'One Big Reason' is a bi-weekly series where I take a look at some of the blockbuster films we love to hate and find one redeeming quality that makes it worth a watch.
This weeks pick: Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3.
The film was Sam Raimi’s last #SpiderMan movie to conclude his trilogy starring Tobey Maguire as everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. The first two movies in the trilogy are largely considered as being some of the best superhero movies to date.
The first film introduced us to a fantastic superhero origin story with great characters, dialogue, and action. The second stepped it up a notch and gave us improved special effects with a better villain in Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina). However, Raimi’s third and sadly final Spider-Man film hit a roadblock.
While Spider-Man 3 made more at the box office than the previous two films, it was also the most disappointing, with head-scratching decisions like making #PeterParker go dark side. To this day, saying "Emo Peter Parker" to a Spider-Man fan will make them twitch. Sony clearly had too many cooks in the kitchen for this one, most notably meddling producer Avi Arad, forcing Raimi to cram in too many villains and a confusing storyline at the expense of quality.
But if the film overall was a big step down from the previous two, there’s still one solid thing to enjoy in this movie and why it's worth a second chance: I believe Spider-Man 3 gave us one of the greatest comic book villains in superhero movies, Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman.
He Wasn't An Over-The-Top Supervillain, Just A Desperate Father
“My daughter was dying. I needed money. I was scared.”
If there’s one criticism about the current #MCU, it’s that they tend to focus solely on the heroes and not give enough depth to the villains. But Raimi did both, giving us memorable villains including Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and, of course, Sandman. Flint Marko is definitely the best part of this film and it's because he's so human and relatable:
Sandman’s backstory is a tragic one. An escaped convict and divorced father, he continues to rob banks and other places to support his daughter Penny's cancer treatments. Without his support, Penny will die. Marko isn't a supervillain trying to take over the world or one holding a grudge against a corporate organization (unlike Norman Osborn). He doesn't even initially have a problem with Spider-Man. He's simply a person doing whatever he can to keep his daughter alive, the only person he feels is worth living for.
The Accident That Turned Him Into Sandman Adds Another Tragic Element To His Character
“I didn’t choose to be this. The only thing left of me now is my daughter.”
One of the most emotional scenes in the film happens shortly after Marko is changed into Sandman:
After Marko mistakenly finds himself trapped inside an experimental particle accelerator, he's transformed into Sandman when the accelerator starts up with him inside it. On top of having to stay in a life of crime to keep his daughter alive, Marko now has to deal with his entire DNA getting transformed into nothing but sand. Church is a fine character actor, and you can't help but feel for him in this scene, a desperate man who never asked for any of it.
As the scene progresses, he struggles to maintain control of his physical form and take shape. He then finds his lucky charm, a locket with a picture of his daughter and does his very best to grasp it. At first he doesn’t succeed, but then tries again focusing his entire body on creating a human hand. Once again, his daughter is his lifeline.
He Also Deals With The Guilt Of Being Partly Responsible For Uncle Ben's Death
“I did a terrible thing to you. I’ve spent a lot of nights wishing I could take it back. I’m not asking you to forgive me. I just want you to understand.”
Not only does Flint Marko have to cope with his dying daughter, his ex-wife who wants no part of it, and the entire police force after him, he also has to deal with a moment that will haunt him forever: the death of Ben Parker.
In a surprising twist, we learn that Marko is actually the one who killed Peter’s uncle, not the robber from the first film - at least partly. We later find out what actually happened that night in the words of Marko himself when he confesses to Peter:
The killing of Uncle Ben was an accident, and Marko has carried the guilt with him to this day. To confess to Peter, someone who is both the nephew of the man he killed and the superhero hunting him, requires a bravery and desire to do the right thing and atone. This moment is especially poignant as it shows that, in different circumstances, Marko might have been a better man, even a hero.
Of course, the way Church delivers this monologue as Sandman is brilliantly done. His naturally sad, soft eyes and pensive face, prior to this, had normally been reserved for comedic roles, but lent themselves remarkably well to profound sadness. The score by #DannyElfman also adds to the emotional pull. This scene could not have been crafted better.
Sandman Makes 'Spider-Man 3' Worth A Second Viewing
Spider-Man 3 is not a great film by any means. I think everyone can attest to that. But there is great emotional depth and character development with Sandman that makes it worth a second watch. Had Raimi just kept the Sandman as the central and only antagonist, Spider-Man 3 would have undoubtedly been a much better movie.
Do you think Sandman makes Spider-Man 3 worth a second chance? Sound off in the comment section below!