On the eve of Spider-Man 3, I was literally excited beyond expectations. The first two films had lived up to the hype and proved that this was the strongest superhero franchise around. When I saw the first two films, I felt in heart that they emulated what was so great about the Superman movies back in the late 70s and early 80s. The first one was the typical origin story where we follow the would-be hero as he emerges into the hero we all know. The second film then showcased what if the hero lost his powers and he wasn't there to save the world and the ones he loves.
Just like Superman 3, Spider-Man 3 carries on the tradition of that franchise by focusing on the darker side of the hero. The best part of Superman 3 was the battle in the junkyard between good and bad Clark. Sadly there is no scene like that in Spider-Man 3. But the upside to Spider-Man 3 is that it doesn't have Richard Pryor or that sadly-conceived super computer as the villain.
The plot of the third film involves Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finding out that a new person killed his beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) just as he is about to propose to Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). That new killer is Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) aka The Sandman. Just in time for Spider-Man to hunt Marko down, an alien parasite attaches itself to the Spider-Man suit and Peter starts to have new found confidence and a new brash look. Another thorn in Peter's side is a new Daily Bugle photographer named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who is after Peter's staff job at the Bugle.
Meanwhile, after a confrontation with Peter, Harry Osborn (James Franco) loses his memory and tries to learn what his life was like before the accident. Who are his friends and who are his enemies?
Spider-Man 3 has a lot of upsides actually. The visual effects on The Sandman are dynamic and nearly flawless. We don't get a lot of Venom, but what we do see is like the comic book come to life. Then there are the thrilling swinging sequences that just seem to get more and more amazing. (Pardon the pun!)
I really liked Harry's story more in this film than in previous, but I am really getting tired of the love triangle between Harry, Mary Jane, and Peter. I think for them to really evolve the series, they will have to get rid of Mary Jane and return the focus back onto Peter. Maybe have her finally make it big as an actress and have her move away. Then either continue the Gwen Stacy (Dallas Taylor Howard) story started in this film or introduce a new love interest like maybe Felicia Hardy aka The Black Cat.
Probably my favourite character in the film is Sandman only because Church brings so much depth and dynamics to this struggling, misunderstood man. The scene with his distant wife, played by Theresa Russell, is utterly heart-breaking. As for Topher Grace, I could take him or leave him. He really never made an impression on me.
The film itself is weirdly paced, off kilter, and some characters do things out of character. But for me the third film really came completely unravelled in the film's third act after Brock becomes Venom. That act just feels like it was tacked on at the last minute. There are portions you kind of scratch your head and go "what?". It felt a lot like the ending of a Joel Schumacher Batman film. You know, rushed, lazy, and unappealing. It is such a disappointment.
Now that Sony has said they are going to make at least three more Spider-Man movies, I just hope the fourth film isn't directed by Brett Ratner and doesn't have Nuclear Man in it. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.