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</script></div>{/googleAds}At the end of the second entry into the Spider-man series few were left in doubt the franchise was in safe and adept hands in the form of director Sam Raimi. Both films had demonstrated the director's sharp instincts to take time with the story and characterization, adding depth to the brilliant spectacle and setting the bar so highly that to date few super-hero films have neared, let alone matched, its quality or success. That Spider-man 3 is already breaking box-office opening records around the world testify to this.

Sadly, though, this third installment falls far short of its predecessors. All the elements are there to make this another slam-dunk, but its execution serves only to countermand any virtue the film has...

The film just has too many stories, and subsequently the depth of character - the linchpin in the previous two films is sacrificed. The cast valiantly give each role their all, but there simply isn't enough screen time to engage the audience emotionally enough on any of the no-less-than-five storylines crammed in. Gwen Stacey, played by the very talented Bryce Dallas Howard, is an especially wasted commodity, and should have been saved for a later installment.

Harry Osborn's (James Franco) arc alone was a film in itself, and considering the time and care placed in setting this up, it was a huge disappointment to see it relegated to a B-story to allow room for not one, but two other villains, to be pitted against the web-slinger. As a result, all three antagonists for Spider-man, all well cast, all with compelling back-stories, are but paid lip service in the film, and eventually are reduced to players demonstrating cool CGI. The Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) and Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace) suffer from not enough screen time, but what makes it all the more frustrating is the far-too-rapid inklings from the strong premises and performances of what could have been. Any one of the villains had enough story to carry this film, as Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus did before them.

Once again Tobey Maguire shows why he was a perfect choice for this role, but it is his character that is countermanded the most by the over-crowded plot. With themes of self-discovery, love, revenge, ego, forgiveness, temptation, and loss explored it is little wonder the actor has said he feels like he's run the gamut with this character, and may not do any more Spider-man films. All these crammed into two and a half hours only serves to present Peter Parker in an almost schizophrenic way, (and in the hands of a lesser actor would have certainly done so) going from one plot to another, changing from darkness to humor to grief without letting the audience breath. It simply reinforces the staple virtue of the first two films: quality can't be rushed through.

Spider-man 3's effects are amazing, but again suffer because of shallower characterization. The dazzling array of fights and carnage that unfold are simply more like watching an advanced video game, because you are not as invested in the characters this time around, and for the first time in a Spider-man film some of it seems like hollow spectacle.

Rumors are afloat already on the subject of another three Spider-man films, and whether or not Raimi or the cast will return. Spider-man 3 will undoubtedly turn a hefty profit, come the end of its theatrical run, and I for one hope they do decide to come back. The skill and talent are obviously still there, and the pool of compelling Spider-man tales not exactly short. Spider-man 3 plays like an experiment in style an unsuccessful one so I hope Raimi returns, not just to the character, but to the original virtues that have made this series one of the most successful in film history.


DVD Details:

We reviewed the single-disc widescreen edition.

Screen Formats: 1.78:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French-Canadian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access;vaudio commentary; outtakes; photo hallery; Snow Patrol music video.

* Commentary - Feature-length commentaries
o 1- with James Franco, Tobey Maguire, Thomas Haden Church, Sam Raimi, Kirsten Dunst, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Topher Grace
o 2 - with Avi Arad, Grant Curtis, Laura Ziskin, Scott Stokdyk, and Bob Murawski
* Bloopers
o 61/2 minutes of Bloopers and outtakes
* Advertisements - Action Command Spider-Man toy commercial.
* Photo Galleries - Sketches, paintings, sculptures, special effects, director and cast photo galleries.
* Previews - for Upcoming Blu-ray discs, "Vantage Point," "Across The Universe," "The Water Horse: Legend Of The Deep," "The Ray Harryhausen Collection," "Surf's Up," "Storm Hawks," "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind- The Ultimate Edition," "Ghost Rider," "Seinfeld-Season 9," "Vitus," "The Jane Austen Book Club," and "My Kid Could Paint That."
* Music video: Snow Patrol "Signal Fire"
* DVD-Rom: - Spider-Man: Friend Or Foe video game preview.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging and cardboard slipcase.