Perhaps you've heard that web-slinger Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is returning for a third round of romantic problems, friendly misunderstandings and - oh, yeah - battles against mutant villains intent on destroying New York. That's right,

Spider-Man 3

, reuniting Maguire with costars Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and director Sam Raimi, opens May 4, and Sony screened the movie for critics earlier this week.

Here's a sneak-peek at a few things to expect.

The plot. Peter and Mary Jane (Dunst) are happily dating at first. Things grow tense when her acting career starts to fall apart, while Peter's head swells over the city's hero-worship of his red-costumed alter-ego. Meanwhile, escaped prisoner Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) gets caught in a lab accident and becomes the shape-shifting Sandman.

A bit of black ooze from outer space attaches itself to Peter and gives him greater power - but not for the good. A freelance photographer named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) wants to replace Peter at the Daily Bugle.

Oh, and Harry (Franco) has learned how to operate all those Green Goblin gadgets, and plans to use them to kill Peter in revenge for his father's death. (Yes, it's a lot of plot to cram in, even with the movie's ample running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.)

Thrills and spills. There's a reason Spider-Man works in a skyscraper-filled city: There's always peril on high. Peter and Harry have a brutal, wall-smashing airborne flight through the alleys of New York. A faulty construction crane slams through the top of an office tower - and leaves Peter's classmate Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) hanging by her fingertips 62 stories in the air.

The big climax finds one beloved character stuck in a taxi hanging hundreds of feet above the pavement while Spidey and a cohort battle two villains simultaneously.

Coolest effect. The CG animation for the Sandman, who can be small enough to be blown through the sky on a breeze, or become a granular behemoth several stories tall.

Spider-Man dances? Actress-singer Mary Jane has two songs - in a Broadway show and, later, a jazz bar. Peter struts down the streets of New York like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, then performs a dance number in a nightclub.

Those guys look familiar. Yes, that's Spider-Man creator and comic book deity Stan Lee on the sidewalk, telling Peter, "You know, I guess one person can make a difference." And that's Raimi's Evil Dead star, Bruce Campbell, as a snooty French maitre d'. (Both had cameos in the previous two Spider-Man flicks.)

Main themes. The dangers of arrogance and the power of forgiveness. Oh, one other thing: If you're in a relationship, learn to listen to your partner.

Where can you see it? Where can't you is the better question. Spider-Man 2 opened on more than 4,000 screens. While the number for 3's opening hasn't been finalized, it's pretty likely this friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will be in your neighborhood.

But don't expect a lot of empty seats in the theater. In a reader poll for most anticipated film of 2007 on the Web site, Spidey beat out both Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.