The summer of threequels was marked by several films but one of the standouts was Spider-Man 3. I’d been waiting to see more of Spider-Man and his world of characters since I left the theater for the second film. My desire to see Spider-Man 3 grew and grew and nothing could shake my desire to see it. That is until word came that Sony wanted to shoehorn in the Venom character.
Spider-Man 3 picks up where the second film left off, only this time we’re on a more upbeat note. The world of Peter Parker is perfect, he’s dating Mary Jane, he’s at the top of his class and the public loves Spider-Man. Of course this inevitably comes tumbling down as issues with Mary Jane arise and Peter becomes infected with an alien symbiote that not only messes with his mind but changes his blue and red suit to a solid black. The symbiote enrages Peter and forces him to take on a newer, meaner lifestyle.
Obviously the big draw of the film was the new suit that Spider-Man donned. Initially I had issues with how the symbiote came to earth (a random meteor? At least have it come back from a space mission or something), but by the end of the film I didn’t care wear it came from as it really worked in the overall story. What better way for Peter to get through the alienation he felt from the police department for not telling him about the “real” killer of Uncle Ben and Mary Jane’s scorn than for an alien to actually bond with him?
I want to make it clear before I get too much further along here that I love the character of Venom. Like many others I was so excited for these films because I knew one day we’d see Venom. I knew from past interviews that Raimi wasn’t a fan of the character, so when I heard that he was being pushed into the third film, I was slightly fearful. Would the character be done justice alongside the other villain, Sandman? For that matter, would Sandman be adequately portrayed? As a result of it all, I really don’t think either villain saw the full potential they could have had.
The biggest travesty to come of this dual villain story is that neither one is fully explored. We see the end of Venom shortly after he shows up (never once is the name “Venom” said either—the character of Brock turns psychotic, why couldn’t he just spit the name out?) and Sandman’s character is absolutely wasted. Church gives a powerful performance as the villain, one that could have rivaled Alfred Molina’s portrayal of Doc Ock, but instead it’s squandered to fit Venom in. As much as I love Venom, I would have really appreciated it a bit more if Brock was only introduced in this film, with Venom making a small cameo as the film ends. Having Sandman, the black suit and Venom all in one story is too much.
On top of the dual villains we have the introduction of Gwen Stacy, who, while nice to see, isn’t used in the capacity she should have been either. I feel this alternate love interest would have worked better in Spider-Man 2 as putting her in now when Peter and Mary Jane are getting along so well did nothing but make the film feel like a repeat of Spider-Man 2. I get that there’s a love story involved in all three, but the films did repeat elements between them.
Also one of the biggest flaws I saw in this film was that while we were cramming an insane amount of story into it, we still had time for an extravagant amount of dancing from Peter in his “emo” state. Sure it was hilarious to see, but it would have fit better as a DVD extra than a major plot point. Peter finding a new found form of expressionism is great and all, but when it could have been better used for exposition of Sandman’s character or further development of Eddie Brock, it just feels like the time could have been better spent.
Even through all of this I haven’t even touched on the Harry Osborne part of the story. While his amnesia seemed silly at first, I realized that it was Raimi’s way of clearing up the film to make it less like Spider-Man 2 which was full of brooding from Harry already. Seeing Harry in a cheerful mood was great and when he later remembered everything, I just shrugged and waited for the inevitable tenth bickering scene with him and Peter. While their fight was rather impressive to watch (and the music over it sounded great), the end result of it was laughable. A whole movie later into the series and Harry’s butler, Bernard, just now comes forth and tells him that the blades that killed his father were the same ones on the glider? Even his reasoning for not telling is bogus. I mean what the hell. I would have bought some satellite surveillance of the Goblin/Spider-Man fight over Bernard not coming forth with this highly important bit of information prior.
Another issue I want to tackle before I get off the gripe-train-express is the music. Danny Elfman obviously had creative differences with Raimi, hence why his score for the second film wasn’t entirely written by him (at least I read something to that affect—I could be completely wrong). Whatever the case, the composer this time around, Christopher Young, took a similar approach to the scoring only he…horned it up a bit. I didn’t realize it in the theater but watching it again on DVD I realized the score sounds remarkably like that of Batman & Robin’s. Anything that reminds me of that film isn’t exactly a compliment, so to hear the Sandman theme in full blast for only the second time, I realized that it reminded me of the “epic” score from Batman & Robin’s closing scene.
Ok now that I’m complained for two pages, I think it’s time for me to point out the things I did like about the film. Oddly enough the three things I enjoyed most about the film were the three things I felt were the weakest points: the black suit, Sandman and Venom. The fanboy in me squealed to see Venom in action and I think he looked, sounded and moved great. Sandman was wonderful and to see the first moments of him coming up out the sand was astounding—the visual effects on the sand particles alone are something that is still impressive to me.
The black suit was handled extremely well. I loved the introduction of it and despite the change of Peter’s attitude (and the excessive crotch thrusts that came with it), it really helped progress his character. I actually wondered by the end of the film if Topher Grace wouldn’t have been a better Spider-Man than Toby Maguire, as Toby doesn’t seem to have taken the character through too many character changes (he is good at making Peter cry though, which he does frequently throughout the trilogy). In under an hour Eddie Brock goes from charming and suave to being evil and murderous. Of course that’s the perk of playing a villain I guess.
Also a plus in the film, were, of course, the actors. The principal cast all returns to their roles beautifully and the new arrivals are great as well. I was especially impressed by Church’s portrayal of Sandman, especially since the most I’d seen him in prior was the TV show “Wings” where he pretty much played an idiot. Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom was perfect as well and I was surprised to learn that he was actually a big fan of the comics even before the films began. He definitely brought a lot to the role of Venom and I hope we get to see more of him in future films. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a wonderful job in the small role she has in the film.
The final fight in the film is also a mixed bag for me. On one hand it was great to see five characters in one huge set up and in another way it felt like nothing more than a giant video game. Sandman being so powerful at that point in the film was also slightly strange—surely no one would realize the full potential of their powers that quickly, but having never been genetically mutated I guess I can’t comment on how long it would take to learn new skills. Sandman being allowed to go off in a cloud of sand at the end bewildered me and made me question exactly what the point of his character being in the film at all was. Flint Marco breaks’ out of prison, becomes Sandman, fights Spider-Man and then they become friends and he sails off. Talk about a bad break—Thomas Hayden Church was great in the role too, I’m really disappointed we didn’t get to see more of him.
Without a doubt, however, the biggest thing to enjoy in Spider-Man 3 was that the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” was never once uttered. I am so sick and tired of hearing that phrase that I promised myself I would yell an obscenity in the theater should it be said in the film. Luckily for me, theater security and the other patrons in the theater with me, no one said it.
There are things to enjoy about Spider-Man 3, it’s just that I’m such a fan of the first two that seeing the third so horribly fall apart isn’t something I had wanted to witness. Still, if you go into it just looking for entertainment, the film delivers it in spades. There’s drama, action, humor and more that make the film worth watching, it’s just a bit mediocre and the weakest of the trilogy. Here’s hoping a fourth one comes around in a few years with more Venom and maybe a cameo by Sandman.
And while we wait for the fourth film, maybe Raimi and Sony will grace us with either an extended or alternate cut of Spider-Man 3—lord knows there must be a lot of deleted scenes and/or alternate footage prior to Venom’s arrival.
Spider-Man 3 arrives in an array of releases on October 30th. Single disc widescreen, two-disc widescreen, DVD Trilogy Box Set, Blu-Ray two-disc and a Blu-Ray Trilogy box set; for the first time in the history of the DVD release of the Spider-Man films there is no full screen release. I guess Sony’s fully embracing the movie to hi-def formats and leaving the full screen versions of the TV for syndicated television.
For this review I received the single disc edition which has a fair amount of extras for a single disc release, especially when a two-disc release is accompanying it on the same day. The single-disc release comes with an embossed slip cover that matches the cover art underneath. It’s a shame they used the same cover art across all releases—considering how many promotional images they had for the film, to go with such a generic shot is kind of a letdown. Disc art for the release is a close up of the spider emblem with a mix of black and red across it. Menus match previous film releases in layout, complete with animated main menu with the Spider-Man theme.
The video and audio transfer on this film is up to par with past releases. Colors are strong and vibrant and there’s very little compression to be seen. I’m sure this film looks absolutely amazing in 1080p—some of the effects would no doubt be jaw-drop worthy in absolute clarity. A Dolby 5.1 Surround track accompanies the film and does a great job of immersing the viewer; plenty of surround use is implemented and the Harry/Peter fights are frenetically bouncing around. There’s a solid amount of bass in the mix as well, with most of it stemming from Sandman’s booming moves in the final fight.
First up in the extras area is a pair of commentaries. The first commentary is occupied by director Sam Raimi and cast members Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, and Bryce Dallas Howard. If you can’t tell from the description, this track is absolutely packed, which makes the spotted areas of silence all the more strange. Franco and Howard do the majority of the speaking at first, with Grace and Church chiming in more towards the end of the film. Raimi’s lively throughout and we rarely hear from Dunst, likely because she was in London recording it. She speaks up during her sequences but past that we don’t hear anything from her. One surprising thing about this track is learning just how much Topher Grace was into the comics as a kid; Franco starts the discussion of how faithfully Venom is adapted from the graphic novels and Grace finishes up the dialogue with naming specific artists (Todd McFarlane) and the storyline that made Venom who he was (“Secret Wars”).
The second commentary with producers Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad and Grant Curtis, editor Bob Murawski and special effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk is more technical and less buddy-buddy than the previous track. I have had my fill of hearing Arad speak so I wasn’t entirely thrilled to hear this track, but it does have some interesting tidbits to it.
A short blooper reel accompanies the extras and it immediately starts out with Maguire breaking several times in a row. There are a few entertaining flubs here and there, particularly with Dunst adding a s-bomb into a scene and quickly following it up with “Oops, you can’t say that in a Spider-Man movie!” Overall it was fun to watch and it even included some CGI bloopers in the end.
A Snow Patrol music video (“Signal Fire”) is included as well as a small photo gallery.
Overall for those that are unsure whether they want to pick up the film due to their feelings toward it, might want to pick up this single disc edition. However, despite my feelings towards the film I still recommend the two-disc edition, which contains 11 featurettes detailing the production of the film as well as TV spots for the film.
Fans of the film: Skip it, buy the two-disc edition.
Those Unsure: Rent the single disc before splurging for the dual disc.
Those who hated it: Why are you reading this?
Spider-Man 3 will be available on single disc DVD, dual disc DVD and dual disc Blu-Ray on October 30th.