I consider Raimi’s previous two Spider-Man films to be perhaps the best comic book films ever made; bright and colourful where required with just the right blend of comedy, action and pathos, and perfectly cast as well. With the possible exception of the dreary Aunt May and her tedious moralising, these were films that did everything right. Now…let’s take a look at Spider-Man 3.
In a nutshell, then: I enjoyed Spider-Man 3 a lot, but a lot of people thought it was awful and I can see why. There’s a range of complaints made against the film: too many characters, too many enemies, a poor script and a plot that’s heavy with coincidence and poor exposition, and I can’t really argue with any of that.
There are too many characters — there’s not only the newly-arrived Gwen Stacy and her police Captain father but Peter’s landlord, the landlord’s daughter, his university lecturer, his boss at the Daily Bugle (plus his own team of supporting characters), MJ, Aunt May and even Uncle Ben returning in flashbacks. Characters are essentially just wheeled on to deliver a line or two before being shuffled off to make room for others — character developer is thus practically non-existent.
As for the enemies, we get the Sandman, Venom and Green Goblin Jr. There’s also the infamous Black Suit, an alien symbiote that enhances Peter’s strength and agility but also exaggerates the negative aspects of his character. With the possible exception of Goblin Jr., each of these antagonists could easily have supported an entire film by themselves — as it is, there’s very little time to develop any feelings towards any of them, and Venom’s last-minute appearance appears bolted on.
So, yes, there’s too much going on — easily enough for two films, maybe even three. The exposition is badly handled, coincidences are rife, the script is schmaltzy and the story is largely directionless.
But here’s the thing; I enjoyed it.
Now dig on this
While I admit that the film falls down repeatedly, it’s not anywhere near as bad as, say, Brett Ratner’s damp squib of an X-Men film. There’s a lot going on here that’s impressive and a lot that’s enjoyable and it largely balances out the bad.
The action is all still good, though there’s nothing here that betters the train sequence of the previous film. Furthermore, the Sandman is a tour de force of special effect wizardry. It’s not often that effects in a film impress me but the creation of the Sandman is easily one of the most best effects sequences I’ve ever seen on film, and throughout the duration of the film he’s completely believable as a man made out of sand.
Also, the film is genuinely funny in places, from the ‘evil’ Peter Parker strutting down the street to nearly every scene set within The Daily Bugle to Bruce Campbell’s traditional cameo. When Peter begins to be affected by the black suit, its effects are largely comical in nature — the suit enhances his strength and speed but also makes him even more of a nerd than before — which helps make the eventual dark twist all the more shocking.
So I’ll most likely agree with anybody who reels off a list of Spider-Man 3’s flaws, but it didn’t lead me to hate the film in the same way. I do admit that it’s a shame that Raimi’s trilogy is going out with more of a whimper than a bang (because even though a second trilogy is planned, I can’t imagine that the same cast and crew will return), but I enjoyed what’s offered here nonetheless.
It’s a mess, but an enjoyable one.