Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, J K Simmons.
Director: Sam Raimi
Screeplaywrights: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent
Rating: 2 ½ *
Spider-man 3 is a puzzling mix of great special effects and long, boring sequences. Last I checked, the film was not called The Issues of Peter Parker and Everyone Else He Loves or Hates.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has a complacency issue: If all is right with my world, then you can learn a thing or some from me and make right your world, isn’t it?
Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) has career issues. Her Broadway debut flopped and she is heart-broken. Her boyfriend Peter is oblivious to her anguish and so, she rushes off to cry on the shoulder of their dear friend, Harry Osborn.<b1>
Harry Osborn (James Franco) – the serious eye-candy of the film, who looks like a young Alain Delon – is full of issues. His daddy is dead. But his daddy loved him, didn’t he? And Spider-man? He killed his daddy, didn’t he? But Peter is his best friend, isn’t he? So he, Harry, should avenge his father’s death, shouldn’t he? And the best way he can do that is to attack Spider-man’s emotional core, isn’t it? So, he must coerce Mary Jane, mustn’t he?
Escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), wanted for the murder of Peter’s uncle Ben Parker, has guilt issues. He needs money to treat his dying daughter. A serendipitous bath in some crazy science experiment changes Marko’s body chemistry and he becomes the Sandman. He does not like being thwarted in his pursuit of money, not by Spider-man and certainly not by Ben Parker’s nephew.
Cue to Peter again. His issues now include jealousy of Harry, anger at Mary Jane and an NYC-sized chip on his shoulder. Now, could that black alien goo covering him have anything to do with it?
<b2>Hot-shot photographer Eddie Brock Jr (Topher Grace) has ethics issues and eventually, Peter Parker issues. When a job is dangled to him by J Jonah Jameson (J K Simmons) – “Get pictures of Spider-man with his hand in the cookie jar!” – Brock plays with Photoshop, but is found out by Peter and subsequently fired. Now, how can he do Peter critical harm? Maybe that black alien goo may help him? Why, hello, Venom.
As for special effects, don’t be surprised if Industrial Light and Magic’s stock trebles. They are so good that a few more watches may be recommended if it wasn’t cruel and unusual punishment to sit through the entire film just for those scattered 40-odd minutes! The editing is excellent, too, as the grand finale proves.
The film is more than two hours long and filled with sub-plots which are too rushed or too poorly developed. Continuity goofs are there aplenty for the eagle-eyed to point out and laugh at (watch Peter’s bloodied face getting cleaned up a frame later).<b3>
The film-makers underscore that cause-and-effect works everywhere and try to give some half-baked rationale why Good People Become Bad. This overtly simplistic notion is a far cry from the utterly evil and irredeemable super-villains (The Joker, Kingpin, Green Goblin) we love to loathe.
Communication and coming clean is clearly the order of the day when, at the end, everyone tells everyone else why they were angry with/loathed/wanted to kill the other.
Meanwhile, watch out for J Jonah Jameson – he is a hoot. Harry Osborn has good screen presence too and he does well with it.
Just for the record, the villain in the soon-to-exist Spider-man 4 (or one of the later parts) just may be Lizard-man. Why? Peter’s professor, who analyses the alien goo, is none other than Dr Curtis Connor.