Spider-Man 3

What it's about:

Spider-man (Tobey Maguire) is getting a little full of himself. The people of New York love him, as do the media and the city’s officials. As Peter Parker he’s top of his classes at varsity, a regular contributor the Daily Bugle, and he’s about to propose to his girlfriend Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). But things soon begin to go a little haywire. Faced by two deadly new enemies, and a new rival at work, Peter struggles to keep his double life on track. Luckily help arrives in the form a strange new black spidey-suit that gives him more power than ever. What Peter doesn’t realise is that this new power has a price.

What we thought of it:

Let’s face it, Peter Parker is boring. Sure he’s a nice guy, and he pulls off some amazing stunts as Spider-man, but as a protagonist he’s got to be the most white-bread of all the superheroes. It’s a testament to the anodyne charms of Tobey Maguire, the dedication of writer/director Sam Raimi and the massive special effects budgets that Spidey even made it past the first movie. But the fun had to end somewhere, and it looks like the third time’s the charm.

You can’t fault the filmmakers for lack of effort – they’ve thrown everything and the kitchen sink at this one. And that’s part of the problem. Try as they might, they can’t make Spider-man seem fresh, no matter how many new villains they throw at him. In the process all they end up doing is cramming the movie with more plotlines and action sequences than it can properly handle.

And yet, in spite of its bloated 140 minute running time, Spider-man 3 constantly feels rushed and harried. In one significant scene the Green Goblin (played by the ever innocuous James Franco) goes from Spider-man’s insane mortal enemy to his selfless new ally, all in the blink of an eye. Sure, there’s an explanation in the form of a handy butler with a handy life-altering anecdote, but you can’t escape the feeling that the flimsy plot is being bullied towards a destination, however unlikely it may be.

And, sure enough, we find ourselves with a grand finale that should, in theory, top any of the previous films (without ruining it for fans, it involves Spidey and three other superhuman protagonists). But, however cool it seems on paper, it just doesn’t deliver in terms of thrills. Like many of the film’s other action sequences, it’s just too frenetic and complicated to follow half the time. Even when we can see what’s going on, we’ve seen most of before in the previous Spider-man films.

The one thing the action sequences do have more of is real, naked violence. The age restriction is nominally 10M, but be warned that sensitive 10-year-olds will most likely not be comfortable with the sort of stabbing, battering and disintegrating that goes on in the film. Most worrying is one of Spidey’s new foes, a fang-mouthed horror called Venom, who is enough to give kiddies nightmares on his own.

The most disappointing thing about Spider-man 3 is that it fails to even live up to its own standards. Yes, big budget films like this are an exercise in spectacle rather than storytelling. And yes, that means we shouldn’t expect great acting or a surprising plot. But this third outing can’t even match the thrills or intensity of the first two.

Still, for all its faults, you can do far worse at the movies. Given the slew of unadulterated bilge that’s currently gracing our screens (Norbit, we mean you), it’s likely that Mr Parker is going to be riding high at the box offices. But, as is often the case with Hollywood, you have to wonder why they couldn’t have done it better.

- Alistair Fairweather
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