Spider-Man 3 weaves a gloriously tangled web
Too much of a good thing?
The drama! The tears! The villains! The plotlines! The laughs! The music! The dancing! “Spider-Man 3″ is all this and more, a fact that may not sit well with die hard fans who expect the third installment of the mega-comic book franchise to be a regurgitation of the elements that made “Spider-Man 2″ both a critical and box office success.
But director Sam Raimi, who directed all three Spider-films, clearly wants this trip to take audiences in a lot of new and different directions. Say what you will about the film’s excesses; critics constantly plead for blockbuster films to break free from the routine formula and dig deeper into character development and substantive story lines. With “Spider-Man 3″ Raimi delivers and some critics are complaining that there’s too much going on.
The plot explanation alone could expend the allowable space for this review, but here is as concise a synopsis as possible: all the principals are back. Spider-Man, and his alter ego nerdy photographer Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), as well as his beloved MJ (Kirsten Dunst), and mutual friend Harry Osborn (James Franco). Harry wrongfully begrudges Peter for the death of his father, and the film’s first action sequence (arguably its best) has him using his father’s technology and chemicals to enact supercharged snowboard revenge.
Upon being canned after her opening night on Broadway, a melancholy MJ seeks Peter’s empathy. But he’s too busy enjoying the ego rush of Spidey’s heroic popularity. (And the admiration of the Police Commissioner’s daughter Gwen Stacy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.)
Enter two more villains: the shape-shifting Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), an escaped prisoner whose powers originate as a result of physics lab experiment, and Venom (Topher Grace) who gets wrapped in an other-worldly parasitic life form that transforms the budding photographer into a scary fang-toothed version of Spidey… Who himself has to battle the ravages of the creepy-crawly virus.
This could all have been an overly ambitious mess if not for the literary beauty of the script. Raimi and co-screenwriters Ivan Raimi (Sam’s brother) and Alvin Sargent (a veteran who has written such serious fare as “Julia,” “Ordinary People,” and “Unfaithful”) keep things moving forward. They introduce new character arcs, offbeat humor, and snazzy special effects that give the film a theatrical, multi-act feel. “Spider-Man 3″ owes as much to the existentialism of Ingmar Bergman films as it does to the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of its relationships.
This is a film that longs to reinvent its genre with leads who are weepy and villains who are only occasionally creepy. The main quibbles are its length, a rather anti-climatic final battle, and a lack of truly exhilarating action sequences. (The CGI are great, but no single sequence eclipses the train scene from the second installment.) Just don’t over analyze or second guess. “Spider-Man 3″ is different in all the right ways– a complex, unpredictable attempt at giving its audience a lot to chew on. Pardon those of us who will take a flawed opus over bloated unoriginality.
Rated PG-13 for violence.