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Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3

Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Adventure
Rated: R
Directed by:
Sam Raimi
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bruce Campbell
Released by: Columbia Pictures

In Short: A glossy, big-budget action romp that explores Spider-Man's dark side.

The Man Behind the Mask
Kid-Friendly Comic Fun
by Jenny Watkins

Tobey Maguire and the rest of the Spidey gang have returned for the most expensive film in the Spider-Man trilogy, with final cost estimates landing around $300 million. Like the inflated budget, everything in Spider-Man 3 is big: over-the-top fight scenes, more dramatic plotlines, three times the villain power and a surplus of writer/director Sam Raimi’s nerdy humor.

The film opens with Peter Parker bathing in the Spidey spotlight as his ego inflates to monumental proportions, neglecting and ignoring the perpetually victimized Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) in a setup that leaves viewers finding Parker largely unlikable. Things only take a turn for the worse after an alien parasite (in the form of sticky slime) turns Spidey’s red suit black and tests Parker’s moral mettle.

Kirsten Dunst & Tobey Maguire

The love triangle between Mary Jane, Peter and Harry (James Franco) also returns in the third flick, and the combination of Harry’s thirst for revenge and Peter’s black goo-induced alter ego guarantees that this time, the kids won’t be playing nice. While the exploration of Spider-Man’s “bad” side verges on camp, with Maguire doing his best impression of Robert Smith from The Cure (eyeliner and all) and performing a nausea-inducing amount of hip thrusts, the film explores much darker territory than its predecessors. The line between good guys and bad guys blurs as heroes fall from grace and villains tug at viewers’ heart strings, presenting a much grittier front than what you’d normally expect from a genre known for its distinct moral caricatures.

But for moviegoers who aren’t lining up for a Shakespearian exploration of Spidey’s inner workings, there’s an abundance of action and special effects (that big budget had to go somewhere), including a no-holds-barred four-way battle royal. Sandman, played to steroid-popping perfection by the formerly gaunt Thomas Haden Church, terrorizes Manhattan as both a towering behemoth and a blinding sand storm, putting The Mummy’s similar visual pursuits to shame. The fight scenes are epic and are sure to please little Spidey fans, plus the gore-free violence makes them much more palatable for protective parents than the rumbles in recent comic-to-big-screen ventures like 300 and Sin City.

Thomas Haden Church stars as Sandman
James Franco in Spider-Man 3

Even if spandex-clad superheroes aren’t your thing, the fun cameos alone are worth shelling out a few bucks. Raimi crony Bruce Campbell makes his third Spider-Man appearance, this time as a hilarious French maître d’ embroiled in Parker’s romantic attempt to make Mary Jane do something other than pout, be weary from so much pouting, or appear as though her face were about to melt right off her skull out of sheer boredom. J.K. Simmons’ barking editor bit keeps the movie tied to its comic roots while Parker is busy fretting over his bad-boy bangs, and both Elizabeth Banks and Bryce Dallas Howard wow as female characters capable of mastering more than two facial expressions.

While “controlled” isn’t the best word to describe the trilogy capper, the film delivers the big screen blockbuster fun and awe-inspiring special effects fans have come to expect from the web-casting wonder. Will there be a fourth installment? Our spidey senses tell us the red suit that launched a billion-dollar empire isn’t ready to be hung up just yet.

(Updated: 05/03/07 JW)

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