|Image Courtesy en.wikipedia.org|
After reviewing the first two Spider-Man movies the last two weeks, I guess it’s time for the much-maligned Spider-Man 3. Unfortunately, I think this is the beginning of a long summer of mediocre movies. Fortunately, however, Spider-Man 3 isn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be. It’s certainly not a particularly good movie, but it doesn’t ruin the Spider-Man trilogy as badly as I thought it did.
But let’s get into the movie itself.
If the first movie was about power and responsibility, and the second movie was about using that power for the good of others without concern for self, the third movie is about revenge. Huh. That’s actually a more unique theme than Spider-Man 2 had!
In this movie, it’s like everyone is out for revenge. Harry wants revenge against Peter for killing his father, which hurts everyone (Harry, Peter, and MJ). Peter wants revenge against Flint Marko for killing Uncle Ben, which hurts Peter’s relationship with MJ. Peter wants revenge against Eddie Brock for taking “his” job and libeling Spider-Man, which hurts Eddie and leads to him seeking revenge. Eddie for his part wants revenge against Peter for taking his job, girl, and reputation, and hurts Peter, Harry, MJ, and himself. Peter wants revenge on MJ for dumping him, and hurts both MJ and Gwen Stacy.
On the surface, this should make for a pretty cohesive movie, and in some respects it does. Everyone is seeking revenge, and in the end Peter realizes that revenge only leads to tragedy and forgives Flint. However, the number of different revenge plans and villains only makes the movie more complicated and confusing. Venom is only there for part of the movie, as are Sandman and Goblin. This over-complicates the whole movie. Where the first two movies had a laser focus on a single villain and paralleled him with Peter, the lack of a main villain in this one distracts from its theme.
Unfortunately, “fixing” this movie wouldn’t even be as simple as removing one of the villains. Each of the villains had their own issues, as well.
Harry as the new Goblin may be my favorite one of the three. His entire arc has actually been “earned” by the previous two movies: he is Peter’s best friend and feels betrayed by Peter having supposedly murdered his father. However, in the end his friendship with Peter turns out to be stronger than his desire for revenge. Unfortunately, Bernard’s revelation that Peter didn’t murder Norman actually hurts the ending: instead of Harry’s friendship winning out over revenge, it’s the truth winning out over a lie. The entire amnesia subplot is extraneous; the whole movie would have been better without it.
In my opinion Venom isn’t wasted in this movie the way that many people think. Venom actually gets something of a complete “arc”: Peter thinks it’s cool, Peter realizes it’s bad, Peter has to fight against the symbiote bonded to him and then against someone else in the symbiote. If I were to create a Venom movie, this is essentially how it would go. However, Venom is little more than an afterthought in this movie. Whenever the symbiote itself is on-screen, it feels as though the director forgot that this was a Spider-Man movie and thought that it was a Predator or Invasion of the Body-Snatchers movie! The decision to make the symbiote a chunk of goop isn’t a bad one, and works for the direction they decided to take it (as a “horror movie”)… but it would have worked better if the entire movie had gone in that direction.
Of course, all the good things you can say about Venom in this movie stop as soon as you consider the second Venom host. “Edward Brock Jr.” (as he reminds us way too often) could have been an interesting foil for Peter Parker, but he never gets to that point. Instead, he’s a loser stalker (who apparently has better photography skills than Peter) who throws away all his potential to photoshop a libelous picture. He gets blacklisted and takes his anger out on Peter for pointing out the fraud, instead of himself for doing it in the first place. Even though the outline for a Peter-foil is there, the heart isn’t there: Eddie never has the “great power equals great responsibility” moment or the Uncle Ben figure.
|Image Courtesy villains.wikia.com|
Flint Marko as the Sandman makes for a good sympathetic villain as the guy who had a few bad breaks and made some bad choices. However, the decision to ret-con Marko as the one who actually killed Uncle Ben – and then for that to have been an accident – really didn’t make all that much sense. Couldn’t they have figured out some other reason for Peter to want revenge against Marko? Considering that Peter had already gotten over Uncle Ben’s death in the first movie, this didn’t really move his character forward all that much—and in fact it cheapened the first movie.
On the topic of elements that just don’t work in this movie, who can forget the infamous “Emo Peter” sequence—even if they want to? Having seen a review recently which suggests that this isn’t the movie’s idea of what’s cool but rather Peter’s idea of what’s supposed to be cool, I don’t feel as vehemently opposed to the scene as I did. However, since this is the closest thing that this movie gets to Peter realizing that the symbiote is changing him and causing him to hurt those he cares about, it really could have been done so much better.
Likewise, I understand what the movie was trying to do with Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship: Peter is pretty self-centered, and Mary Jane is resentful of his level of fame as Spider-Man and upset that Spider-Man is more important to him than she is. This causes tension between them and pushes them apart. Considering that the previous installment ended with them together and happy, the logical progression was for the status quo to be tested by Peter’s dedication to helping people as Spider-Man. However, the way in which this movie carries that out leaves much to be desired. Instead of being devoted to his work, Peter comes across as a self-centered jerk. Instead of simply upset and resentful, Mary Jane comes across as vindictive and petty for running from Peter to his best friend/her ex (Harry). Plus there’s the whole “Peter accidentally hits Mary Jane while tripping out on Venom” thing that never gets addressed. Because if Hank Pym has taught us anything, it’s that wife-beaters never suffer any consequences for their actions (accidental or not). (Note the sarcasm)
Obviously there are still some good things to say about this movie. The effects for this movie are no worse than those in the first two—which are passable for the early 2000s. The fight sequence at the end of the movie where Spider-Man and “Goblin Jr.” square off against Venom and Sandman may be the coolest action sequence of the franchise. I have to give them credit for not pulling their punches: a lot of series aimed at children (which Spider-Man is) would not have the guts to kill off a good guy the way that they kill off Harry.
I don’t know if you can call this a good conclusion to the Spider-Man trilogy—it apparently only became the conclusion by default—but it is at least respectable. It did something radically different than its predecessors in terms of theme. It found a way to work a “complete” arc in for each of its villains—even if it rushed every single one of them. Harry in particular gets a decent redemption at the conclusion. I don’t know if I will watch this movie again anytime soon, but it was at least interesting to see it through.
Next week we move on to the reboot with The Amazing Spider-Man. I watched and semi-reviewed these movies a year or so ago in talking about why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed, but this time around I will watch the movies on their own merits to give them a fuller review.