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Spidey the Swinger

In 'Spider-Man 3,' our once reluctant hero gets a little cocky—until he discovers his dark side.

  Ansen on a Great Thai Filmmaker
The latest movie from the gifted Thai director Apichatpong is as wonderful as it is hard to explain—and it’s really hard to explain.

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Copyright 2007 Newsweek and
By David Ansen

May 7, 2007 issue - Superman has always been the star of "Superman," not Clark Kent. Same goes for Batman/Bruce Wayne, only a little less so. What's different about the Spider-Man series is that it's always been more about sensitive, vulnerable Peter Parker than about his superhuman alter ego. Spidey's not a natural-born superhero. It's damn hard work swinging between skyscrapers, and Parker spent a good portion of "Spider-Man 2" wondering if it was worth the trouble. Where was the respect? Where was the glory? He was this close to turning in his spandex suit.

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"Spider-Man 2" was hailed by many as the most grown-up of comic-book action movies, which was ironic in that nerdy Peter is the most adolescent superhero in the Marvel movie galaxy. It was all about his growing pains, his doubts, his insecurities, which all former adolescents could relate to—though to these eyes "Spidey 2" got a little too self-important for its own good: the less prestigious, more slapdash original was actually more fun.

Now, in the considerably more entertaining "Spider-Man 3," Peter (Tobey Maguire) is starting to enjoy himself. He doesn't have to hide his secret identity from Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) anymore, he's getting good press and the babes are looking at him in a new way. At a parade in his honor—he's just rescued a screaming blonde (Bryce Dallas Howard) from a collapsing building—he poses for an upside-down kiss with her. "Lay it on me," he says, with a most un-Parker-like swagger. If these flashes of ego seem troublesome, just wait until he gets infected with a creepy-crawly symbiote from a meteor that lands conveniently nearby. This mysterious substance unleashes the vengeful, murderous Black Spider-Man within him (complete with his own fashionably black arachnid outfit). Talk about split identities! Now we have four characters rolled into one: the good nerdy Peter and his cocky, hipster alter ego, who struts down the street as if he's been watching too many reruns of "Saturday Night Fever," and the good Spidey and the bad one, who threatens to ruin the original's reputation.