The great aesthetic pleasure of director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise has been weightlessness: they're mid-air ballets, soaring through the New York skyline, high above the din and tedium that us pavement-huggers call city life. The third installment begins with a similar flair for life in the air, but sadly creaks under the weight of trying to out-perform its predecessors.
This is not to say the film is without its pleasures, but they come in fits and starts rather than an epic sweep. Raimi merges satire and carnage with a light touch. His send-ups of celebrity, self-obsession and superhero tropes are knowing without choking on their own irony.
But Spider-Man cannot survive on humor alone. He needs a foe, and Raimi settles for the least inventive solution: evil by committee. A series of expositionally-challenged mishaps create a trio of pissed off bad guys who don’t inspire fear, but the most un-Spidey like sensation: fatigue.