With the potential to be the best of the three, at the film’s end, Spiderman 3 turns out to be the franchise film with the weakest third act. It all begins with Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), whose back story is so well drawn it is the first of the two plot lines in Spiderman 3 that deserved its own film. Marko is easily simplistic and you feel sorry for him, his situation and his home life. Next is Eddie Brock Jr. (Topher Grace), shown as ambitions yet inhuman from the start. This inhumanity (maybe he’s a sociopath) is illustrated in his first scene where he watches with a smile on his face, a camera in hand and jovially quips with the police chief (James Cromwell) as the chief’s daughter, Gwen Stacy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, hangs out of a window sixty floors up. In addition, Stacy just happens to be Brock’s girlfriend, a plot situation completely undeveloped. It’s in name only and exists solely to give some depth to Brock eventual hatred for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire). There isn’t an ounce of fear on Brock’s face for Stacy as she faces death, a death he may be forced to witness along with everyone else that has gathered around the building. Brock never tries to get into the building to save her. Neither does her father for that matter but that’s not the point. Even Adrien Brody in Peter Jackson’s King Kong tried to use his own two hands and help the woman he loved. And guess what the worst part of this situation truly is. Brock is not a sociopath or inhuman in the slightest. This scene and his character in general were just terribly written. His character was given no core and no reality. He is a screenplay element, nothing more, nothing less. His personality was an after thought, something written on the last day before the screenplay was turned in. Brock doesn’t react because he was given nothing within himself to react with. His character is a void. This is why he, like Marko, deserved their own separate Spiderman movie. Brock would have been given what he lacks, a personality, three-dimensionality and a character arc (a good and fulfilling one I mean, not the left-overs he was saddled with in this film).
Spiderman 3’s first two acts are pretty flawless, some eclipsing those found in Spiderman 1 and 2. Many of those well-written scenes involve Spiderman new comer Flint Marko, as I said earlier, his character was given layers and a motivation any family man can understand. His past is cleverly melded to the ethos of the previous Spiderman films, giving his character more depth than is actually there. Though not given much to do but be in peril and be a possible love interest, Gwen Stacy’s few scenes in Spiderman 3 are memorable, adding to the film and benefiting it. But since there is so much going on in Spiderman 3, her character is never developed and her storyline comes to an end by the end of the second act, taking all of the sexual tension and the Parker/Watson/Stacy love triangle with her. But while it lasts, this section of the film does raise Spiderman 3 past Spiderman 1, even though it is hampered by a badly acted scene on a bridge.
This section of the film is also when major questions start to arise. Why would a superhero want people to know exactly where he is at any given time? If nice people who want to celebrate you know exactly where you are, so will all of your enemies. You say you want to protect those you love and with great power comes great responsibility. Is it responsible exposing yourself to danger like that? You’ve basically put a bull’s eye on your chest and endangered every spectator that has come to see you. And why would you let someone at this event touch your mask? They could easily rip it off your face, showing your true identity to the world. These points are somewhat explained by Parker’s growing vanity and not being able to see past himself, his desires and Spiderman to reality. But still, common sense screams privity and modesty when it comes to the population of New York City, whether they are fans or not.
Then we have another section of the film where Spiderman 3 excels past its predecessors. It is when Parker is corrupted and goes bad because of a extraterrestrial symbiote and its aggression magnification. This is hands down the most interesting section of the Spiderman 3 and almost the most entertaining. The best part about it is that it has nothing to do with special effects of any kind. Its psychological and what happens to Parker’s personality because of the suit, which he begins wearing more and more often underneath his clothing. I have read a few complaints on the internet about the “Rain drops falling on my head” sequence in Spiderman 2 and its awkwardness. I felt something along those lines the first time I saw it also. In Spiderman 3, there is a sequence that not only parodies “Rain drops”, it makes it a thousand times better, is more entertaining (you will laugh or chuckle at least twice) and illustrates how negative, testosterone-filled and self absorbed Parker has become because of the symbiote. This is why Parker, Stacy, Brock and the symbiote should have been in their own Spiderman movie and Marko and possibly Osborn in another. There was more than enough material there (Parker, Stacy, Brock and the symbiote) without having to squander storylines and condense them.
Speaking of squandered storylines, after Parker “takes off” his new costume (the symbiote) and Brock and the symbiote are joined, why does Brock believe he needs someone else to fight Spiderman with him? He has not even faced him alone yet (another reason why Venom should have had his own movie). How does he know he can not take Parker by himself? Plus, its already two against one: Brock and the symbiote. Aren’t they supposed to be a team, feeding off of one another? Oh, wait, wait, that’s just in the comic book, which is why Brock, after his joining in Spiderman 3, does not eventually refer to himself as “we” instead of “I.” Character details like that would have really bogged down this film’s special effects finale, are truly not important and would not have added to the Topher’s Venom at all. Neither would the fact that the symbiote, because of his prolonged joining with Parker, knows all of his secretes and tells them to Brock in the comic book. That wouldn’t have made Venom a more interesting villain either. Venom in Spiderman 3 is not scary or intimating in the slightest (very strange considering Sam Raimi’s pedigree: Evil Dead 1 and 2 anyone? Army of Darkness?) and is A-Okay for children of all ages, assisted by the fact that he gets only around nine minutes of screen time in the entire film. If Venom was destined to hog all of the movie like that, Raimi should be less obvious about it next time.
The third act of Spiderman 3 that screenwriters Alvin Sargent, Ivan Raimi and Sam Raimi came up with is actually down to earth and most likely where the majority of the film’s budget was sank. Brock and Marko commandeer an entire high-rise construction site but not before Brock somehow finds Marko (who is trying to remain off the grid and whom none of the city’s police force can locate, people actually trained in finding criminals) out of a entire city filled with people, mysteriously learns all about Marko’s family situation before their encounter, a certain someone is kidnapped (again) and then Spiderman is challenged to a tri-duel in front of an entire city on national television. Like I said, down to earth. This overly elaborate and unnecessary scheme surely makes the likes of Mark Twain proud. I mean, the screenwriters could have just had Venom show up at Parker’s apartment door as Brock, have Brock lull Parker with a made-up story for why he’s there (one of Brock’s core competencies) and then have Brock try to kill Parker once he was in his apartment alone with him. He could have used his elongated teeth and claws on him, spraying Parker blood all over the walls and ceiling. What if that helpful neighbor girl heard the commotion and walked in on it. Uh-oh, no more neighbor girl. But alas, Spiderman 3 is PG-13 so no claw attacks, tearing and no teeth bites.
In Spiderman 1, it took Parker a decent amount of time to learn all of his abilities and how to control them without killing himself. Marko and Brock master their newly given gifts within a matter of minutes. How they establish the mind/ability connection so quickly is not even broached. They are savants of their disciplines, no questions asked, almost instantly. This is what happens when three villains are thrown into one film. Everything is rushed and comprised. Because of the machine he fell into, Marko is technically not human any more and Brock has a parasite that feeds off of his aggressive feelings and that communicates with him (not included in the film). Does the film deal with Marko’s lose of humanity, Brock having an alien attached to his body and what that means for the remainder of his life? No to both of these questions. All they can see is Spiderman and his death at their hands, with some exception to Marko.
It is unfortunate that Marko’s storyline ends up going no where, spurting and disappearing into the wind of Spiderman 3’s landscape. What happened with his daughter and her needed operation(s)? Who knows, who cares. Why should we? The screenwriters obvious didn’t since they did not resolve the issue either way. And since when does a person that can de and re-materialize into sand particles have the ability to control nature and summon wind gusts at will? Is he related to Storm of the X-Men? Its most likely one of those things we are not supposed to think about.
By the end of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3, you are just seating there watching special effects with no feeling involved whatsoever. You can actually feel the film slide from where it brought you with Peter Parker and the symbiote, trip and stumble over too much in one film and fall because of the over-the-topness of its finale. Once again, Mary Jane is in peril and Spiderman must save her. The same end formula re-used in three films with no originality expect this time, unlike the two times before it, there is not even a base level of emotional involvement. None of the three villains ever thinks to go after Parker’s only living family member. Why not go after Aunt May, the person that raised Parker and whom he loves even more so than Mary Jane? That is his heart, his true heart, the person he goes to for advice and guidance. The one who will love him no matter what. I guess we’re not supposed to think about that obvious truth either or the fact that Venom is never given time to breath and be Venom. He is a throw in, much like Bane was in Batman and Robin. You may or may not have noticed that I only mentioned Harry Osborn (James Franco) in placing and did not mention J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) at all in my review. The latter has his expanded part from Spiderman 2 shortened to a few scenes and comic relief moments and the former’s eventual character arc is very um…plot convenient. Well, there we have it. Spiderman 3, a movie that could have been a lot better but also far worse. It could have been as non-sensical, character-flooded and badly scripted as X-Men 3 or as back-birthed (yes I love Firefly) as The Fantastic Four.