Three’s a charm for Spider-Man series

Andrew Gaug


Credit: Jason Hall

It’s not easy being a superhero. Balancing a girlfriend’s needs, the public’s undying love and villains’ infamous schemes while maintaining a normal life is a challenge. For Peter Parker, in Spider-Man 3, it becomes his downfall.

Picking up almost right where Spider-Man 2 left off, writer/director Sam Raimi, with help from his brother Ivan, switches the pacing and tone of the Spider-Man franchise. Instead of revolving back-and-forth from the villain (or, in this case, villains) back to stories about what Peter’s been up to, it weaves four different storylines at once and seamlessly blends them all together.

The tone of the film is the bleakest yet. Parker, no longer the nerdy kid from Queens, is overwhelmed by the exposure given to Spider-Man and, as always, everyone he loves suffers. He shuts out his Aunt May (played by the always wonderful Rosemary Harris) every time she offers help. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) has become an off-Broadway actress who, after failing miserably, can’t seem to get beyond Parker’s bloated ego to find solace.

In almost any other series, the love angle would have become stale by the third installment. But Parker and Watson’s romance is given a surprisingly fresh, albeit depressing, spin as it becomes interwoven with one of Parker’s villains/best friends, Harry Osborn.

But when the bottom drops out, a black symbiotic alien goo that attaches itself to any living organism brings out Parker’s dark side.

Spider-Man 3

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace

Directed by Sam Raimi

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence

Stater rating (out of five): ????

The Symbiote subplot is the film’s strongest story as it dominates the middle part of the film. As much the audience might want to see Spider-Man don a black suit and just wail on bad guys, Raimi also brings attention to the lack of responsibility Parker has when he’s doing this.

The middle of Spider-Man 2 dragged as Parker gave up the role of Spider-Man and 3 does a similar job, turning Parker’s dark side into cheesy comedy as he walks down the street and into stores – thrusting his pelvis at any girl who walks by.

Unlike the first two films, the villains aren’t given as big of a role but still manage to stay interesting throughout the movie.

The Sandman, also known as Flint Marko, is played with surprising subtlety by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways). He’s a bad guy in the traditional sense that he’s done wrong and wants to vilify his wrongdoings, even if that means crushing Spider-Man when he tries to stop him. But beyond the surface, he’s just a guy who wants forgiveness for what he’s done.

Eddie Brock, a.k.a. Venom, is a polar opposite. A sleazed-up Topher Grace (“That 70’s Show”) plays the yang to Parker’s yin with ease as he tries to connive his way into Parker’s photographer spot at the Daily Bugle. Their battles as regular people are underplayed, yet build tension between the two and the final brawl between their alter-egos is a fantastic finale highlighting the film’s dazzling special effects.

The film as a whole is satisfying. While most bookends to comic book trilogies such as X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman III and Batman Forever became parodies of their source material, Spider-Man 3 maintains the same feel as the past two movies while keeping things fresh.

In its two-and-a-half hour run time, it plays all the right notes for fans – with hilarious cameos from Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell – and non-fans alike as it doesn’t require too much of a background to get into the film. It’s also one of the rare cases where a longer running time helps let everything unfold and resolve in a way that doesn’t seem forced.

If what the cast and crew say is true and this is the final chapter in the web-slinging series, it’s a fitting end to what will be considered a classic trilogy.

With so many new characters in Sam Raimi’s $250 million Spider-Man 3, here’s a little help knowing who is who . at least who their comic counterparts are.

Eddie Brock — Once a high-profile reporter for the Daily Globe, a rival of the Daily Bugle, Brock was fired after inadvertently writing a false story about the real identity of a super villain named the Sin Eater. Like any good villain, Brock wrongly blamed Spider-Man for being fired, and he became a bodybuilder. His body was then taken over by an alien known as Venom, and together they made life a living hell for Spider-Man.

Flint Marko — One of the most complex Marvel villains ever, Flint Marko was a small-time criminal who came into contact with sand from a nuclear testing site that changed him into The Sandman, a villain capable of turning any part of his body to sand. Though Marko and Spider-Man are frequently at odds, Marko has often come out on the side of angels, and sometimes appears to be on the road to redemption.

Gwen Stacey — Daughter of a New York police officer, Stacey fell in love with Peter Parker during his college years, and a triangle between Parker, Stacey and Mary Jane Watson was set up. The triangle wouldn’t last forever, though, as the Green Goblin kidnapped Stacey and murdered her by throwing her off the Brooklyn Bridge.

—ÿRobert Taylor

Contact assistant ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].