Spider-Man 3

Director    Sam Raimi
Starring    Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace
Release    May 4th (US) May 4th (UK)    Certificate 12A
3 stars


21st May 2007

Spider-Man 3 is long. It's very long. In fact, before going to see it, you might want to check what time it finishes, because if you're anything like me (i.e. a dunce) and don't check the train times, you might end up stranded outside your local Odeon at 1am with no buses in sight and a minicab that's destined to eternally be 'just around the corner.' Any girl will tell you that length doesn't matter, but it's what you do with it that counts. Is Spider-Man 3 worth dedicating an entire night of your life to, and will you look back on it fondly? Well...

It's a mess. A sticky, gooey mess of ideas, some of which work and some of which bomb. We've got the same old Peter Parker, living the high life as Spidey finally finds acceptance with the people of New York. New on the scene is the ultra-cool but underused Venom (Topher Grace) and the expertly cast Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) as two bad guys who team up through a mutual hatred of their friendly neighbourhood web-slinger. Meanwhile, erstwhile best buddy Harry is still pissed over the death of his father and takes to the skies as the New Goblin. All three baddies have their own separate storylines between which we flit to and fro, before they finally culminate in a largely predictable three-way face-off. Meanwhile, love interest Mary-Jane (Dunst) spends most of the film pouting and stumbling headfirst into calamity; she's a constant bloody thorn in Spidey's side and displays nothing of the feisty firecrotch personality she showed in the first two movies.

There's no doubt there'll be more Spider-Man movies - big box-office bank will see to that - so there's a distinct lack of surprises. There is, however, the inevitable post-trilogy death: this is threequel country baby, not everyone gets out alive. Place your bets please.

Where the first Spider-Man movie just felt right and the sequel improved on the original in every way, Spider-Man 3 feels like a serious over-egging of the pudding. The Sandman - one of Raimi's favourite villains - is given a one-scene back-story and some dubious motives, basically functioning as a special effects showcase. The same goes for Venom - seemingly added as an afterthought, he's given few scenes with which to exert evil, with meatbag Eddie Brock given even less time to impress. Everything is hanging together by the flimsiest of webs, meaning more than a few plot liabilities have been taken. The alien symbiote lands right next to Peter Parker? Harry gets amnesia? The butler knew all along? Mr. Raimi, we all know you're not a lazy person, but this sort of hackneyed storytelling does not befit a man of your ability. When the ending finally (finally) trundles around, you simply won't believe how cheeseball it all is. You could dip your nachos in it.

While you might not have time to invest in Spider-Man 3's new cast (or particularly care about the relationships of the old gang), you will have plenty of time to pick your jaw up off the floor - $250 million went into this baby, and most of it is up on-screen. Fight scenes do occasionally suffer from a frantic edit and a few choppy cuts too many, but the SFX is really top-notch throughout. The final battle is incredible - Sandman towering high, high, HIGH over a building site - but Raimi uses his effects budget wisely, with an early scene of Sandman proving that you can do emotion and feeling with CGI. Let's not kid ourselves here: this is a summer blockbuster, and if you're after a sickly-sweet gawp-fest, then $250 million says you'll go home happy (and busting for a piss).

Unfortunately, the rest of us are not so easily swayed. If you're going to set the bar high, then make sure you can clear it next time around. This is at least two movies crammed into one, and the seams are splitting; three villains, two love interests and a partridge in a pear tree means that Spider-Man has to fight for attention in his own film. It's not a disaster by any means - in fact, it's the most visually exciting of the three - but with studio interference and fanboy demands to take into consideration, Sam Raimi has unfortunately tainted one of the Spidey universe's best storylines and has fallen headfirst into the following terrible cliché as a result - too many crooks have spoiled the Brock. Enjoyable enough in blockbuster terms, then, but definitely not worth a £15 cab fare home at 1:30 am. 'Just around the corner' my arse.

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