Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.
Ryan: It has to be said: This is the most problematic of the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. There are too many characters, too many simultaneous subplots, too many villains, too many meandering lulls in between the big action sequences. With two-plus years to work on the third installment, and with two solid films behind them, Raimi and Co. were perfectly poised to hit another one out of the park. Unfortunately, the director’s ambition seems to have gotten the better of him on this go-round.
First off, at 138 minutes, Spider-Man 3 is much too long for its own good. They were considering splitting the movie up into two parts, but decided against that when they couldn’t figure out a good place to break the story in half, and this sort of “we’ve got a lot of stuff here, but we don’t quite know what to do with it” mentality shows. Next, if Doc Ock felt like a “villain of the week” in SM2, we get double the (dis)pleasure here with Sandman and Venom, who both really feel shoehorned into the central story revolving around Peter, Mary, and Harry, and whose exits from the movie are unsatisfying.
One thing I will say, though, that might place me in the minority, is that I didn’t mind “emo” Peter Parker as much as a lot of people did. When he pulls his bangs down over his eyes and starts strutting down the street with that crooked grin on his face, I can’t help but chuckle. And when he goes nuts inside the jazz club, it makes me laugh out loud. I’ll admit it: I sort of liked the ridiculous nature of it all, and I felt like Raimi was just having fun. Then again, maybe Raimi having too much fun was the problem with the movie as a whole.
Luke: Yeah, it’s definitely the most uneven of the films, with too much going on than it can give attention to properly. That said, I didn’t enjoy this significantly less than part two, despite its flaws. On the plus side, part three at least feels poised to be a sequel to the first film by addressing Harry’s vengeance story. Things get momentarily tense. Harry gets a hoverboard. And then — oh that’s convenient — he gets amnesia for a huge stretch of the film. Properly done, Goblin junior should have been sufficient to carry the villain duties of the movie, but instead, as Ryan says, we get Sandman and Venom shoehorned in, their stories paced awkwardly, and then a sudden, unbalanced cacophony of supervillainy right at the end — when it felt too late. Sandman at least had a reason for the conflict (Peter’s uncle); the real waste here is Venom, who looks the most badass of any of the villains thus far, but gets shortchanged in the melee. (And why did they need to keep revealing Topher Grace’s decidedly non-threatening face during the fight scenes?) Again, the finale is yet another kidnapping of MJ and her precarious high-wire suspension — don’t these villains ever learn from their predecessors’ mistakes? — with varying quality CGI that to me felt like the most rushed of the series.
The love story, meanwhile, just goes round and round and round to the point where I did not care anymore, and the evil Spider-Man suit was cool briefly — until the script had no more use for it so decided that he could easily — somehow; cooking oil? — just take it off and throw it aside. As for the infamous “emo” fringe and dance sequence, I’m with Ryan — I thought it was funny; moreover, it was one of the rare points in the film where Raimi actually seemed to be enjoying himself. And that’s the thing: the director expends so much effort in this movie goofing in the comedic margins that I wonder whether he was bored by everything else. I know I was. I’d had enough of Spider-Man by the end and am not eager to return to his world just yet (especially when it’s made by the guy who directed 500 Days of Summer).
Tim: Oh, c’mon, guys. That dance sequence was painful. Not only does it interrupt what was sure to be a perfectly good version of “Fever,” it also provides yet another excuse to leave Gwen Stacy sitting on the sidelines (her character just feels like a missed opportunity throughout). If you want a good dance sequence in this flick, I suggest taking another look at the scene in which amnesiac Harry and heartbroken M.J. perk up by making omelets while grooving to Chubby Checker — that at least had a feeling of spontaneity, something this movie is sadly lacking. However, I agree with you that Spider Man 3 had the same problem as the first round of Batman sequels — too many bad guys. What we need is an epic showdown that feels urgent and personal, and by giving us two antagonists (two and a half, if you count the Green Goblin), it’s more bombastic than tense.
To its credit, Spider-Man 3 has a solid first half; I liked the fact that being a superhero was taking a toll on M.J. and Pete, not least because his ego had gotten out of control. I found Aunt May’s reminiscences about the day Uncle Ben proposed to be kind of touching, and Peter’s landlord proves himself to be a gruff but thoroughly decent guy; what’s nice about all three Spider-Man films is that the characters are, in general, fundamentally decent people who strive to do the right thing (even the bad guys!). Spider-Man 3 doesn’t totally deserve its toxic reputation, but it’s kind of a bummer that the franchise succumbed to blockbuster bloat after two superior installments.
Luke: Tim, really? It’s fine to hate on the goofball dance routine — I guess that’s the consensus anyway — but to defend it by praising the freakin’ egg cooking scene?
Tim: What can I say? I like eggs.