Third time’s a charm? Don’t believe it. There have been very few movie franchises that have successfully stretched a premise out past the five-hour mark. Godfather III? Superman III? For the love of God, Jaws 3D? For all that, the latest installment of the wisecracking web slinger wasn’t as bad as the negative hype led me to believe. I would venture a guess however, that barring a Batman-style reset, the Spidey cash cow is dead.
The problem this time around wasn’t too many villains as most of the reviews howled. For me, the problem was one of insincerity. When Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker becomes host to a symbiotic alien that amplifies the aggressive tendencies of its host, he reacts by doing a ridiculous Tony Manero-style strut down the street, winking and jiving at all the girls. Perhaps director/writer Sam Rami should have just gone ahead and got Travolta for the flick, since the next thing you know, Parker is dancing out his anger at being dropped by his girlfriend at her place of employment.
Parker’s accusatory dance scene is out of character, not with Parker—since he is after-all driven through this part of the movie by an evil alien suit—but with the rest the movie. Damn it, Rami, with all the misplaced singing and dancing in this movie, if you want to do a musical, do a damn musical.
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane seems like she would rather be somewhere else throughout most of her limited scenes. If Rami had been thinking long-term, he should have left this part of the Peter Parker story until Spider-Man 4. It’s not the Mary Jane story after all, and her moping around doesn’t help move the convoluted plot at all.
Classic Spider-Man villains Sandman and Venom are realized pretty well in CGI. I don’t know if it’s a by-product of getting old, or the fact that computer animation didn’t exist while my young brain was still cooking, but I find it hard to follow the rapid pace of most of today’s special effects. I think the visuals could benefit by slowing down the action so that we can take in all that careful art direction and complex choreography.
Also, I would have liked for Rami to hold off playing the Venom card until that story could be explored on its own. Sandman, and the movie, would have been better served by hooking up with other Silver Age bad guys like Electro or the Vulture. But that’s just me, I rock it old school.