Bruce Turnbull 11/05/2007
Following a media storm of promotional material, the third instalment of the Spider-Man series takes a sudden departure from the winning formula of the first two episodes, twisting in a dark, sentimental direction that has split opinions so severely it makes Marmite look like Ben & Jerry's.
Creating so much anticipation that the release date was announced before the opening of its predecessor, the third chapter sees our often dishevelled super-nerd Peter Parker come to terms with his alter-ego's popularity and celebrity status, whilst mastering his duel-life obligations with his high school sweetheart, the lovely Mary Jane Watson. Just when order seems to be restored, a new threat to New York City comes in the shape of wanted criminal Sandman, whose shapes-shifting persona allows him to manipulate sand in order to blast his way towards iniquitous activity. Certainly not helping matters is the rivalry between Parker and his bitter high school chum Harry Osborn, whose father's death he blames squarely on Spider-Man. With this, Osborn decides to defend his father's honour by donning his old Green Goblin attire and squaring himself up for Green Goblin MK II.
The film proceeds to see Parker consumed with self-involvement when he comes in contact with a strange, black substance that falls from the uncharted regions of outer space. Tragedy ensues with Parker losing every thing he holds dear, only to realise his mistakes and breaks from the substance's oppressive chains, creating monstrous super villain Venom out of rival photographer Eddie Brock. Confused yet? You should be. There is an awful lot to fit into this third instalment, but contrary to what many have dubbed 'overcrowded', Sam Raimi has surpassed himself with the direction, making this his most involving film to date.
Many may find themselves chastened as the film rolls due to its substantial length, but that is primarily down to the attempt to finalise the project without knowledge of its future. Now having decided there will be a fourth movie, perhaps this film could have done without one of the villains and focused on Venom for example, as his role in the Spider-Man universe is extremely downplayed on screen. Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst do outstanding jobs as the respective leads, with an emotional underpinning that has been absent until now. Ex- That 70s Show star Topher Grace plays an adequate Eddie Brock, although far removed from the body-building psychopath of the comic books, his performance is still believable and credible despite most of his screen time being blanked out by CGI, leaving only a snarling voice over to contend with. Danny Elfman's score is dazzling, particularly during the inception of Sandman, highlighting the torment with a slice of orchestral melancholy.
With an emotionally charged screenplay and some seriously amazing battle scenes, Spider-Man 3 will leave you spellbound for the most part, and comic book fans will no doubt get a kick out of the rampaging plight of Venom stalking the New York skyline in some excellently storyboarded sequences. Overall a brave twist in the series that grows in appeal with each viewing. I'm sure you'll find yourself muttering “Go get 'em Tiger” at least once. I know I did.