Ror Revisits: Spider-Man 3
Pretty much universally despised by fanboys the world over. But is Sam Raimi's third(and last) Spidey flick really THAT bad? Click for my take..
I wasn't planning on going back to this until I had covered some more classic CBMs but I watched it again the other night out of sheer boredom and figured I may as well make it the next revisit. Spider-Man 3 has the honour of being one of those movies that is mercilessly maligned by fans without actually being a particularly bad movie. Not that its particularly good either, but aside from a few(ok, quite a few) missteps its really pretty entertaining. At least, it is from one perspective.
I think most will agree that the movie starts off fine. As in both previous, and superior instalments we are brought up to date on the life of Peter Parker(Tobey Maguire) via his opening voicover. And things are going well for him and his wall crawling alter ego. He and Mary Jane(Kirsten Dunst) are all loved up and happy, and Spider-Man is not only accepted, but loved by his adoring public. Unfortunately there is the small issue of Spidey having a hand in his former best friend's father's death. Harry Osbourne(Now Green Goblin 2..kinda) is out for revenge. Add to that escaped con Flint Marko(Thomas Haden Church) becoming the Sandman and an alien symbiot latching on to Parker and Spider-Man really has his work cut out.
And as the audience, so do we. Make no mistake, the 3 villain combo is what kills this film. Harry was always going to be in this as a bad guy, its been signposted since the end of the first movie and is just natural plot progression. The Sandman would and should have been enough of an addition, but since the decision was made to eventually give harry a change of heart, and also make Sandman sympathetic(which does happen in the comics by the way purists) I guess they needed a REAL bad guy. And we get one in the movie version of Venom. The problem with Venom is not so much the deviation in look from the comic, or Topher Grace as his eventual host Eddie Brock(who actually gives a good performance) but the rush job he receives. We go from an increasingly bad minded Parker to Brock as Venom in the blink of an eye, and already he is conspiring with Sandman to take down Spider-Man. It just feels wedged in there. And that's because it was. I'm not going to go too much into the whole controversy over Sam Raimi being strong armed to include the character because nobody really knows the full story. But watching the film, its not hard to believe that in some capacity, that is exactly what happened. The finale is just a mess. With characters motivations changing in seconds, and yet another damn last minute MJ rescue complete with cringy commentary from a news reporter. It all feels so samey. And coming off the excellent Spider-man 2, that is the last thing anyone wanted to see.
There are other problems of course. Things like The Sandman being Uncle Ben's actual killer and the decision to bring in Gwen Stacy(Bryce Dallas Howard) without actually giving her anything to do except get rescued and make MJ jealous do feel tagged on, but perhaps raise more ire in comic fans than casual movie goers. And then there's the "emo dance". Peter Parker, under the influence of the symbiote, dances down the street doing cheesy finger points to passing ladies. And its funny. Sorry, emo dance fan here! I laughed. Sure it might seem a bit out of place considering the transformation coming over Parker should be more bad guy, less mischievous pest. But that does emerge, and culminates in Parker back handing MJ. I hear all the time about how he should have been more evil, but what the Hell do you want in a PG13 film? Also, aside from any problems with the story, the cast are as good as ever. With new comers Church and Howard also on form, and the returning J.K Simmons as JJ Jameson once again threatening to steal the whole movie in his scenes. All give great performances and do their very best with the material. You can tell that Raimi too, despite what anyone may say about this self sabotage crap, really loves these characters and his usual heart on his sleeve approach is taken. Some feel that he puts too much emotion in these films but it works for me, and I hate sappy shit just for sappy shit's sake! Its a necessary part of any Spider-man story imo. But so too is action of course! And this film doesn't disappoint there either. There are some great set pieces all through the movie. The first Spidey/Osbourne mid air battle, the Gwen Stacy rescue, the Sandman sewer scrap. And even later on , as the story consumes itself, there is still enjoyment to be had from the visuals on display.
This is by far the worst of this trilogy, and its hard to defend a film with such a bad last act but its still not, overall, an outright bad film. The fact that it gets shoved in the same category as shit like Catwoman or even the Fantastic Four movies does it a disservice. The real tragedy for me is that we will never see how Raimi and co would have followed this up. Despite the problems with Spider-Man 3 I was really looking forward to a return to form, and to see this story progress. Lets just hope Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and friends can reach the bar set by Raimi's first two films, particularly Spider-Man 2. Because for me and a lot of others, its a high one.
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