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The UnPopular Opinion: Spider-man 3

05.18.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

There are lots of movies that have become eternal jokes thanks to the Internet. Thanks to the proliferation of memes and the availability of films on streaming and HD formats, movies like SPIDER-MAN 3 are picked apart down to the frame and turned into jokes of themselves. It used to be, in the old days, that it took the Zucker Brothers or Weird Al Yankovic to bring a spoof or parody into the mainstream. Now, films can become a joke thanks to a carefully taked screenshot or a looped clip. But, this also reduces a major production into something it was never meant to be. While an informed review of a film by any viewer is the only judgement a movie should be based on, many skip watching films (or rewatching them) and collective memory replaces what a movie is actually worth to the sum of it's online presence. With SPIDER-MAN 3, Sam Raimi's acclaimed adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero finished the franchise with a whimper rather than setting up the fourth film that everone was expecting to come next. But, if you revisit SPIDER-MAN 3, it is far from the abomination the Internet has labeled it over the last decade. In fact, SPIDER-MAN 3 is a damn enjoyable superhero blockbuster.

The stories have become myth in the years since SPIDER-MAN 3 was released. Many have heard that Sam Raimi did not want to include Venom in the third chapter of his Spider-man series but the executives at Sony insisted. Legend has it that Raimi decided to make Venom an awful antagonist and essentially doom the character. It would be career suicide if this is what Raimi had actually done and many point to his spotty career since 2007 as proof that Hollywood turned their backs on him for tanking SPIDER-MAN 3. While I have my own issues with thie film, they are minor quibbles. SPIDER-MAN 3 does not sully the legacy of the original franchise and is in fact a very competent entry. There are a lot of fun aspects of this film that keep it going at a breakneck pace. Sure, there are a lot of characters, but SPIDER-MAN 3 never succumbs to the pressure that other overloaded superhero sequels have faced. In fact, SPIDER-MAN 3 ranks better than many Marvel Cinematic Universe entries and most of the X-MEN sequels. I would even go as far as to say that it is better than the original SPIDER-MAN.

The UnPopular Opinion, Spider-man 3, Sam Raimi, Superhero, Comic Book, Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst

What hurts SPIDER-MAN 3 is that there is enough material here to have warranted splitting it into two separate films. But, both Eddie Brock/Venom and Flint Marko/Sandman are worthy adversaries to Peter Parker and both have solid arcs through this film. The true crux of SPIDER-MAN 3, though, is the culmination of the relationship between Peter and Harry Osborn. Superhero films have long suffered by killing major villains in each film but Raimi's trilogy carried the threat of Peter and Harry's friendship falling apart into one of the most resonant storylines in any franchise. I would compare it to the duality of Professor X and Magneto in the X-MEN series but here the Harry/Peter story gets a satisfying conclusion. For most of this film, Peter and Harry deal with what it means to be a hero or a villain and eventually accept their true natures. James Franco does stellar work here and channels the darkness laid out in Willem Dafoe's performance in the original film while making the role his own. Harry vacillates between friend to smarmy bad guy and back countless times, each transition punctuated by Peter's transformation.

One of the biggest jokes to come out of SPIDER-MAN 3 was "Emo Spider-man". When Peter accepts the symbiote and allows it to take control, his darker self comes to the surface. His hair sweeps into a trendy style, he dances, speaks his mind, and is mainly unbearable to be around. Viewers found Tobey Maguire's performance unbearable as well but they are missing the underlying and intentional nature of these performance choices. Peter Parker is a nerd. Despite being an amazing superhero, he is still the geeky science genius who cannot relate to his peers. Spider-man has always echoed this characteristic but has evolved into a studly and cool character in many interpretations of the role. Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire have never pulled away from that characteristic of Peter and in SPIDER-MAN 3, his transformation is into what a geek or nerd like Peter Parker would think is how a cool person would act. The result is an unbearable douche. Take a look at the scene of Peter walking down the street while dancing and shooting finger guns. From his vantage, the women are all infatuated, but when the camera turns, we see their faces are disgusted. This is a brilliant decision on the part of Raimi and the creative minds behind the film.

The UnPopular Opinion, Spider-man 3, Sam Raimi, Superhero, Comic Book, Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst

SPIDER-MAN 3 is a contemporary update of the story arc from SUPERMAN III. Like that film, Peter Parker is forced to face his darker nature. Here, that evil duality is personified by Eddie Brock. Topher Grace, who is physically similar to Tobey Maguire, is less the brash jock character from Marvel Comics and serves more as a mirror version of Peter Parker. Venom here is that darker Spider-man who gives into the whispering and carnal nature of the Symbiote. While their final showdown is pretty entertaining, Raimi decided to kill off Venom rather than allow him to return for future films. SPIDER-MAN 3 kills off a lot of characters in service of the bigger picture and served to streamline elements of the story which could have partially rebooted the narrative for SPIDER-MAN 4. Alas, we will never get to see how that would have turned out. The film also reduced Gwen Stacy from an important element of Peter Parker's life to a subplot that never generates much steam despite Bryce Dallas Howard being well cast for the role. Gwen's appearance feels like more studio tinkering and would have worked much better if given more room in the plot.

Sam Raimi's franchise has always been about Peter and Mary Jane. The Marc Webb AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was all about Peter and Gwen which is why the inclusion of Mary Jane never would have worked in the second film of that series. SPIDER-MAN 3 also represented a very different type of comic book movie that was doomed with the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As we have seen in the trailers and clips for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, villains like The Vulture are rooted in a more functional reality. As much as I am looking forward to that film and how Jon Watts will bring Peter into the MCU, Sam Raimi's candy-colored trilogy feels like a living comic book rather than just an interpretation of the character. SPIDER-MAN 3 is packed with dialogue, action, and excitement that feels ripped directly from the pages of classic Marvel Comics.

The UnPopular Opinion, Spider-man 3, Sam Raimi, Superhero, Comic Book, Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst

SPIDER-MAN 3 is escapism, pure and simple. Despite two love interests, three villains, and a two hour plus running time, SPIDER-MAN 3 never slows down and never misses a chance to fill the screen with action and top notch special effects. Every film will have complaints from fans who feel the story strays too far from the source material or retcons elements (like Flint Marko's involvement with the death of Uncle Ben), but that is the nature of movies. What ultimately has doomed SPIDER-MAN 3 in the eyes of fans is the nature of the Internet itself. Forget the memes which have already turned the film into a joke in the eyes of many viewers but the fan backlash against the movie as being inferior compared to SPIDER-MAN 2 have doomed it to be considered a failure. Few films could have followed SPIDER-MAN 2, often considered one of the best comic book movies of all time, and SPIDER-MAN 3 gave a valiant effort by throwing everything it could at audiences. Consider it a disaster if you like, but I think giving the film another shot will surprise you with how much fun it actually is. Taken on it's own merits, this film is a fun and enjoyable movie experience.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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