Still, chintzy audience members are shortcutting themselves watching a second-generation bootleg, that offers little of the stellar special-effects production value presented on the silver screen. Though mired by soapy love triangle plot points, filmmaker Sam Raimi's third venture into the world of the web-creating crusader is thrilling, despite its too long 139 minutes.
Here, we are treated to three villains: Escaped convict Flint Marko/ Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), frustrated news photographer Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace) and rich guy Harry Osborn/New Goblin (James Franco). Between high-flying fights with his adversaries, geeky Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) gets to be a studly Buddy Love à la "The Nutty Professor." This is a result of some intergalactic goo, which transforms him into a black-suited Spider-Man and a super-cool dude without the Spidey duds. The bit grows a bit embarrassing when sexed-up Parker tries to impress jilted girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and hot college classmate Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) on the dance floor. Toby Maguire is no John Travolta.
Two-dimensional characterization runs throughout the film as even the monster actors are allowed to stretch like web strands. Oscar nominee Church ("Sideways") brings sympathy to the role of a shape-shifting giant sand hulk/bandit, who merely needs money for his seriously ill child. Grace's struggling paparazzi-turned fang-toothed Venom is embittered by his competition with Parker at the newspaper and over Gwen. As Harry/ Goblin, Franco loses his memory along with his anger toward Parker/Spider- Man for killing his father. When his mind is restored, the revenge is rekindled, but then dropped for an alliance with the webbed one to battle the bad guys because Mary Jane is in peril. Talk about flip-flopping.
All this motivation doesn't mean much when there is popcorn to be munched and money to be made. Go see "Spider-Man 3" and be amazed at what modern movie magic has done for Marvel comic book characters.
Just keep away from Spidey on the web.