Spiderman tangles with convoluted plot

John Manalang

By the time you read this, Peter Parker and his web-crawling alter ego will have already smashed box office records. “Spiderman 3” made $59 million on its first day, adding to the $148 million it accumulated this past weekend. Even before Spidey swung by North American movie theaters last Friday, Tokyo and European theaters were already caught in its web of profits.

The friendly neighborhood superhero has surpassed his past movies in terms of making money. But as far as the movie’s content, it seems as if director Sam Raimi has lost his vision of making Spiderman a remarkable character. The story is plagued by a myriad of substories that feel unnecessary in the overall plot and the characters become almost unrecognizable in the end.

Retaining the same cast of characters from the past movies, such as Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, “Spiderman 3” pits our web-swinging protagonist against his fiercest enemy yet – himself. Peter Parker goes through an emotional battle, provoked by hatred for his enemies and a desire for power that transforms Spiderman into a revenge-seeking maniac. Spidey proves his new badass demeanor by trying to take one of the main villains out of commission, smacking his girlfriend and mutilating his best friend.

Spiderman changes from the familiar red and blue costume to a new black costume, which is really a symbiote from outer space that intensifies his aggressive tendencies. Parker, the man behind the mask, undergoes an extreme makeover, and starts wearing a saucy Italian suit and combing his hair differently, busting ridiculous dance moves as if he were a reject from a “Dancing with the Stars” audition.

The movie falls short in attempting to make Spiderman a renegade antihero, as Maguire simply cannot pull off that type of character. Instead of giving the Spiderman character a more aggressive edge, he comes off more like a crying wimp who swings by New York City and hits his face on a building.

To make matters worse, Kirsten Dunst sings in the movie, twice. Her singing makes Ashlee Simpson’s “Saturday Night Live” fiasco look like a sold-out show at the Staples Center. Mary Jane Watson’s character is insecure, as she has a beloved superhero boyfriend while at the same time she is struggling with her burgeoning acting career. She is also uptight about Parker’s lab partner Gwen Stacy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who she thinks he is romantically involved with because of a few isolated incidents of them getting close. That uncertainty complicates her relationship with Parker and their best friend Harry Osborne, played by James Franco.

As for the villains, they did not resemble the menacing and intimidating reputation of the past Spiderman movie villains. Both Green Goblin, played by Williem Dafoe in the first Spiderman movie, and Dr. Octopus, played by Alfred Molina in “Spiderman 2,” were exceptional characters worthy of becoming Spidey’s toughest adversaries. Because of the movie’s overall convoluted storyline, Sandman and Venom are never established as some of Spiderman’s toughest foes. However, Thomas Haden Church as Sandman worked out quite well, as his troubled demeanor and hulking figure resembled the villain’s comic book image. As for Venom, Kirsten Dunst’s singing appears to be more intimidating and horrendous.

The complex plot drags on for two and a half hours, as the movie attempts to show Spiderman’s inner turmoil, at the same time as Sandman and Venom’s menace, but fails to give a satisfying resolution in the end.

Visual effects in “Spiderman 3” are true eye candy that will put everyone in awe. From the transformation of the Sandman and Venom, to the glorious fight sequences between Spiderman and his adversaries, “Spiderman 3” is a breathtaking computer-generated rollercoaster ride. It puts other special effects films to shame. With a production budget of $248 million, the film has to look this sexy.

“Spiderman 3” could have been much more than a moneymaking popcorn flick. The past two Spiderman movies, especially “Spiderman 2,” have given audiences a fresh look at the famous web-slinger. But “Spiderman 3” disappoints in terms of storytelling and character development, two things that made the first two films exceptional.