REVIEW: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)
Drake Bell (Sueprhero Movie)
Ogie Banks (Superman vs The Elite)
Greg Cipes (Teen Titans)
Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Matt Lanter (Heroes)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Caitlyn Taylor Love (I’m With The Band)
Logan Miller (Deep Powder)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Misty Lee (Killer Kids)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Tara Strong (The New Batman Adventures)
Eric Bauza (Batman: Assault on Arkam)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Kevin Michael richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Stan Lee (Spider-Man)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman: The Movie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Rob Paulsen (Teenae Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterpise)
Travis Willingham (Shelf Life)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Roger Craig Smith (Wreck-it Ralph)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Jack Coleman (Heroes)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Rose McGowan (Planet Terror)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Stan Lee (Avengers Aseesmble)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Cameron Boyce (The Descendants)
Maria Canals-Barrera (Justice League)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
James Marsters (Caprica)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Billy West (Futurama)

I recently watched  Ultimate Spider-Man and I can honestly say that I have never wanted to stop watching a Spider-Man cartoon before in my life… until now. I have been a big fan of the Spider-Man comic series for many years and have liked almost all of the cartoon iterations of him, but this one just hurts to watch. I understand that Spider-Man is supposed to be a smart-mouthed teen who likes to make jokes while fighting crime, which is my favorite part about the character, but this show just takes it to an extreme.


I think one of the biggest problems for me was how much the stories are broken up by all of the “cut away” scenes.  I understand that Spider-Man is a show made for children and I get that the characters aren’t going to be nearly as serious as they are in the comics, but I feel like this was just too far from the source material for me to enjoy it. Another thing that bothered me was how just a few years ago we had, in my opinion, one of the best Spider-Man shows to date, Spectacular Spider-Man, and it was canceled in only it’s second season. I had really high hopes for Ultimate Spider-Man to fill the void that Spectacular Spider-Man left, but it just didn’t deliver at all.

As far as the voice acting on the show goes, they all seem to have done a really good job… with what they were given to read. So much of the writing in this show just seems so forced.why was Spectacular Spider-Man so much better and the most honest answer that I can give you is that it seems as though Marvel actually put a lot of work into Spectacular Spider-Man. I’m not saying that they didn’t put a lot of work into Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s much harder to see in this one. The character designs in Spectacular Spider-Man may not have hit all of the right points for some people, but I really enjoyed it. The action in the show looked really good and it was easy to follow exactly what was happening, because you didn’t have a bunch of blur that you had to try and see everything through. The story for Spectacular Spider-Man was your standard Spider-Man fare, but while it was a show essentially for kids, it also appealed to many adults as well.


I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man, but I just didn’t. I feel like if this show was about just another teen superhero other than Spider-Man it would have been much more forgivable, but for it to take such a dump on such a beloved character, it is just really sad to see. Now all that I can do is hope that the new Spider-Man movie can really bring something good to the table.

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REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: THE NEW ANIMATED SERIES (2003)

MAIN CAST (VOICES)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Lisa Loeb (Legally Blonde)
Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills, 90210)
NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST CAST
Ethan Embry (Eagle Eye)
Jeff Fischer (American Dad)
Jennifer Hale (Batman: Assault on Arkham)
Julie Nathanson (The Zeta Project)
Rino Romano (The Batman)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Eve (4.3.2.1.)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
Gina Gershon (The Batman)
John C. McGinley (Highlander 2)
Xander Berkeley (Poison Ivy 2)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
Susan Blu (Transformers)
Keith Carradine (The Big Bang Theory)
James Marsters (Buffy)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Clancy Brown (Sleepy Hollow)
Jane Lynch (Paul)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine)
Tara Strong (Teen Titans)
Jeffrey Combs (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
David DeLuise (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Devon Sawa (Final Destination)
Stan Lee (Agent Carter)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Truly one of the best ever incarnation of Spiderman and the best animated show ever Compared to previous animated Spidey’s this was bold move, taking it in new, more mature and realistic directions.
Taking place after the Spider-Man movie this show revolves around the college adventures of Peter, Mary-Jane and Harry who have much better chemistry, character and dialogue than the movie ever offered. Each episode provides more drama and development and creativity. The stories are very imaginative and are obviously written by people who are passionate about Spiderman rather than a studio hashing a product together.
 The computer animation is superb and resembles The Ultimate Spiderman comic book (my fave) more than anything. And I know Mary-Jane is only a CGI character but she is so beautiful, and she’s voiced by the equally gorgeous Lisa Loeb. Neil Patrick Harris is the voice of Peter Parker and even in this performance he is a hundred times better than Tobey Maguire.
 The show also offers some new, interesting characters like Indy, Cheyenne and Silver Sable and gives us alternate takes on Electro and Kraven. Though I was curious as to why Aunt May was not involved.
There is plenty of action and excitement to be had in every episode, all backed up to great music.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: REINFORCEMENT

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CAST
Josh Keaton (Superman/Shazam)
Thom Adcox-Hernandez (Under Siege 2)
Xander Berkeley (Beware The Batman)
Steve Blum (The Boxtrolls)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Robert Englund (The Batman)
Crispin Freeman (Fast Sofa)
Elisa Gabrielli (South Park)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars Rebels)
This show does not mess around when it comes to using any and all characters from Spider-Man’s history!  I was very impressed and excited to see fairly obscure criminal underworld characters Blackie Gaxton and Patch appear in this episode.  This episode featured the return of the Sinister Six, albeit in a new configuration, with Mysterio and Kraven standing in for Doctor Octopus and Shocker. With that many villains, it’s not surprising that this was an episode with a ton of action, as it quickly turned into one prolonged chase/fight scene for Spider-Man.I loved how this fight moved from one environment to another, traveling to some very different places, from an ice skating rink to a pier, to a department store. Once again, this show proved to be one of the best on TV when it comes to action scenes, with a ton of visually exciting moments that sometimes are so quick, they beg you to rewind the DVR. Such a moment occurred when Spider-Man jumped to avoid a bunch of hurled tires while fighting Electro – and while he dodged some, he actually contorted himself right through the center of one, in a blink and you miss it moment. This was an episode that really reinforced Spider-Man as a clever and creative sparring partner for any of the villains he takes on. Whether it be using those aforementioned rubber tires to trap Electro, or goading Rhino onto ice not strong enough to hold him, or spraying perfume on the scent-sensitive Kraven, our wall-crawling hero was in top form here and it was incredibly fun to watch.
On a more bizarre but no less entertaining level, you also had the moment where Mysterio unleashed his mechanical bats at Spidey, and they could be heard squeaking stuff like, “Rematch! Rematch!”, clearly eager to get another shot at the guy who had beaten them two episodes ago.
Understandably, an episode this action-heavy was a little light on character moments, but the ones we got were solid. Peter’s already stuck debating between Liz and Gwen, so it was very funny when Mary Jane was trying to give him advice, only for him to begin daydreaming, thinking, “Would you look at her… She’s gorgeous!”

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED

MAIN CAST

Rino Romano (The Batman)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Donovan (ReBoot)
Brian Drummond (Dragon Ball Z)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jennifer Hale (Cinderella II)
Ron Halder (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Newman (Beast Wars)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Kim Hawthrone (Lucky Louie)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)

This is such a brilliant innovation in the Spiderman story and characterisation it really is a shame that it only ran for a total of thirteen episodes. This complete series is featured on two discs and an inlay card is included which folds out to be about the size of the box itself, clips from each episode are featured alongside comics caption/dialogue boxes which provide a synopsis of the action in this episode.

What struck me watching this was the extent to which for what is pretty much a simple saturday morning kids cartoon the episodes are cerebral, there is as much serious philosophizing as wise cracking. There are not just the normal heroics, standing up to bullies and being your best content which you may associate with cartoons of this kind but morally complex dilemmas too.

Spiderman himself has been rebooted but I think the detractors of the series who suggested it was essentially Spiderman reborn go too far. In addition to the powers imparted to him by being mutated by a spider bite Peter Parker has a costume now which can be deployed from a wrist watch like device comprised of nano technology. In addition to web slinging he can fire small darts, use a kind of sonic emitting blast to repell enemies, provides a stealth camoflage and be protected against fumes and gas canisters.

These are major changes and Spiderman has become much more sophisticated but given that his major antagonists from the start of this series are Venom and Carnage I really think this is necessary because these are two of the most formidable adversaries in the Marvel universe and I always thought some of the battles in the comics when Spiderman did not have the enhanced capabilities featured here where unconvincing.While the initial conflict is with Carnage and Venom the action quickly moves to an alternate universe in which humankind are the bottom of the heap in a caste system created by a sort of Dr Moreau Nemesis, there are now humans, servitor machines and bestial masters. Enter reflections upon class struggle, insurrection, subversion, terrorism, oppression and totalitarianism. None of this is played down or presented in a simplistic fashion. For instance Peter Parker’s initial objective of simply finding a way home to MJ becomes untenable as he discovers the pilot from an earlier mission to the alternate reality is a leader of the human resistance. Peter does not wish to join the insurgents but initially fufils the role of mediator between the factions, assisted in some way by lack of assurance on the part of the bestials that he is a human at all. The villain/nemesis himself in his back story is not unambiguously evil but rather is a plausibly disillusioned utopian genuis turned bitter, like Captain Nemo. There are possibly other more down played comments on animal testing, vivisection and vigilantism too.

However, all this said, is also possible to treat it as simple entertainment. There are appearences by alternate versions of Green Goblin and Vulture, heroes rather than villains, and The Hunter.

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1994) – SEASON 1-5

 

 

CAST

Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Rodney Saulsberry (The Animatrix)
Jennifer Hale (Wreck-It Ralph)
Gary Imhoff (The Green Mile)
Sara Ballantine (Batman Year One)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Liz Georges (As Told By Ginger)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Joseph Campanella (Ben)
Patrick Labyorteaux (Yes Man)
Maxwell Caulfield (Alien Intruder)
Neil Ross (Rambo)
Roscoe Lee Brown (Babe)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
Dawnn Lewis (Futurama)
Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
George Buza (Mutant X)
Cedric Smith (Earth: Final Conflict)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (Forever Knight)
Alison Sealy-Smith (You Kill Me)
Alyson Court (Beetlejuice TV)
Chris Potter (Heartland)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek Generations)
J.D. Hall (Undercover Brother)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday the 13th – Part 8)
George Takei (Star Trek)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Courtney Peldon (Frozen)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Barbara Goodson (Power Rangers)
James Avery (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Conflict)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Jeff Corey (Conan The Destroyer)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Mira Furlan (Lost)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
David Hayter (X-Men)
Roy Dotrice (Hercules: TLJ)
Paul Winfield (Star Trek II)
Majel Barrett (Star Trek)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

The set itself is well presented, although the artwork is a little cheap, and clearly done in a way as to mimic the style of the 90s series. Anyone who has the recent X-Men Season releases will be familiar with this. Unlike those, this one also has a slipcase. A booklet with episode synopses is also included.

Spider-Man has season-long arcs, which when viewed in succession make for great television. Christopher Barnes is brilliant as Spider-Man (especially in those fleeting moments of extreme rage), and the guests were memorable too, particularly Rob Paulsen’s oafish Hydro Man and Jennifer Hale as Felicia Hardy/ Black Cat.

The music was great too, but while Spider-Man relied on several repeated  cues,  Another thing about Spider-Man is that even after all these years I find myself being surprised by some of the plot twists, which were even more abundant upon first viewing. Thankfully, John Semper (creative head of the show) was bold enough to change much of the original stories to make them worth animating in the first place. What else? A minor triumph, but the colouring on this cartoon is the best of any I’ve ever seen. A simple praise. While the show lost its way during the muddled fourth year it had some great episodes in the last series, with one of the greatest resolution-with-cliffhanger endings in animation history. A rare treat in that its much, much better than you remember it.

Some of the best episodes were – the three-parter, “The Alien Costume”- a marvellous introduction for the ultimately underused Venom (a deliciously insane Hank Azaria)- and the two-part “Hobgoblin” are among the best in the show’s five-year run. “Night of the Lizard”, a pilot of sorts, is interesting in that there’s an awful lot more effort put into the animation than in later episodes, as is often the case.

Animation from the 1990s doesn’t come much better than this, and Marvel have yet to top it.

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1967) – SEASON 1-3

CAST

Paul Soles (Terminal City)
Bernard Cowan (Iron Man 60s)
Paul Kligman (Winnipeg)
Peg DIxon (Strange Paradise)

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48 years before modern audiences oohed and awed over the amazing adventures of a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider, kids were sitting in front of their television, singing “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does what a spider can, spins a web, any size, catches thieves, just like flies,” all while staring intently at their hero in red tights.

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Thanks to Clear Vision which captures the entire 52 episodes of the animated series on 8 discs, I discovered the exciting superhero escapades kids thrilled over and emulated in the late 1960s. After watching nearly 20 hours of classic Spider-Man, I realized the cartoon is corny, cheesy, unbelievable, and at times, downright laughable. But I loved every minute of it.

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Talk about nostalgia. Watching these DVDs was like walking through a time warp and stepping into a simpler time. And I can’t wait to go back.. I was delighted with Peter Parker’s exploits and I was thrilled at how Spider-Man always outwitted the bad guys. Sure, the adult side of my brain tried to interfere by pointing out that Spidey was swinging over rooftops on a web that wasn’t attached to anything, or that a web could never stop a bullet, or a laser, or whatever cockamamie weapon the crazed super villain happened to be using.

The old Spider-Man cartoon is definitely not Shakespeare. Instead, it’s shear fun. Even for the adults, as long as you’re willing to let your childishness shine through. Maybe it’s the corny nature of the simple plots—which almost always saw a villain trying to rob crabby old J. Jonah Jameson only to be out-smarted by your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man—that makes the show so much fun. Or maybe it’s the always outrageous villains, which included the typical rogues gallery of Scorpion, Electro, Kingpin, and Rhino, but also included interesting characters like ice men from Pluto, spirits in an old theatre, dangerous man-eating plants, and my personal favorite, Dr. Noah Boddy, an invisible man who thinks he’s smarter than the authorities. Even the simplistic art and dated animation style just adds to the shows charm.

These cartoons are all about the action and the usual Peter Parker wit. The first 20 episodes, which aired in the show’s first season, are broken into two 10-minute adventures, so there’s no time for in-depth plots. The show’s writers put Spidey in as many crazy situations as possible, as fast as possible, and found even more ludicrous ways to get him out.

The next 32 episodes, which aired in the second and third seasons, were mostly 21-minute adventures that included a bit more story, a bit more suspense, and sometimes a bit more mystery, yet never lost sight of the show’s heart. Many of these episodes featured more “real life” villains, such as mobsters or bank robbers, but there were plenty of super villains and zany creatures ready to take over New York. Which means even these longer episodes were light on the character development and heavy on the outlandish action scenes.

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN 1,2 & 3

CAST

Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Janes Franco (This Is The End)
Cliff Robertson (Escape From L.A.)
Rosemary Harris (This Means War)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Joe Manganiello (True Blood)
Bill Nunn (True Crime)
Michael Papajohn (Predator 2)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Ron Perkins (House)
Randy Savage (Bolt)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Lucy Lawless (Xena)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Ted Raimi (Odyssey 5)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

This film spends a lot of its time on the origin of Spider-Man. Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maguire) is an ordinary unpopular high school student. At the beginning of the movie we hear a narration by Peter that says this story is like every other story in that it is all about a girl. The girl in this case is Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Peter has had a crush on MJ since he was 6 years old, but obviously MJ has not reciprocated the feelings. Problem is Peter is not the kind of person to express his feelings to MJ, he instead lets everyone else know what he feels for MJ. It is the classic “everyone knows except for the person it involves” scenario. Peter admires her from afar and seems to always be there to bring her spirits up.

One day Peter and MJ’s class go to Columbia University for a field trip about spiders. We find out that the people here have been studying spiders and then creating super-spiders through genetic manipulation. One of the spiders gets loose and as Peter is taking pictures of MJ for the school paper, he is bit by it. Here is where the origin of Spider-Man begins. The first hour is spent with Peter getting used to the special powers he has gotten and refining them. He is both scared and excited by what he can do and Maguire makes Peter seem like one of us. This is the core of why Spider-Man is so great. It shows that even someone with a normal upbringing and great powers can have a difficult life. This is very much in contrast with heroes like Batman and Superman who either grew up in a rich family or is from another planet. Peter Parker is like many of us. He has a normal life like the rest of us. This is why it is so easy to sympathize with his character.

The other part of the first hour is about Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), the CEO and of Oscorp. He has been working on a super serum that will give a human super strength. However one animal died during the testing of the serum. The military is getting tired of Osborn not having a human test of this serum. They give him two weeks to test it to success on a human, but if he is not able to do so they will stop funding on the project and hand it over to another corporation. Osborn decides he is going to be the human guinea pig and exposes himself to the serum in a self-contained vessel. For a while his heart stops and his assistant comes in to revive him. Osborn’s heart revives at a faster rate and he has super strength. He turns into the Green Goblin and employs a rocket-powered glider to get around New York City. You can somewhat sympathize with Osborn in the fact that he is very close to his company losing the contract and him possibly losing the company itself. He takes a liking to Peter and treats him like his son, much to the chagrin of his real son, Harry (James Franco). The best parts with Willem Dafoe are when his two personalities (Norman and the Goblin) have a conversation with each other. Norman is obviously insane after being subjected to the serum, but he is still a human that is, albeit very little, trying to fight his Goblin personality. The rest of the movie is spent between Spider-Man and Green Goblin having some encounters here and there and a big encounter at the end.

Spider-Man is a movie not to be missed. If you have never been introduced to Spider-Man, this movie does a good job with his origin and one of his greatest enemies. This movie has a great plot (written by David Koepp) and is easily going to be a huge moneymaker. Some of the special effects may look unrealistic or maybe you will not notice them at all. This is a movie you can enjoy both from a story and action angle.

CAST

Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Janes Franco (This Is The End)
Alfred Molina (Frida)
Rosemary Harris (This Means War)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Donna Murphy (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Daniel Gillies (The Originals)
Dylan Baker (The Cell)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Mageina Tovah (Sleepover)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Joel McHale (Ted)
Hal Sparks (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Cliff Robertson (Escape From L.A.)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Elya Baskin (October Sky)
Ted Raimi (Odyssey 5)
Bill Nunn (True Crime)

This time around, New York City is plagued by the nefarious Doctor Octopus. When famed scientist Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) designs a fusion device that can generate enough power to make limitless amounts of affordable electricity, the experiment goes horribly wrong and the four mechanical arms that he uses to run the experiment become fused to his spine and his cerebellum. Whereas prior to this Octavius controlled the arms, now it seems that they control him and he goes on a crime spree across the city, robbing banks in order to further fund the experiments he so desperately wants to finish. While all this is going on, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is wrestling with whether or not he should make his movie on his one true love, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), trying not to flunk out of school, and trying to get his rent paid on time.

This second film brings Peter Parker into the real world, so to speak. Part of what made the comic series so great was the fact that Parker was someone we could relate to on one level or another. Sure, he was a superhero but he had real world problems. He didn’t always get the girl, he couldn’t always pay his rent, and he had trouble getting to class on time. In the first film we didn’t get to dig on that aspect of the character as the film had to setup how and why he becomes Spider-Man. Here we know that part already and so the film effectively takes things up a notch in terms of character development and action.

It’s precisely these changes in tone that makes Spider-Man 2 so much fun. It makes it feel like more of a comic book come to life.  Molina shines in his role as the mad scientist with the mechanical arms and proves to be a much better foe for Spidey than the Goblin was in the first film. He’s not quite as over the top and maniacal, but still sufficiently evil enough that we want Spidey to give him what for. The fight scenes between the hero and the villain, particularly the final showdown, are harder, faster, and more intense, which gives the movie a faster pace which works in it’s favor.  Those who enjoy the ‘little touches’ that Raimi is known for scattering throughout his films going all the way back to the first Evil Dead film will find lots of nice little details to look for. Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi have fun cameo roles once more, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Raimi movie without the car showing up once or twice. Little details like this make the humor work nicely within the context of what is essentially an action movie.

In short, the movie flows better. The characters progress nicely from the events in the first film. The effects are bigger and better and more effective. It feels like a comic book movie should feel like. It’s a more fluid.

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CAST

Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Janes Franco (This Is The End)
Thomas Haden Church (Sideways)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World)
Rosemary Harris (This Means War)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact)
Dylan Baker (The Cell)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Cliff Robertson (Escape From L.A.)
Elya Baskin (October Sky)
Ted Raimi (Odyssey 5)
Mageina Tovah (Sleepover)
Michael Papajohn (Predator 2)
Joe Manganiello (True Blood)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Bill Nunn (True Crime)
Steve Valentine (Mike & Molly)

Picking up shortly after the exploits chronicled in Spider-man 2, the new film finds things having turned around for Peter. Where he was once misunderstood by the city he protects from all manner of crime and villainy, he is now New York’s favorite son. Everywhere Peter Parker turns (Tobey Maguire), there are signs of the undying adoration being heaped on his crime-fighting alter ego. But even for Peter, whose life seldom shares the same glory as his other persona, things aren’t going all that bad. Sure he’s still broke and over-worked as he tries to balance college, work and saving the day, but things are seemingly going well with the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).

He even plans on asking her to marry him. A wrench, however, is waiting to screw up the machine, coming in the form of Peter’s former best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco). Harry blames Peter for the death of his father, who, as the Green Goblin, tangled with Spider-man in the first film, and lost his life. Harry has armed himself with his father’s arsenal, and in the first of many spectacular action sequences that dominate Spider-man 3, attacks Peter. A defining, special effects extravaganza that kick starts the movie into high gear, the battle doesn’t even have Peter in his Spider-man costume. It is an interesting choice to have such a pivotal sequence take place without Spider-man present, but it serves as fast-paced foreshadowing of the personal battles that Peter will be experiencing over the duration of the film. Where the first film introduced Peter Parker and Spider-man, the second film developed the crime fighter, and the third film is more about the man who wears the costume.Fresh from his battle with Harry, Peter must face two new challenges. First, his relationship with Mary Jane is starting to strain, because she can’t handle the fact that Spider-man is so popular. Then, he learns that the crook who killed his Uncle Ben in the first film was not really the killer after all. The real killer was Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), an escaped convict who, through a series of events that only happens in comic books and films that adapt them, is turned into Sandman, a mutated creature made of sand that can manipulate his size and shape. And as if that wasn’t enough, there is also Spidey’s new black suit, which is actually an alien life form that has formed a symbiotic relationship with Peter. The gooey black creature attaches itself to Peter, manifesting itself as the new black costume, and bringing with it increased strength for Spider-man, as well as a new level of confidence, and aggression for Peter. Soon, the suit becomes a villain, and Peter must fight to gain control of his life (not to mention battle Sandman, Harry, and try to restore his relationship with Mary Jane).There is no getting around the fact that Spider-man 3 is the weakest of the three films in the franchise, at least in terms of script and story. As is the case with other superhero sequels, this film suffers, from among other things, introducing too many characters into the mythology. But the script also has some leaps in logic, a few contrived coincidences and a plot hole or two that seem excusable at first glance, but start to nag after the final credits have rolled. Clocking in at well over two hours, there are times when it feels like a good twenty or thirty minutes have been trimmed from the film in order to make for a more reasonable run time, resulting in a poor sense of character development, and a frantic pace where there should be a bit more exposition. The first act takes special care to introduce Sandman as a morally complex, tragic villain, but most of that is jettisoned as the story moves into the second and third acts. Likewise, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), Peter’s rival who will eventually don the black costume and become Venom, seems to make a huge leap from annoying twerp to murderous psycho.The problems that weigh down Spider-man 3 begin to emerge near the end of the first act, as weaknesses in the script begin to pop up. Where the first two films tried to keep things as grounded as possible given the outrageous subject matter, Spider-man 3 throws caution to the wind, throwing the film off balance. Both of the earlier films went out of their way to paint the villains as somewhat believable within the context of the on-screen world. But in this new film, no such attempts are made. And so while it is cool to see Venom, the half-ass explanation of what the creature is carries no weight. Ten minutes after the movie is over, you can’t help but start asking questions like, “Where did this thing come from?” And then those questions open up another line of inquiry that starts picking apart all of the ridiculous coincidences that riddle the film.The biggest problem with Spider-man 3 are two separate sequences that are meant to show how much the new alien costume has effected Peter Parker’s personality. The first sequence is silly, and by comparison rather innocuous. But the second scene, involving Peter’s attempt to woo new love interest Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard), while making Mary Jane jealous, is just plain ridiculous. Comic book purists will hate this scene, and even die-hard fans of the films may find it a bit out of place within the cinematic universe.But despite the problems that plague Spider-man 3, it is still an incredibly fun film. Director Sam Raimi once again delivers the superheroic goods. And in terms of how the action sequences and special effects have been put together this time around, Raimi leaves the first two films in the dust. This is clearly the best of the three from that standpoint, as the action comes alive in sequences that would have been impossible cinematically less than a decade ago. In fact, the action may even be more spectacular than anything you could see in a comic book. Unfortunately, the film never manages to be anything more than a sequel. What made Spider-man 2 such an amazing film was that it managed to emerge from the shadow of its predecessor, standing on its own as a superior movie. Spider-man 3, however, is never able to come out from the massive shadow cast by the first two installments.