Kiss of the Spider Women

Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Topher Grace star in a film written by Sam and Ivan Raimi and directed by Sam Raimi.

Maybe the course of true love never did run smooth, but it’s a lot worse in comic books. The biggest problem with this third installment of the Marvel web slinger’s misadventures is that director Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan have attempted the impossible: transposing a story that took years to develop episodically and squeezing it into three blockbuster films.

The tension had to give somewhere, and it gave all over MJ (Kirsten Dunst). There’s a terribly misbegotten scene in this film where Spidey (Tobey Maguire), carried away with himself, insists that Gwen Stacey-a rival in the comic books whose story has been microscopically reduced-plant a big one on his lips while hanging upside down. “That’s our kiss,” says Mary Jane later. Raimi, perhaps unconsciously knowing it wouldn’t work, puts a boy in the scene covering his eyes during the smooch.

That boy stands in for all of us. Moviegoers don’t want MJ hurt or Peter acting like a jerk. Yet Spidey is a jerk during two extended scenes where, under the influence of the black costume, he takes on all the lovable panache of Jerry Lewis as Buddy Love. What we want to see is a radiant Dunst in the picture and Spidey off battling bad boys on the New York skyline.

Alas, Raimi’s mistakes make for a noble failure. He subverts the revenge plot flow with floods of forgiveness, and even disrupts the illusions of his own story by giving kooky cameos to Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell. Self-conscious fun abounds: Everybody in this movie has at least one schizo double. Peter has Brock (Topher Grace), Spidey has Venom, MJ has Gwen, and Sandman has the Green Goblin.

Playing with blockbuster conventions is a risk, though. The film has already gotten humungous box office numbers, but most people are complaining. Why not enjoy it, though? It’s not Ingmar Bergman. What Raimi needs to learn is it isn’t “Days of Our Lives” either. We feel what could have been every time Maguire, the colossal fool, blows it with Dunst. The best idea is just to cover your eyes ’til the icky part gives way to some good old-fashioned violence.


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