It’s an interesting direction to take, making “Spider-man 3” a romantic musical comedy. But while a fraction of the population may enjoy this completely uncalled for creative departure, the rest of us were expecting an epic action film with menacingly dark overtones. Not even close to the previous two blockbusters in the series that inspired the current flood of superhero films, “Spider-man 3” is the biggest disappointment since “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” Actually, this film might even be worse.
It’s sad to watch “Spider-man 3” unfold. All the ingredients are there for a great movie. Determined to marry his longtime love, Peter Parker must battle his way through his Uncle’s true killer, his former best friend and finally himself when he’s consumed by a dark alien force that seems to alter his very essence.
But Spider-man’s black suit transformation is handled especially poorly, and you’re left wondering why $300 million couldn’t buy a decent writer. Instead of a dark, psychological and criminal journey, Parker’s newfound evil side is little more than a transformation into a hipster kid, complete with bangs over his eyes and what appear to be traces of eyeliner.
Instead of killing people and committing felonies, the worst thing Parker does is goofily strut down the street and perform pelvic thrusts at random women. This all climaxes in an absolutely ridiculous jazz-club dance sequence that will have you checking your ticket to see if you’re in the right theater.
There’s a certain amount of acceptable camp that should be allowed in comic book movies. But while the first two “Spider-man” films had it in moderation, this time the movie overdoses on cheese to the point of killing any remnants of the solemn mood this chapter should have had. It’s so hokey that by the time the film wants you to take it seriously, you’re way past that. The sunsets and tears and cries of forgiveness only make you laugh.
All this said, the film is not a total waste. There are solid performances from all three villains: Thomas Hayden Church (“Sideways”) as Flint Marko (Sandman), James Franco (“Spider-man 2”) as Harry Osborne (New Goblin) and even Topher Grace (television’s “That ’70s Show”) as Eddie Brock (Venom).
Brock may be a significant departure from the comic, but he does make a nice doppelganger to Peter Parker. Needless to say, the black, nefariously smiling symbiote looks fantastic when he finally appears – about two hours into the movie. Church’s Sandman is mostly unnecessary, but at least entertaining. And Franco’s Hobgoblin executes some pretty sick moves on his revamped glider, now a hovering snowboard with rockets and flamethrowers.
Unfortunately, it’s the two leads that bring the film down for the most part. Although their love story is the core of the film, it’s just not believable when Mary Jane has a constant attitude of, “I know you’re Spider-man, but I want to talk about my day!” and Peter Parker, about to propose no less, doesn’t understand the repercussions of kissing another girl right in front of M.J. Kirsten Dunst’s role as Mary Jane (which involves singing two songs) is wasted completely in the film. And while Tobey Maguire is still dead on as the earnest, wide-eyed photographer, once he’s infected by the alien suit, when told to “act like a badass,” he has to resort to doing a bad John Travolta impression that combines Danny Zuko from “Grease” and Tony Manero from “Saturday Night Fever.”
The CGI is top-notch as always, but it appears a creative limit has been reached in the choreography of “Spider-man” fight scenes. There are only so many times you can watch Spidey swinging really low through traffic, or fighting a bad guy while freefalling or using a web to grab and hurl something. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot left to do. With the film already suffering so much dramatically, not even the action can save it.
“Spiderman 3” is miles away from perfection. What should’ve been “Return of the King” is more “The Godfather: Part III.” Despite the fact that it will break records and recoup its enormous production costs, it has wasted something far more valuable than money: potential.
At the Showcase and Quality 16
Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars