Review: 'Spider-Man 3' packs a punch

“Spider-Man 3” is an everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink production, a narrative mess that thrives on its boundless energy and the sheer audacity of its vision. It’s the best-looking “Spider-Man” yet — clearly, director Sam Raimi favored style over substance for this installment, elevating the visual effects to a point where they overshadow his characters, who are too often neglected for long stretches. Still, it remains an invigorating distraction, even if Spidey’s web has never seemed so tangled.

Supervillains abound in “Spider-Man 3,” (see trailer, below) though none are afforded the depth of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin or Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. They are rough sketches, blunt instruments with which to challenge Spidey’s mettle. There’s the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), an escaped convict who stumbles onto a particle-physics test facility and is transformed, in one of the film’s most impressive sequences, into a malleable pile of sand; Venom (Topher Grace), an insidious creep who derives his superpowers from an alien symbiote; and New Goblin, son of the Green Goblin, who resolves to avenge his father’s death.

New Goblin

The New Goblin needs little introduction — he is Harry Osborn, the erstwhile best friend of Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker. He is consumed by his desire for revenge to the point of tedium, though he is hopelessly outclassed when he takes on his father’s old nemesis. Sandman is a different sort — he steals (and kills) to provide for his daughter, but beyond that, he is avirtual nonentity. He surfaces, quite literally, when Spidey needs a new bad guy to pummel, and makes himself scarce otherwise.

Venom

Venom is similarly enigmatic. He arrives late in the movie, first as Eddie Brock, an upstart photographer angling for Peter’s job at the Daily Bugle, and then as Venom, an unscrupulous villain who is Spider-Man’s mirror image, save for his razor-sharp fangs. His transformation is explained away by a mysterious black goo that attaches itself to his spindly frame. The same goo finds its way onto Spider-Man’s suit and, we learn, “amplifies the characteristics of his host” — a good thing if you’re Mother Teresa, a bad thing if you’re an egotistical brat.

Strange Spidey

Beneath Peter’s nice-guy persona, we learn, Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) is no Mother Teresa. Decked out in his new black duds, he is goofily charming at first, strutting through Manhattan like Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever,” winking at all the pretty passers-by. But his personality shift has a serious downside. He grows sullen, as evidenced by his new goth get-up, and violently unpredictable, driving longtime sweetheart Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) into Harry’s arms. He wins her back, of course, and the sequence ultimately proves a diversion, typical of an anything-goes plot that plays fast and loose, heaping one transient event on another.

In that sense, “Spider-Man 3” lacks the sophistication of its predecessors. Those movies had confidence in their characters, not just their superpowers, and proved that even tales of comic-book heroism could be both poignant and compelling. “Spider-Man 3” seems to forget that — it is an entertaining distraction with a sharp sense of humor, but the conceptual thinking behind it is shoddy. As lightweight, campy fun, it works, but this is more a pleasure for the eyes than the mind.

 Spider-Man 3 trailer:

Spider-Man 3 ***

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace

Written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent

Directed by Sam Raimi

Rated PG-13

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read