Reviewed by: Taran Gingery
Thomas Haden Church
Bryce Dallas Howard
|Director:||Sam Raimi—“Spider-Man,” “The Evil Dead”|
Joseph M. Caracciolo, Jr.
|Distributor:||Sony Pictures Releasing|
“How long can any man fight the darkness… before he finds it in himself?”
“Spider-Man 3,” assuming that some may have forgotten the previous movies, creatively mixes a collage of the events of “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” into the opening credits, then wastes no time in getting into the story quickly. Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) situation has improved since the last film. His schoolwork is successful, he is still keeping a steady job at the Daily Bugle, and he plans to propose to Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Only his friendship with Harry Osborn (James Franco) seems to have reached an all-time low, as Harry takes it upon himself to take over the role of the Goblin and make Peter’s life miserable. Then, three things happen.
First, Peter discovers that the murderer of his uncle is still at large and furthermore, a freak accident has turned this fugitive, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), into a man made out of sand with the ability to manipulate the element into any shape. Consumed with thoughts of revenge, Peter is attacked by a strange substance from space called the Symbiote which feeds on his anger and aggression and unleashes the darkest side of Spider-Man. Elsewhere, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), Peter’s competition at the Bugle, is determined to bring Spider-Man down, and is himself touched by the Symbiote and becomes Venom, a terrifying creature intent on the destruction of our hero.
The special effects are astounding, and in many places, surpass anything you have seen in the previous movies. The transformation of Flint Marko into the Sandman alone is worth seeing on the big-screen, as are a terrific skyscraper rescue, a battle on a subway train, and an electrifying final showdown between Spider-Man, Sandman, Venom, and Harry. The returning actors do well, with Dunst and Franco shining the most. For the newcomers, Haden Church is particularly good as Flint Marko, playing him with a calm sense of sadness, and Bryce Dallas Howard, looking beautiful as blond Gwen Stacy, does well at what she is required to do.
As far as morals go, that is the strongest thing about “Spider-Man 3” and all of the films in this series. Although, throughout this film, I found it harder to identify with Peter as I had earlier, this one still has plenty of important messages. Most important is the theme of revenge. The Symbiote fed on the feelings in Peter’s heart and helped transform him into something that he wasn’t, but that anger and hatred was already there for it to grab on to. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Peter is at first overcome by evil as he decides not to leave vengeance in the hands of those who have the right to deal it (he is told that we, as humans, do not have the right to deal out death), but he is able to fight off his inner demons, and try to overcome the evil in his enemies by “doing good” or trying to help them.
Forgiveness is also a strong theme. At first, an angry Peter shouts at a villain, “If you want forgiveness, get religion.” But later, Peter is told that we have to be able to forgive others if we want to be able to forgive ourselves. Jesus told us something similar in Mark 11:25, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you.” Eventually, in the film’s most powerful moments, two major characters are able to take that step and do what takes the most courage to do: forgive and repent. Another honorable theme is the idea that we must put our spouses before ourselves.
The villains themselves are not archetypal villains trying to take over the world, as they did in “Superman Returns,” “Batman Begins,” or “Fantastic Four,” any more than the Green Goblin or Doc Ock were. Flint Marko is merely a man trying to do the right thing for his loved ones, and in the process, he commits terrible sins. The important thing is that with every step of his life, he regrets his past deeds and would do anything to take them back again. Eddie Brock is man consumed by jealousy, and in the end, humiliated and broken, he (a Catholic) begs God to take Spider-Man out of his life. Instead, the Spider becomes even more a part of it as he tears off the Symbiote and unknowingly passes it on to Eddie who, instead of fighting it, allows it to consume him totally, to wallow in his rage and greed. Harry Osborn is a man torn by grief and a thirst for revenge, but even he has a choice to take the path of good or evil and in the end, he is forced to take a stand on the side of his father or on the side of what is right.
Morally, there is nothing to condemn in this film. No one sleeps with anyone else. However, there are several things which I must mention. First, Peter’s character is troubling, as he allows the Symbiote, as well as his feelings, to take over. He becomes, as my fellow viewer put it, “totally emo,” a look which does not suit him, and becomes rude, crass, and even promiscuous, as he sways his hips and makes pelvic thrusts on the sidewalk. At one point he dances sensually with Gwen Stacy and then jumps on the tables in a bar and dances some more. However, the film uses these to show how not to act.
Elsewhere, various characters share kisses, some passionate, some much shorter. Several characters make mild sexual jokes, and an innuendo is made on Peter’s last name. There are some mild profanities uttered, as well as several misuses of God’s name.
Violence is unfortunately more so than the other films, with several violent encounters, including a brutal fistfight between Peter and Harry, and a “grab him and smash him against the walls and hurl him through windows” brawl with both Harry and later the Sandman. The Sandman, in his sandy form, smashes a few policemen, with very brief blood. Harry is bloodied many times, ends up in the hospital with many bandages and finally has a bomb explode in his face, leaving him horribly scarred. A character is killed in an explosion. Another character is impaled on two spikes and dies on screen (no blood). Peter sees the shooting of his uncle several times in flashback, also no blood. Peter knocks Mary Jane to the ground at one point.
That said, “Spider-Man 3” feels at many times less fun and more serious and mature than the first two films, although it does feature many exciting action sequences. Yet, in spite of all of its shortcomings, including brutal comic book violence and scenes of Parker as a bad boy and womanizer, “Spider-Man 3” still contains many important, necessary, and universal themes that every teenager should understand. Of course, the PG-13 rating should be taken very seriously. Yet, I still recommend this film to all adult and older teenage fans of Spider-Man with wisdom to discern the important messages as well as enjoy the special effects and action in this very different, but still familiar third installment of the franchise.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.