Review: Spider-Man 3

It’s 3am and I just got home from the midnight premiere of Spider-Man 3 at my local Imax theater. All I can say is “Wow!” These guys sure know how to make a good movie. In fact, this may be the best Spider-Man film yet.

First, they’ve topped themselves in the special effects department. The action scenes and sense of vertigo were pretty amazing in Spider-Man 2. Who’d of thought the bar could be raised any higher? Of course, it helps to watch the movie on a giant Imax screen that is six stories tall and completely fills your field of vision. Still, the eye candy was pretty amazing.

But what really makes it a great film is the story. In the classic Spidey tradition, Peter Parker’s personal life is a mess during most of the film, even pushing him into heartbreak and depression. But unlike the previous films, this time his problems are mostly his own doing. Parker spends part of the film wearing a special organic black suit that “feeds” off of him like a host. The suit heightens his powers and gives him a rush of exhileration, but it also draws out the worst in his human nature. I don’t want to give too much away, but Peter does some pretty awful things and his bad behavior has very real and tragic consequences. Yet given the circumstances his actions are understandable and we sympathize with him even when he is being a total jerk. There are also some humorous chuckle moments sprinkled throughout the film which keep it from taking itself too seriously.

The movie also explores powerful themes like revenge and forgiveness, and even the importance of self-sacrifice in marriage. In one scene Peter decides to propose to Mary Jane. Before giving her blessing, his Aunt May tells him, “A husband must put his wife’s needs ahead of his own,” and asks, “Are you ready to do that?”

Even the three villians are sympathetic (well, two of them are anyway). When I first heard there would be three villians I rolled my eyes, fearing the writers were running out of good stories to tell and instead trying to pad the movie with over-the-top action. I needn’t have worried. While the movie does ask you to suspend disbelief–I had a hard time believing that a living, breathing human being could be made entirely of sand–somehow the movie’s larger story draws you in to even the most implausible moments. I think that’s part of the appeal of Spider-Man. He’s a superhero who deals with very real problems we can all relate to. Despite having super powers Spider-Man is very flawed. As are we.

The first Spider-man film had an underlying moral theme (“With great power comes great responsibility”). This film also weaves a morality tale. Towards the end of the film one of the characters tells us we all have a choice in how we respond to our difficulties. We can either do the natural thing (be bitter, hold a grudge, get revenge), or we can do the noble thing (forgive, put other’s needs ahead of our own). Forgiveness and self-sacrifice are powerful Christian themes. If we are honest, when someone hurts us our sinful natures prefer bitterness and revenge. Why is it the right thing to do is often the hard thing?

I happened to have a few Are You a Good Person? mini-comic gospel tracts on me. So as we left the theater, I stood outside the door and handed them out. “Did you get one of these?” I would ask. Due to the movie’s themes, it seemed like a good thing to do. I was pretty nervous, but amazingly most people took them and some even asked for more. Maybe watching a cool superhero movie put people in the mood for reading a comic book?

Anyway, go see Spider-Man 3. And if you can, see it on a giant Imax screen. This Spider-Man truly is amazing.