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May 10, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Spider-Man 3

To call Spider-Man 3 a failure along the lines of Joel (hack) Schumacher's Batman & Robin would be a slap in the face to Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and anyone else involved with the Spiderman franchise. However, to call it a colossal disappointment compared to its predecessors (much like both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were compared to the Tim Burton-directed first two Caped Crusader films) is pretty much spot on.

Suffering from "sequelitis," Spider-Man 3 is bloated in terms of both time and characters, while simultaneously being empty and devoid of any real characters. How ironic, as one of the trailers shown just prior to the film was for Shrek the Third. In it, the voice over couldn't stop saying the words "More ___!" As in, "More funny!" or "More danger!" or "More stupidity!" You get the drift.

Why do "they" always think that "More!" is the answer when it comes to sequels? If your characters and story are strong, you don't need to blow the audience away with what amounts to little more than window dressing - if you are going to, at least ensure that the new additions are adding substance to the franchise. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is also heading down this route - what started as something based in a place somewhere in the vicinity of reality has turned into a sci-fi/CGI freak fest, where anything is possible, and everything has something to do with a pirate. Strange, since I don't recall any of these things from the Disneyland ride, and I never realized there were that many pirates in the world to begin with. But this is, after all, a Jerry Bruckheimer production we're talking about. I should not be surprised in the least.

Anyhow, back to Spider-Man 3. What started as a strong franchise with the first, then gained momentum even with the second, has taken a large step backwards with this installment. Gone is any sense of magic or discovery - replaced only by MORE effects (!!), choppily edited action sequences, and campy bad dialogue. It's also bloated to almost two and a half hours.

(Note: spoilers ahead)

For starters, the character of the Sandman is totally useless. His backstory (it turns out HE was the actual killer of Uncle Ben) feels forced, as if the writers (Sam Raimi and his brother, amongst others) felt they needed some extra gravitas brought to the film. Thomas Haden Church, playing Sandman, is given hackneyed lines and a sappy purpose - he was only trying to get some money to save his daughter! He didn't mean any harm! The gunfire was an accident! Who cares? Good as Haden Church may be in other roles, he's wasted here (in more ways than one - he's probably only on screen for five minutes; the rest of the time, "he" is just sand). Cutting his character would have trimmed a good 20-25 minutes from the film.

It's not like they needed gravitas, either. The most interesting plot of the series has been not Peter and Mary Jane's on-again/off-again romance, but Peter's ongoing friction with his best friend, Harry Osborne, whose father Peter/Spidey had a hand in killing. This part of the story plays out well in the first act, only to be rendered ridiculous, as Harry/New Goblin suddenly develops a convenient case of short-term memory loss as if it were a cold that some fourth-grader passed on to him. Insults are later added to "injury" as Harry becomes slightly retarded, apparently a result of his amnesia, and as he telegraphs his fate to the audience, in one of the worst cases of foreshadowing I've ever seen on film (Harry to random nurse, after nurse tells him that he has great friends (Peter/MJ): "They are great...I'd give my lives for them."

Are you effing kidding me?

I'll spare you details from the rest, as it just goes downhill from there. To sum up:

* The Venom character is underused, yet very cool.
* Sand flies without the aid of wind (I'm willing to buy into a lot of sci-fi conventions here, including how a man made of sand also has clothes made of sand, but this one was too much for me).
* Harry (!!) dies saving his friend, just minutes after uttering such cheesy lines as "Hey - do you mind helping me out here?" in the midst of a deadly action sequence - glad the mood was light.
* MJ apparently does not shampoo when her life is in turmoil. Apparently, this is how the filmmakers have decided to inform us of her moods - via how homeless she looks. Dirty, frazzled hair? Unhappy MJ. Clean, bouncy hair? Happy MJ. Shoot me.
* Peter becomes infected with obnoxiousness and does his best BeeGees impersonation, to the giddy delight (er, embarrassed laughter) of the ladies of NYC.
* Fletch stops caring about the Spider-Man franchise.

Fletch's Film Rating:


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