Spider-man 3 – A Black Day ?

I finally say Spider-man 3 last night and I still don’t know what to make of it all.

First a bit of background I got into comic books back in the early 90s. Spiderman was one of the first comics I regularly read and this tracked roughly with Todd MacFarlane run on “The Amazing Spider-Man” and during that time Venom was introduced. Todd MacFarlane influence on spider-man made him a super star in the world of comic books. He really got behind the idea of a man with the strength and flexibility of a spider and the way he drew his spider man was gorgeous and in some way excessive. When the first spiderman came out there were some moves and positions that just screamed Todd MacFarlanes heritage.

Not long after he started his run Venom was introduced. There has been some argument over who was responsible for creating Venom. Traditionally it has always been the writer, however it is hard to imagine Venom becoming what he did without the input of MacFarlane. The attention to detail and the oil slick movement of the symbiote that MacFarlane brought to Venom has been oft replicated in the comic books and it can also be seen in the movie.

Sam Raimi has been catching a lot a flak for Spider-Man 3. Even before Spider-Man 2 was out of the gates people were dying to know who the villains for Spider-Man 3 would be. People at the time even suggested Venom and Raimi rebuked them at the time and has been recorded as saying “he lacked the humanity” but he apparently was turned around by Avi Arad who argued that Venom was a fan favourite.

So where does it all go wrong. I don’t know if there is an expression like “Jump the Shark” for the destruction of a franchise, usually seen by the endless addition of number of good guys versus bad guys. Batman and Robin is the biggest example of the, though arguably it could be seen to have started in Batman forever:

Batman: 1 Good Guy ; 1 Bad Guy
Batman Returns: 1 Good Guy ; 2 Bad Guys (3 if you count Shrek)
Batman Forever: 2 Good Guys ; 2 Bad Guys
Batman and Robin: 3 Good Guys ; 3 Bad Guys (Bane sorta counts)

I’d like to put forward the expression “Schumacher‘ed” as a possible contenter. To be fair to Joel, I bought the DVD for Batman and Robin and he spends a not inconsiderable portion of the DVD extras apologising for been gulled into adding more toy friendly features to the movie, worth the price of the DVD alone.

Spider-Man 3 people will surely agree has in some respects been Schumacher’ed. While the current returns for this movie will virtually guarantee there will be a Spider-Man 4, so it is unlikely that this movie will “kill” this franchise, they have burnt through a lot of popular capital gained from Spider-Man 2 that has been labeled by some fans better than the original, which is a high claim for a sequel.

So apart from been Schumacher’ed where did the movie go wrong? It is hard to say precisely. There were a lot of small things that individually could be forgiven but added up over 139 minute running time.

The biggest I thought was the wedging of the 2 1/2 villains into the same movie. I believe that the Sandman story could have equally lived in parallel to the new Goblin or Venom story but putting all three together felt none got a full go.

I saw the Harry Osborne brain amnesia plot line before in the first season of 24 (Teri Bauer a few hours before she’s killed) I thought it stretched credibility then and it still does. (Note to writers a loss of short term memory doesn’t usually take out 2 years)

For a fan favourite Venom/Eddie Brock gets very little screen time having taken so much of the movie. The character in the comic had so much that would have worked. The fact that it is Parker he wants to kill but tries not to hurt an innocent. During the original comic run they have Eddie Brock, after melding with the symbiote, turns up at Aunt May’s house and helps her with the washing, much to Peters dismay. To me it seemed even more sinister than kidnapping and threatening her.

The Sandman story has some merit, it is a classic Marvel hero/villain birth, but the contrivance of having him be the original killer of Ben Parker reminded me of the old days of the X-Files when every other episode had an different excuse for Mulder’s sister disappearance. There is a problem when you talk about superhero movies and you mention what is unbelievable. When you have an alien symbiote crash to earth meld with a man with the proportional strength of a spider the bar of what is believable and unbelievable gets moved. So with that in mind I feel the Stay Puft Marshmellow man ending a bit too unbelievable for a Spider-man movie. He is powerful enough in his rough human sized form to threaten Spider-man, I didn’t think there was any need to make him 10 stories tall.

I suppose the biggest mis-step is the darkening of Peter Parker when he gets addicted to the suit and how good it feels. A comparison has been made to the other superhero franchise third entry, Superman III, over at Bryce Zabel blog which sees Superman getting a little cranky when he gets exposed the wrong kind of Krytonite. The whole Peter Parker performing some kind of Saturday Night fever strut around town with his hair let down in some greasy emo imitation is supposed to show us darkness? Though this is supposed to reflect Spider-Man’s change when he believes he’s killed, knowingly, Sandman.

During all this I haven’t mentioned the Mary-Jane versus Gwen Stacey arc. While interesting the film could have potential stood without all of that. Bryce Dallas Howard is well picked as Gwen but at no time does it feel like she is falling for Peter or vice versa. There might have been more potential with the neighbour Ursula. While Mary-Jane is very important to the Peter Parker / Spider-Man story, it didn’t feel like the character or actress was as invested in the role this time.

Maybe it is time for some fresh blood to come in on Spider-Man. Raimi has put in some good work and no-one can deny that the action set pieces on Spider-Man 3 look amazing, you will believe that a man can stick to a wall. While I was a bit disappointed it is still well worth seeing on the big screen. Some thing that DVD and widescreen TV will never replace.