S3

“Spider-Man 3” is a sprawling, goofy mix of frenetic CGI and earnest melodrama, more squarely focused on characterization than either of the previous films. Story development takes a backseat to the emotional problems of Harry, the career (?) setbacks of Mary Jane and Peter’s near descent into dickishness. This is very much in keeping with the original source material, and Sam Rami’s devotion to the tone of those early comics is the most endearing element of the franchise: he is that “true believer” Stan was always calling out to from his soapbox. And yes, we are very lucky to have Rami steering the ship, but this approach crowds out too much in this already busy (Sandman, Venom AND Goblin Jr?) narrative. So, while we get plenty of well realized moments depicting the subtle inner workings of the MJ/Peter relationship, we have to make due with clunky plot devices like Venom falling to earth in a meteor convienently near where the lovebirds are stargazing. Even worse is the moment when the bad guys team up, a scene which falls almost immediately after Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock initally becomes the shape-changing Venom. With a rushed explanation that he knows everything about the Sandman, that he’s been looking for him and that he shares his hatred of Spider-Man, the villians unite. How he knows anything about the Sandman is not covered, although, in the comics it was always true that Venom, being a symbiotic creature, had total knowledge of Peter and his life, as it was literally a part of him. It is a systemic problem, this blundering rush to set up the final act; Harry’s blood vendetta with Peter is dismissed after a few kind words from his butler and Peter’s quest to bring his Uncle’s murderer the Sandman (retcon!) to justice is abandoned after a brief conversation with the guy. Flaws aside, “Spider-Man 3” is a charming picture, idiosyncratic and full of heart, bursting with action and humor. And if logic takes a hit because of it? Well, that’s the way the web tangles. Tiger.