Spider-Man 3 review by Cinema Guru BoyFirst off, I better issue a SPOILER WARNING. As I've said before, when dealing with a subject matter that has such a strong following and extensive mythology, it is the details that count. Therefore, I must discuss the details of Spider-Man 3 in order to do a fair assessment of it justice. I also feel, in the interest of full disclosure, I must remind everyone how I felt about Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. The first one was mediocre. It felt flat and cartoonish. The fight sequences were horrible, and the costuming was sooooo reminiscent of the Power Rangers. There was less than no chemistry between Tobey and Kirsten (however, that complaint could be used for any of the three films). The whole thing was just so cheesy, especially the bad one-liners. Moving on to the second film, it was a step up, which made it average. The one-liners were kept to a minimum, and the fight sequences were largely improved. The character arcs of Peter and Harry were deep enough to support even a "real" film. The resolution is the main complaint of this film, which bothered me infinitely. Which brings us to the third installment.
So Peter is still living in his crappy apartment and Mary Jane is working on Broadway. Everything is going well, except that Harry is more hellbent on exacting revenge on Peter than ever. But fortunately for Peter, Harry soon contracts a case of amnesia and forgets to be angry at Peter (lame plot point #1). We get an introduction to Flint Marko, the convicted felon with the heart of gold. Apparently, Flint has a sick daughter that Stan Lee never knew about, therefore we are to feel sorry for him (lame plot point #2). Stan Lee also never realized that Flint killed Uncle Ben (lame plot point #3). And then we are introduced to Gwen Stacy, a gorgeous blonde who is added just to give Mary Jane something to do; that being create tension with Peter (I think I'll just stop counting lame plot points now, we're still in the first act, for heaven's sake). By the way, Gwen is Peter's lab partner, she doesn't work for the Daily Bugle. So Spider-Man is riding high, while Mary Jane's life is spiraling into the crapper. This is the heavy, dramatic part of the film, the parts where everything is about this relationship. Meanwhile, Flint gets his Sandman origin story, which was a very cool visual scene. However, in his falling into a scientific experiment, it was kind of odd to not know what was going on. What were these scientists trying to do? What was the purpose of playing with the molecular makeup of an empty pit? What the hell was going on here? Next thing you know, Sandman and Spider-Man face off while cruising down the road in a scene that admittedly worked for me.
Well, we might as well discuss the symbiote. I thought Raimi set everything up very well in part 2 by introducing John Jameson, which would provide an easy , yet film-able, way to introduce the alien life form while still remaining faithful to the mythology. The comic book explanation would have been too complex to film, but the cartoon series used astronauts to bring the symbiote to Earth. If only there was an astronaut in this franchise... but who am I to suggest sensible plot points? I've never directed a $400 million-grossing film. Anyway, using a meteoroid that just happens to land right next to an unsuspecting Peter just felt like a cop-out. The nice part of this plot line, however, was that we got a little bit of Dylan Baker as Dr. Conners who examines the black goo. He deserves a bigger role. Hopefully, he'll get to become the Lizard someday. So anyway, the symbiote attaches itself to Peter, and makes him a bastard. With this plot line, it has become clear to me why Raimi stated that he hates the character of Venom; it's because he knows absolutely nothing about Venom. So, in this version of Spider-Man, the symbiote makes Peter semi-evil, which is completely contradictory to canon, which only enhanced Peter's own abilities. So we get lots of examples of Peter being a jerk, which honestly was funny. I suddenly felt bad for finding something funny that was so bad for the film, by tearing down any mythology built up over the past 25 years. Oh well, I guess. However, this part went a little too far in the scene in the jazz club. It was so over-the-top goofy that it just takes you out the film, bringing everything to a screeching halt. And then we have Venom himself. I guess he looked okay, except for the parts where Eddie Brock would poke his face out of the symbiote, then he just looked ridiculous. And he sounded ridiculous. Don't have Topher Grace provide his voice, it makes Venom look like a chump. Oh well.
Well, long story short, Harry takes a swig of alcohol, with is now a cure for amnesia in Raimi's world, and he gets all angry at Peter again. And then, his butler who was best chums with Norman, even though we never saw any hint off this butler throughout the course of two films, reveals he is a forensic scientist and is able to match a blade wound with a particular blade, thus revealing that Spider-Man did not indeed kill Norman. This is a stretch if I've ever seen one. But anyway, this lame device undoes all the anger Harry has has built up for two films, and Harry's allegiances switch just that easily. This was pulled off far worse than anything in professional wrestling, where characters change from good guys to bad guys at the drop of a hat. Well, this sets up the big climactic fight sequence.
At this point, we've already seen Spider-Man and Sandman go at it twice, once while driving down the road, and again in the subway tunnels, both of which were far better than this climax. I'll say it again. Venom is a chump. The first time he tries to do anything, Spider-Man punks him out. One of my big complaints about part two is in the climax when Spider-Man convinces Doc Oc to be a good guy. This happens twice in this film, which is three times as bad. I can't accept this as a satisfying conclusion to Sandman, and his defeat of Venom by using tuners was even worse. This is an instrument used by elementary school students, for heaven's sake! Vibrations are his Kryptonite? Venom is a chump. This climax scene was really his first scene after becoming Venom, and he wasn't remotely successful by any standards. Sandman had three fight sequences, winning the first one and enduring the second, which at least makes him reasonably successful as a villain. But after dicking with Spider-Man breifly, Venom got his tookus handed to him. He got owned. Maybe if he had killed Harry, that might have added some sort of victory to his evil doing, but he didn't. Harry took it upon himself to take one for the team. So immediately, Venom has the tables turned on him and the power of tuners whipped his ass, leaving him powerless and suseptable to death. Lame! My only theory is Raimi intentionally sabotaged this character. He was rebelling against the authority of the studio and he chose to make the character suck monkey butt.
All in all, I've always thought Raimi was bad for the franchise, artistically. And I've never understood the appeal of these films, so maybe I'm a bad barometer for assessing these films. But if you have ever read a comic book, prepare to be disillusioned. If you have any affection for the character of Venom, prepare to be disappointed. That much is undebatable. Maybe this will resonate better with mainstream audiences and fans unfamiliar with canon. Of course the same could be said for the first two installments. But this one strayed further and paid off less, making for the weakest attempt at a Spider-Man film to date, save for a few redeeming qualities like the Spider-Man vs. Sandman one-on-one fight sequences. My suggestion -- wait until the DVD.
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