Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, J.K.Simmons
Director: Sam Raimi
Storyline: As fame gets to his head, Peter Parker finds his relationship with Mary Jane and his friendship with Harry strained. When an alien symbiote takes over him, the biggest enemy he has to fight is himself.
Bottomline: Complex overdose of contrived drama and spectacular visual effects.
With great power comes great responsibility, all right.
But the responsibility in this case seems to have taken its toll.
Especially, on director Sam Raimi and leading man Tobey Maguire. If there’s anything wrong with the film, it’s not the lack of effort but too much of it.
Spider-Man 3 spins multiple cobwebs, involving half a dozen characters, that fall apart only because Raimi and Tobey bite into more than what they can chew.
Raimi gives Spidey an overdose of problems just to be triply sure that the superhero is adequately challenged and the audience super-engaged with the proceedings.
First, his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is on the rocks because success goes to his head. Next, his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) now wants revenge for stealing his girlfriend and killing his Dad. Also, Uncle Ben’s real killer (no, the guy they showed in Spider-Man 1 was only an accomplice we learn) Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Chase) has now become King Kong-sized Sandman, after a freak accident. Then, Peter has to deal with competition from another freelance photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) at the Daily Bugle. To add to Spidey’s woes, even this shrewd human rival transforms into the larger-than-life villain, Venom. And, there’s another damsel in distress waiting to be rescued and kissed upside down in Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). If all this were not enough, an alien symbiote looking for a host decides to corrupt Spidey. Finally, there’s a full-fledged Aunt May-track to give Spidey his dose of moral instructions. Very poorly written, this. Plus, there’s the Bruce Campbell cameo, the Bad Spidey dance, the making of the bad guys and visual effects and action sequences that make time disappear into thin air. All thrust into one movie, like there is no tomorrow. Or another film left in the franchise.
If Raimi goofs up by soaking these sub-plots with the trademark sentimentality and soppy melodrama that the franchise has been associated with, Tobey botches it up with incredibly bad acting. His performance is only made worse with his double-chinned, cherubic, balding presence, and an effeminate demeanor – especially his pansy portrayal of bad Spidey. When the 31-year old actor begins to sob, so do we. Is this the same chap we so adored in the first two installments of the franchise?
Let’s not even get started on how much the film departs from the comics. Wasn’t Gwen Stacy killed by the Green Goblin? What’s she doing in the film much after Green Goblin is long dead and gone?
But hang on, Spider-Man 3 is not a bad film at all, in spite of Raimi’s and Tobey’s collective failure, thanks to the ensemble of actors, especially James Franco, J.K.Simmons, Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Chase and, of course, the outstanding ultra-spectacular visual effects. With most of these actors having an electric screen presence, the director decidedly does away with their masks, further distancing the film from the comic book.
It is not easy to make a film on the theme of forgiveness that is both effective and entertaining. The message only becomes effective if Peter Parker finds himself on both ends of the spectrum – as the guy who has to be forgiven by his best friend and the guy who refuses to forgive Uncle Ben’s killer. To personify the inner evil within, Raimi employs the symbiote from outer space and gets the lab guy to explain how it only amplifies the values we stand for. While the intention of the makers is commendable indeed, the creation of such a complex web of character graphs calls for a convincing resolution of their sub-plots too.
Instead, Raimi resorts to age-old tricks like memory-loss and taking a bullet for a friend that seem lazily borrowed from Hindi cinema of the seventies.
That’s quite unfortunate because the first two films transcended comic-book juvenilia.
Hence, the best way to enjoy Spider-Man 3 is to leave your brains home. The child in you will sit back and love every moment of it.