Published on May 4th, 2007 | by Paul Greenwood0
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Rosemary Harris, Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, J.K. Simmons, Cliff Robertson
With great success comes great expectation. Financially and critically the most successful comic-book adaptations to date, the Spider-Man franchise reaches its difficult third episode with a hell of a lot riding on it and the webslinger now fighting his battles on at least four fronts. That it doesn’t quite deliver everything we may have come to expect could have more to do with the standards and promises set by the first two films rather than specific failings with this one.
Having spent the first two episodes establishing the relationships between Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Maguire) and Mary Jane (Dunst) and Peter and Harry Osborne (Franco), the resolution of these threads forms the backbone of this outing, but complete satisfaction remains elusive.
Harry (Franco) is still mightily pissed off because he thinks Spider-Man/Peter killed his father, and he fancies himself as the new Green Goblin. Meanwhile, escaped convict Flint Marko (Church), who it turns out is Uncle Ben’s real killer (!!!) becomes The Sandman, a near indestructible mud monster. On a personal level, something these movies have always excelled at, Peter fears he’s losing MJ. Then there’s the black alien goo that has taken over Spidey’s suit, enhancing his powers, but turning him vengeful and hate-filled. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock (Grace), the new photographer at the Bugle, has a beef with Peter that will eventually manifest itself in the form of a new baddie called Venom.
Fun and exciting it may be but, with so much packed in, Spider-Man 3 remains strangely underwritten, never managing to be quite as stirring as the outstanding second chapter. The missing ingredient is the surprising lack of emotional depth needed to carry off some of the events. This may have something to do with the curiously upbeat, jaunty tone that Raimi adopts for much of the proceedings (the Saturday Night Fever scenes are just horrible) but it’s also quite badly paced and edited in places, events of huge import hurried along, the quicker to get to the next dust up.
Speaking of which, close to half a billion dollars must have been spent on getting the special effects right over three films, so it’s no surprise that the action scenes are spectacular, both in scope and execution, while the climactic four-way showdown is truly something to behold. But often it’s a case of ticking off the fights like a video game: Spider-Man versus the Goblin, Spider-Man versus Sandman, Spider-Man versus Sandman again until repetition quietly but undeniably becomes a major issue.
By most standards, Spider-Man 3 is an outstanding piece of action-fantasy cinema. By the standards already set by the franchise however, it’s got to be seen as something of a disappointment. Ultimately, what you’ll get is a rollicking good time at the movies that falls some way short of achieving the epic greatness to which it (quite rightly) aspires.