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Spiderman 3 big expectations, mixed reviews, record BO

Just as Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finds the balance between his love for Mary Jane Watson (Kirstin Dunst) and his responsibilities as heroic Spider-Man, fate steps in and delivers Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), with exceptional superpowers - and a link to the murder of his uncle Ben. But before Peter can track down the murderer, a mysterious black substance turns his suit black - and begins to draw out the dark side of Peter's persona. The blackness also affects a rival Daily Bugle photographer, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who turns into Venom, a foe who can mirror everything Spider-Man can do. Peter has to overcome his powerful enemies - but even more challenging, he has to overcome the darkness within himself.

Review by Louise Keller:
Splashy effects and two new super villains for Spider-Man to combat are the order of the day in the third of the series, which goes full pelt on action as well as keeping its integrity. This time, Spider-Man is confronted by his dark side, experiencing the thrill of revenge before finding redemption and understanding the importance of forgiveness. The visual effects are impressive and there are occasional bursts of humour plus a dash of romance. With Sam Raimi once again at the helm, Spider-Man 3 is in fine form and fans will not be disappointed.

Romance for Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane Watson heads for the rocks when MJ's career takes a dip and Peter finds himself thriving on his Spider-Man adulation. Things start to go wrong when he becomes self-centred, and even indulges in an upside-down kiss with the Police Chief's glamorous daughter Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). 'That was our kiss,' protests a hurt Mary Jane and all the best plans that Peter has carefully put in place for a memorable and romantic wedding proposal fall flat in the bottom of the champagne flute. Maguire grounds the film as the nerdy Peter Parker, with Dunst always lovely as the vulnerable MJ. Dunst has a lovely singing voice and she sings several tunes - beautifully.

Perhaps the relationship between Peter and James Franco's Harry Osborn is worked a little too hard, but I liked Topher Grace's ambitious photographer Eddie Brock who becomes the powerfully evil Venom, and Thomas Haden Church's tragic villain Flint who inadvertently becomes the massive Sandman. Both villains are endowed with human elements with which we identify, so our relationship with them is bitter sweet. There's a sense of freedom and elation as Spider-Man casts his web and swings from the skyscrapers of New York City. I'm glad he's back.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Maybe by its third project, the filmmaking team got too close to Spider-Man to make sound creative judgements, because Spider-Man 3 suffers from not only hyperbole, but obesity and flatulence. Perhaps the biggest flaw, however, is that it has the wrong tone - or rather, an inconsistent tone, wavering between the jokey, the dramatic and the superhero cliché. Obesity (it's at least 40 minutes too long) and flatulence (too much hot air, not enough forward thrust) can be forgiven, but tonal problems are insurmountable.

While Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst continue their good work, they are not well served by a script which seems to have been written for a different kind of movie. Let's face it, this is Saturday arvo matinee material; that's not to be condescending, since good Saturday arvo matinee movies are honest entertainment and stand the test of time. The problem is that overloading the appealing simplicity of the original, the material is squashed into something fake. You can't take it all too seriously - something that the filmmakers actually do understand, as shown by a line when Peter is attacked by the newly empowered Sandman, and he quips under his breath, exasperated by the wave of super-powered foes: "Where do all these guys come from?!" But this sentiment is buried most of the time.

Appealing to 15 year olds, Super-Man 3 will not succeed or fail on critical response, but it's a shame that it follows two such successful outings. Here, excessive violence (not all that brilliantly presented, all close ups, fast cuts, absence of physical setting) and a truckload of digital effects swamps much of the movie. The effects, while sometimes fascinating in a novelty, gee whiz kind of way, seem familiar - even if they aren't.

In short, I don't like what Sam Raimi and his writers have done with Spider-Man 3; it had me tapping impatiently as it repeated several plot points and story arcs, and fudged the much worked-up romantic subplot in a way that denies the audience real satisfaction.
Andrew L. Urban


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