Back in the summer of 2004, while working in the garden, I was bitten on my left calf by a brown recluse spider, probably the most dangerous arachnid in the Southeast. The wound left a jagged off-yellow imitation of a lightning bolt that extended about five inches from the bite. Luckily, the spider that attacked me had very little venom in its arsenal, so the dreaded skin necrosis never appeared—but heavens, the apprehension one feels while you wait to see just how bad it will get.
That apprehension was mirrored in my conscience as I watched “Spider-Man 3,” the newest entry in the cartoon cannons of the 21st Century Summer Blockbuster Parade. Where do I begin to write about disappointment because all that made the second installment excel, was wiped away by the third?
Mistakes, for example? The idea the Peter’s girlfriend MJ could get star billing in a Broadway musical where she descends, shrouded in a flouncing white gown, stage steps singing “I’m through with love,” only to be written of by the various reviewers as not being able to cast her voice beyond the second row,” merely shows that the Raimi Clan has never attended a Broadway musical and were ignorant that since the death of Ethyl Merman everybody in a Broadway show is miked to perfection.
Having five villains? Couldn’t they have made do with two or three?
We have Number One (in a salute to the special effects of the 1999 hit, “The Mummy”), one Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), the murderer of Pete’s uncle and an escaped con who just happens to fall into a sand pit where a physics experiment turns him into a shape-shifting Sandman.
Number two is his best friend and worst enemy, Harry (James Franco), who believes that Peter murdered his father and knows they both love MJ. He flies around Manhattan in what’s left of his dad’s machinery hoping that Spidey will bite the dust (and in so doing will never have to return to the kind of Manhattan apartment then went out when Guiliani became mayor).
Number Three is a dweller in a meteorite that lands in Central Park while Peter and MJ are relaxing in one of Spidey’s webs, watching a meteor shower. The hot metal chunk opens up, and releases some crawling black cosmic goop (in a salute to Steve McQueen’s 1958 release, “The Blob”), eventually hitching a ride on Peter’s scooter and in time, turning him into an all black salute to the evil spiders in the world.
Number Four is Peter’s rival photographer at the paper, one Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), who looks a great deal like Ryan Phillippe and plays the kind of guy that is usually a main character on survival television. He is also attacked by the slime from space, only while his spider suit is black, his teeth resemble of the deep-water angelfish that use a small luminescent orb about their mouth to attract victims in the Mariana Trench.
Number Five is Peter himself, who becomes his alter-ego incarnate as the space slime takes over his brain and turns him into Spider Hyde.
There’s a final battle atop, amid, and below a skyscraper in construction that calls out all the special effects stops, kind of like a great church organ that steams up 1,000 pipes into action.
And speaking of church, there’s a scene where Eddie sits in a pew, looks up at the crucified Christ over the altar, and asks God to kill Peter Parker.
My heavens, no wonder the fundamentalists get their ire up.