Touchy-Feely Sequel Shows Spidey’s Sensitive Side
Sometimes more is less, and this, unfortunately, is the case with Spider-Man 3. Director Sam Raimi has upped the ante in terms of just about every aspect of his latest installment of the storied Marvel Comics franchise. This means that the first blockbuster of the 2007 summer season features plenty of twists, more intense fight sequences, more implausible cartoon physics, the next-generation of dazzling computer-generated special effects, increasingly inscrutable adversaries, a new romantic interest, an evil Spidey alter ego, a couple of love triangles, zanier comic relief, and even several singing performances.
The upshot is that what we’re dealing with here is a scatterplotted production which cost close to a quarter-billion dollars to make and needed 140 minutes to introduce, develop and mesh all the additional material. Yet, what’s most remarkable about this unorthodox adventure is the inordinate amount of attention it devotes to the ensemble’s emotional states.
When was the last time you saw a superhero shed tears or forgive the nemesis who’s just explained why he’s been trying to waste him? Perhaps such concern with feelings is a sign of our more enlightened times, but I’m not sure how many fans of the genre really care to empathize with a diabolical villain or to see an ordinarily invincible protagonist portrayed as being quite so vulnerable. Consequently, the pre-teens in this review-proof picture’s desired demographic are likely to be squirming impatiently in their seats during its extended breaks from the action dedicated to plumbing the psyches of so many sensitive characters.
At the point of departure, we find Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) right where we last left them, blissfully in love. She has just landed the starring role in a Broadway musical, while he’s dividing his time between fighting crime and his freelance job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, which is located in Manhattan’s famed Flatiron Building.
The critics pan MJ’s opening night performance, and tensions between the couple arise after well-meaning Peter fails to offer the shoulder she needs to lean on. So later, she never lets on when she’s replaced by an understudy or that she’s miffed about his being kissed while accepting the key to the city by the cutie pie he saved (Bryce Dallas Howard). As a result, his secret plan to propose to her at a fancy restaurant goes awry, the help of an obsequious maitre d’ (Bruce Campbell) notwithstanding.
Back at the newspaper, Peter now has a competitor, Eddie Brock, Jr. (Topher Grace), and the two find themselves competing for the approval of their irascible boss, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). The film’s funniest moment transpires during a hilarious scene when the short-fused editor fumbles with his blood pressure pills.
Meanwhile, a new archenemy emerges after police chase a perpetrator (Thomas Haden Church) into a demollecularization sand pit at the moment of a scientific experiment. The man instantly morphs into Sandman, a shape-shifting misanthrope who proves to be more than a match for the cops.
Thus, it falls to Spider-Man to deal this menace, when not addressing numerous other sidebars, such as solving the murder of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), tender moments with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) about his intention to pop the question, attending to his temporarily amnesiac best friend, Harry (James Franco), and wrestling with the demons which emerge when he dons a costume turned black by an evil force from outer space.
Just remember, Spidey’s agonizing, introspective and second-guessing himself every step of the way, like Woody Allen in a mask and stretchy pants. Your friendly neurotic Spider-Man.
Very good (3 stars)
PG-13 for intense action sequences)
Running time: 140 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures