Running Time: 139 mins
Rated: Rated M (Moderate action violence).
Spiderman 3 picks up from where its predecessor left off, with the hero in a perilously bitter sweet predicament. One of the first scenes is a frantic fight sequence with dazzling effects and new gadgetry, courtesy of Harry Osborn's revision of his father's Goblin weapons. Reluctant to fight his friend, Spiderman tries unsuccessfully to evade New Goblin, and eventually knocks him from his sky stick - ala Marty McFly's hover board in Back to the Future (1995). As a result of his injuries Harry looses his short-term memory, and for a time he is unable to recall his grudge against Parker.
While Parker and MJ are on a date, a meteorite crash lands in a park. It contains a black sinister-looking substance. Later, this blob attaches itself to Parker's Spiderman suit. The black blob turns into the new villain 'Sandman' (civilian name Flint Marco) played by Thomas Haden Church. He is initially introduced as a misunderstood fugitive, but we soon find out that he was in fact the true killer of Parker's uncle. When Parker finds out about Sandman's previous deeds, Spiderman misuses his powers to hunt Flint Marco down with a view to killing him.
Parker becomes aware of how far his desire for revenge has distorted his moral compass, and so resolves to take the spider suit off. Just in time, the church bells ring and after much more anguish, Parker soon comes to his senses and saves the world from the Sandman.
Though it is no doubt lost on the great majority of its child audience members, Spiderman 3 is particularly laden with an evangelical subtext, especially in its themes of forgiveness and revenge. The subtitle of this film could be Romans 12:19. "Don't seek revenge yourselves, but give place to God's wrath, for it is written that vengeance is mine - I will pay them back'. In our contemporary cinematic world, that's a great message.
Not so appealing in this film is the unnecessary US jingoism which takes place at a critical juncture of the story. There may not be violence, drugs and sex in this film, but there is a political imperative which is force-fed to our youngest and most impressionable movie goers. This may play well to the home-town US audience, but I found it offensive.
John Dykstra, who won an Oscar for his special effects work in Spiderman 2, infuses the movie with some incredible computer generated images.
Relative to Christian Bale's dark characterisation of Batman in Batman Begins (2003) commercial interests have kept Spiderman clean. One wonders, however, how far this softening can go before audiences respond negatively to the increasingly vulnerable, humorous, extroverted Spiderman. A Spiderman who at one stage is shown dancing Travolta style down the street clicking his fingers at passing women? A Spiderman made to look like an EMO (Emotional Punk musician) whenever he dons the black suit. A softer Batman didn't work for the adaptations of the 1990's, and this movie runs the risk of insulting Marvel purists in the same way the DC Comic fandom was disenfranchised.
Spiderman 2 screenwriter Alvin Sargent's deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment leaves him the option of writing a fourth instalment in the franchise, and he no doubt will. So if you miss III, IV will be on the way soon.
Tony Pick is a cadet with the Australian Catholic Film Office.