Spider-Man 3

It is absolutely incomprehensible how something like Spiderman 3 happens. The first two movies were hardly masterpieces, but they were good enough to be passable; good enough that, coupled with nothing more than modest expectations, I did not leave the theater angry. Spiderman 3 was produced by experienced professionals, shot by experienced professionals and directed by a competent if unexceptional director, so one would think that there would be a limit to how poor the movie could be. Sure, it might fall short of the first two, like an Olympic high jumper might not clear a bar he can usually jump with regularity, but it can’t be too awful, can it?

It apparently can. Whether deliberately or through a sudden mystifying incompetence, Sam Raimi did to a great comic book story what my intestines do to a great steak on the grill, except that I don’t get angry when my intestines do this and I can flush the resultant product away. Gone, apparently, are the eminently ordinary powers of this once proudly middling film director. He who yesterday was acceptable is now embarrassingly inept.

I am not going to waste a penetrating analysis on the problems with this movie any more than I am going to spend an hour contemplating Piss Christ, but a quick run down might give the good reader an idea of what he is walking into should he find himself with no option but to watch the film…

1) The movie tries to do way too much in the time allotted to it, forcing it to cut down to a laughably bare minimum certain important sequences and scenes which should have had far more planning and development. For instance, late in the movie Venom and The Sand Man meet and agree to gang up on Spiderman all in the space of about eight seconds.

As is increasingly typical with modern movies, potentially arresting parts such as when a newly minted villain discovers and learns to master his powers are glossed over in a single scene so that we can get to an explosion or destruction of some sort (contrast this with The Matrix, wherein Neo spends the entire movie learning to master his powers which made every fight interesting quite apart from the special effects involved).

3) The dramatic scenes have all the deftness of touch and subtlety of dialogue of a third grade Christmas play. Characters enter, deliver their lines directly and to the point in as efficient a manner as possible, let slip a tear or two, and then we cut to another scene with an explosion. In Orwell’s 1984, pornography was mass produced based on one of four templates which kept getting recycled with only minor changes to superficial details. I do believe the dramatic scenes in Spiderman 3 came from a similar cookie cutter template.

4) Characters say and do things at all the wrong times and in unbelievable situations so that all sense of real motivation and believability is destroyed. While the Police Captain’s daughter is hanging from the side of a skyscraper, and while her father is watching his daughter in such a predicament, her boyfriend, about as unconcerned by the situation as I would be if my son stubbed his toe, introduces himself to his girlfriend’s father and lets slip that he is dating her.

5) Tobey Maguire, an actor of very limited depth and scope to begin with, turns the film into a parody of itself when he is asked to go beyond the sweet innocence of the Peter Parker we all know. The result is tragically comic.

6) Every action sequence is rife with the most absurdly implausible circumstances. It is not enough for a crane to crash into a building, it has to crash twice, once just above and once just below a section of the building so that one floor partially collapses, leaving a young lady hanging off the side for dear life. Every single action sequence becomes so far-fetched that I don’t see how it could possibly draw someone into the story.

This is hardly a comprehensive list, but it is all I can bring myself to do for the moment. Rather than expound on the flaws, it might be more interesting to investigate how this movie happened, because there must have been copious opportunities to abort, or at least substantially rework the project. Of all the chances for intervention, the last was the most obvious. Surely the director and producers saw the final cut. Did they honestly believe they had a hit on their hands? Was it not painfully obvious that the movie was atrocious? Or did it not really matter, because they knew that everyone would go see a special effects-laden Spiderman movie no matter how bad the reviews?

Do me a favor and make me feel like this review matters a little: don’t go see Spiderman 3. Or at least wait until the dollar theater. As long as we continue to allow special effects to entice us to part with our money, moviemakers will keep making the same drivel, keep putting in the minimum effort and allow the computer geeks to sell the product with their CGI. Even Sam Raimi is capable of better things than the offal I recently witnessed. Let’s demand more of him.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Matthew is a graduate of THE Ohio State University. An occasionally truant student, he majored in Spanish when he finally got around to it. His interests, apart from movies, range from heavy metal and classical music to football, soccer, hockey, history, economics and obviously sex, a subject in which, like the Vicomte Sabastien de Valmont said of Madame de Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons, he is more noted for his enthusiasm than his ability. So be it. His DVD collection is growing to an acceptable size, and along the way he has noted that decades which begin with an odd number the 1950s, the 1970s and the 1990s are cinematically stronger than decades which begin with an even number. Therefore, he is anxiously awaiting 2010 and hopes still to be a Reject at that date.

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