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Published: 2007-05-03 - 09:52:00
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Spider-Man 3 Review

By Joe Lozito

Webbed Feat

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In keeping with the sequel mentality, I thought it only fitting to start my "Spider-man 3" review where my "Spider-man 2" review left off. When last we saw the famed web-slinger in 2004, I had said: "You don't need Spidey-sense to know that "Spider-man 3" is on its way. If Mr. Raimi can bring the family together again, we may be in for the best comic book series ever put to film." And how.

While not quite as evenly-crafted as its predecessors, "Spider-man 3" is a fitting addition to Sam Raimi's unparalleled achievement in comic book adaptation. The Spidey saga now takes its place among such rarified series as the original "Star Wars" trilogy. In fact, the three "Spider-man" films follow a pattern that will sound oddly familiar to any "Star Wars" fan. While 2002's "Spider-man" was a gleefully innocent origin story, the astounding "Spider-man 2", like "Empire Strikes Back", is the crowning jewel of the trilogy, striking that perfect combination of action and character. And now "Spider-man 3", while not containing anything as soul-crushing as the Ewoks, errs a bit too heavily on effects and excessive plot threads. Still, it's a thoroughly entertaining ride which serves as a fine addition to the series.

After some whiz-bang opening credits that play like a "previously on 'Spider-man'" sequence, the script - which Mr. Raimi co-wrote with his brother Ivan and "Spidey 2" scribe Alvin Sargent - finds Peter Parker relishing his alter ego's hero status. In fact, it's starting to go to his head, putting a strain on his relationship with aspiring Broadway star Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst, as perky as always). A playful flirtation with the long-awaited fan-favorite Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard, unrecognizably sexy in a blonde 'do) also doesn't help. Then, during a nocturnal Lover's Lane tryst, a cosmic black sludge lands nearby (what a coincidence!) and attaches itself to Peter's moped, setting a sinister plot in motion.

In other words, Peter has a lot on his plate. Not only does former best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco, finally loosening up) assume the Goblin mantel vacated by his father all those years ago, but Spidey must also contend with Thomas Haden Church's Flint Marko, who learns the hard way that, in a comic book movie, you never climb a fence labeled "Particle Physics Testing Area: Keep Out". Marko's trespasses transform him (in the film's most astonishing effects sequence) into the Sandman (it's exactly what it sounds like). And remember that creepy black blob? It turns out it takes control of anyone it touches, forcing Peter to confront his inner - now outer - demons.

Tobey Maguire continues to have fun with his role as the ultimate supernerd. While playing evil has never been Mr. Maguire's strength, it turns out to be just the shot-in-the-arm the actor needed. Just when we thought we had seen everything Mr. Maguire had to offer, the black goop allows him to get his disco freak on and provides some surprising laughs.

As you can imagine, this is a lot of plot for any film to juggle, and for the first half of the film's over-zealous 140 minute running time, Mr. Raimi and his team succeed in continuing the tone of the first two films without missing a beat. Characters and relationships are established in record time, humor mixes seamlessly with action - all the earmarks of the "Spidey" films we know and love. It helps that the cast includes every last member of the previous films, including of course Rosemary Harris (wonderful as Aunt May) and the indispensable J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.

The theme of forgiveness runs throughout "Spider-man 3" and while it doesn't resonate as memorably as that old "great power...great responsibility" chestnut, it's fitting nonetheless. With "3", the Spidey series begins to suffer from the "X-men" syndrome. There are so many characters and relationships at this point that the movie collapses under their weight. There are one too many teary redemptions, one too many airborne rescues and, finally, one too many climaxes. But we'll forgive Mr. Raimi his excesses. He is simply delivering everything we've come to expect from these movies. The director, who made his name with the "Evil Dead" trilogy, knows all too well that with great franchises come great responsibility. And his responsibility is to make sure there's potential for a "Spider-man 4". Mission accomplished.

What did you think?

Movie title Spider-Man 3
Release year 2007
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Comic-adaptation auteur Sam Raimi scores a hat trick with this muddled but thoroughly entertaining addition to the web-slinging series.
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