“With great power comes great responsibility.”
That was the tagline for the first Spider-Man film all the way back in 2002. That film, with its cinematic realization of one of the most popular comic book heroes ever recorded, created what has become one of the most successful movie franchises in the history of film. Director Sam Raimi and the folks at Columbia pictures have built a behemoth of a series so powerful that no matter what sort of movie they make, people will come out to see it. That is great power. Power to rule over the millions of moviegoers, to take there hard earned cash on sheer size and spectacle alone. But with that great power also comes a responsibility, a responsibility to stay true to what has brought the Spider-Man franchise to its current position, sitting atop the highest perch of the cinematic world. And what have they done with such great power? Sadly, they have created what could be the more frustrating and disappointing cinematic experience to come out of Hollywood in the last decade.
The story focuses on where Spider-Man 2 left off, with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) now deep into his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and Harry Osborn (James Franco) still out to avenge the death of his father. Very quickly we are introduced to Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a photographer out to catch Spider-Man with his pants down and steal Peter Parker’s spot at the Daily Bugle and Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), his girlfriend. Also in the mix is Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), an escaped convict who is discovered to be the real killer of Peter’s uncle Ben. Marko falls into a weird science experiment and is turned into Sandman. In short, Parker comes in contact with a symbiotic organism from a meteorite that attaches to him and brings his most vengeful (and rhythmic) side. His suit turns black, his heart fills with rage and he goes after Sandman. A great action sequence ensues
In fact, a few great action sequences ensue, which is one of the big draws on a movie like this, we want to see all of the web-slinging action. What we don’t want is a bunch of sap about the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane. For my taste, we get a little bit too much of that and not enough Spidey-on-villain action. The character of Venom, the result of the symbiot meeting up with Eddie Brock, has to be one of the most badass characters in the entire Spider-Man franchise. Sadly, most fans will be disappointed with his story line, as he is severely underused.
Venom is one example in a long line of characters in this film that just don’t feel right, even despite the excellent casting job done Sam Raimi and team. While underused, Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard are welcomed additions. But the problems do not arise with the new characters; they arise with the fact that there is too much going on here. It is an abundance of story that creates an odd out-of-body experience. Too often you are left thinking, “Did that really happen? Are they really being serious about this?”
The other problem with the film is that it lays down some seriously cheesy moments, far more so than its predecessors. It is common understanding that you have to give a comic book film some leeway when it comes to being over the top, but Spider-Man 3 dances across the line from cheesy to dumb for moments at a time. And though brief, these moments really detract from our ability to enjoy the film. One particular instance is a scene in which Peter Parker, now being controlled by the symbiotic organism, is dancing down he street thrusting his pelvis at an oncoming feast of attractive ladies. It is a scene that was is very frustrating to watch, especially while you are desperately trying to love this film.
But despite by my efforts to really be entertained by this film, the only feeling I have left is sadness, disappointment and frustration. It is by no means a terrible film, but it doesn’t come close to achieving the brilliance of the first two (especially the second one). The action is great, as only a polished mega-cgi studio flick can be; and the cast is well placed in their roles, all showing the ability to recreate some of the more beloved characters of this franchise. But in the end, there are too many of those cheesy moments, too many parts that take us away from enjoying the film and not enough screen time for one of the most badass characters in all of comics. In the end I would recommend seeing this film if you have interest (not as if I was going to stop you anyway), but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t let you down.