When our hero finally realizes the trouble his black Symbiote suit is causing him and rids himself of it, it latches on to Peter’s day job competitor/nemesis Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Of course with newfound Symbiote powers, and a grudge against Peter for getting him fired, Brock proves a formidable villain. Cue dazzling battle with Spider-Man doppelganger and giant sand monster.

Of course, special effects are no doubt the main reason people will see the film. Peter’s stomach-churning battle with Harry on his flying snowboard is quite harrowing and realistic. Sandman’s ability to form into almost any shape makes for some incredible visuals in the fight scenes. And with reportedly more than 250 million dollars spent on the film (making it the most expensive in American cinema history), the action sequences are bigger and more eye-popping than ever. What is lacking, however, is a good bit of the emotional resonance of the first two films—the way in which character growth and moral message flow seamlessly out of the plot and action sequences. Here it feels like our lead actors, Maguire and Dunst, are just growing tired of the roles. They lack the emotional spark we saw in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. Aunt May is there with sage advice for her struggling superhero nephew, but it all seems a bit forced. With so many subplots tacked on to the story, the screenplay just feels a bit clunky.

This doesn’t mean that Spider-Man 3 doesn’t give us some poignant moral messages about revenge and forgiveness. Sandman’s motivation is understandable even though his methods are not.  Peter must once again choose to do the right thing even when it’s painful. Taken as a whole, this contemporary trio of Spider-Man films is a resounding success, both commercially and artistically. This episode of the saga is certainly entertaining, even though it lacks much of the emotional depth of the first two. We want the film to be excellent, the best yet. Instead, we’ll have to settle for it being “pretty good.”

AUDIENCE:  12 and up
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Alcohol consumed in club and at Harry’s house. Harry uses the “super-drug” his father invented. It has a steroids-like effect on him.
  • Language/Profanity: Almost none. Lord’s name taken in vain once or twice.
  • Sex/Nudity: None.
  • Violence: Quite a lot of brutal (mostly bloodless) violence as heroes and villains club, bash, thrash, choke, blow up, bludgeon and pound away on one another. Characters thrown through buildings, into brick walls, at moving trains and oncoming traffic more times than can be counted. Several startling scenes and one vicious looking bad guy might make this one too much for the younger set.