TOKYO Even superheroes get the blues, as "Spider-Man" discovers in this latest sequel during which he confronts a mutant made of sand, a vengeful former friend and, ultimately, himself.
"Spider-Man 3" is packed with stunning special effects such as the crumbling, morphing Sandman and an evil black suit that brings out a person's dark side, but the characters also show a psychological complexity rarely seen in action movies.
In the sequel, Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, is finally enjoying life with the beautiful Mary Jane Watson, played by Kristen Dunst, when he discovers a mysterious black suit that gives him special powers, but also stirs hidden feelings of bitterness and revenge.
The ensuing battle between good and evil, revenge and forgiveness, is played out in airborne superhero fights as well as more mundane rows with friends and colleagues.
"To see Spider-Man cry so much was different," said Gerry Penacoli, a critic for Extra entertainment magazine, after seeing the "Spider-Man" preview in Tokyo ahead of the evening premiere.
"It's more intense -- you still have great action but certainly it's the deepest of the three. Kids and adults will learn so much more from this than from a movie that's just wham-shezam," he added.
The impressive special effects were also a reminder of the production cost of slightly more than $250 million, making the movie a huge financial gamble for Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures.
The gamble paid off for "Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2", which grossed $822 million and $783 million, respectively.
While sequels tend to do less well than the original movie, "Spider-Man 3" could draw new fans with its intricate plot and more rounded characters.
Launching the sequel in Japan, home to a huge community of superhero comic fans, rather than the United States is also seen as a shrewd push into the faster-growing international market that could help box-office revenues.
On Monday morning, "Spider-Man" posters were plastered all over Tokyo's futuristic Roppongi Hills complex, where the movie was shown, and the initial reaction from Japanese viewers was positive.
"It's better than 'Spider-Man 2'. He's more human, there's more tension between Peter Parker and his Spider-Man character," said Kumiko Hayashida, a movie critic who writes for online entertainment Web sites.
"The story is better, more psychological. And Japanese people like animation, so they like this story because of the comic."
"Spider-Man" originated as a comic book hero and Marvel Entertainment Inc. still holds the rights to the character.
After the premiere in Tokyo, the movie's makers travel to London on April 23 and then Rome, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Stockholm and New York. The movie debuts globally on May 4.
And if "Spider-Man 3" is a success, will there be another sequel? Maguire has not commented on whether he would slip into the Spider-Man costume a fourth time, but critics did their own guesswork after the preview.
"I can't believe they'll leave it at that, it's left wide open for another one," said Penacoli.