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Spider-Man 3: Engrossing, but not as enchanting

Arthur J Pais

It is darker and more complex than its two predecessors but does it mean Spider-Man 3 will transport the audiences to thrilling new heights? The law of diminishing returns has certainly hit the new Spidey but faithful audiences could still find the film, which reportedly cost over $200 million, engrossing, especially in the last 15 minutes when Spiderman fights not one but two villains.

At least one of those villains, the Sandman, overshadows the film's hero on many occasions. The transformation of an ordinary mortal into the Sandman is one of the new film's most dramatic scenes.

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There is a clear difference in the way the two villains are presented. While we see the birth of Sandman about 30 minutes into the film, the rebirth of photographer Eddie Brock into greedy and superman villain called Venom takes place only in the second half.

Sam Raimi, who directed the previous installments, returns to the franchise with the key players intact but adds Thomas Haden Church as the unusual Sandman and Topher Grace as a shameless photographer Eddie Brock whose greed turns him into a monster.

With much emphasis on creating a conflicting web of emotions for Peter Parker and his super ego, the film suffers on the action front. And yet, one would not have complained had the film's darker side and complexities been brought out well. For most part though, Raimi cannot give the proceedings depth. Everything looks sincere but there is no real conviction in the emotional display. There are no moments that stab one's heart or quicken ones pulse.

Even though many of the performances, especially by Tobey Magurie in the title role, and Kirsten Dunst as his love interest, are adequate, they do not endow the film with anything memorable.

Everyone including Peter Parker (the karmic avatar of Spider-Man), his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson and friend Harry Osborn go through motions of trust, betrayal and redemption but in a shallow way. And the sketchiness of the whole thing becomes tiresome after a while, and you almost start praying that Spider-Man be summoned to save a life or two instead of trying to save his own soul.

When the movie opens, Peter Parker, who still lives in a ramshackle building and has problems paying his rent and get a permanent job as newspaper photographer, seems to be secretly enjoying his success as an angel for the distressed.

But when a black substance mysteriously clings to his scooter, things begin to change for the worse, starting with the transformation of the familiar red and blue suit to a deep black. Along with that, Peter becomes stronger but also greedy and callous. He is not surprised when his beloved aunt (Rosemary Harris, a brilliant actress in a small but well performed part) gives a small lecture on the evil of revenge.

Along with Maguire and Dunst, James Franco also picks up from the end of Spider-Man 2 where he learned the truth (at least in part) about his father. A troubled soul, he loves his friend Peter Parker but also feels compelled to avenge his father's death.

To add to the complications, Mary Jane becomes increasingly insecure and is worried by the attention Spider-Man gets from another young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard, last seen in M Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water). Like many other performers specially the Oscar nominated James Cromwell (Babe), she too is wasted in the film.

Spider-Man 3 has kicked in the lucrative summer season. But one doesn't think that other big budget films in the pipeline should worry too much about the new Spidey stealing the business from them in the coming weeks.

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