But like anyone who gets a little too secure in his/her own abilities, that ugly ol’ pride can’t help but fester—and wow, does it! For Parker, it ends up unleashing a vengeful, even murderous version of himself that potentially threatens his otherwise sterling reputation.

“Peter has never had anyone look up to him as someone they admire. Certainly, he’s never had anyone cheer for him before,” Raimi adds. “This is the beginning of a movement toward his dark side, something that’s brought to the forefront when he comes into contact with the black substance. When his suit turns black, he finds he has greater strength and agility than ever before . . . and in the climax, he must put aside his desire for vengeance. He has to learn that we are all sinners and that none of us can hold ourselves above another.”

And while Raimi and Co. adds a couple of spectacular new villains to the mix, including the towering Sandman (played by Sideways actor Thomas Haden Church) and Parker’s doppelganger Venom (played by That '70s Show star Topher Grace), the most fascinating battle for most will be Spidey’s battle with himself.

Redemptive Moments

For most movie-oers, the spectacular special effects, which took countless months to develop and comprised approximately 30 percent of the movie’s total budget, will be the tipping point for enjoying Spider-Man 3. But for many Christians buying a ticket, the parable-esque quality of the story will probably resonate far deeper.

In what’s ultimately a rather ambitious undertaking that’s not always particularly cohesive, Spider-Man 3 is part action movie, part comedy and part love story. Yet one of the movie’s underlying themes is forgiveness and redemption, something Spidey learns in spades by almost losing it all.

“We were always looking for ways to take the mask off, so you can see what Peter is going through,” Maguire says. “When I see a movie, I get invested in the characters, and I care about them. I’ve got to connect with them so I can feel what they’re feeling.”

And while the movie’s message doesn’t provide the light-hearted takeaway value of your typical summer popcorn flick like, say, the latest adventure with Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a story that Dunst is particularly proud of being a part of.

“When it comes down to it, who can’t relate to falling in love? Who can’t relate to getting in fights with your best friend? Who can’t relate to feeling like your work is killing you? Spider-Man 3 is a story for everyone.”

Spider-Man 3 opens nationwide on May 4. It runs 140 minutes and is rated PG-13 for scenes of intense action violence.

Photo © Columbia Pictures