Friday, November 16, 2007

Spider-Man 3

This movie is sadly emblematic of one of the key problems that killed the Batman movies back in the mid-90s. While director Sam Raimi managed to make it through two films without resorting to overcrowding, it seems here that he has finally given in to the urge to cram two or three films’ worth of material into one. The result is a number of potentially good or great moments rushed through so much that we can’t really enjoy any of them.

The beginning of the film is dominated by Harry Osborne and the Sandman, both of whom could have easily achieved an impressive villainous role if going solo, but they aren’t given enough time to be properly developed. Harry, in order to make way for the rest of the plot, is hit on the head and develops amnesia until the final act, while the Sandman is just completely forgotten about. This frees up the middle portion of the film, where we’re given a clumsy love triangle between Spider-Man, Mary Jane, and new girl Gwen Stacy, as well as what is the weakest part of the film in Eddie Brock and Venom. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not such a purist that I need every character to have the exact same origin and story that they had in the comic, but if you’re going to change things around, then at least try to improve on the original story. They absolutely weakened Brock’s backstory here, making him a much more generic villain than he was in the comic. Additionally, one of the main points of Venom was that he was just like Spider-Man, only bigger and stronger, and Topher Grace is not the first person who comes to mind when I think big and strong.

The film does have a good number of good moments to it, don’t get me wrong. Bruce Campbell’s required cameo thoroughly steals the film, there are some good comedy scenes when Peter gets the black suit, and Sandman’s and Harry’s scenes, when they’re allowed to do more than stock villain material, works quite well. It’s just that, unlike Willem Dafoe or Alfred Molina in the first two films, they simply aren’t given any time to develop themselves, and the film suffers as a result. This is something that needed to be stretched out to two films. I don’t know if Raimi is just getting tired of doing the films and wanted to make sure he could throw in everything he had ever wanted to direct in them as quickly as he could, but he needs to calm back down and return to his earlier style, or this franchise is going to start winding down pretty quickly.

Rating: ** ½

UPDATE: Apparently Sam Raimi has gone on record saying he didn't want to include Venom in the film at all, but was pressured into it by the studio. This is clearly a case of either the studio being completely wrong, or Raimi half-assing his effort because he resented being made to include him. Either way, it drags the film down quite a bit.

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