(In theaters, May 2007) I won’t try to pretend that I disliked the first two Spider-Man films, but it’s fair to say that I haven’t been as impressed with them as most other people have been. Partly, I mourn the Sam Raimi of the Evil Dead trilogy; partly, I can’t stand the lowest-common-denominator approach that has ensured the series’ success. So when Spider-Man 3 comes out and ends up annoying everyone, I’m left muttering “Well, what did you expect?” This being said, there’s no doubt that this third instalment is weaker than the first two ones for obvious reasons: too long, too scattered, too coincidental. Obviously, storytelling standards have fallen when, of all the possible places on Earth, a meteorite carrying an evil symbiont just happens to fall next to Peter Parker as he’s making out in the park. I happen to like the Venom plot thread, but it seems superfluous in a third tome of a trilogy chiefly concerned about the Parker/Harris/Osborne relationship. That it blows up the duration of the film well past its optimal time is just another knock against it. Without Venom, we might have been given a few more scenes fleshing out the Sandman character… although if the alternative is yet another coma-inducing speech by Aunt May, I’ll pass. No, Spider-Man 3 has obviously succumbed to the increasingly common self-importance syndrome of third-parters: the producers’ belief that it can do no wrong and audiences will lap it up any way. They may be right… but that won’t be of much comfort in a few years when hardly anyone will recall such movies with affection.