character.  But as the script derails (more on that in a second), the action really takes a hit in "Spider-Man 3", in almost all areas: the overblown Spidey-flies-all-over-town-with-his-web sequences are just tired now; fight scenes between Peter and Harry don't feel right and the hyper-cut editing is oftentimes blinding; the filmmakers give us many more Spidey-shoots-web-bullets numbers and those don't feel right; the end sequence is nothing short of awful; most of the Marko-as-Sandman action scenes LOOK really cool but aren't very interesting.  The action in "Spider-Man 2" was a marked improvement over the first film, but that is all lost in this newest sequel.

And, since the action is mostly no good--plus we get a script that is darker and more serious than the first film--it is an absolute revelation when we get our requisite Bruce Campbell cameo mid-film because it's one of the only funny things in this movie.  (Note: I know that people suck because I was the only one in the theater laughing when Campbell appeared onscreen--he's the maitre d' at the French restaurant), indicating to me that NO ONE knows who this guy is.  Most people have probably never even seen any of Campbell's other films; his most famous films are the "Evil Dead" flicks, but he makes random appearances all the time in films, mostly B-level action/horror/comedies.  Anyway, once this sequence is out the window, you have to prepare yourself for lots of sores on your ass as you wait out the final hour-plus of this ridiculous opus.

None of this film is as ridiculous as the aforementioned sequence of events where, three-quarters of the way through the movie, Peter falls in love with the Venom costume and its effects on his psyche...needless to say, you will either love this bit or you really, REALLY won't.  My theater was shocked into submission by this bit; by the time Peter is strolling down the street with his "dark" hairdo (nothing more than some bangs over his right eye) and making eyes at various women on the street, you almost can't believe someone allowed this sequence into the movie.  There are many other corny bits in this film (my friend Schmoove did remind me this week how bad that British news reporter is near the end...), but none can top this 10-minute stretch and it kills whatever love you still had for "Spider-Man 3."

At $250 million, "Spider-Man 3" is far and away the most expensive movie of our time...and, far from the best.  Luckily, it's making a shit-ton of money at the box office.  Too bad it's mostly dogshit, save for those above-average special effects.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09