I'm a Better Dad Than Him. . .

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3

 As I grew up, comic books were never something that I got into.  They hardly ever crossed my path, and I didn't even know where I could purchase them.  A few birthdays brought me gifts of comic books, but I was much more interested in the advertisements than I was the stories.  From ninja weapons to sea monkeys, the ads were a collage of all of my desires.  If I had a credit card, I would have been more excited that when the Consumers Distributing catalogues came out.

My only exposure to super heroes was through cartoons.  I enjoyed the X-Men, but Spider-Man was my favourite, and this meant that for a number of years the web slinger was the super hero I was most interested in.  However, there was a point in time when I swapped allegiances, choosing The Dark Knight as the best hero of the comic world.  Two elements caused this.  First, Batman Begins was a terrific look at Bruce Wayne and his secret identity.  Secondly, I saw Spider-Man 3.  Effectively, this was the ending of my honeymoon with Peter Parker.

Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man movies were interesting and exciting.  Tobey Maguire was a great choice for Peter Parker, his great charisma bringing life and heart to the main character.  Kirsten Dunst was terrific as love interest Mary Jane.  There was a whole lot of like with the world that was created and the execution of it.

With Spider-Man 3, however, it feels like Raimi took the film away from what he had spent two movies creating.  The film changed the tragic death of Uncle Ben to force an emotional conflict between Spider-Man and villain Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church).  As well, apparently the butler for Harry Osborn (James Franco) knows the real way his father died, and let Harry be obsessed with killing Spider-Man out of revenge when the truth would have allowed him to get over the loss of his father.  Two major elements of the stories had been changed to force the plot in this film, and this really felt like Raimi was allowing the world to fall apart just to service his script.

The worst part of Spider-Man 3 eclipses everything else.  The first time I saw this film, I physically cringed when Peter Parker 'transformed into ultra cool' after becoming Venom.  On this rewatching, I think I actually cringed even more.  For some horrible reason, Raimi decided that Peter Parker would turn emo, and that the coolest thing he could do would be walking down the street, bobbing his head to imaginary music and pointing his fingers in the gun gesture to people.  Oh, and dancing.  Dancing to no music, and in the worst ways possible.

There was an entire scene in a jazz club designed to show just how cool he had become.  All of a sudden, Parker became an amazing jazz pianist before showing his dance moves to all of the people in the club.  And, of course, when he said 'now did on this' it reminded me of all of the coolest people I had ever met, because that's how people actually talk.  I have no clue what Raimi was thinking with this angle.  It was so disconnected from how people actually acted, and was one of the worst representations of a 'cool' person in film.

With three different villains (Sandman, New Goblin, and Venom) the film gets a bit messy.  The problem with a lot of sequels seems to be the idea that they need to be bigger than the film before it.  Action set pieces need to be more intense, the stakes need to be higher, and the villain needs to be more intimidating. Personally, I don't agree with that style of thinking.  A movie can be good regardless of whether or not it has crazier action sequences, and the level doesn't have to be turned up for any sequel.  The presence of three different baddies here feels as though it only happened because Raimi thought this would make it a bigger experience than the first two films.

Sadly, there is actually an interesting story in here that could have been told.  Raimi didn't need to all of a sudden change story elements to communicate what may have been an interesting tale.  By doing his changes, he cut away at the legs that were holding up what the first two movies created.  There was no point at all in retconning parts of the story, because the base plot would have worked just fine without doing so.

This film was the turning point for me, no longer thinking Spider-Man was the greatest super hero out there.  The Dark Knight came out a year later, and solidified my allegiance to The Batman, who was always a close second due to Adam West and the television show.  There are people who enjoy Spider-Man 3, but I am not one of them.  For me, it is an example of how one movie can instantly undo the good works of the films that came before it.