Dir. Sam Raimi. 2007. PG-13. 139mins. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, J.K. Simmons.
When it comes to film franchises, three has not proven to be a magic number. The stories start to feel like retreads and the mythologies double back on themselves. Spider-Man 3 has a few unsteady stretches when it looks like all this edition can do is circle one more time around Uncle Ben’s tragic death and its deep impact on young Peter Parker. (How many times can we see Cliff Robertson get out of that car and get shot?)
On the whole, though, the third installment in the webslinger saga proves very satisfying indeed. It’s packed to the brim (and then some) with plotlines and villains, including the Sandman (Haden Church) and the evil Venom (Grace), plus another go-round with the son of Green Goblin (Franco). Parker (Maguire, doughy-faced and bug-eyed above a buff body, as usual) agonizes over his uncle’s killers some more, has some romantic ups and downs with love interest Mary Jane (Dunst) and is briefly taken over by some creepy space-slime that turns him evil, or at least makes him comb his hair forward like an emo boy trying to look goth.
As usual, Raimi avoids bogging down by keeping things funny. As editor J. Jonah Jameson, Simmons makes his scenes consistently hilarious, growling and glaring to beat the band. The action sequences are mostly satisfying, though we were frankly exhausted by the final battle royale. This isn’t quite up to the precision and control of Spider-Man 2, but it’s certainly a fun ride. (Opens Fri; Click here for showtimes.)—Hank Sartin