Spider-Man 3 Review - IGN
Share.A satisfying conclusion to the greatest comic book series in movie history.By Todd Gilchrist
In Hollywood, conventional wisdom suggests that it doesn't matter what you do with the first two-thirds of a story as long as you have a strong ending. While the commercial success of any major film series demands that the opposite be true, front-loading a franchise with its best writing, acting and filmmaking in order to draw in that elusive "everyone" demographic,Spider-Man 3simultaneously confirms and refutes that a series -- much less a single installment -- need be defined by the sum of its parts. And while some audiences may register skepticism over the possibility that a third film can suitably tie up all of the loose ends, not to mention tie- inall of writer-director Sam Raimi's ambitious ideas, IGN can confirm thatSpider-Man 3is indeed the trilogy-closer that fans have been waiting for.
Instead of the year-plus barrier that separated the first two films,Spider-Man 3takes place almost immediately after the events of the second film. This serves an important purpose: Harry (James Franco) learned at the end ofSpider-Man 2that Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is Spider-Man, and he isn't wasting any time trying to take down the person he believes killed his father. In the meantime, Peter has grown comfortable in his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), not to mention the idea that his alter-ego is an icon and hero to millions. Mary Jane, however, is struggling as an actress after receiving scathing reviews for her appearance in a new musical, and has trouble relating to Peter's newfound confidence.
In another part of the city, escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) races to find a cure for his daughter's illness, landing himself in the middle of a science experiment while trying to evade capture by the police. His transformation into the Sandman makes him a natural adversary for Spider-Man, but Peter takes the pursuit personally when he discovers that Marko may in fact be responsible for Uncle Ben's (Cliff Robertson) death. Unfortunately, a mysterious creature that feeds off negative energy finds the erstwhile hero during a moment of weakness and attaches itself to him, sending both Peter and Spider-Man into a dark and dangerous spiral of revenge and violence.
With so many different story strands working together toward a hopefully concise conclusion to both film and franchise, it's easy to worry about how all of the pieces can and will fit comfortably together. Indeed, even as a champion of the firstSpider-Man(considering it the best comic book movie of all time), I worried that there were too many characters and just too much going on in this third installment. But with few exceptions, Sam Raimi, his brother Ivan and screenwriter Alvin Sargent have masterfully crafted a collection of characters, scenes and sequences that onlyseemdisjointed. Raimi has previously stated that he prefers classic villains like Sandman to the fan-friendly choices like Venom, but he's successfully managed to combine their respective appeals -- the former's compelling simplicity, the latter's effects-heavy spectacle -- in a way sure to satisfy both camps.
It's in this capacity thatSpider-Man 3sustains -- if not surpasses -- that perfect balance of real world and comic book physics (a balanced successfully achieved in the earlier films). Raimi, who has projected his longtime affection for Three Stooges-style camp into almost all of his films, spares no effort here injecting goofy, humanizing undertones into various sequences in order to relieve some of the mounting melodramatic tension. An early quip about J. Jonah Jameson's (J.K. Simmons) heart medicine seems superfluous, but it exemplifies the
director's enjoyment of silly and borderline sophomoric punch lines. But this is also what makes the film fun, playful and appealing to more than just Spidey's core audience of fan boys and comic book followers -- not to mention the reason why this series can be considered the most faithful representation of "comic book reality" committed to celluloid.
That said, there are a handful of scenes that really don't work, including a dance number (yes, you read that right) and an exposition-heavy set-up for the film's climax (delivered via a newscaster and his on-the-scene reporter). Additionally, the decision to include characters like Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) feels more like a fan service red herring than a genuine development in the overall story. It is in these moments that Raimi's latitude as author of the franchise is a little too broad. But, then again, that's a little bit like criticizing the director for continuing to do what got him the job in the first place -- namely, combining the sublime, the silly and the spectacular in almost perfect measures.
In retrospect, it's almost exciting to consider how effectively Raimi introduces each storyline and then slowly weaves it into the fabric of the overall film. For example, Harry's hatred of Spider-Man might be a lingering plot point if the film either addressed it in a single scene or left it unexplored until the end. But Raimi and Co. offer a solution that allows new plot developments to breathe. There's also the matter of Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace), whose intricacies will not be explained in this review, but who slowly becomes integral to both the building drama of the narrative and the emotional complexity of Peter over the course of the three films.
After all, how would this nerdy kid respond if he finally found acceptance as Spider-Man, as he begins to here? Peter's ability to handle that situation and to recognize that he might be the only person able to apprehend his uncle's possible killer creates a palpable emotional turmoil that plays directly into the comic book origins of both the hero and his adversaries. By the time he faces them down in the film's climax, Raimi creates the opportunity not only for a physical triumph but an emotional catharsis that ties together all of the preceding, sometimes seemingly disconnected scenes.
As a person who typically has little trouble differentiating his likes from his dislikes, I was surprised by my initial conflicting feelings -- especially given my lifelong love for the character and enthusiasm for the franchise. The trailers alone were so jam-packed with story developments and new characters that it seemed an entire film would not be enough to fully explore all of them. But what truly is most amazing aboutSpider-Man 3(no pun intended) is that all objections are answered and all developments are resolved, even if at times it feels like they will never converge.
So if you're going into the film with any trepidation about whether Raimi can combine all these disparate elements and still satisfactorily conclude the movie, much less the series, reserve your judgment until the last web has been slung. Because this is the first time that two films and two-thirds into a trilogy, you still haven't seen anything yet.Spider-Man 3has a great ending, and more importantly, itisa great ending for both a standard three-film arc and the best comic book trilogy in film history.
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