The third and final film in Sam Raimi's trilogy, 2007's Spider-Man 3 picks up where the second film left off and catches up with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) as he's started to build his life back together after things got pretty dismal for him. He's started to rebuild his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirstin Dunst), the love of his life, and he's more comfortable in his role as Spider-Man, the superhero out to do what he can to make the world a better and safer place. Although there is the small matter of the presence of Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), the lovely blonde that Peter is friendly with and who he hasn't told Mary Jane about.
Once again, however, life proves to have its deck stacked against our favorite webslinger. When Peter's former best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), decides to avenge the death of his father (Willem Dafoe) who was secretly the supervillain known as The Green Goblin, he tweaks his father's battlesuit and becomes The New Goblin, a fiend so terrible that only Spider-Man can stop him. If that weren't enough, the man who murdered Peter's late Uncle Ben, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), is back in town and this time he's more than just a thug - he's The Sandman! If all of this wasn't enough, that black symbiotic liquid that seems to have bonded with Peter has made him more powerful than ever, but so too has it affected his sense of judgment and his good temper. As Peter's foes close in around him and make life horrible for the fine citizens of New York City, he becomes increasingly more violent and comes dangerously close to losing control - until a man named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) enters the picture...
Spider-Man 3 tries to be a lot of things and winds up not doing any of them quite as well as the two movies that came before it. By focusing on the romance that is building between Peter and Mary Jane the movie suffers from some pacing issues and by cramming in three major villains for Spider-Man to deal with the movie suffers from some character development issues. The performances are pretty good here though. Tobey Maguire is still a 'nice guy' as Peter Parker. He's the loveable loser we've come to love from the comic books and the earlier movies, that guy who, despite the best of intentions, just can't seem to catch a break. He wrestles with the responsibilities of his alter ego and he tries his best to dodge the paranoid rants of newspaper man J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons reprising his role) but despite the fact that he keeps saving people from evil, life hands him a whole lot of lemons that he can't ever quite seem to make into lemonade. Dunst is once again charming and beautiful as Mary Jane Watson, and we like the two of them as a couple, but they don't get to grow here that much and don't come across as interesting or deep. Bryce Dallas Howard is pretty to look at and not at all a bad casting choice, but as Gwen Stacey she isn't given a whole lot to do here.
The bad guys though, they do fare a little bit better simply because they're the bad guys. Audience expectations are sometimes different for the villains in movies like this and in this case, while it's true that The Sandman and Venom aren't particularly complex, they are at least cool to watch. They stomp around and terrorize people, the break things, they cause trouble and they look good doing it - that's what we need out of the bad guys in a movie like this and they do deliver. When the movie centers on the action scenes between or protagonist and our antagonists, it's a fun diversion of a movie that offers up some quality slam, bang and boom. Compared to Alfred Molina in the last film, however, Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace don't quite seem to be competing on the same level of gleefully evil awesomeness. Even if James Franco's New Goblin is cool to look at and an interesting turn for the character, his subplot seems unnecessary here and we wind up with three villains, none of whom wind up carrying as much impact with them as the one major villain in either of the first two movies.
We could do worse though. The movie does zip along at a good pace more often than not (there are problems but they don't crush the film) and the action scenes are intense, well choreographed, and impressive on a technical level if you don't mind the CGI. A few logic gaps rear their ugly heads (Really? Your Spidey sense didn't tell you a meteorite just crashed nearby?) but the film does at least offer up some good escapism and entertainment, even if it can't top what came before it.
Spider-Man 3 looks great in 2.40.1 widescreen AVC encoded 1080p high definition on Blu-ray from Sony. Detail is excellent throughout the transfer and the image is consistently clean, crisp and sharp throughout the movie. Colors are handled very nicely here, black levels are nice and strong, reference quality even, and there are no issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or obvious compression artifacts. It's hard to find much to complain about here, texture looks great (you'll really notice it in some of Mary Jane's costumes) and close up detail is pretty remarkable - just wait until the camera gets close to the various faces throughout the movie, you can see everything in perfect clarity.
The main audio option on this disc is an English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, though an uncompressed English PCM 5.1 mix is included as is are standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes which are offered up in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai . Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Chinese (Cantonese), French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai. The TrueHD track is a great one, offering loads of depth and surround channel activity throughout the movie, from the rumble during the fights scenes to the sounds of traffic in the background during some of the more relaxed moments. There's just a lot to take in here, a lot of range and all of it presented in excellent quality. The LPCM mix also sounds very good, but the TrueHD option seems to have a little bit more power behind it and maybe a slightly stronger low end. Whichever option you go for, they both sound very good indeed.
There are no new extras on this release, everything that's here was ported over from the last Blu-ray release of the film but for those unfamiliar with that release, there's some decent stuff here starting with the first commentary that comes courtesy of director Sam Raimi and cast members Tobey Maguire, Thomas Haden Church, James Franco, Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard. It's a lively talk that not surprisingly focuses on the actors work here, though Raimi is rarely at a loss for words so we get some insight into his directorial process as well. The second commentary features producers Avi Arad, Grant Curtis, and Laura Ziskin, editor Bob Murawaski and visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk. It's not quite as lively but it is very informative and it gives us a look into the technical side of things as it covers getting the film into production, effects issues, casting, stunts and more. Both tracks are good and if you're a fan of the film and haven't checked them out, they are worthwhile.
Aside from that though, there isn't a whole lot else here - a video for Snow Patrol's song Signal Fire, a seven minute Blooper Reel, a few still galleries, animated menus and chapter stops round things out. This release does include an Ultraviolet Digital Copy but it leaves out the entire second disc that was included with the initial release of the movie.
Spider-Man 3 is the weakest entry of the three films that Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirstin Dunst made together but it is still entertaining and fun. This release looks and sounds great, just like the Blu-ray that Sony put out a few years ago (in fact, it appears to be indentical) but it leaves out all of the extras that were included on disc two of the first Blu-ray release of the film, making this reissue little more than a cash in on the upcoming feature film and an offering that in no way improves on what has already been released. If you don't have the movie already, this is being put out at a good price but otherwise, look for the original Blu-ray release which had a lot more extras. If you don't care about extras and just want the movie, this will do the trick - otherwise, rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.