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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Sam Raimi|
scr Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent
with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, JK Simmons, James Cromwell, Dylan Baker, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Campbell
release US/UK 4.May.07
07/US Columbia 2h19
Take that: Church and Maguire (sort of).
After the thrills and turmoil of parts 1 and 2, this third instalment feels surprisingly uneven, even as it keeps us utterly entertained for the lengthy running time.
Peter Parker (Maguire) is feeling happier in his Spidey skin now that New York has finally embraced him as their hero. It helps that his relationship with MJ (Dunst) is going well enough that he's ready to pop the question. And also that his pal Harry (Franco) has amnesia, so he can't remember that he actually wants to kill Peter. But a creeping black goo from a meteor is about to augment Peter's cockiness and drag him over to the dark side, just as a new villain, the de-moleculised prison escapee Sandman (Church), hits town.
This is an astute and engaging examination of the tension between celebrity and loyalty. The alien goo doesn't make Peter evil; it merely enhances his personality, including his nerdy poser tendencies. And the three-way relationship issues with MJ and Harry, as well as the links between Sandman and Aunt May (Harris), add texture and depth.
Where it falters is in a strained subplot involving Peter's workplace competitor Eddie (Grace), complete with another love triangle (with Howard) and another climactic super-villain who looks cool and menacing, but adds nothing to the movie. In addition, Raimi slips too often into silly slapstick, including Campbell's stint as a cross between John Cleese and Inspector Clouseau. Not to mention frequent moments of painfully clunky earnestness.
This uneven tone is also evident in the performances. Maguire is great as Parker, although his dark side is only a Hitler hairdo, instant stubble and a corny 1970s strut. Dunst and Franco fare better in more complex roles. And Church is terrific. On the other hand, the previously excellent Harris has little to do here beyond looking luminous, while Grace has the film's most thankless character.
Fortunately, the filmmakers also pile on the thrills. The effects are much more seamless and the action sequences are spectacular, even if they all involve brutal fights rather than amazing stunts. Although the broad comedy feels out of place, it at least keeps us laughing. And the story arcs are genuinely moving and compelling. But maybe it's time to give another filmmaker a shot.
Michael, NYC: "This movie was too dumb. Don't get me wrong, I like dumb moives, thought the first 2 were great as well. But this was just poorly written, so so acting from half the cast, too cartoonish, even loads of continuity errors. The audience at the show was laughing at all the wrong moments. Surprised to see anybody thought it worked. I guess that's what $500 million (including advertising/marketing) buys." (4.May.07)
Laurie T, Minneapolis: "We went at midnight - got home around 3am. What amazed me was how many others were there - 4 theatres were packed. Anyway - we enjoyed it - one of those movies that takes your breath away and you have to see again to see if you missed anything. Some of the story lines are a bit predictable - ho hum even - but the special effects are breathtaking - made me jump at least 4 times! Go see it on the big screen - worth the price." (4.May.07)
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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