We saw Spider Man and Shrek 3 this weekend and in both cases, I suppose the third time isn't as charming as hoped for. If you liked the first two of each, then these aren't completely forgettable, but they both suffer from where they occur in the series. I think we've seen all we need to see of both these series now (although I'll be surprised if there isn't a least one more sequel for each). Spider Man 3 - a little too long and too many villains. This movie suffers from trying to do too much and thereby gives too little attention to anything, leaving you wondering at the end exactly who was that Sandman guy, and where the hell did the black gooey stuff come from? And why couldn't it wait until the next movie? I'd say it's worth a rental, but you may want to save your theater money for something else. It does look great, though.
Shrek 3 - is at least visually impressive as they have managed to continue the graphics improvements with technology to the point that some things in the movie look very convincingly real. Unfortunately, the charm of the first two movies gets a little lost in this movie in which Shrek and Fiona are much more mainstream characters, reminding me of some sitcom roles as opposed to the rude and abrasive (and more entertaining) Shrek from the first two movies. The best roles (and lines) in this movie are for the minor fairy tale characters; Donkey and Puss-n-boots are also underutilized. It's still worth a rental (in about 6 months) unless you've got kids who will probably demand to see it in the theater. I really wish they could do an R-rated Shrek. If you pushed the vulgarity, sarcasm and exploited the twisted fairy tale idea to its limit this could be really funny. Sadly, that'll never happen.
A common theme in many sequels now is that they all benefit from the newest technology and manage to surpass their predecessors on some audiovisual level, but that is often the only objective goal they seem to have in mind. Look at the Star Wars prequels, for example. They all surpassed the original trilogy from a tech standpoint, but they all were found lacking in script, dialogue and characters. I'm unashamedly a techno geek and I will often watch a movie that is otherwise forgettable if it looks cool, but I'm really starting to tire of the tendency to treat story and dialogue as secondary. Why can't we make great looking, epic movies that also remember the importance of storytelling at it's most basic level? The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an example of how you can do both although they had the benefit of a great story to start with. I often wonder if all the tech advancements have been a positive for the movie industry. A great story begins and ends with words and unfortunately in a visual medium this is sometimes an afterthought.