Huh...so, Spider-Man III. What to say? What to say? Honestly, I'm not sure what I thought about it, and that's what has taken so long with me getting this post up. Also, every time a comic book movie comes out, I swear that I am going to do an objective review of it, and then find myself unable to do so. Anyway, I guess the bottom line was that I was disappointed. I still really enjoyed it, but the first two films set a really high standard. They are two of the best, if not the best comic book adaptations ever made. This was more on par with Superman II. It was entertaining, but not really good. Spoilers follow, so beware if you haven't seen the movie yet.
I think my biggest problem with the movie was that it lacked the heart of the first two films. I think it was interesting that they put Peter in a situation I don't think I have ever seen him in in any comic book, that of be well liked and accepted by the public at large. He's always been a kind of hero to the common city dweller, but opinion on him is generally fairly divided and he's never been accepted by establishment. Here he is getting the key to the city, and seems almost universally beloved (except for by J. Jonah Jameson, of course). However, I ultimately didn't really find the effect it had on him to be very entertaining to watch. I think the closest to this I have seen in a comic book was House of M: Spider-Man, and it's worth noting that I didn't find Peter especially likable there either. Exploring Spider-Man's dark side through the effects that the symbiote (black ooze) had on his psyche, is one thing. Watching Peter Parker act like a self-absorbed jerk and treat his friends and loved ones like a dick is something else entirely. Kissing another girl while he knew Mary Jane was watching, was bad, accidentally hitting MJ (which pissed me off when it happened during the "Clone Saga," but hey, at least she wasn't pregnant here), and blowing off the side of Harry's face was a little too much for me to watch.
The movie's other problem was the cluttered storyline and the glut of characters. However, that wasn't nearly as big a problem as I feared it would be though. The brothers Raimi and Alvin Sargent managed to intertwine all the plots really well. Schumacker's Batman movies, and even maybe Batman Returns, could have learned a thing or two from Spider-Man III. Still, the Harry and Sandman plots paralleled each other so nicely, that I really think they could have done away with Venom altogether and had a better, less complicated movie. As for the new characters and cast members, I think they all did a good job. I had noted in previous posts that I was upset about changing the story to make Flint Marko Uncle Ben's killer. I felt it was a needless change to the origin, and a betrayal of the character. I couldn't be happier at how wrong I was on that count. While changes were made to Marko, the film kept him true to form and Thomas Hayden Church was perfectly cast. The scene between Sandman and Peter at the end was one of my favorites of the whole film. Topher Grace, an unconventional choice for Eddie Brock, also did a good job. He's a talented and charismatic actor, so I wasn't really surprised by that. I felt that Venom's potential was wasted though. I've always thought he was the most overrated member of Spidey's rogues gallery, but the end just seemed like a waste.
Gwen Stacy, while not really any less bland than Mary Jane, was refreshing simply for not being nearly as mopey and being played by a much more charming actress. Kirsten Dunst continues to drag the cast down. While never an appropriate choice for the role of Mary Jane Watson, if she would at least bring some of the spark she brought to her performances in The Cat's Meow, The Virgin Suicides, and Elizabethtown, she might at least have succeeded at being less annoying. I continue to see the major failure of these adaptations to be the portrayal of the female characters, who, despite what Kirsten Dunst might think, are far more interesting and positive in the comic books. However, I do really hope that Gwen and MJ become close friends in the fourth installment. Part of that is because of my affection for the Peter, Gwen, MJ and Harry group dynamic of the comic books, and part of it is just because it would serve Peter right.
I think the best part of the movie was the Harry Osborne plot. The filmmakers managed to compress at least a decade, if not two, of the character's history from the comic book into this one movie. James Franco has done a wonderful job in the role since the first movie and he really shines here. Going into watching the film, I remarked that if the resolution of Harry's storyline didn't make me cry, the movie would have been a complete failure. Suffice it to say, it was not. I cheered when Harry showed up during the final battle and my heart broke during his final scene.
Also, the entire ending was incredible. I think the big finale battle may have been one of the best I have ever seen in a superhero movie, but it was the emotional punch of the follow up scenes that would make this movie a success. After all, it was the drama and character development that set the first two Spider-Man movies apart from the superhero pack. Another thing worth noting were the returning cameos. This may have been Bruce Campbell's most enjoyable appearance yet, and hearing Stan Lee say "'Nuff said" filled me with geek joy.
Looking back over these comments, they are far more negative than I actually felt while watching the movie itself. I suppose it was just enjoyable to watch, but doesn't hold up as well to scrutiny when all is said and done. In the end, I think I need to see it again in order to really form a final opinion on it. I do think that I might like it more the second time around since I will know what to expect. I'm dying to see some of those fight scenes, all of which rocked, by the way, in IMAX.