STARRING: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Daniel Gillies, Ted Raimi, Adrian Lester, Theresa Russell, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Valentine

2007, 156 Minutes, Directed by:
Sam Raimi

Description: In Spider-Man 3, based on the legendary Marvel Comics series, Peter Parker has finally managed to strike a balance between his devotion to M.J. and his duties as a superhero. But there is a storm brewing on the horizon. As Spider-Man basks in the public's adulation for his accomplishments and he is pursued by Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who rivals M.J. for his affections, Peter becomes overconfident and starts to neglect the people who care about him most. His newfound self-assuredness is jeopardized when he faces the battle of his life against two of the most feared villains ever (Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace), whose unparalleled power and thirst for retribution threaten Peter and everyone he loves.

Third instalments of superhero franchises usually become unstuck big time: Superman III and Batman Forever not only had no feel for their title characters, but had no idea to what it was that made earlier entries in the franchises so appealing. (The less said about Superman 4 and Batman & Robin, the better.) Even the recent X-Men: The Last Stand, which while not exactly the train smash as some fan boys made it out to be, was inferior to the excellent X2. So will it be a case of third time unlucky for Spider-man 3?

The first Spider-man was an entertaining, but flawed introduction to the series. The special effects weren’t really always that good, Willem Dafoe who clearly thought he was in a different movie than anyone else in it overacting so much that his hammy over-the-top performance threatened to derail the entire movie. Also there was the main Green Goblin villain design whose inexpressive masked face just felt wrong. But despite its mistakes, the first Spider-man movie had heart and an ace up its sleeve in the guise of Tobey Maguire who seemed destined to play Spider-man and his geeky Peter Parker alter ego. His relationship with his high school sweetheart Mary Jane Watson (Kirstin Dunst) gave a human dimension that other film-makers often forgot. Add to this some unexpected humor and asides of the sort that most other film-makers would leave on the cutting floor but which actually lends depth to Parker’s universe. After all, it’s not just about the pecs and the costume . . .

"It pays keeping on the same creative team that made previous instalments a success . . ."

Spider-man 2 actually improved upon the first installment. Part of the secret was keeping on the same cast and creative crew headed by Army of Darkness and Evil Dead director Sam Raimi that made the first one work. Spider-man 2 did this by building on the first movie’s strength, namely its human heart. And Spider-man 3? Spider-man 3 definitely bucks the trend and is a case of third time lucky it pays keeping on the same creative team that made previous installments in your franchise a success, something which one always wishes Warner Bros had learnt from Superman IV before replacing Tim Burton with Joel Schumacher . . .

Spider-man 3 is as good as, if not actually better than, Spider-man 2. (It’s definitely better than the first movie in the series.) Cramming in so many supervillains and their subplots after all, Spider-man 3 boasts Green Goblin Mk II, Sandman and Venom could have resulted in Spider-man 3 being a brainless attention deficit action movie fest in the same way X-Men: Last Stand almost was. However, Raimi kept his eye on the ball and on what made the series work in the first place: its human interest and drama as well as those useless yet nice comic scenes that made Spider-man 2 work. (Spider-man 3 features yet another excellent comic turn by the underrated Bruce Campbell. In the first one you’d recall he was an obstructive theatre doorman. Here he is an over-helpful maitre d' at a posh French restaurant. In one brilliantly played scene he once again proves that any planned Evil Dead remake or sequel without him in the main role of Ash would be a complete and utter waste of celluloid. And speaking of cameos: Marvel comics doyen Stan Lee actually has two lines of dialogue in this movie.)

By extending the running time to a whopping 156 minutes (almost half-an-hour longer than the previous movie) director Sam Raimi took a calculated risk, but one which pays off handsomely. Instead of the movie simply stringing one CGI heavy action scene to another, Spider-man 3 not only fills its action quotient but manages to keep us involved in Peter Parker’s emotional dilemmas and even manages to tie up plot points from the previous movie from where it picks up events in any case.

The action scenes are much improved from the first movie even though the CGI seems painfully obvious at certain spots. An early battle with Green Goblin 2 boasts a fluid dizziness and genuine vertigo that make the sequence exciting to watch. Later sequences may seem somewhat anti-climactic in comparison, especially the climax which comes across as yet another “Mary Jane Watson in distress” sequence similar to Green Goblin dangling Spidey’s girlfriend from the Brooklyn bridge in the first flick. However, upping the ante with two seemingly unbeatable supervillains have paid off even though one times feel that they lack the required menace.

But these are minor issues: Spider-man 3 might leave smaller audience members restless in their chairs, but it never bores. This is Spider-man as we know him from the comic books: not the mythic melancholy of Superman Returns or the action movie stamina of Batman Begins we get an everyday guy dealing with an abnormal situation. Because hey, ordinary looking guys like Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker is much easier to like than an impossibly stiff and good-looking Brandon Reuth.

Add some unexpected ambiguity villains in the Spider-man movie universe are never evil just for the sake of evil and all have good reasons for what they’re doing and one can only hope that there is truth in the rumor that Sony bigwigs were so impressed by this movie that they’ve already commissioned a screenplay for a fourth movie. And may all the people involved in this movie return yet again . . .



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