"How was the new SPIDERMAN movie?"
That was an exchange I overheard while waiting to be seated at Zodiac in Baltimore last weekend. Despite this one-word waitstaff review, I was still looking forward to seeing the latest entry in Sam Raimi's SPIDERMAN saga.
Unfortunately, I think I'm in agreement with that sentiment. SPIDERMAN 3 is a gooey mess of a movie filled with half-baked subplots and incredible coincidences. Like the later entries in the BATMAN series, SPIDERMAN 3 suffers under the weight of three villains and the main character's uninteresting personal challenges.
The film begins with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) on top of the world. Rather than the "wealth and fame, he's ignored," Parker seems to be doing well at school, making a good-enough living to take his girl, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), to a posh French restaurant and, as Spiderman, he's the hero of the city. Even the Daily Bugle seems to write good things about him. Despite this, bad things start happening to Peter when Mary Jane gets justifiably trashed and fired after a poor showing in her Broadway debut (apparently she needs a better agent as her contract was less than iron-clad). Peter, like so many of us, tries to cheer Mary Jane up by comparing her poor fortune (he knows about the bad reviews but she inexplicably hides her dismissal from him) to his old days when he was always taking heat as a "Spider Menace." When Peter kisses the pretty-from-certain-angles Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) at a Spiderman Appreciation Day ceremony, he sends the self-esteem-impaired Mary Jane over the edge and into the arms of their old pal Harry Osborn (James Franco).
The film begins with Osborn trying to kill Peter to avenge the death of his father, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), from the first SPIDERMAN movie. Believe it or not but Harry hits his head and gets a convenient case of cinematic amnesia that makes him into a lovable, albeit superpowered, goof who can catch falling vases and basketballs with ease but has trouble flipping omelettes.
Zany coincidences continue with a meteor hitting the ground near Peter and Mary Jane that contains a symbiote which waits around until it's most inconvenient to form a new spiderman suit that brings out Peter's darker and more dorkier side. In his nifty black suit Peter doesn't show any mercy or sense of shame, killing a criminal (kind of) and acting like a complete tool as he bops down the street like Disco Stu. I half expected to hear "Staying Alive" on the soundtrack as Peter goes shuffling through the street, people thinking he's crazy. Despite warnings from his professor, Doctor Connors (Dylan Baker), Peter throws caution and good sense to the wind by allowing the black suit to make him ever more intolerable as a protagonist.
Apparently the black suit has the same effect on Peter Parker as the "tar kryptonite" had on Clark Kent in the third SUPERMAN film.
Other subplots and narrative threads include Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a hot shot photographer who happens to be dating Gwen Stacy and who's after a staff job at the Daily Bugle and Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), a criminal with a heart of gold (he's desperate for cash to save his sickly daughter) who suddenly is written into the Spiderman back story as the man who killed Peter's Uncle. Marko is the unfortunate victim of some really slipshod scientists doing experiments out in the open at night with an uncontrolled environment. This turns him into the Sand Man, one of Spidey's long-time foes from the Marvel Comic books.
Along with the malicious meteors and amnesia there are some other big coincidences happening in SPIDERMAN 3 such as when Spiderman decides to take off the black suit in a church tower and accidentally hits a big bell, revealing the symbiote's weakness for loud noises (he doesn't even realize this until far later). Who else is in the church? None other than Eddie Brock who can see Peter Parker's struggle (and face) from the ground floor. (Does anyone not know who Spiderman is by now?) The symbiote takes over Brock and amplifies his hatred for Peter Parker (who got him fired from the Bugle) and turns him into "Venom," yet another spider foe.
Eventually Harry regains his memory, Venom teams up with Sand Man, and Peter dons the classic blue and red suit again. This leads to the film's final over-directed special effects-laden conclusion which continues to show that Spiderman has absolutely no spider-sense ability in this film.
I suppose that SPIDEMAN 3 comes as more of a shock to the system after SPIDERMAN 2 was such a solid story that primarily dealt with one super criminal while continuing to explore the pathos of Peter Parker. SPIDERMAN 3 feels like someone grabbed a handful of "Amazing Spiderman" issues and ran them through a shredder. They pasted together a few bits and guessed at the rest to create a Frankenscript that just barely holds together and crumbles under scrutiny.
This is another example of why you should always tip and trust your waitress. Had I believed her, I would have been up $14. I just hope there's something here that the Fan Editors can salvage. Eliminating one out of the six or more subplots would definitely help this rough beast.