(director/writer: Sam Raimi; screenwriters: Ivan Raimi/Alvin Sargent/from the screen story by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; cinematographer: Bill Pope; editor: Bob Murawski; music: Danny Elfman/ Christopher Young; cast: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marko/Sandman), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock/Venom), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), James Cromwell (Captain Stacy), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), Ted Raimi (Hoffman), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Theresa Russell (Emma Marko), Dylan Baker (Dr. Curt Connors), Bruce Campbell (French maître d’); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Laura Ziskin/Avi Arad/Grant Curtis; Columbia Pictures; 2007)

“There’s much too much goo over our hero’s moral decline and sudden redemption.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

I’m not a fanboy of director Sam Raimi’s other Spider-Man comic-book adaptations of the saga, and found this $300 million extravaganza aerial special effects third sequel as easily the weakest one. It’s exhaustively overlong, unnecessarily gloomy, too preachy, and the story is rambling, ponderous and never centered (going nowhere as it veers from the episodic subplots, its many villains, the risible trip on the dark side and the lame comic antics). Also, there’s much too much goo over our hero’s moral decline and sudden redemption, and a trite on-again/off-again romance with his dream girl.

Tobey Maguire is once again the nerdy Peter Parker, the photographer for the Daily Bugle and the superhero web-crawling Spider-Man who cleans up Manhattan’s crime problem; Kirsten Dunst returns to again be his sweet singer girlfriend Mary Jane Watson; and James Franco reprises his role as Parker’s confused superhero pal Harry Osborn, who wants revenge against Spidey because he believes he killed his father– the Green Goblin. J.K. Simmons is around once more for comic relief as the blustery editor of the Daily Bugle, while Rosemary Harris is again seen as Parker’s caring Aunt May. Newcomers include Thomas Haden Church as the sad sack escaped ex-con named Flint Marko, who when fleeing the coppers gets radically changed in an industrial accident and becomes unkillable and is known as the Sandman as he’s melded with sand into shape-shifting form and has the body of a Hulk-like sand-sculpture. We also learn that he’s the thief who murdered Parker’s beloved saintly uncle to get money for his sick daughter, and doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy but as a caring father. Topher Grace plays the pushy turd freelance photographer Eddie Brock, who is trying to get Parker’s job but a cheating incident leaves him no choice but to become the goo-possessed super-villain Venom. Actually, I stand corrected, as Spidey didactically lectures us, we all have choices to chose what’s right. The other noticeable newcomer to the series is the attractive Bryce Dallas Howard; she plays Gwen Stacy, the daughter of the police captain, who is Brock’s girlfriend, the flirtatious college classmate of Parker and is rescued by Spidey in a freak office accident in her workplace skyscraper.

When Black Goo is on a meteorite that lands in Central Park in the opening scene, it covers people in a bad attitude who touch it. The Goo, called a symbiote, attaches itself to Spider-Man’s charming red suit, and both Spidey and Parker go ego-tripping (he exclaims with great pride: “People really like me!”). Parker turns to the dark side, as he shows off his crazy disco dancing ability at a jazz club to impress his ex-girlfriend Mary Jane without caring he used his date Gwen as a cipher. There are other egocentric bullying incidents that supposedly do damage to Spidey’s rep as a straight-shooter superhero, and when he publicly steals a kiss from Gwen it sends the wrong signals to Mary Jane and she hustles over to be Harry’s squeeze.

There’s the expected action sequences with the three (uninteresting when earthbound as mortals) super-villains that at times bring the film back from the dead (the best being those dogfights between the skyscrapers), but overall it seems like all work and no play and not enough ‘wham’ and ‘pow.’ Nothing about the film seemed spontaneous or particularly enjoyable and when it goes off its comic book formula to give us a melodramatic troubled and weepy Spidey battling himself within, it lacked imagination and could make nothing out of his squeaky-clean image being besmirched. The glossy big-budget film was too hokey to impress as an action-packed Marvel comic-book flick, too wearisome to accept as good melodrama and not campy enough to take as camp, as it lost its grip on what makes an epic and has dipped down to the level of a B-film programmer.

REVIEWED ON 5/4/2007 GRADE: C-   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/