But on to the movie.
The short version: S3 is somewhere on the upper end of good and the lower end of great. Alright, much lower than great.
Part three of any trilogy is make-or-break time. You either end on a high note (Revenge of the Sith) or drag down the whole shebang (X-Men 3).
Personally, I tend to favor origins stories. Fellowship of the Ring is still tops with me despite Return of the King's superior firepower as spectacle. That's largely how I feel about S3. The effects are better, the story has greater depth, and the themes are deeper. It's just hard to beat the emotional impact and story arc of the "genesis" installment for me.
That, and S3's too-many sources of villainy -- presented sympathetically and connected in loose ways that tend to dissipate much of the tension -- are the biggest negatives. The Sandman looks phenomenal, but it's hard to hate a guy motivated by the love of his daughter the way we could hate the demonic fury of Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man.
But fans of director Sam Raimi's earlier, darker, quirkier career will still appreciate a return to style at times here. A completely random sequence showing the "evil" Peter Parker strutting his sexy stuff on the streets of New York is some of the funniest stuff in the film. A lot of people are hating that exact bit, but it's old school Raimi to the core. (Remember the Three Stooges-esque eye pokes Ash endured in the graveyard during Army of Darkness? Feels a little like that.)
The great and mighty Bruce Campbell makes his usual cameo for Raimi as well, this time as a hilariously over-the-top Maître de at a French restaurant. Clearly a better choice for the recent Pink Panther remake, had a remake not been pure blasphemy in the first place.
Oh, did I mention Bryce Dallas Howard? Turns out the daughter of Opie Cunningham is uh...one fine, foxy lady, despite what The Village or Lady in the Water may have led us to believe.
Conservatives too should give this a thumbs up. While hardly a political movie and has no obvious subplot involving, say, a mechanical, multi-tentacled Osama bin Laden, the film never strays from its earnest Red State roots.
Which basically means it doesn't take much to please conservatives anymore.
It's manna from heaven these days when Christianity isn't maligned, when gratuitous jabs at George Bush don't materialize, when the everyman (and woman) characters don't shack up, and when the hero somehow manages to speak without a sniff of irony about things like the power of forgiveness and making moral choices in life.
Superman Returns, you may recall, drew fire for avoiding the Man of Steele's American hero status. (I hear it from my own manager all the time: "It won't play well overseas!") In stark contrast, S3 has Spidey swing into battle framed by a giant American flag.
"I'm a patriotic guy. I do believe it's absolutely true this country strives to do the right thing," said director Sam Raimi during a recent interview with Wold Magazine.
The film will be a runaway hit regardless of critics' opinions, which are also running strong in S3's favor.
And when it is, look for talk of Raimi's involvement in New Line's Hobbit project to heat up too.