Spider-Man 3

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Spider-Man 3
Review (5/10)
(By Erin Cullin)

The summer blockbuster season kicked off this weekend with the much-anticipated release of Spider-Man 3. If this film is any indication, we should all prepare to spend our summer watching television reruns because there will be nothing worth viewing at the theatre.

For those of you who are rolling your eyes thinking that I am about to give Spider-Man 3 a poor review because I am a film snob who prefers dramas and indie flicks, let me dispell that myth. I have been looking forward to Spider-Man 3 since its production was announced over three years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, and I went into this film with the expectation that it would be as good as, if not better, than its predecessors. Perhaps that was the film's downfall - my overinflated expectations.

The Spider-Man franchise is widely regarded by film buffs as the gold standard in comic book film adaptations. What elevated the Spider-Man franchise from other comic book adaptations was the combination of excellent acting and a taut script with cutting edge special effects. It had well-developed characters, compelling heroes, treacherous villains and ramatic storylines. It was not your typical action film.

The failure of Spider-Man 3 falls squarely on the shoulders of the screenwriters, Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent. Unlike its predecessors, this film lacked any cohesive direction, failed to adequately develop key characters and was riddled with mindless dialogue. One of the franchise's defining elements - its taut script - was entirely abandoned in Spider-Man 3, and the film suffered for it.

I was also disappointed by the quality of the acting in this film. Tobey Maguire, who I have always viewed as one of the more talented actors of his generation, delivered what can only be described as a half-hearted performance. His portrayal of Spider-Man's "dark" alter ego was so campy that it was laughable. It was as if Billie Joe Armstrong (the lead singer of Green Day, for those of you who do not follow the current music scene) was trying to imitate John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. The screenwriters also appear to have forgotten that the Peter Parker character is a likeable, self-doubting fellow, and instead chose to portray him as grating and self-absorbed. There were points in the film when I actually disliked him.

The talents of Bryce Dallas Howard and Topher Grace were squandered in this film because the characters that they were cast to play were so poorly developed. Their characters, Gwen Stacy and Eddie Brock, were dropped into the story without explanation or apparent purpose. Their presence served only to complicate the film's directionless, meandering plot. This was particularly disappointing in the case of Howard's character, Gwen Stacy who, as fans of the comic book series may know, becomes an important figure in the Spider-Man story. It will be interesting to see whether her character will continue to flail about like a drowning swimmer in future films, or whether she will be appropriately developed and drawn into the storyline.

Kristen Dunst and James Franco returned to Spider-Man 3 in the roles of Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborne. Of all of the film's actors, I most enjoyed their performances, although I was disappointed that the Watson character was reduced from the strong-willed, assertive character that Stan Lee originally created to a whining, defenceless failure. If I were Kirsten Dunst, I would boycott Spider-Man 4 unless I was assured that my character would not be reduced to a dim-witted clinging vine. (Then again, if I were Kirsten Dunst, I would probably do whatever the studio asked provided that they continued to issue me those multi-million dollar cheques - but, I digress.)

The film's only other major character, Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), was reasonably well-developed but sadly underused in the film. For his part, Church delivered a compelling, understated performance and was a good addition to the Spider-Man franchise. I would have preferred to have seen Marko's character as the film's principal villain, with Grace's Venom character introduced at the end of the film as a precursor to Spider-Man 4.

The one aspect of the film that was consistent with its predecessors was the CGI special effects. If nothing else, the film managed to be visually stunning, although, unfortunately, this failed to compensate for its other shortcomings.

I had the opportunity to screen this film with a group of die-hard Spider-Man fans in Sudbury, when I attended the opening day midnight screening at the massive Silver City Theatre. As the film played, there was no applause or cheering, some jeering laughs during scenes that were not intended to be funny and, at the end of the film, complete silence. Not the stunned, dazzled silence that follows a visual masterpiece, but the angry silence of several hundred people who realized that they had just spent almost three hours in the middle of the night watching a bitterly disappointing film that was not worth their time or the $10.00 admission fee. The silence was so eerie that, as I left the theatre, I could have sworn that I felt my spider senses tingling.


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