Spidey’s Back, Caught in a $350 Million Web

Running Time 140 minutes
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace

Clocking in at up to $350 million, depending on which moguls you ask and how secure their jobs are prior to the end of the fiscal year, Spider-Man 3 is the most expensive movie ever made. Translated from the kind of language Hollywood accountants use before they doctor the books, this means Spider-Man 3 represents the most money ever wasted on a single piece of Hollywood junk. Bloated and stupid, this movie is so bad you can’t even review it. Over-produced, over-publicized, over-designed, over-computerized and just plain over the moon, it’s so preposterously overwrought with so many bewildering plots juggling simultaneously for over-emphasis, there’s no entry point for criticism. You just stare at it, as you might a great big exploding pile of cow manure.

In its third spit-and-paste retread, the most boring of the Marvel Comics series runs out of octane before it steps on the pedal and just skids along on desperation and ethanol. Just trying to make sense of its overlapping plots risks boring you to death, but duty calls. Deadlier than ever, Tobey Maguire is back and hardly able to keep his eyes open as Peter Parker, the dork from Queens who swings through the canyons of New York on spider webs, saving the world from evil. Apparently the job doesn’t pay very well, because he still lives in the same crummy room with the broken doorknob where he hides his Spider-Man suit. Mary Jane Watson (an anesthesized Kristen Dunst, slumming it up under a contract hike) is now starring on Broadway, singing “They Say It’s Wonderful,” an Irving Berlin song from Annie Get Your Gun, in a musical that has nothing to do with either. They spoon over Central Park watching shooting stars in a spider web the size of a parachute, until she get fired after one performance and sinks into a deep depression. But wait. There’s no time for Spider-Man to waste on that plot. He’s too busy fending off his former best friend Harry (James Franco), the millionaire who competes for Mary Jane’s affection, blames Peter for his father’s suicide, and goes over to the dark side to seek revenge, emerging as—duh!—Green Goblin Jr. In the most criminal waste of talent since Vivien Leigh danced the Charleston in a maid’s uniform in the doomed Broadway musical Tovarich, the great Rosemary Harris makes another brief appearance as Spidey’s widowed Aunt May. This stuff must pay like crazy.

But forget about the old standbys: Spider-Man has two new arch-enemies to battle. First, there’s Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), the escaped convict who killed Peter’s Uncle Ben. Running from the police, he gets buried in the sand machine of a scientific research lab, and emerges faster than you can say “Shazam!” as the notorious Sandman, a humongous behemoth of swirling dust and biceps that director Sam Raimi confuses with the centuries-old Jewish fable of the gruesome golem. Even the bodies in this movie are computer-generated. Since we saw Mr. Church—in fact, all of Mr. Church—in his birthday suit in Sideways, we know he does not look like the Incredible Hulk. Then there’s Topher Grace, trashing his usual charm as Eddie Brock, an ambitious photographer competing for Peter’s job at The Daily Bugle, where the snarling, two-faced editor (J.K. Simmons) promises him a raise if he can catch Spider-Man committing a crime. Suddenly something slimy falls from the sky that looks like an oil spill and attaches itself to Peter’s motor bike. When the axle grease from Mars wraps itself around Eddie like barbed wire, it turns him into—Whammo!—a lethal nemesis called Venom! Holy Spider-Man! The superhero is so busy bobbing from skyscrapers and bridges that he hardly has time to notice when Harry suffers a concussion that destroys the short-term memory in his brain, allowing him to forgive, forget and join his old buddy to fight the forces of villainy. This is a major mistake, since the monsters are the only fun guys in the entire movie. But there’s more. I forgot to mention that Spider-Man now has not only two new adversaries to battle, but a new Halloween costume to wear. When he dons the old Superman knockoff, he can save Mary Jane from a falling taxicab. (This is a Manhattan with elevated highways!) When he suits up in the black outfit that looks like poison seaweed, he turns into Black Spider-Man. This allows the blank-faced Tobey Maguire the opportunity to sport some racy mascara, comb an Adolf Hitler haircut over one eye, and look a lot more interesting than just another bland, miscast stud muffin. Harry wants to kill Spider-Man. Mr. Sandman wants to kill Spider-Man. Venom wants to kill Spider-Man. Hell, the snoring audience with an I.Q. over 25 wants to kill Spider-Man. But the damned thing drones on in a state of computerized testosterone until its hard drive crashes and you could get killed in the exodus toward the doors marked “Exit.”

Sam Raimi throws in not only the kitchen sink, but everything else on the wreckage meter. Family members do cameos. There is one long, irrelevant and disruptive sequence in which no-talent Raimi sidekick Bruce Campbell appears as a French waiter that makes you wonder what these people were swallowing besides designer water. As Nerdy Spidey, Tobey Maguire is goopier than ever. As Black Spidey, playing ragtime piano like Harry Connick Jr. and thrusting his pelvis like John Travolta, he has to be seen to be believed. The sets are cheesy. The actors are unconscious. The writing is barely legible. The digital effects are overwhelming, without a shred of freshness or originality. None of it makes sense. In summation, Spider-Man 3 consists of one swollen contrivance after another until they all fester and erupt in an incomprehensible blast of noise and gibberish.

Jeez. It’s not even summer yet, and the silly season has already arrived at the movies. Spidey’s Back, Caught in a $350 Million Web