Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

***Contains spoilers***

I'd heard bad things about Spider-Man 3, so I'm sorry to report back to those people that I loved it.

In fact, I'd say it's right up there with 1.

It's worth bearing in mind though, that the real reason why I like the first movie so much, is simply because the second one was so great.

Same notation here then.

Spider-Man 3 retains almost all of the fantastic elements of the first two films. The same excitement, the same characterisation, the same world. It's no wonder that the same actors were so willing to stay on board, even including those who'd played characters who'd died.

Even the minor players in the Daily Bugle office are joyously permitted to continue their own ongoing sitcom. Elsewhere Bruce Campbell is utterly hilarious, while just for once Stan Lee isn't hidden away in the background:

The new castmembers are excellent too. Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) really resembles Sandman, even before we find out who he is.

The personal learning curve for Spider-Man himself is another good one too. Having previously faced so much hassle for his high-profile superheroing, now his challenge is the polar opposite. These days the public loves Spidey, and he just doesn't know how to handle that.

His relationship with Mary Jane is suffering a similar insurmountable fate. When she needs comfort and reassurance, Pete the geek offers her logic. The problem is no longer his Spider-Man persona, but his Peter Parker one. How the heck can he overcome his own inherent character flaws? How can any of us?

Some criticise the film's overlong running time of 143 minutes, however for me this was a Godsend. It really enabled me to settle into the fantasy of Peter Parker's sprawling everyday life, without generic acts constantly reminding me of how far through the film we now were.

I do think the writers had an uphill struggle fitting so many plot elements into just one narrative though. Pete's acceptance of his being engulfed by an alien black substance which renders him unconscious, moves his location and redesigns his costume is so quick that it's impossible to accept.

There's also an odd series of three scenes when MJ finds herself getting back together with her ex-boyfriend Harry, following which Harry brutally threatens her to break up with Peter, and then she does. Just what was that middle scene doing there? It looks like it's been left in by accident. I don't think the three friends ever even refer to it again.

Speaking of Harry, he appears to die three times in this. As a result, I didn't believe the last time either. Oh he's okay - we just haven't had the scene in which he gets up yet.

I basically felt the script needed just one more rewrite to smooth these motivations out.

However I find shortcomings like these acceptable because the first two films also had their moments of fuzzy reasoning and convenient coincidence too, so my expectations here were realistic.

Again like the first two, the whole thing's success hangs upon the realisation of the title role, still played astonishingly well by Toby Maguire. He's not the same incarnation of Peter Parker as in the comicbooks - that guy was much quicker-witted and more mature - but Maguire brings both old and new things to the character, keeping him both familiar and interesting.

Having him turn bad was a good move too. I always think that it's the comics in which Parker loses his cool that portray him as the most human, so to see him succumbing to the temptations of his uninhibited potential is a really intriguing direction to go in.

Top marks must therefore go to the writers for taking the brave step of reframing Spider-Man's origin from the first film. The coincidence of Sandman having been the guy to actually murder Uncle Ben does rob the tragedy of its appalling realism, but this uncomfortable gut feeling conveys just how senselessly ruined Pete's present has suddenly become. He doesn't want that old wound, which he'd come to terms with, reopened in a new and incomprehensible way either.

All in all, I found Spider-Man 3 to be a thoroughly enjoyable film. It is long, but it is also a threequel that happily builds upon just about everything from the first two movies. There's really nothing wrong with indulging those things when nearly all of your audience has seen those instalments and liked them enough to come back for more.

And there clearly is still more to come. Dr Connors has been in three whole films now, and he still hasn't become the Lizard yet!

Yeah, I know they scrapped the planned fourth film, and the planned fifth film, and the planned sixth film. Despite enough popularity to prepare so far ahead, Sony Pictures unfathomably reckon that the public will prefer a brand new version, cast and world instead.

This is just not the way in which Marvel became great.

Available here.

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