Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Rated: PG-13
Grade: BBAA=B+
Budget: $258 million
Box Office: $337 million US, $555 million abroad, $60 million DVD

Directed by: Sam Raimi, who has produced and acted in many films formerly directed Spider-Man 1 and 2, The Gift, For Love of the Game, A Simple Plan, and a bunch of zombie movies.

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, JK Simmons, and James Cromwell.

Once again, the reluctant web-slinger finds himself caught between love and danger in both parts of his life. Threatened by a competitive photographer at work, torn over how best to handle the amnesia of his former friend and now sworn enemy, the Hobgoblin, and trying to solve the new threats from the Sandman and Venom, Peter Parker must also figure out how to convince his starlet sweetheart Mary Jane to marry him. Um…it’s like really got a lot going on.

Entertainment Value: B
Lots and lots and lots of great action sequences involving highly creative ways for Spidey to use his powers. Despite the characters being mostly caricatures of anything you’d find in real life, there’s still a lot of meaty development and nuance in them. Of all three of the Spider-Man’s, Spider-Men(?), this is the one most faithful to all the best elements of a great comic book, which Spidey always was.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality B, Violence C, Language B, Illegality C
Other than Topher Grace ogling women and a few scenes of Kirsten Dunst singing in an evening gown, the sex content is tame. Likewise, language is really not an issue. If anything is going to bother you about this movie, of course, it would be the violence as people try to really kill each other and some of the pretty terrifying images as people undergo strange transformations. There are various illegal activities such as bank robbery and destruction of property. As I said, it’s a comic book brought to life.

Significant Content: A
The movie is all about personal identity, and it hits this theme from several angles. The first is about the intersection of fame, work, and the need to do what you value with a love relationship between a super-hero and a not-quite singer. The second is about memory, as we see Harry lose his and return to thinking of Peter as a friend. The third is about the power of choices to determine who we are, and on this score, the movie is very optimistic. Finally, the tension between serving justice and serving revenge is quite vividly portrayed with Peter and the new outfit/alien being. Additional themes about media manipulation and jealousy are also clearly present.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
I haven’t been a big fan of the Spider-Man movies, mostly because I think that both Maguire and Dunst are terrible miscasts. However, what was previously just irritating character identity struggle has finally manifested as full-blown moral struggle, in a good way. I found the character developments in this movie to be extremely provocative and useful for discussion. Besides, the Sandman and Venom effects alone make the movie worth watching.

Discussion Questions:
~In what sense would you say that we are only as good, or bad, as our last choice? Do you think it’s true that we can always make better choices and reverse the trend of who we are? Can we also always take a good trend and ruin it? To what degree does our history of previous choices continue to influence our character? In particular, consider Sandman, Hobgoblin, and Peter in your thinking.
~In what ways would you say that this movie is redemptive? Who is redeemed? By what mechanism? Is it possible in real life to be redeemed merely by our own choices?
~The difference between justice and revenge often seems very blurry, but this is a theme all comic books wrestle with. Why is revenge so satisfying to us at the time? Why is it so unsatisfying to us later? If revenge is wrong to do, is it also wrong to enjoy watching others do it? How might you compare revenge and justice to lust and love? Compare the difference between how you react to what befalls Sandman and what befalls Venom.
~If you don’t remember the past, are you still the same person you used to be? How might amnesia and our memories actually define our identities? In what sense is a person who loses memory a different person? How might this shape your thinking about conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s?
~The Bible teaches us to learn to be content no matter what happens around us. What lessons about contentment does this movie teach?
~Sandman claims to be a good person who has some bad luck. What do you think? How much might luck factor into the major events/decisions of a person’s life?
~Have you ever been envious of someone else’s popularity, especially when you were feeling unappreciated? Why is it so hard to celebrate the success of others when we aren’t experiencing it? Is this selfishness or lack of love or something else?
~People often think they can do evil in one area of their lives and prevent that corruption from spilling over into other areas. What do you think? Consider Peter’s violence toward those he loves.
~Is Spider-Man a vigilante? Does it matter? What’s the difference between a hero and a vigilante?
~How important is forgiveness in real life? Is it as powerful as this movie makes it out to be, or more so?
~How important is kissing? Did you find the kiss a believable plot element? Did you think MJ overreacted to it? To what degree is kissing similar or different from adultery?
~In what ways would you say the symbiotic alien is like or unlike a drug? Did the suit change Peter or just accentuate what he was already doing to some degree?
~When we do something unethical to get ahead and are caught, why do we tend to blame the person who caught us rather than ourselves? Have you ever responded as Topher Grace did to being caught at something?

Overall Grade: B+
As an entertainment piece, it’s pretty good. As an art piece worthy of discussion, it’s outstanding. They finally did a really good one. Third time’s a charm?Full review not yet written. Please feel free to post your own thoughts.

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