Taste the sad, Audience.
The fact that there’s even stuff to make fun of in SPIDER-MAN 3 is quite a shock. A year ago I believed Sam Raimi could do no wrong with this franchise, but unfortunately it does clearly register as the weakest installment of the series, suffering from something I call DAREDEVIL Syndrome. Like Mark Steven Johnson, it’s as if Raimi knows this will be his last time at bat and wants to shove as much stuff in the movie as possible. There’s enough plot and characters in here for four flicks. I really don’t see any other explanation for the finite presence of Venom, ten minutes before the end of the movie, other than Raimi got selfish.
While the film’s nowhere near a complete disaster, it does render it a convoluted mess. Had this story been split up in to two films, I have no doubt it would’ve worked better, with each dramatic thread given time to breathe and settle with the audience. Instead, some of the most important characters and storylines in the Spider-Man universe are wasted with minimal screentime: the black suit and Eddie Brock/Venom, Gwen Stacy and her dad, Harry and the new Green Goblin, Sandman and his backstory, the marriage proposal and Uncle Ben’s death (again). A good director could balance a couple of these at a time (like Raimi did with SPIDER-MAN 2), but there’s nobody on Earth that can gracefully handle all of that in two hours.
Actually, that’s not completely true; Raimi is able to magically tie everything together thanks to the real superhero of the movie…Plot Exposition Butler, convenient defeater of illogical story threads! Between that lazy plot device and Sandman’s Lifetime Channel monologue at the finale, it’s hard to believe Academy Award winner Alvin Sargent had a hand in writing this.
It’s easy to remember all the things that went wrong in SPIDER-MAN 3, but a second viewing also helped remind me what works, mainly the action and the effects. The first fight sequence with the New Goblin is unbelievably thrilling, Venom is cool in his brief glimpses, and Sandman’s melodramatic formation surprisingly works. (Even though I wish he would’ve shapeshifted more than just getting enormous, the sand effects are well-done.) And save for a bored-looking Kirsten Dunst, the cast carry their likable goodwill over from the previous films. The new additions also work well, especially Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacey and Topher Grace reminding us he should’ve originally been cast as sarcastic Spidey.
It may be unfair to compare SPIDER-MAN 3 to its infinitely superior predecessor, but it’s almost impossible to avoid it. And considering how much the series was perfectly leading up to this point, I have a hard time accepting this as a “pretty good” movie and not a “freaking awesome” one.
Commentary by director Sam Raimi and actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church and Bryce Dallas Howard: Topher Grace shows his geeky side and James Franco shows his funny side, but overall this track was more informative than entertaining. Raimi does discuss a number of things that allude to the film’s obvious issues, such as shooting multiple versions of important scenes, not knowing what the end of the movie exactly was and changing one major plot point in the middle of shooting. (Hint: It wasn’t originally supposed to be MJ in that taxi at the end.)
Commentary by producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis, Laura Ziskin, visual effect supervisor Scott Stokdyk and editor Bob Murawski: The only thing really of any interest here is Stokdyk’s comments on the effects, but he doesn’t get featured too much. I don’t particularly understand the appeal of having producer commentaries, which are more self-congratulatory than entertaining or helpful. Thank you for hiring the creative minds and getting financing for the film, but please get off my DVD.
Bloopers (6:42): This offers a funny mix of mess ups, horsing around and special effects gags. The cast looks like they’re having fun, which is something that’s missing from most of the finished film. I’m completely not suggesting anything, but every time Tobey Maguire randomly bursts out giggling he looks like he’s stoned out of his gourd.
Snow Patrol’s “Signal Fire" Music Video (4:35): The video is kinda cute, with a bunch of little kids reenacting the trilogy for a school play.
Photo Galleries and Previews for movies, video games and Spider-Man toys.
Extra Tidbit: Does anybody remember that early character poster that had Sandman facing a bunch of cops while protecting his daughter behind him? Perhaps this was a different movie in the planning stages, since we only see the daughter for two seconds in the final film.