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Spider-Man 3

Spider, Spider Burning Bright

Everyone’s favorite, friendly, neighborhood Spiderman is back for a third installment of webcrawling, wisecracking, and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) lusting. This is director Sam Raimi’s third installment of the franchise and without question the darkest of all the Spiderman films. Additionally, this is undoubtedly the most narratively complex of the Spiderman films. You’re looking at the introduction of two new villains, multiple story threads to follow, and some dark twists for good measure.

Initially, everything seems to be going swimmingly for our webcrawler. New York City has embraced Spidey not only as one of their own, but a true hero. Gracing the cover of magazines and newspapers, Spiderman is the hottest thing since YouTube. Additionally, his love affair with Mary Jane is on the fast track with nuptials on the horizon. Clearly, it’s time for life to take a crap on Spiderman.

In short order, just about everything goes awry and Spiderman finds himself: A) On thin ice with Mary Jane, B) In pursuit of a new villain, Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), who Spidey believes killed his uncle, C) Infected with a strange alien symbiote that seems to catalyze the indulgence of dark thoughts and impulses, and D) At odds with Harry Osborn (James Franco) who continues to believe Parker killed his father.

Tobey Maguire once again does an excellent job of playing the friendly (to a fault at times) Peter Parker. Yes, seeing Parker don the spandex costume and swing fearlessly from skyscraper to skyscraper is nothing short of breathtaking, but Spiderman is also markedly human. Parker is about the most accessible, vulnerable superhero to grace the silver screen, which largely explains the continued appeal of the Spiderman franchise.

Peter Parker’s humanity is underscored during the latter stages of the film when his "dark side" emerges in some startling ways and Maguire deserves credit for convincingly conveying this darker Parker. This fleshing out of Peter Parker is a welcome twist as previously Parker has always taken the high road. Watching him take the low road is intriguing and at times, hysterically funny!

The other performance worth mentioning is that of Topher Grace who plays rival freelance photographer, Eddie Brock. Brock is in many ways the antithesis of Parker. He’s cutthroat, self-absorbed, but charming in a smarmy kind of way. Grace isn’t onscreen much, but his presence is definitely felt when he’s there.

Brock finds himself infected with the aforementioned alien symbiote later in the film. Grace gracefully (forgive me) handles the character shift that takes place as a result of this infection. One can only hope we’ll see more of Grace in the evitable next installment of Spiderman.

Thomas Hayden Church does a decent job as the new villain Sandman, but his character isn’t nearly as compelling as Grace’s Eddie Brock or Peter Parker. Kirsten Dunst does a serviceable job as Mary Jane, but truthfully I just don’t find Mary Jane that interesting of a character. She’s pretty, sweet, and warm, but a bit on the boring side. Her character isn’t really developed much in this installment.

What we’re left with in Spiderman 3 is much more of what we saw in the previous installments and the addition of some new elements that arguably will perpetuate the franchise for at least one if not two more films. In short, you’re looking at a more than worthy successor to the previous two films. Raimi manages to pull everything together at the end and after two plus hours and leaves you wanting more. This one is going to set the box office bar for all of the summer ‘blockbusters’.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars