Looking Closer’s Film Forum: “Spider-Man 3″


Spider-Man 3 explores the latest chapter of Peter Parker’s education in the balance of power and responsibility.

In the first film, he was exhilarated by newfound talents, and learned to use them for the greater good. In Spider-Man 2, he felt the burden of responsibility, and considered tossing the mask aside and living a normal life. This time, Spider-Man’s brought crime to a standstill and become the most popular celebrity in New York. But pride comes before a fall, and when you’re swinging between skyscrapers, that’s a very long fall indeed.

To be fair—Spider-Man doesn’t just fall. He’s pushed … by a variety of malevolent influences. The “3″ in the movie’s title may well be referring to the number of supervillains ganging up on our hero.

While it’s not as satisfying as the second installment, Spider-Man 3 delivers 139 minutes of engaging, occasionally exhilarating entertainment that manages to bind drama, comedy, music, and action without losing its balance. And the special effects? You’ll get your ten bucks’ worth, no question.

But it’s not perfect… not by any stretch of Sony’s expensive imagination. Preposterous coincidences, an overcrowded storyline, and other problems may send viewers home grumbling.

My full review is at Christianity Today Movies.

Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) writes:

Are these too many characters, too many storylines? Well, yes. Like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest or Peter Jackson’s King Kong, Spider‑Man 3 represents creativity run amok, where most popcorn entertainment represents creativity struggling to put one foot in front of the other. The results may be somewhat uneven compared to the outstanding Spider‑Man 2, but this film’s heights are series high points — and it’s consistently head and shoulders above the original film, which remains the weak link in the series.

Greg Wright (Past the Popcorn) says,

Spider-Man 3 not only delivers more of what the series has brought in the past, it appears to have done so in a manner that should please both audiences and bean-counters.

As a film, it reaches too far—four villains (including Spidey himself) are about two too many, and Topher Grace, among others, is wildly miscast. The diabolus plot-device never rises above that lame and paltry level. And I’m sorry, but Dunst and Maguire—while competent enough—are being wildly overpaid, regardless of the odd chemistry that they obviously produce.

Federica Matthewes-Green says,

… the dialogue and characters and underlying themes, are all richer than the usual action movie fare – it’s a banquet of a movie.

Stephen McGarvey (Crosswalk) says,

Those who enter the theater with their $9 bucket of popcorn looking to be wowed by heretofore unseen action sequences won’t go home disappointed. Those who are looking for more of the poignant storytelling of the first two films, which blended character growth and deeper philosophical themes with Peter Parker’s adventures, may be dissatisfied.

And Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) says,

Some may find it overlong, but that’s a small carp in such a satisfying, surprisingly moving film, with its solid themes of good versus evil, self-esteem, forgiveness and redemption. Though the film is classified for adults because of some comic-book brutality, many parents may deem it acceptable for their older teens.

Peter Suderman (National Review) highlights the highs and lows, but has a lot of trouble with the film’s conclusion. (You might want to steer clear if you’re worried about “spoilers,” as this may be too revealing for you.) writes,

…this film’s final moments weirdly intimate that it’s time to forgive enemies — even those who’ve hurt us most — rather than fight them. It’s too brief a sequence to ruin the movie, but it’s vexing all the same. Indeed, along with the film’s many other wobbles, it may be a sign that the superhero genre that Raimi’s first Spider-Man perfected has started to weaken by falling prey to fashionable modern sentiments. No longer does Spider-Man struggle with the responsibility granted by his power to fight off a known villain before he acts again. This time, Spidey’s final act is letting the bad guy get away. How unheroic.

Anthony Lane (New Yorker) shows no mercy:

In an early scene, a meteorite crashes to Earth, and from it crawls what seems to be a tiny garbage sack with half a mind of its own: not a bad image of where this film belongs. And, would you believe, the first person this superblob attaches itself to is, yes, Peter Parker. It doesn’t choose him; nobody has targeted him—of all Earth’s inhabitants, he just happens to be close by. Is this truly the best that the filmmakers can be bothered to do for our delight? Just how easily and stupidly pleased do they presume we are? … [T]his is where the film becomes so embarrassing that you have to crouch down and stuff popcorn in your ears.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

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  • petertchattaway

    “Luckily”? The filmmakers pretty much bought the box office performance, at least for this first weekend. After that, it will all come down to word-of-mouth, which so far appears to be pretty mixed.

  • alissamwilkinson

    Luckily for the filmmakers, I don’t think the reviews are going to affect the box office performance much. It’s Spidey!

    Anthony Lane is a genius, though, and manages to point out the ridiculous in everything.


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