When I first saw "Spider-Man 3", I saw myself in a slight funk. The "Spider-Man" series has been my favorite series since "Spider-Man" first premiered in 2002 when I was 12. After the first two films of the newer "Amazing Spider-Man" films I've come to find that I still hold an attraction to the original series over the "New and improved" series. Sometimes newer isn't better but I agree with fans "Spider-Man 3" wasn't the best in the series. I still prefer it over the new brand as you can imagine. The world though is based on good and bad so here finally is someone trying to organize the good, the bad, and the ugly of "Spider-Man 3". We'll go the other way though of the order to end on a high note. This is a long one folks, but I think you'll enjoy this article. I covered everything and look forward to comments!
John Dykstra, you brilliant visual effects artist, why did you leave us? Now don't get me wrong, Spider-Man has always looked great swinging around New York in the films, but I found myself disappointed with the way his CGI model was handled in this film. Besides several irredeemable face-shots of a CGI Peter Parker, particularly in the final fight scene as he falls to the base level of the construction site, the film suffered from the "glossy CGI" effect. Everything was half-done. The CGI models were fake, reminiscent of video game footage. I mean seriously how did get to that kind of lazy work from this...?!
The answer is simply the loss of visual effect supervisor John Dykstra who won an Academy Award for his work on the series in "Spider-Man 2". He left the film to work on the then-in-production film version of "Hot Wheels". Why he did that is anyone's guess but as shown, he has an incredible eye for detail that was lost in "Spider-Man 3", substituted for some of the worst CGI I've ever seen in a film. Barely better than this:
To say I was disappointed in this was an understatement. This is the only thing I could put under ugly because everything else I could at least partially understand but this was horrendous and an insult to visual effects in film. Oh wait there was also...
You want to know why "Spider-Man 3" sucked?! Because like every big film series, the producers start to get greedy and started worming their way into films to make profit. Venom's last minute appearance?! Thank the producers on that one! We'll get more into that mess in a moment but basically the producers started working their way into the storytelling aspect in "Spider-Man 3". I mean they always do that, but this time it was clearly for pure profit. They are the reason the new "Amazing Spider-Man" films exist because Raimi refused to play ball with these money-grubbing monsters who tattered what could have been an exceptional finale. For the producers, as the O'Jays one said folks, "It's all about the money."
The News Reporter
You can imagine I hate myself a little for mentioning this, given this young actress killed herself years later, but this was a really bad aspect of the film using a reporter and news coverage to show the final fight scene. It just took you out of the action and the atmosphere too much. It added more melodrama and unnecessary narration than giving depth to the environment of the scene. Still, may this young lady, actress Lucy Gordon, rest in peace.
Venom - Just why?
As I mentioned above, the producers are the reason Venom showed up last minute the way he did. They officially stated that Raimi was slowly convinced to put the character in the film. Excuse my language when I say, "THAT IS ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT!" The producers made Raimi inject what could have been a great character for "Spider-Man 4" into basically 30 minutes of screen time due tp the popularity of the character. I actually didn't hate the Eddie Brock casting on the grounds I understand Raimi was going for a mirror reflection of Peter Parker when he cast Topher Grace, who tried out for the part of Peter Parker in 2002's "Spider-Man".
Anyway the character was reduced to an obnoxious pest who was more of a pathetic reject then a vengeful master of death. Yeah they got him blaming Peter for all his problems like in the comics, which was about right, but they totally failed in crafting the newer Eddie Brock later in the film. If this had been done right, half the film would have been Peter playing cat-and-mouse with Brock. Alas, what can be done but to revel in, at least, the near frame-by-frame birth of Venom in the church.
Gwen Stacy - Dumb Blonde Stereotype Much?
Look I can be the first one to say Bryce Dallas Howard is one of the beautiful women in Hollywood, but that doesn't justify turning Gwen Stacy into a dumb blonde, part of the ever-growing love triangle concept that seems to fill every movie now. Emma Stone's version is one of the few things I liked about "Amazing Spider-Man" even though it's just Stone playing the same cheeky, smart-mouthed girl she plays in every film. Still, improvement indeed.
Now again, I understand Raimi's choice in her being a mirror image of Mary Jane and Eddie Brock's attraction to her. I chalk up her bad development to the fact Howard was, in fact, pregnant at the time of filming and, while she didn't know during one of her stunts, I wonder if her screen time had been minimized to compensate for her current state. This led to less development in any case.
Point is, if you're going to give Mary Jane Watson, Peter's ultimate true love, competition than make her seem like she's good competition. In fact, she was going to originally be the one kidnapped for the finale scene at the construction fight (My guess to propel Peter to find his way back). Bet you $10 bucks the producers had a hand in this, demanding a focus on Mary Jane Watson as Peter's only inevitable love interest. While I don't disagree with the idea it should have led back to Watson, how they got there was shallow and plain cliche at some points (Peter staring at her through her window from the streets, yearning for her...REALLY?!)
Emo Dance Scene
Okay here's the thing, at this point you can guess that I understand all of Raimi's reasons for the things he did in this film. Even this infamous emo dance scene. The one thing I never understood was why people hated the idea that a nerd, if turned dark, would not remain nerdy. What he had was confidence which, any women will tell you, somehow sinks in the idea where, even if he acts like a goofball, a guy with confidence gets attention. Peter was confident in himself, but he's a nerd still! The black suit doesn't change who he is, just lowers his niceties and makes him more selfish. It enhances the worst of what is already there.
Why this failed was pretty much the way this dance scene was filmed. The camera angles were funky and Raimi seemed to be going for a 1970's disco look. I honestly would have loved this whole "Dark Peter" sequence if the camera angles had been presented differently. Like maybe yeah he dances goofy, but the cameras would show a sort of trance-like addiction of him falling prey to the symbiote. Maybe shadows under the eyes.
Well folks, like Spider-Man and Superman overcoming their dark sides, time for the redeeming qualities of this film. Some might surprise you, but hear me out.
The Sandman - Uncle Ben's Real Killer and Peter's Descent into Darkness
You know, if people are okay with Bryan Singer completely messing with "X-Men" characters then you shouldn't whine about when Raimi does it...especially when he does it for a good reason.
For "Spider-Man 3" Raimi pulled a Tim Burton on this one. As Tim Burton made Joker the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents, propelling him onto his path to become Batman in Burton 1989 hit "Batman", Raimi did the same here. The idea, if you know the trilogy rules mentioned in "Scream 3", is that the conclusion of a trilogy goes full circle, using previously unknown information of past events to close up the story.
This, led to the concept that Sandman did in fact pull the trigger that killed Uncle Ben, making Peter Parker feel he hadn't avenged his Uncle's death. Now this worked on the grounds it allowed us to see Peter become darker, driving him to wear the black suit to fight Flint Marko and having him, on a subtextual level, question everything he believes. I also get the idea at the end that the ultimate goal of the film was the idea of forgiveness and not letting it destroy you. This is also present in the Mary Jane Watson/Peter Parker relationship fracture we see throughout the film. A line featured in the trailer that was not in the film, and I wish it had been to add strength to Mary Jane Watson's character, was Mary Jane saying, "We have to forgive each other, or everything that we were will be lost." That line is part of what made me want to see the film so bad. The powerful redemption that was inevitably going to happen in the film.
Peter had never had his morality challenged in the series. While he temporarily gave up in the hopes of being happy in "Spider-Man 2", he'd never stopped believing in the idea of being a good person. In this film, they did just that. They made him start to feel perhaps having more vicious methods was justifiable. I mean...he blew his friend's face half off with a goblin grenade! That was brilliant! It made you wonder what he could be capable of. And what he do?! He danced in front of his old girlfriend with a new piece of eye candy, threatened and hurt innocent people (Knocking poor MJ to the ground in a fit of rage), and treated anyone like crap who didn't give him what he wanted. All this propelled by Marko and his involvement in Uncle Ben's death.
The Core Characters Relationships
JK Simmons is always the one to turn to realize what makes these films great. The wonderful relationship between the characters. J. Jonah Jameson gives the film a sort of foil to Peter Parker, never cutting him a break, but he's also great at making you enjoy the scenes. You feel part of the bustling moments at the Daily Bugle because of him, Joseph "Robbie" Robertson's (Bill Nunn) counterbalance to Jameson, and Betty Brant (Elizabeth Banks) always keeping Jameson in check. You feel part of a family watching these characters. Peter and MJ, regardless of what fans say, is one of the finest love stories I've ever seen in superhero films. They show a romance that existed before a sort of cynical time.
Peter loves MJ unconditionally, MJ loves Peter's heart. They make each other better and see the bright side of life. Even as they stumble, they find their way back to each other, a non-platonic version of how Peter and Harry find their friendship again before the end.
If you didn't tear up during Harry's death, again another mirroring moment as he dies the same way he father did, then you have no soul. The forgiveness between each other was beautiful and Harry's redemption led Peter to forgive himself. Oh wait sorry...that means Raimi got more right then you think.
Action Scenes - Come on Now. You Know You Liked it!
The CGI was awful, but damn it if the fight scenes still weren't incredible. The armored truck scene where Spider-man serves on car parts, avoiding traffic, the brutal subway fight, the first battle between New Goblin and Peter Parker above the skyline of New York, and the 2-on-2 battle at the construction site. The choreography is still beautiful and intricate. To deny this be to deny being an action fan. Still, good action is nothing if Peter Parker isn't facing good opponents which leads me to...
The Villains - Minus Venom...Well Mostly
The villains are better than you think. Each one represents the dual nature of Peter's life. While all serve as villains to Spider-Man, each one represents a different aspect of Peter Parker's life.
Venom, as bad as he was written, represented Peter's dark side. What would happen if he hadn't followed his Uncle Ben's advice "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility". This is why I didn't hate the dark Spider-Man look or Venom looking like a fractured version of Spider-Man. It just fit!
Sandman represents Peter's origins and the questioning of his beliefs as well, but also delves into Peter's demons. The things that led him to become Spider-Man, serving as a nice counterbalance to Venom and symbiote's seductive career path. Harry/New Goblin ties these two sides together nicely. He serves to make Peter face his past with Green Goblin as Spider-Man while making him go down a personal road where he may lose his one true friend in the world.
All three villains, in a way tying into the trilogy theory, brings Peter's story full circle, making his past, present, and possible futures collide. How did Peter get where he is now? The choices he makes in the present. What will these choices do to affect who he becomes?
Peter Parker's Redemption
You know when people trash Macguire's performance as Peter Parker it gets me really annoyed. They say Garfield is better in the role, but Macguire has the soft touch of the kind-heart Peter has. His darkness was nerdy and justifiable by my standards...but the moments after he frees himself from the symbiote and becomes the good guy we all know and love, struggling to regain who he is is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. His final talk with Aunt May of the series where she reminds him that he is a good man is wonderful. While it was repetitive to see MJ captured again it leads to the fact that Peter fights for the ones he loves. That he is a hero and a man who will always do the right thing or die trying (Taking a giant rock fist to the face while be strangled sure proves that!).
The American flag was corny as hell and I loved it anyway. The crowd cheering him on, that he has the heart of the city behind him, reminds us that Spider-Man is the best of people. In his final fight, he saves MJ in a tramatic leap of faith, his friend Harry forgiving him and helping him out along the way. The music roars to live as they face two physically-superior opponents. It was beautiful for me. While composer Christopher Young is no Danny Elfman (Elfman leaving due to arguments with Sam Raimi but returning to add a few additions to the score), he makes you want to jump and cheer.
"Spider-Man 3" - Was It Really as Bad as we Say?
"Spider-Man 3" will go down as the worst of Raimi's "Spider-Man trilogy". By no means though is it a bad film. It's got a lot in it to sort through and it rushes sometimes, but it's still a great film in it's own rights. Year later, I feel it will garner more respect, but for now it remains infamous. I myself though will always pick Raimi's series over Webb's cynical, misguided films. Raimi wrote this series with a heart and affection for Spider-Man...the original Spider-Man. Not the new age, douche who I constantly want to reach through the screen and punch. You can insult Macguire and Dunst all you want but we all know which series was better liked. This has been shown in box office numbers and critical reception. Look it up. "Spider-Man 3" is a good film. I feel there was a longer film planned and I hope maybe to see the rumored "Spider-Man 3.1" someday. For now, I'll enjoy this film. Next time you decide to as well, look at it in a new light. Maybe you'll be presently surprised to find, like I did, that "Spider-Man 3" had the heart all along. You just needed to look deeper.