Like a lump of alien black goo, this post has festered in my blog-box for weeks, it's time to release it and let it find its own Topher Grace. Like Spider-Man 3 itself, it's longer than most posts but not necessarily better...
Spoilers Ahead if you haven't seen Spider-Man 3 yet
In a similar vein to the madness that was Superman Returns, (not to mention the crowded 'plot' to X-Men III) Spider-Man 3, although enjoyable in parts. is surprisingly po-faced and turgid, which makes its logical flaws all the more apparent. Overall, Raimi does a great job in very difficult circumstances, in the hands of a lesser director--I'm looking at you Ratner....you Hack!-- it could have been utterly unwatchable.
Truth is, I was on the verge of tears during some moments and the action is well done if a bit over done. Thomas Haden Church is great (after his standout performance as The Strobe in this, he can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned) as always but it was a bit of a disappointment that some of his great comic timing was not utilised. The best performance was of course...Bruce Campbell. Kristen Dunst is as always in the Spider-Man movies a painful-to-watch and even more painful-to-listen to simpering oaf. Her ginger screams will haunt my dreams forever. Like Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas-Howard and James Cromwell did well with the few lines they were given but were pretty underused. James Franco was a revelation and arguably the best thing in the film, if lumbered by a terrible 'ow my head...I've convienently lost my memory' subplot.
J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Ted Raimi and the Parker-Posey-alike Elizabeth Banks are all great as well.
Similar to the X2 to X-Men III transition from eager aniticapation to crushing inevitability, the coming of Spider-Man 3 was a juggernaut from which there was no escape rather than a film I thought every day about seeing until I saw it in a fevered mess of enthusiasm. I almost missed the Marvel logo which gave me a bit of a shock, that's like missing a really important prayer at mass or something for me.
I'm not a nit-picker per say, I'm not bothered if car or gun is a anachronistic by a few years in a film, but when a logical flaw or continuity gaff actually takes you out of the emotional core of a movie it sucks and you're sitting there thinking, why does this make no sense? One of the amazing things about Spider-Man 3, a film that cost a reputed $250,000,000, is that they couldn't spare a few of those dollars to buy a notepad and pencil and pay somebody just to check what the fuck is going on and keep continuity and logic.
1. The metorite: it was always going to be difficult to tie in the intergalacitc element of the black suit, being that it has its origin in the Secret Wars crossover, itself an exercise in crass commercialism and the black suit little more that a marketing opportunity to create diversity in spidey action figures. Back in the innocent days of the first Spider-Man movie, one of the reasons given for creating the organic webshooters was that it strained credulity that someone who got bitten by a genetically altered superspider could also be a genius capable of creating the web shooters and fluid. How then can this sort of logic go out the window in Spider-Man 3: a kid who just happens to get bitten by a genetically altered superspider also just happens to be out whining with Mary Jane in the middle of nowhere when a intergalactic symbiote just happens to fall nearby. What's galling about this is that there were already setups in the second film that would have made more sense, forthwith:
2. Forgetting Set-ups from Spider-Man 2. Where did John Jameson go? I thought he was almost shoehorned into the second movie to have a logic connection between an intergalactic conciousness and kid from queens. A scene of a few minutes showing Parker covering Jameson's latest voyage where the symbiote has attached itself to a rocket, or a probe sent out specifically to find this lifeform would have made a bit more sense. Heck they could even have included some line about the symbiote specifically targeting Parker because of his enhanced biology, that he was sought out instead of anyone else by the alien lifeform.
3. What? no Spidey Sense? Following on from the comics, the symbiote suit has seemed to negate the auld spidey-sense, but there's very little evidence of the spider-sense at the beginning of the film before the metorite incident. Apart from shooting web balls (ahem) (which was already evident from Parker learning more about his powers in Spider-Man 2) there is very little exposition as to how the suit is enhancing Parker's abilities.
4. Venom See fans, maybe getting what you want isn't necessarily a good thing. Sure it was great to see Venom and all, but so briefly? The character was also very mismatched to the overall tone of the the Spider-Man movies, The Green Goblin, Hob Goblin, Doc Ock Sandman, the potenial introduction of of The Lizard, these are all old-school spidey-villians and work well together. Sticking the hyper-muscly 1980s villian Vemon in there is a bit odd. Whenever you get hackneyed 'evil twin' type supervillians its kind like the bottom of the super-barrel. Topher Grace does a good job, but it's amazing that the 1990s animation has more script and philosophy than the movie!No mention of a She-Venom in the movies so far though.
5. Sandman and needless retconning. Sandman steals money...Spider-Man hears about it on his police scanner (wasn't that a bit creepy?) and then goes after him, end of story, it's logical and uncluttered. But no, that won't do we have to have a bzyantine plot back track that makes Flint Marko responsible for auld Uncle Ben hairplug's , ahem, plugging, but he does it in a nice way? It's like Ben's almost saying it's alright you killing me and all, 'cause you're a good man, and your only helping your daughter or following some preordained plan so I get to say the famous line in the film that wee Petey figured out himself in the comic and get to be resurrected in each film', what's with this Jesus/Judas-like bobbins? can't he just be a fecking criminal that Spider-Man goes after?
other small annoyances:
Aunt May's hot water: Aunt May and Peter Parker are having another creaky heart to heart about ole Ben and all the while I'm thinking: why are they just drinking hot water out of the tea pot, there's no tea? If they were using tea bags why go to the bother of getting the hot water from the kettle to a tea pot.
Mary Jane's answer phone message changes mid film from "this is Mary Jane leave a message after the beep....beeep" i.e. she says 'beep!' giving her some much-needed sense of humour and personality, yeah like that's going to last: this is absent from the second occurence of her answering machine.
Isn't Parker in some way responsible for the Green Goblin's Death? and who the feck is that butler guy? and doesn't it make Osborne appear a bit too much like Batman?
There's no connection established between the Stacey's and Osbornes, why are they at his funeral? Yes Gwen Stacey is in Park's class at college but Osborne and Parker went to high schoo together, do we just assume all rich people in New York know each other?
Towards the end Venom takes off Spidey's mask and appears to drop it, a split second later Spidey's suit is intact.
Some of the smaller points don't really spoil the film as such, it's the just overall sense that no one knows what's going on and logic goes out the back door. One of the almost lampable questions I got asked my some mook when I was going on about how good Spider-Man 2 was 'was it good for a superhero movie or a normal movie', implying that superhero movies are a priori stupid and even average intelligence in one is impressive. The lack of writing and emotional depth in this gives superhero movies this sort of bad name, the grandstanding action and Stan Lee cameos, nice that they are, just aren't enough in the wake of Batman Begins and X2. Godammit superhero movies should be getting better not worse.
Jesus, just read that Lucas is even ripping the shit of Spider-Man 3 . Spidey 3 still has three times more sense, intellect and logic than all the prequels combined. More good reviews (good as in 'good reviews' not claiming the film is good, it's like a sub genre of reviewing that suits epic movie, where reading the reviews is sometimes more enjoyable than watching the movie) here and here .