Property review: Spider-Man 3

Photo courtesy of

Photo cour­tesy of

Spider-Man 3

Colum­bia Pic­tures, 2007

Webcrawler stum­bles a third time

Let’s get some­thing straight from the begin­ning: Tobey Maguire, in no way, failed the Spider-Man fran­chise. There’s plenty of blame to go around out­side of the cast of the once-juggernaut film prop­erty fea­tur­ing everyone’s friendly neigh­bor­hood wall-crawler, but none of it needs to ensnare Maguire in its web. No, the blame game needs to be played like a who’s who gath­er­ing of spin the ter­ri­ble film bot­tle with Sam Raimi and who­ever was his cast­ing director.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 had quite a bit going for each film, espe­cially the first film. But by the time the third film rolls around, there isn’t much here to be seen that hasn’t been done before. That is the unfor­tu­nate nature of a trilogy.

There’s Peter Parker, Maguire’s lov­able under­dog that has as much root­ing power and lik­a­bil­ity to carry a film from start to fin­ish. Then there’s Mary Jane Wat­son, the hero­ine. While Kirsten Dunst does an admirable job of being the red­headed damsel in dis­tress that is early Wat­son, she was kind of play­ing it by the num­bers by the time the final piece of the puz­zle was in place. For some rea­son, Bryce Dal­las Howard is thrown in as long­time Spider-Man girl­friend Gwen Stacy. Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and James Franco round out the vil­lainy, which is a rather numer­ous rogue gallery.

The fact that we’ve just typed three names in one sen­tence to describe the lineup of vil­lains is a major prob­lem and, quite frankly, the worst issue with the film. The story is fine and we like the ori­gin story told here for Venom. The prob­lem is there isn’t enough time to show­case Venom’s story prop­erly. The rea­son? Too many vil­lains. We’ve said it time and again: Too many foes for the pro­tag­o­nist can and will ruin a film. Spider-Man 3 is eas­ily the worst offender of this practice.

The film feels overly long and bloated to start with, but when Sand­man turns into New Gob­lin who turns into Venom, it’s just too much to deal with. The pac­ing suf­fers imme­di­ately after New Gob­lin makes his first appear­ance, and once Eddie Brock takes on the symbiote/“black suit,” the film swiftly devolves into unmit­i­gated chaos.

Another prob­lem was the ter­ri­ble effect of drag­ging in vil­lains for the sake of hav­ing a vil­lain. Venom imme­di­ately suf­fers the brunt of the pain here and it’s appalling what’s done to the char­ac­ter. First of all, in the comics, a pump­kin bomb from the New Gob­lin does not kill Venom; can­cer even­tu­ally does the job. Sec­ond of all, if you’re going to bother doing Venom at all, do him jus­tice and get it right. Venom is arguably Spider-Man’s most lethal and engag­ing foe, a lot like the Joker is to Bat­man or Lex Luthor is to Super­man. Venom deserved his own film, and pair­ing him up to fight the wall-crawler is an imme­di­ate injus­tice to the character’s his­tory. Venom doesn’t need any­one else to carry his movie if done right. Finally, Venom looked ter­ri­ble. The char­ac­ter CGI was awful and looked cheap. If this is the rea­son why it took so long to get Venom in a film against Spidey, they could have kept him and saved him for the even­tual reboot we all knew was coming.

And that reboot? It was appar­ent with the rote aura sur­round­ing the film long before its release. What is espe­cially anger­ing is the dumbed-down approach to the film itself. In the months lead­ing up to the film, the main­stream appeal to the basic film­goer was pan­der­ing at best, highly insult­ing at worst. Seri­ously? The adver­tis­ing and trailer appeal of a “black suit” that makes Peter Parker flip out was ter­ri­ble. Trust us when we say the aver­age movie viewer had no idea what the alien sym­biote was about let alone cared. So when the comic knowl­edge­able saw that, it caused a chuckle for what it was worth. Spider-Man had become a “movie event of the year” type of thing, and indeed, his cash sense was prob­a­bly tin­gling. Too bad he had to sac­ri­fice qual­ity to do it.

Ter­ri­ble pac­ing, too many vil­lains, a tired sub­plot and an over­all lack­adaisi­cal feel? Thanks but no thanks. The spi­der had done all that a spi­der can and it was well past time for him to move on.

Like the comics?: 7

Cast­ing: 7

Plot: 5

Over­all score: 19 out of 30 or 6

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

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