Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent
Cinematographer: Bill Pope
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, J.K. Simmons
Studio/Running Time: Sony Pictures, 140 mins.
“Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man.”
The summer movie season kicks off a rare, triple-header month of blockbuster sequels with the highly anticipated Spider-Man 3 (followed soon by Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). Tobey Maguire, in the form of mild-mannered Peter Parker, once again suits up as the web slinger, but this time the suit makes the man—literally. All the expected effects-laden heroics are present, with an especially creative sequence involving an errant building crane. But what makes number three interestingly dark is a storyline steeped in depression, hatred, jealousy and guilt—not the kind of action hero stuff we’re used to. On the lighter side, there’s also plenty of humor courtesy of J.K. Simmons' wonderfully-entertaining portrayal of crusty old news editor J. Jonah Jameson.
As the story goes, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is fired from her major role on Broadway, and reacts by wallowing in self-pity while her spidey boyfriend is the toast of Manhattan. Her resentment leads to a break-up only worsened by a mysterious, black space-goo that attaches itself to Parker and turns him into a thoughtless, egotistical ass that’s hilariously reminiscent of Jerry Lewis’ narcissistic Buddy Love in the original Nutty Professor (Parker’s show-stopping performance in a jazz club is a riot). His black-suited alter-ego is even worse as he looks to crush Uncle Ben’s killer. Additional villains abound, leading Parker to lament, “Where do these guys come from?” Thomas Haden Church gives a solid, understated performance as a small-time criminal whose body changes to sand due to a scientific experiment gone bad (But really, is there any other kind?). James Franco reprises his role as Parker’s ex-buddy and brings The Goblin back to life in order to avenge his father's death by killing Parker. Finally, Topher Grace plays the requisite funny bad guy as Venom. It all helps to offset some horribly corn-fed dialogue and sub-par acting from some minor characters.
If this is the last we’ll see of series stars Maguire and Dunst, and director Sam Raimi (as is strongly suspected), it may be for the best. After all, even super heroes grow old.