As they said in the previous two films, with great power comes great responsibility, and that is the cross that Sam Raimi must bear in his third offering of your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man (must get the hyphen in there or I’ll get in trouble…) His first film was met with ‘I didn’t think you could do it’ amazement. His second a jaw-dropping step up (come on, how can you not admire the Doc-Ock awakens scene?). I’m aware I may be spiralling into a pit of nerd-dom here, but who cares. Spider-Man rules, and if you don’t think so then I raise my palm to you in defiance. And written on my palm is “you are a fool”.
Anyway, it was with half excitement, half trepidation that I approached Spidey 3. Excitement because the first two were solid, exciting, funny and dark, and were one of the best comic book adaptations out there. Trepidation because it’s always been difficult to trump it three times in a row (save for Lord of the Rings, but face it - that’s just one big film split into three). Could Raimi pull another great film out of the bag? Well?
Well. Let’s get this out there: it was good. It was absolutely brimming with plot. First off there’s baddy one, the Sandman, a surprisingly subdued Thomas Haden Church whose molecular structure gets sort of, er, well he’s made out of sand basically. And you can’t really kill sand. Then there’s baddy two, the new Goblin who emerged at the end of the last film. James Franco’s brow furrows away as he harbours a mega grudge against his best mate, who he knows is a) Spider-Man, and b) responsible for his father’s death. Not a healthy grudge that one. And then there’s baddy three, a black alien parasite thingy that makes Spidey a little bit naughty and later spawns Venom (fan-boys/girls excited about that character coming into celluloid light.)
So three baddies, plus Spidey’s battle with his own ego, plus difficulties with girlfriend MJ, and it all could equal busy mess. We saw it with X-Men 3, when the deluge of new characters meant nobody had time to really develop. So here’s where it’s hats off to Raimi, because not only does he give all baddies chance to hog the limelight and have their own background, and fit in various relationship woes, AND fit in Peter Parker’s decline to meanness, he also manages to find the time for a dance number (more on that later…) At 140 minutes (ten less than Pirates) it’s certainly impressive that there’s never a sense of urgency. Aunt May can still deliver nice little speeches, Peter can get teary over his Uncle again, and Bruce Campbell can have an even longer cameo, which was brill.
The action sequences are once again astounding. Spidey falls in slow-mo, dodging round falling rubble. He gets thrown through buildings, punched out of moving vehicles, and does lots of other dead cool stuff. The effects on Sandman are flabbergasting, Spidey literally kicking his legs from under him at times. There are definitely wow-moments, but there’re genuinely funny moments too. And then there are some that teeter on the brink of silly (see afore-mentioned dance number). It’s brave of Raimi to try something so obscure, and amusing to watch Peter Parker’s bad side, complete with evil hair-do etcetera. But the silliness stretched a little too long at times, making my enjoyment turn into a bit of bafflement. There’s also a healthy spread of fight scenes, but not one that really shines out as the new, never-been-done one. The effects are outstanding, but we’ve seen many building-fights before. There’s no equivalent Spidey 2 train chase here.
Spider-Man 3 is a solid, exciting and smart start to the summer blockbuster season. During the middle of the film I was fully engaged, fully on the edge of my seat, and my internal CF scale reached a 5 in places. But with a little too much of the silly, and a lacking of real wow-factor for the finale, the scale slipped down to the still-impressive CF3. Good film - but leave it at a trilogy, please. There isn’t much more you can do with this franchise, save ruin it.