I skimped on the previews for this third adaptation of the Marvel superhero: trailers are unnecessary selling points for a movie that had me at "hello". I'm glad I abstained, as the trailers contained multiple spoilers, including the presence of a major character whom I did not expect to see in this movie (despite all the clues being there). It was fun to watch all these icons come to life and duke it out, even if the first fight was my favorite and the rest seemed too frenetic and CGI-ish to follow.
But ultimately, that character's appearance contributed to the film's greatest flaw. I didn't have to see Batman & Robin to know that it was a victim to (among other things) its own ambition: introducing Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Batgirl was too much for one film to handle. Spider-Man 3 suffers similarly (if perhaps not as severely). Who will Spider-Man fight next: Sandman? The son of the Green Goblin? Or the black suit? Is he preoccupied by reliving the night his uncle was killed, not giving Maryjane the attention she deserves? Is she the love interest, or is Gwen Stacy?
Though I felt Sandman was used effectively in this film, I nonetheless opt to vote him off the island as the film's weakest — or at least most expendable — link. That's not an easy decision to make, as Sandman is here for a reason: he provides a necessary counterpoint to the symbiote. As Peter observes, "You always have a choice", and in this film, that choice is between vengeance or forgiveness; destruction or redemption. The suit and Sandman are the physical manifestation of that battle, the external embodiment of an internal decision. In that context, Sandman could not be eliminated without a major reworking of the story… but such a reworked story would ultimately produce a leaner and more manageable vehicle for our hero.
Speaking of which, more focus on the title character would also have behooved Spider-Man 3. In the first two films, I was seeing Peter Parker struggling to be Spider-Man; in this film, I watched Peter Parker struggling to be Peter Parker (including several drawn-out dance numbers). Though the vulnerable, human side of this superhero has always constituted a strong part of his character and his appeal, I felt in this installment that it was overwhelming.
Films sometimes drop off with the third entry: observe X-Men or Terminator. I'd hoped having a consistent director throughout the Spider-Man series would do it well, and certainly there's much to like about this latest film; I encourage everyone who liked the first two to run, not walk, to the third. It's just a bit more gluttonous a final hurrah than we were hoping for.
(And to end on a sour note: This was also the only film in the trilogy to not feature the original theme song anywhere — not even in the closing credits! Way to tick off the true believers!)