A costumed super-hero swings into theaters for a third adventure, and is poised to shatter box office records in the United States and around the world. Alan Silverman spoke with the stars and filmmaker for this look at Spider-Man 3.
The web-slinger is back with more action and more villains to vanquish; but the most dangerous of all could be the enemy that lurks within himself.
Spider-man, as his millions of fans surely know, is the alter ego of Peter Parker who, as a shy and insecure teenager, gained amazing strength and abilities after a bite from a radioactive mutant spider. One of the comic book world's most popular super-heroes for more than 40 years and a movie powerhouse since his first hit film in 2002, Spidey's success still astounds his creator, comic book writer and artist Stan Lee.
"When I was writing these things in the early 1960's, all I hoped was that people would buy the books and I'd keep my job and be able to pay the rent," Lee says. "Nobody in that business ever thought that these characters would someday become internationally famous and have cartoons and feature films. I still can't believe it.
This time, the hero has to deal with "sandman," a marauding monster made of sand ..."venom," a reptilian version of Spider-man himself ...and his vengeful former best friend Harry Osborn, who assumes the role of goblin, the villain his father became in the first Spider-Man film.
As if all that were not enough, Peter is also forced to tangle with his inner demons when a mutating glob of goo from outer space threatens to turn him from altruistic hero to revenge-crazed killer.
Tobey Maguire, back for a third film as the title character, says this adventure takes him to dark places.
"There is definitely an innocence to Peter Parker and he has a strong morality to him, although in this movie I do think he strays pretty far,"he says. "Some of his behaviors and actions really cross the line, although I think we try to handle it with a different type of tone. In not all of the scenes, but in a lot of it, we are trying to have fun with it and keep it light, even in the darkness.
Kirsten Dunst returns as Mary Jane Watson, the would-be Broadway superstar who finds her longtime romance with Peter Parker threatened by his dual personalities. Dunst believes that inner struggle is a key to the lasting appeal of this super-hero.
" 'Spider-man' is always tortured by what he is and who he is and his responsibility ...and he is a young boy, still trying to become a man in his most formative years: being a teenager, having his first love and then he has to save New York at the same time," Dunst explains. "Also, he has always been the every-man. He has made it so that everyone can be a hero. You can't look up to one guy. Not to be too sappy, but (it is about) finding the hero in yourself and taking action yourself in the world."
"Peter Parker in this story is on a journey to learn that vengeance is not the answer (and) that forgiveness is a higher aspiration, adds Sam Raimi, who also returns for a third time as director and co-writer.
"What I've always been interested in is that Peter is a flawed person and not everything is going right for him," he explains. "The girls don't particularly find him attractive, he is broke, he comes from a broken home. He is a geek ...and this kid has suddenly got all this power. There's always been this idea in my mind, from what I get from the comic books, is that he has to learn to quickly mature and become responsible and deal with his power in a most responsible way. It is an awesome situation for a character."
A lifelong Spider-man fan, Raimi believes this super-hero's journey is about more than just battling fantastical villains:
"More than any other hero, 'Spider-man' represents America. I don't mean the movie, I mean the qualities that the character embodies," Raimy says. "He is self-questioning. He has made mistakes ...terrible mistakes. He has even hurt the ones he loves, yet he wants to do best and he is powerful and he strives to do good and he risks everything for it and he is kind and fair, when his mind is right. It is actually that self-questioning character that has been through this terrible darkness and is trying to find himself."
Spider-Man 3 also features James Franco as Harry Osborn and the 'new goblin.' Thomas Haden Church is the conflicted crook who becomes 'Sandman.' Topher Grace plays Peter's rival who becomes the villain 'Venom.' Bryce Dallas Howard is Gwen Stacy, a romantic rival for Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane; and among cameos in the film, watch for a Times Square scene with Spider-Man creator Stan Lee.