I don’t think I have ever anticipated a movie as painfully and anxiously as I have been anticipating “Spider-Man 3”. These past few years of waiting were tough, but these recent months, once the onslaught of marketing laid siege to my senses…well, they have been absolute torture. So, let me just say, the end result justified every minute of vein-popping anticipation. And then some.
You should know the story by now: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The guy’s life is usually a mess, but wouldn’t you know it, things are just getting worse. First off, Peter wants to ask Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) to marry him, but their relationship has been rocky as of late. Peter doesn’t do his love life any favors after a bizarre alien symbiote bonds to his Spidey costume, enhancing his powers but causing his personality to go haywire. If that wasn’t enough, his once good friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) has finally decided to take vengeance on Pete for the death of his father, the Green Goblin, by becoming the New Goblin.
But still there’s more.
Escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) has been identified as the real killer of Peter’s Uncle Ben, but bringing him to justice won’t be easy. It would seem that after stumbling into a science experiment, Marko has been atomically transformed into the shifting Sandman. The Sandman is out to steal money to solve his own personal problems, but a meaner, darker Spider-Man isn’t about to cut him any slack.
And still there’s more!
Peter finds competition in freelance photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) whose out to snatch up the prized staff position at the Daily Bugle. Brock is determined to get the job at any cost, which naturally leads to some conflict with the totally-off-his-rocker Spider-Man. Spidey may just do something he’ll live to regret and create the greatest villain he’ll ever face.
Whew. And that was just the Reader’s Digest version. There are so many plots going on in this film you’ll feel like you’re watching three sequels at once. However, unlike other superhero flicks which try to shoehorn too many villains into too slender a runtime (“Batman & Robin”), “Spider-Man 3” pulls it off almost without a hitch.
The problem I had with “Spider-Man 2” (and don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie) was that it was about 80% Peter and Mary Jane romantic drama and only 20% superhero action. On top of that, it was so dark and depressing it just didn’t feel like the way Spidey’s supposed to feel. It was very…unbalanced.
Well, I can assure you that practically every qualm “Spider-Man 2” left me with was nowhere to be seen in this installment. Director Sam Raimi blends the humor, the action and the drama all together without losing sight of what the audience really wants to see: superheroes!
The first doubt on everyone’s mind (at least to the people I talked to, as well as myself) was whether or not Raimi could work three villains into one movie and still give them character and personality. For the most part, he did a stellar job. The New Goblin was ready to go, as Harry already had two film’s worth of character development under his belt. He comes off best of the villains, fulfilling what the audience has been anticipating since the end of the first film. He’s a very strong character and drives home the film’s message about choice and consequence magnificently.
That leaves Sandman and Venom to contend with. Sandman has more depth, personality and backstory in this one movie than he ever had in the comics. I mean, in his first appearance in the comics he took a high school principal hostage, demanding a diploma and was eventually defeated when Spidey lured him into a janitor’s closet and sucked him up with a vacuum cleaner. Kind of hard not to improve upon that origin. The bit with Sandman’s daughter as well as his connection to Uncle Ben’s murder are worked off very well, tying him into the story and giving him purpose other than being a random villain for Spidey to beat up. Thomas Haden Church should get some sort of award for his portrayal of the character, as he is the spitting image of the Sandman from head to toe. It’s almost spooky.
And then there was Venom. He’s the one everyone seemed most interested in, as Sony seemed to want to keep him all hush-hush. While I liked him in the movie, I really did, he was probably the weakest of the three baddies. But that’s hardly an insult, considering how well done all three of them were. My problem didn’t lie with Topher Grace as Eddie Brock. I actually dug his portrayal of the character, which I didn’t expect I would, and I found his delivery of humor alongside his natural nerdishness to actually enhance Brock. Venom is generally viewed as the “anti-Spider-Man”, so by making Brock a character that came off as “Peter Parker gone bad” instead of a roid-raging brute, it got the point across a lot better. The symbiote is what I had the problem with. It sort of just came out of nowhere, almost feeling tacked on. Its effect on Peter’s personality and how that drove the story was great, but the way it was introduced into the story was just so “um…okay! …Wait…what?”
Now, like I said earlier, one of my issues with “Spider-Man 2” was the lack of humor. Spider-Man’s supposed to be a funny guy, that’s part of his character. A humorless Spidey is just not right. Well, I can assure you right now, this movie is 100% funnier than the previous installment, almost side-splittingly so. Raimi gives Spidey his one-liners and proper personality but also works some of his trademark awkward and bizarre humor into various scenes and montages. The whole theater was cracking up. You’d think a movie where Peter Parker goes all emo would be dark and gothy, but you’d be wrong.
Of the three Spider-Man movies released thus far (and I pray there will be more), I enjoyed this one the most. Far more epic and balanced than the last two (which I loved), “Spider-Man 3” is a grand finale to the trilogy, with the emphasis on “grand”. While I want more more more, if the series does end on this note, I won’t complain.