Third Time’s not Always the Charm
After several failed attempts, Robbie and I finally made it to see Spider-Man 3 last night.
I’m glad I saw it, and watched it on a big screen because it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be see big. Visually, it was a delight with better CGI webslinging and terrific Sandman effects.
I give Sam Raimi a lot of credit for keeping the major and minor cast intact for three films, which only enhances the experience for the audience. His eye for casting remains spot on with Thomas Hayden Church perfect as Flint Marko, Bryce Dallas Howard very Romita-esque as Gwen Stacy. Getting Cliff Robertson and Willem Dafoe back for cameos was also a lovely touch.
Still, it all comes down to story and this time, Raimi let us down. By trying to up the ante by adding Sandman and Venom to Spidey’s struggles with the Green Goblin, it became all too much which meant just about every character go short shrift. In the last film, Raimi added the brilliant comic book touch of starting subplots as Norma Osborn’s ghost influenced Harry and we got introduced to Curt Connors, knowing at some point we’d get the Lizard. And that’s what he should have done here by introducing Eddie Brock, maybe even the Venom symbiote, but saved them for Spidey 4.
Peter Parker remained way too reactive until the end, when he finally used his smarts to figure out how to stop Venom. For a brilliant guy, he sure seemed inept. Not only that, but his spider sense seemed to be absent from the entire film. Worse, was how Mary Jane was portrayed. Throughout the entire film she was a victim, someone to pitied and rescued, not the MJ we grew up loving. If I were Kirsten Dunst, I would have demanded an arc that made better sense.
Aunt May existed merely to act as the moral voice of the story. She literally would show up, say something pithy and walk off the set. I was more interested in Ursula, poor love-besotted young thing. And Harry’s butler…WTF? He had nothing to do or say through three films and suddenly has one key scene? Bad writing and set-up. Speaking of set-up, too often Raimi delivered on expectations rather than surprise and thrill the audience. We all knew that once Harry rejected Peter’s request for help, of course he would turn up just at the right moment. Geez, that trick hasn’t surprised us since Han came back to save Luke at the Death Star.
Speaking of the obvious: Spidey posing in front of the American flag was such a…Christopher Reeve…moment that it fell flat as did Stan’s cameo which felt tacked on.
The new characters were ill-defined. Who was Gwen and what did she see in Eddie Brock? Why was she even in the movie other than to make MJ miserable? And Captain Stacy, while well cast, had no real role and seemed shoehorned in. Marko’s desire for money to help his ill daughter was nice motivation but what on Earth changed his attitude so he had to step in and provide explication to Spidey while Harry lay dying? Also, he just drifts with the wind, leaving his daughter without the money she needed, and Spidey with a potentially dangerous foe on the loose. Spidey should have at least been seen telling a reporter or Captain Stacy about the girl so something could be done for her.
The movie needed shaping and sharpening, focusing more on the main characters and their stories while giving him a foe, allowing the threads to be woven, like a spider’s web, for subsequent films, whether Raimi, Maguire and Dunst returned or not.