2007, US, Directed by Sam Raimi
Colour, Running Time: 139 minutes
Cinema screening, Image: 2.35:1 Super 35 (VistaVision for FX), Audio: English language
On the run from the police a hapless crook escapes into a scientific test facility where his molecules are accidentally fused with those of sand - it later turns out that this is the same guy that may have shot Peter Parker’s uncle several years ago, rather than the villain Spider-Man allowed to die. Simultaneously, a meteorite hits Earth releasing a symbiotic alien entity that latches on to Parker, a malevolent life form that integrates with its host and begins influencing it. Facing mounting personal problems with his separation from Mary-Jane, attacks from an unforgiving Harry Osbourne (AKA the new Green Goblin) and wrestling an angry inner drive for revenge against his uncle’s killer, now affectionately known as Sandman, the mutated hero begins to realise that his behaviour has been changing for the worse and manages to rip the alien from his body, only to find later that it has crawled onto another victim, a rival photographer whose dishonesty has been exposed by Parker, to give birth to the monstrous Venom. Venom and Sandman both want Spidey dead and join forces to destroy him.
Well I’ll make myself unpopular: it seems there have been a lot of internet opinions suggesting Spidey 3 is a mess but I enjoyed the latest chapter. It certainly is a little long and could have done with the removal or trimming of one or two obtrusive scenes (there is probably too much emphasis on Parker’s romantic life). But as superhero story combined with soap opera (which the Spider-Man comics effectively are) it generally works well enough - the story contains multiple parallel threads, most of which gradually come together. I would complain about the liberties taken with the Gwen Stacy character (a subplot designed to cause a rift between Parker and MJ) - Stacy died at the hands of the Goblin in the original comic story and her implementation here is unfaithful. Non-readers of the comics, however, wouldn’t find a problem with this, but as a big fan of the comic through the 70s and 80s it does make me wonder why she was used in this way.
The action sequences are exciting (though I do wish Raimi would stop having Spidey fight unmasked), particularly on a cinema screen, and again the violence is a little excessive for smaller kids. With most of the relevant cast and crew involved from the first two movies there is suitable continuity that helps blend it with the other films. I think people probably want to dislike this film partly due to the widespread popularity of the series but, aside from a few unnecessary minutes (I couldn’t quite get my head around the extent to which Parker’s Venom-influenced ostentatious activities were exaggerated), it’s a nice continuation of the character’s adventures. Oh, and Bruce Campbell has another great cameo!