As a wag once quipped, "With great power comes a great electricity bill." Also come the unblinking gaze of the adoring public eye and a wider range of existential choices.
And occasionally comes an unexplained glob of viscous black goo, which propagates rectilinearly and accurately from outer space to the very spot where you're making out with your girlfriend.
The latest offering from the Spiderman franchise isn't the best one, but if you're the kind of person who wants to take a long hard look at a superhero's life when he's not in costume, you'll want to see version 3. The action actually takes the side seat, if not the back seat, and a lot of time is spent on exploring the emotional landscape of our arachno-human hero.
With a gigantic budget at his disposal, Sam Raimi appears to have super-sized everything. There's more mush, there are more villains, there's more CGI, and there's a whole bunch of introspection. One side effect of all this tremendous amount of stuff
is that the story tends to get told in bits and pieces, and the patchwork effect is hard to forget.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is on top of the world. He's young, his nightdress is the rage of town, and he's deeply in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). MJ is all set to embark on a glittering career on Broadway, and life is more or less perfect.
Unbeknownst to them, some things are icky. One is the above-mentioned menacing glob which latches onto and eventually attaches itself to the costume and turns it black. The other is Harry Osborn (James Franco), erstwhile best buddy now Goblin junior (with a skateboard flying device thing from Hell), thirsting to avenge his father's death.
A third is Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), Uncle Ben's killer, who accidentally stumbles into an unexplained particle physics experiment and is reincarnated as the gravelly Sandman. The final incipient pestilence is photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who will gladly accept secondhand stellar goo from Peter and morph into Venom.
With so many baddies jostling for space, you'd think that Spidey will have his hands full trying to save the hapless citizens of New York. Not so. Most of the time the villains lie low, although when they're in full form, the effects are pretty spectacular.
Things begin to go downhill for Peter when MJ is fired and their relationship enters choppy waters, because of his popularity and irritating smugness. It doesn't help that the goo in his suit brings out the bad boy, the one who "dances" on the street, makes eyes at passing women, beats up and humiliates Harry and Eddie, and gets pleasure out of mindless revenge. It is a frightening look into that "what-if" world where superheroes abuse their powers (the possibilities with the Invisible Man alone are beyond contemplation!).
Eventually, though, sense prevails (and the goo decamps), and good 'ol Spidey comes back to kick some behind, with assistance from unexpected quarters. The climax is a dizzying 4-creature trapeze act with MJ hanging from a thread thrown in.
Tobey Maguire continues to impress with his ability to make us empathize with a surreal comic book character. Having worked in 3 movies together must've helped finetune the onscreen dynamic between him and Kirsten Dunst.
James Franco has a few noticeable moments, and Thomas Haden Church is suitably gritty as Sandman. It's a bit odd to have a character from That Seventies Show as a villain, but otherwise Topher Grace is decent as the annoying Eddie Brock. J K Simmons, alas, is seen only for a couple of minutes, but is sidesplitting.
If you really think they matter, a few things about the plot are iffy. The completely random coincidences pose several rhetorical questions. What is the blob? Where did it come from? Why did it choose Peter? What's with it and gongs? How did Eddie and Spiderman end up in close proximity when the blob decided to move house? Why does it leave Peter's teeth alone, but turn Eddie's mouth into piranhas' envy? What was that mysterious experiment in particle physics that created the Sandman all about?
For those of us who're old enough to remember the Sunday evening half hour with Spidey on DD, the Spiderman movies are revelations. We didn't know Spiderman could be human in ways we understand. Heck, we didn't want
him to be human - we wanted him to be the dude who'd been bitten by a radioactive spider.
Then we grew up, and when the first Spiderman movie came out, we were amazed that we actually loved this superhero with everyday problems. Superman with his other-worldly powers and Bruce Wayne with his fabulous wealth are way out of our orbits. But Peter Parker with job trouble, girl trouble, rent trouble, costume design trouble and wedding proposal trouble is one of us.
Spiderman 3 is less about the spider and more about the man, and if you can let the inconsistencies be, and you have the stomach to watch a superhero pull off his mask and cry, you'll probably like it.Also read: Spiderman
, Spiderman 2