Saturday, May 05, 2007

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3

Firstly: Spider-Man 3 is the best of the trilogy.
Secondly: Spider-Man 3 is the worst of the trilogy.

This one of the most bipolar films I have ever seen, taking viewers to new heights in terms of action and drama while at the same time hitting rock bottom when it comes to character development and coherency. At times, this movie is great. At other times, it's downright annoying.

At the start of the film, life is good for Peter - the public loves Spider-Man, and his relationship with Mary Jane seems to be going well. Unfortunately, Mary Jane is receiving awful reviews for her performance in a Broadway play, and is indignant at her boyfriend's success. Meanwhile, Harry Osborne is still seeking revenge for the death of his father, a slimy symbiote from outer space is following Peter around, and an escaped convict finds that his molecules have binded with sand after a tragic accident. Oh, and said convict is evidently the real perpetrator behind the murder of Peter's uncle. Plus, a new photographer named Eddie Brock is competing with Peter for a staff position at the Bugle. Have you got all that?

It's a lot to keep straight, but for the first half Raimi manages to find the perfect balance between all of the multiple storyarcs that are taking place. The character development is solid, the action scenes are spectacular, and I actually wasn't put off by the oft-criticized performances of Maguire and Dunst. If the first half was any indication, Spider-Man 3 was shaping up to be the darkest, most complex and overall best of the trilogy.

And then it all falls apart.

The third-fourth of the film feels like something out of a different movie. A subplot involving Mary Jane and Harry doesn't flow well, and leads into a 20-minute segment involving Peter as a selfish, angsty, symbiote drug user - or as I like to call him: Emo Pete. Emo Pete dresses in black, dances in the streets, and changes his hair to look like the guitarist from Good Charlotte. Emo Pete also has no place in a Spider-Man film, and makes me want to rip my eyes out of my skull.

It should be noted that Emo Pete is different from Emo Spidey. Emo Spidey can still be annoying (one fight scene in particular contains dialogue that sounds like it was taken directly from a schoolyard brawl between middle-schoolers), but at least he beats people up.

The final fourth of the film is a mishmash of grand spectacle and over-the-top melodrama. The final fight sequence involving all four of the main heroes and villains is the most visually fantastic fight of the series, and also the most suspenseful, even if Topher Grace's voice doesn't quite match up with Venom. In terms of action, it doesn't get much better than this. Unfortunately, the dramatic moments between characters feel flat, due mainly to poor dialogue, poor performances, and a cheesy musical score that seems almost overbearing. To me, this fourth of the film basically summarizes the movie as a whole: good action that is undermined by small (and sometimes major) problems with character development and drama.

Going into the film, I was worried that Spider-Man 3 would feel crowded with too many villains. The opposite is true: not enough time is spent with the villains, particularly Sandman and Venom. The most formidable and visually spectacular foes Spider-Man has ever faced aren't given the screen time and development they deserve in favor of watching Peter go through a silly emotional crisis. As a result, Spider-Man 3 is the best of the series in terms of visuals and action, and the worst in terms of how we relate to the characters. If I request one thing from the studios regarding the inevitable Spider-Man 4, it would be the following:

More action, less angst, please.