Here comes blockbuster season. The big guns are being pulled out, and Spider-Man is the first to fire. Luckily, most fans won't be disappointed.
The great thing about the Spider-Man films was that, apart from the amazing action scenes and intense storylines, there was always a human drama bubbling underneath. M.J provided a solid love-interest for Peter, and Harry's jealousy story-line was suitably engrossing, with the "will-he-won't-he" friendship with Pete. This is kept in the third installment, thought not quite as smoothly as in the other films.
Peter feels now that he is really in love with M.J, and, with his secrets now revealed, plans to propose to her. This is all very well, but as soon as he comes under the influence of a strange parasitic alien symbiote, he falls out of love a bit quickly, leading us to believe that it was never there in the first place. However, as the story develops, it somehow manages to hang together, with so many sub-plots that it seemed doomed to fail. This is not the case, with our first introductions being to Harry's friend Gwen-Stacy [who is, in my opinion, quite under-used, and doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose aside from making Eddie Brock jealous] and new villain Sandman.
Sandman is one of Raimi's favourite villains, and it seems appropriate for him to be in this film [which looks likely to be Raimi's last Spider-Man movie]. He is played really well by Thomas Haden-Church, with real heart and emotion. He sums his character up perfectly with "I'm not a bad person, I just have bad luck". When he finally gets his superpowers [in an impressive yet illogical sequence], he's incredible. Initially we feel sorry for him - he can hardly stand, and keeps drifting away. It's a powerful moment in the film when the accident occurs [spoiler-free - I promise!] and Marko tries to move in tides of swirling sand. The special effects for his character are fantastic - my personal favourite is during the train fight, when our hero smashes Sandman's face against a carriage, and his head dissolves into sand. Effects have come a long way since the Mummy - and it shows.
Harry Osborn has a bigger part in this film. He knows Spider-Man's true identity, and he still won't let his father's death go. This seemed a bit dragged out, maybe only because the audience knows that it wasn't Spider-Man's fault. His "accident" after the new film's first fight [a speedy, blurry effects mash-up which, to be honest, is rather hard to see] seems a bit too convenient, but it hangs with the rest of the plot. As the story moves on, there's a real development in his character, especially towards the end in the explosive, exciting finale.
This finally brings us to the fan favourite - Venom. Ever since the first picture of Spider-Man in his black suit, everybody knew [despite the cast's secrecy] that Venom had to be involved somehow. The only question was of the gooey symbiote's origin. Were the director and script writer daring enough to follow the comics down the "space alien" route, or were they going to continue with the whole "experiment gone wrong" story? Luckily [I presume as a fan-pleaser] they followed the comics. If they'd chosen the experiment gone wrong, it would have been too repetitive, what with Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Sandman all having gone through that. Topher Grace is an excellent actor, and he's great here as Parker's rival at the Daily Bugle, and his eventual nemesis, Venom. When Venom fully emerges, he looks fantastic. However, that's when he's fully emerged. This takes a long time, and whilst it's great that he's included, he isn't used that much. You don't see him in his full form very often, but I guess that's a price to pay for not wanting to further the run-time.
My only other complaint is that Peter's dark side is lighter than most people's light side. He struts down the street in a semi-cringey-semi-funny scene that spoofs Saturday Night Fever, but aside from that not much else happens, apart from making M.J jealous. He is a bit of a jerk though, as he becomes more arrogant and rude.
There is also a hilarious cameo from Bruce Campbell [Raimi's old chum from the Evil Dead films] as a hapless waiter. It's these moments that will linger as well as the fight scenes, and they make Spider-Man 3 rise above most other comic book movies.
Whilst it sometimes feels as if it might fall apart, Spider-Man 3 is a great film, expertly directed, and is a really entertaining ride. It's not as good as Spider-Man 2, but with the very high standard that set, it would have been hard to beat it. Well worth watching, and a great addition to the franchise.
Genre Value: 4/5
Entertainment Value: 4/5
Overall Rating - 4/5