(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
The plots of all the Spider-Man movies can be easily explained if you realize that the characters are all acting as if they are still in high school. OK, it's a high school where half the students have super powers, but unfortunately, they it's not Professor Xavier's school so they don't learn that, "with great power comes great responsibility." Yes, it was Peter Parker's uncle (Cliff Robertson), the only sane stable character in Spider-Man, who told him that. He was killed off in the first movie, but he keeps showing up in flashbacks. So like I was saying, it's high school. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is the geeky guy with no social skills. MJ (Kirsten Dunst) is the bitchy prom queen. She keeps dumping her boyfriends, i.e. Harry Osborne (James Franco), a.k.a Green Goblin Jr., who then turn into super-villains bent on killing her new boyfriend. Peter is clueless and MJ is passive aggressive. It's a great combination. I suggested in my Spider-Man 2 review that couples therapy might be the answer. Now it is imperative!
Our young couple is thrown into crisis once more, just as Peter is about to propose to MJ. She has had a bad day at the office, i.e., she gets fired from her Broadway show, and Peter barely survives an attack by Green Goblin Jr. To be fair, Peter is totally clueless and is in never-never land, now that New Yorkers have accepted him as a hero. He swings around town to rapturous applause much like the Ghost Busters used to do. But MJ is a bitch, so she walks out before Peter can even pop the question. Things get worse, much worse, when a glob of black alien goo bonds with Peter, turning his costume black. Its other effects are very similar to what happened to Jim Carrey in The Mask. Peter begins to think that he is God's Gift, and jives around town in a series of hilarious scenes. Needless to say, this doesn't help his relationship with MJ and sends her straight back into Harry's arms. Meanwhile, Since John Jameson, seems to have disappeared, another character from Marvel Comics, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), is introduced. He is a photographer, competing with Parker at the Daily Bugle. After humiliating Eddie at work and getting him fired, Parker, under the influence of the black goo, steals Eddie's girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), and on their first date, takes her to the piano bar where MJ is now working. Like I said, high school. There's not much more to say, except that in addition to Goblin Jr, Eddie turns into another super-villain, Venom, after the black goo transfers to him from Parker. And yet another schmo (Thomas Haden Church), who just happens to be the guy who killed Parker's uncle, falls into a particle beam experiment and turns into, yes, you guessed it, yet another super-villain, named Sandman. I won't tell you anymore lest I spoil it for you.
Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst remain very appealing in their roles of Peter and MJ although I want to smack them. Several other characters reprise their roles besides James Franco as Harry Osborne. Rosemary Harris returns as Peter's long suffering aunt, and J. K. Simmons is back as J. Jonah Jameson but they have toned him down which is a mistake. Topher Grace is good as the slimy Eddie, and I didn't even recognize Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water, The Village). It's a pretty nothing role for her. And speaking of nothing roles, why oh why did James Cromwell (Babe, Star Trek: First Contact, The Queen) take the part of Howard's father? And look for Theresa Russell (The Razor's Edge, Black Widow) in a small part as the wife of Sandman.
I really liked Spider-Man 2. I thought it was much better than the first movie. What made it good was that it had a really good super-villain, Doc Ock. He was awesome. Unfortunately, none of the super-villains in Spider-Man 3, Goblin Jr, Venom or Sandman, really measure up. Goblin Jr., a.k.a. Harry, is a wuss. Venom is better, but he only arrives with 20 minutes to go in the movie and like Eddie, he's not a rocket scientist. And Sandman is just mixed up guy with some anger issues. So, even though I expect Peter and MJ to break up and get back together as Spider-Man is saving her from certain death yet again, I wanted more and yet less. This third installment of Spider-Man, directed by Sam Raimi, who also directed the first two movies, clocks in at a hefty 140 minutes. It could have used some editing, particularly in the middle when Peter Parker is channeling Jim Carrey in The Mask. And there are too many super-villains which makes it a muddy mess. They never should have killed off Doc Ock. Super-villains are supposed to run away so that they can live to fight another day. Oh well. Spider-Man 3 just made $148 million just in the US this weekend to make it the biggest opening ever. I just hope that the characters will have graduated from high school before the inevitable Spider-Man 4 appears at your friendly neighborhood theatre.