Directed by Sam Raimi. US. 2007.

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Sam Raimiís returns with the third (and possibly) final instalment of his franchise as Tobey Maguire (possibly for the last time) dons the spidey suit and swings round the rooftops of New York City.  But just like in the second (and better) sequel, Peter Parker is having problems balancing many balls.  He has a freelance job at the Daily Bugle under the tyrannical rule of J. Jonah Jameson (the always excellent Simmons), is in a healthy relationship with Mary-Jane  (Dunst) while frosty with Harry Osborn (Franco).  But then slowly - as always - thinks start to happen.  Slowly being the operative word here as this is a long film.  Firstly, the police tell Peter and his aunt that the man they thought killed his Uncle Ben was not, and was instead a petty criminal Flint Marko (Haden Church) who has just escaped prison and in the process of evading has been transformed into the Sandman.  Then just as Spidey has him to deal with some alien spore that landed from a meteorite takes a liking to Peter and gives him a new black suit.  Along with the suit comes a new attitude for Peter, one that makes him a show-off, off-puttish to M-J and starts taking a liking to Gwen (Bryce Howard) at a ceremony that is photographed by his new photograph competition, Eddie Brock (Grace). 

As you can imagine there is a lot going on and at times as with so many narrative strands fighting for screen time, some get left behind and so the thrust of the film gets pulled down by people talking when really we want action and effects.  Also most of the actors are reduced to expressing the worst parts of their characters almost becoming caricatures.  Brock especially is reduced to a cowardly, jealous rival.  Gwen is nothing more than an alternative piece of eye-candy although there is no harm in that.  Only Marko is imbued with some sort of dignity by the actor playing him.

Ultimately, if this was to be the big send-off for the team that gave us some good movies they should have been a bit more ruthless with their narrative structure and sacrificial of some main characters.  The end of the film suggests that in spite of some lead players quotes that they will not be returning the process of Sony to say that the fourth film will be released by 2011, that Spidey will have one last swing.  But maybe Raimi should let go of the cord and let some other young director takeover. 

For some reason Raimi, so often a man with a wicked sense of humour appears to have had a bypass during production with only a few scenes of comedy that I found to be fresh from all the melodramatic musings of a superhero and his girlfriend.  Maybe letting MJ find out that Peter/Spidey were the same was a mistake.  Those scenes of fun are with J. K. Simmons who has created a great comic character who was a blowhard in the comics but now a great signal of relief and the other with Bruce Campbell playing a stuck-up French maitreíd who gives Peter a rough ride at dinner.  To only have those scenes is odd from Raimi.  There are no visual motifs and tricks that indicate his self-parody as there were in the first two films.  Also Peter has no-one to turn to for advice because he upsets everyone, you forget he is still a young man with no paternal figure since Benís death. He found it in Doc Ock before he plummeted to the bottom of the Hudson, but Dr. Connors (Baker) remains a periphery figure before he takes centre stage and become the Lizard.

Although there are some bad points, it remains a good rollercoaster film and the climatic battle amongst a building site is a great use of location, character and action combined - along with a nice development between Peter and an old rival.  While there will be a fourth one, who else can play Peter but Maguire who maintains the balance of charm, angst and guilt of his sometimes heroic action.

Worth a look because you do not want to be left out of the discussion even if it is to stay the film is long.  It's not as long as Pirates 3 so there.

Jamie Garwood
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