Review: Spider-Man 3

By Michael Hirsh

May 31, 2007

I know what *I* want for Christmas.

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I recall an episode of the Simpsons in which Mrs. Krabappel shows a filmstrip called "Sand." Ever since, I have had a pretty low opinion of sand as something exciting. After seeing Spider-Man 3, my opinion remains unchanged. Apparently, a $300 million budget, three villains, and Tobey Maguire dancin' like a fool do not make a good movie. Spider-Man 3 was bloated, long, and despite some absolutely amazing special features, boring for long stretches.

This time around, Spidey (Tobey Maguire) has to contend with Venom ( Topher Grace, the poor man's Tobey Maguire), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church, aka Lowell from Wings), and that pesky New Goblin (box office poison James Franco) along with a sulky Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and a hot blonde (Bryce Dallas Howard). Despite a running time of two hrs and 20 minutes, poor Sam Raimi can't create a cohesive story. However, he does provide some truly fantastic action sequences thanks to some absolutely stunning special effects, including a brilliant montage of - yup, you guessed it - sand coming together to form Sandman. Unfortunately, for every cool fight scene, there are along stretches of dialogue that bog down the rest of the film.

Not helping the cause was the cast, who seemed to resigned to mediocre acting. Maguire seems right at home as Parker and he still manages to keep that innate sense of nerdiness that the character possesses, which makes his transcendence to the dark side, or black costume, so unconvincingly silly. At no point does he fool the audience into thinking that Spider-Man has turned into an angrier, badder guy despite the bangs and black eyeliner. In fact, he only succeeds in looking a lot like Bright Eyes.


The rest of the cast is ordinary with no particular performance standing out aside from J.K. Simmons' always amusing depiction of J.J. Jameson, the choleric editor of the Daily Bugle. James Franco delivers his half lines with a Forest Gump-like sense of wonder after his character suffers an amnesiac head injury during a fight with Spidey. The other half of his performance is the normal, wooden, blank delivery we have seen Franco deliver in Flyboys, Annapolis, and any other artistic debacle that bears his name. Kirsten Dunst turns in a whinier-than-usual performance as the long-suffering Mary Jane. Thomas Haden Church, as Sandman, didn't really need to do much as the sand pretty much controlled the show. Topher Grace can always be relied upon to deliver a solid performance and played the part of Venom with his Eric Forman-like wit when possible. Grace aside, it says something when Raimi regular and B-movie icon Bruce Campbell is the most valuable asset to the cast and to the film. He delivered his usual cameo with humor and bravado and succeeded in having the most memorable non-computerized scene of the entire movie.

Spider-Man 3 wasn't awful, though the general consensus with the critics and the public seems to be "awesome special effects, mediocre everything else". See it in IMAX or try to get a hold of that sand filmstrip, it's probably more interesting than the movie



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