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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Spider-Man 3

Here we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of a movie I own, and ranting about that movie.  We're closing out Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy with Spider-Man 3.  This pops up in my notes at May 24, 2014.

And now we've come to the end of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.  How could something that was going so good wind up going so wrong?  The first one was good, the second was great, and the third one was where it all fell apart.  Actually, watching this trilogy and the first three X-men films, I think I spotted a formula that superhero trilogies kind of started following:

First film - Awkward mash-up of origin story and best-known storyline

Second film - Unfettered with the origin, the filmmakers are free to finally focus on the characters and plot and make a great movie.

Third film - We only signed the actors to a trilogy.  It's the last one, so let's just throw in all the cool shit the fans wanted.

And that's how Spider-Man 3 plays out at times.  The fans wanted to see Gwen Stacy?  Throw her in there!  Venom's the most popular villain?  Toss him in the mix! 

It's such a move that probably helped bring about the film's collapse.  A case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.  It's been widely documented now that Raimi's original plan for the film was for the villains to be the Sandman and the Vulture.  In fact, he was already in deep negotiations with Ben Kingsley to play Adrian Tooms.  But, the studio stepped in and said, "Why you gotta be so Silver Age, Raimi?  Have you  heard of this guy called Venom?  The kids love him!  Use him!"  And Raimi went along with it.   

And that's one of the top complaints:  they get Venom wrong.  Which is so sad, because, as I laid out last time, Harry Osborn's arc throughout the trilogy is the ideal way to do Venom.  Movie 1:  Peter Parker and Eddie Brock/Harry Osborn are friends.  Movie 2:  a schism grows between the two, with Brock/Osborn growing to hate Peter Parker and Spider-Man.  Movie 3:  they become villains and seek vengeance on Spider-Man.  That's how it's got to be done, son. 

Looking again at our core three characters:  Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and Harry Osborn.  Peter Parker is finally at a good place in his life:  the city loves Spider-Man, he's doing well in school, making a decent living taking pictures for the Daily Bugle, and he's landed his dream girl.  However, Mary Jane's life is in the shitter, as her Broadway acting career is falling apart before her eyes.  And Peter's too wrapped up in his own success that he can't be supportive.  So, she reaches out to Harry.  It's such an organic plot on its own that there's no need for Harry to turn evil and manipulative and force Mary Jane to dump Peter.  It was happening on its own! 

Equally wasted is the Sandman.  Granted, his origin sequence is pretty spectacular, but again, we hardly get to know him, he gets the briefest of character arcs, and he disappears for pretty much the middle of the movie.  And he's revealed to be the true killer of Uncle Ben, just so we can give Spider-Man a vengeance arc.  

I don't know.  I remember enjoying it when it first came out, but the more I reflected on it, the more I grew to dislike it.  It's kind of like what I said about the Pixar movie Brave:  there's a lot of good ideas in the film, but they never gel into a good movie.

Watching it again tonight, though, during the opening credits, you could instantly tell that something is just off about this film.  The opening credits start, we hear Danny Elfman's now-familiar Spider-Man theme, and about halfway through, it switches to the new score by Christopher Young, and it just doesn't fit. 

That's a good microcosm of the whole film:  you're enjoying some great Spider-Man action like the first two films, and then something comes along that just doesn't fit.  Like a Spider-Man dance sequence. 

Even more so than the Star Wars prequels, this is a film I constantly turn over in my mind, wondering how to fix it.  Drop Eddie Brock/Venom, give the whole revenge arc to Harry Osborn.  You know what?  Drop Sandman, too, and just make Harry the Hobgoblin and the only villain in the film.  Boom.  Movie fixed. 

Addendum May 25:  Ha, I forgot to mention my most frustrating unresolved plot threat from Spider-Man 2.  So at the end of #2, Mary Jane ditches John Jameson at the altar to go be with Peter.  So, don't you think, that in #3, J. Jonah Jameson would be just the teensiest bitter and resentful towards Peter because his son's fiance dumped him for Peter?  Just a thought.

And the ending.  Such a downer of an ending.  Instead of the triumphant Spider-Man swinging through the city like the last two films, we get Peter and Mary Jane somberly meeting in a bar, and attempting to reconcile.  When I first saw it in the theatre, I remember going, "Wait, that's it?  Can't we speed through this reconciliation and get to the swinging?"  But no.  That's how the trilogy ends. 

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