Film News

"Spider-Man 3" shows soul-searching superhero

TOKYO (Reuters) - “Spider-Man 3,” the latest and possibly last film in one of the world’s most successful movie franchises, premiered on Monday with thousands of screaming fans cheering stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

Cast member Tobey Maguire smiles during the world premiere of "Spider-Man 3" in Tokyo April 16, 2007. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Launching the sequel in Japan, home to a huge community of superhero comic fans, rather than the United States, was seen as a shrewd push into the faster-growing international market that could help boost box-office revenues.

Over the next week and a half, the film will also have gala openings in London, Rome, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Stockholm in a marketing plan aimed at seeing “Spider-Man 3” do as well at the box office as its predecessors, which collectively grossed $1.6 billion.

In an interview with Reuters Television on the red carpet at the Tokyo opening, Maguire said he loved the latest film. “It’s very different than ‘Spider-Man 2.’ It’s a whole different movie. I think we did a good job in continuing the stories that we set up in 1 and 2, but moving further beyond that, and using our experience to try to make a better film.”

Maguire has tried not to give any hints as to whether he would star in a “Spider-Man 4” if there was one. But that didn’t stop him from telling fans that Tokyo was one of the few cities in the world suited to “Spider-Man” -- a reference to the superhero’s habit of swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper, weaving webs between towering buildings.

“If we do a fourth movie, we might need Spider-Man to come to Tokyo,” he told a group of cheering fans before the premiere.

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“Spider-Man 3” stays true to the series’ tradition of stunning special effects, but it is also a darker, more psychological film than the other two in the series.

In the third, Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), played by Maguire, is finally enjoying life with the beautiful Mary Jane Watson, played by Dunst, when he discovers a mysterious black suit that gives him special powers, but also stirs hidden feelings of bitterness and revenge.

What follows is a battle between good and evil, revenge and forgiveness that 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, 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 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.

While sequels tend to do less well than the original movie, “Spider-Man 3” could draw new fans with its sophisticated plot, some film experts said.

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 critic who writes for entertainment Web sites.

“The story is better, more psychological. And Japanese people like animation, so they like this story because of the comic,” he added