Superhero Month: "Spider-Man 3" Review

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Tobey Maguire & Kirsten Dunst are back in the follow-up to Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004), directed by Sam Raimi. This time around Spider-Man must face three villains: Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Venom and New Goblin (James Franco). Also, Peter Parker (Maguire) gets exposed to a poisonous extraterrestrial substance that brings out his dark side.
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Superhero Month: "Spider-Man 3" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Length: 139 min
Release date: May 4, 2007
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Under the guise of Spider-Man, a superhero gifted with arachnid powers after a bite from a radioactive spider, Peter Parker has faced his fair share of foes. "Spider-Man 3" opens with Peter Parker finally experiencing a peaceful balance between his life as a hero and his personal life with his long-term crush, Mary Jane. Unfortunately for Peter, his long-term friend, Harry Osborn, comes calling with a quest for vengeance on behalf of his father, the late Green Goblin.

Harry Osborn has taken on his father's mantle as the New Goblin, and his misguided vendetta has led him to become the number one enemy of the person who was once his best friend. Peter is hesitant to fight Harry in the same way he fights other villains, holding out hope that his friend can be reformed. Meanwhile, he must also contend with the unscrupulous villain who killed Uncle Ben and now calls himself Sandman. Sandman is one of Spider-Man's toughest foes yet, a petty criminal turned into a menacing and supernatural foe with powers that rival those of Spider-Man.

Sandman was once a criminal named Flint Marko who fell into a particle accelerator after his escape from prison. Instead of getting killed, his fall imbued him with shape-shifting powers, allowing him to sift through any containment like sand. Meanwhile, a symbiotic alien life form known as Venom comes crashing into earth and bonds with Spider-Man's suit. Venom slowly begins to take over Peter Parker's personality, bringing out his dark side and increasing his powers. While Spider-Man could certainly use the extra strength, he finds himself dealing with not two powerful enemies but three, one of whom resides within himself.

"Spider-Man 3," the final film in Raimi's "Spider-Man" franchise, is by far the most visually stunning film in the trilogy. The special effects for Venom, the New Goblin, and Sandman are remarkably well done. All three villains remain visually true to their comic book counterparts, and Raimi does a masterful job of weaving three very complicated storylines together without making the film feel crowded.

Tobey Maguire returns as perhaps the most iconic incarnation of the Spider-Man and Peter Parker character yet. Maguire manages to portray Parker and Spider-Man as separate identities almost in conflict with one another. His on-screen relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) is both relatable and charming, adding an element of romance to this otherwise action-packed film. Audiences sympathize with Peter's desire to live a normal life and propose to the woman he loves, a dream that is seemingly unattainable due to his responsibility to protect the world from harm that only Spider-Man can.

Another compelling aspect of the film is Peter's complicated and twisted relationship with Harry Osborn, the man who is both his best friend and worst enemy. Osborn's character is considerably more sympathetic than that of his father, the original Goblin. Nonetheless, Harry is ruthless in his pursuit of vengeance against Spider-Man, and it seems he will stop at nothing until he achieves his goal. Much to Peter's despair, Harry has resolved to kill him to take his revenge.

"Spider-Man 3" is by far the most intense film in the franchise due to the fact that Spider-Man must face villains on all sides. The most notable conflict in the film occurs when Peter struggles against the alien force that threatens to take over his very identity. He must learn to control the dark power within as it threatens to destroy the very world he has sworn to protect as Spider-Man. More importantly, he must decide whether he is still capable and even willing to uphold that responsibility.

Fans of the "Spider-Man" movie franchise will be pleased by the final film in the trilogy, as it wraps up numerous storylines that were left dangling in the previous two films. Peter finally gets vengeance for his Uncle Ben's death, but in doing so, he learns lessons about himself that make him reevaluate his quest in the first place.

Director Sam Raimi brings his artistic perspective into "Spider-Man 3," making the visuals both powerful and unsettling. The acting is relatable and true to the original comic book characters while adding a unique flavor that sets the franchise apart from the rest. Long-time fans of the franchise will also be satisfied with the way Raimi wraps up the storylines of Peter, Harry, and Mary Jane. With plenty of drama, stunning special effects, and well-choreographed fight scenes, "Spider-Man 3" easily deserves a spot in the comic-book movie hall of fame.

Rating: 3 out of 5