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Spider-Man 3
Reviewed by Alan J. Porter, © 2007

Format: Movie
By:   Sam Raimi (director)
Genre:   Superhero
Released:   May 3, 2007
Review Date:   May 03, 2007
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

After months of trailers, Spider-Man 3 was everything I expected it to be. It met my expectations and also confirmed my fears. The movie hit the right visual high points, but it also underscored my anxieties about potential plot issues.

This third outing for Spidey continues to showcase Sam Raimi's love of the character and his extensive knowledge of Spider-Man lore. The action scenes are brisk and well choreographed, the CGI elements push the envelope of the technology and, in most cases, fit seamlessly into the visual narrative.

The cast and crew clearly enjoyed participating in this fun adventure and the casting was spot-on, except for Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. But I've had a problem with that since the first movie.

The traditional cameos are a delight, especially Bruce Campbell's and Stan Lee's, with the supporting cast leveraging their limited screen time to maximum effect.

This is arguably the best "third movie" offering in any of the superhero franchises, but, having said that, I also found it to be the weakest of the Spider-Man movies so far.

The underlying problem is that, as I expected, it suffers from usual third-movie problem: too many characters and story lines all competing for screen time. Not only do we have three villains this time around (didn't anyone learn from the Bat-franchise?), but also introduction of two new supporting characters.

While Raimi uses the same basic plot structure as he did for Spider-Man 2, often referencing the earlier movies with visual and structural elements, it lacks the emotional soul of those movies. The whole Venom storyline should be driven by the deepest emotions, but the experience seems somewhat shallow.

This may not have been helped by the advance screening we attended, where the reels were in the wrong order. The resulting 40 minute break while they corrected the problem robbed the audience of any sense of involvement in the on-screen character development.

Talking of Venom, the special effects are well done and Topher Grace is surprisingly effective as the sleazy Eddie Brock, but the presence of the alien symbiote is never explained beyond a visual "it arrived in a meteor" moment.

The other new villain, the classic Sandman, is well played by Thomas Haden Church and the CGI work on his silicon shifting body is brilliantly executed. But in terms of plot, his presence is superfluous. He could have easily been dropped and it would have made no discernable difference to the central storyline.

One change to the Sandman's story does impact the overall plot, but not in a positive sense. If you think about the impact of that change too hard you realize it basically removes Peter Parker's motivation for being a hero. I guess someone didn't think that one through.

It also seems that as the years go on Peter Parker has more and more trouble keeping his mask on. In fact, I would think this movie has the least "classic Spider-Man in action" screen time so far.

Spider-Man 3 is an effectively-produced "by the numbers" superhero movie. Unlike a lot of other comics-based movies, it shows, with one notable exception, respect for the source material. But it is severely lacking in any true "wow" moments.

I'll probably go back and see the movie again (just to experience it in the right order from start to finish), but it won't make my list of Top 10 favorite comic book movies.

Demand more RevolutionSF Spider-Man 3 reviews! You deserve it.

RevolutionSF comics editor Alan J. Porter has no trouble keeping his mask on.

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