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Eliminating the Guesswork: Dissecting Spider-man 3

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

Image Let me begin with a confession: in March of this year , I wrote a review for Spider-Man 3 months before it was released into theaters. I had not attended an advanced screening, nor did I claim to have done so. Instead, I stated that I had taken a ride on a time machine into the future, to see the film on opening weekend. The confession: I did not travel into the future. My review was based solely on previews, studio buzz, and educated guesswork. Now while I could fill pages and pages with my apology for this subterfuge, I feel it would be more fun and beneficial to examine my earlier work, and see where I got it right, and where I went horribly wrong.

Let’s begin with what I managed to get right:

When Spider-Man 3 begins, we see Peter Parker as we have never seen him before: happy. – He was. This was pretty clear from the preview where Parker flies through the air, seemingly in mortal danger, and yet we are made to focus on an engagement ring that slips from his grasp.

The Sandman can make his body as hard as rock, or escape through cracks in walls as fine grain. – This description, while not a direct quote from the comic book where the Sandman made his first appearance (Amazing Spiderman #4, which happens to be in my basement as I type), might as well have been. If I had been wrong about this, then the movie would have had no credibility whatsoever.

[While fighting Harry Osborn], Peter must defend himself while trying to protect his identity, AND keep the safety in mind of the guy who’s trying to kill him. – Turns out I was half right on this one. The FIRST time they fight, this is exactly the case. However, for reasons I’ll leave the reader the discover for themselves, the situation is quite different the second time they tussle.

However, he soon realizes that the costume is not a new material, but rather an alien being attempting to meld with his mind.

Eddie [Brock] seems to be getting all the good shots, and usurping Peter’s business, but Parker soon discovers that Brock has been staging his photos, and as such is profiting under false pretenses. When Parker blows the whistle on Brock, he is fired and disgraced, and where he once admired Peter, he now loathes him. – This is pretty much boilerplate origin story for Venom. It would have been harder for the filmmakers to have included Venom WITHOUT these facts in place.

And…that’s about it. This means that, in an article full of predictions, about a movie that was ridiculously hyped and publicized, I was only able to accurately “foresee” those facts that came from my being a comic book nerd, and that any other fanboy would have seen coming a mile away. Pathetic.

And now, let’s tackle what I got wrong:

[Peter’s] financial situation is finally comfortable (his photos for the Daily Bugle are paying a bit more, but this probably has more to do with Mary Jane’s career as a model/actress.) – In the comic books, Mary Jane becomes wildly successful, starring in soap operas among other things. Rumors stated that the Dunst version was making her Broadway debut in Part 3 (though, if this is true, it makes one wonder just where that production of The Importance of Being Earnest from Part 2 was located) and this was indeed true. However, the reviews for the show were bad, and she was apparently fired after one performance, ruining her career to the point where she’s forced to take a job as a singing waitress. (Is this really what movie stars think happens to actors less successful than they are? What about her billboards? Her agents and managers? The idea that one bad review would crash a career is insane.)

It’s fun when [Spiderman’s] enemies are his equal or better, forcing him to use his wits to save the city (in this case, it’s quick thinking and a handy vacuum cleaner.) – I was talking about Sandman, and I was assuming that he would be defeated the same way that he was the first time he showed up in the comic books. Spiderman sensed that Sandman was making himself loose and granular, and instead of throwing a punch, he sucked him into a vacuum. Frankly, the writers were very smart to avoid this outcome. It was stupid and riddled with inconsistencies then; on film, it would have looked and felt absurd.

At the start of 3, Harry had conveniently forgotten all traces of the madness created by his father and Peter. However, a knock on his head brings it all back, and the Goblin is back (though he calls himself the Hobgoblin this time)! – It turns out I had this one completely backwards. In the comic books, this was a classic and frequently used device to get The Green Goblin fighting Spidey again, and the amnesia aspect allowed the character to carry the Parker/Spiderman secret without having to kill him off. Thus, it was a logical guess to make. However, when the movie starts, Harry DOES remember everything, and has been plotting Spiderman’s death for a long time. The amnesia sets in after their first fight. From there, my guess was accurate, but I can’t take credit for it. (As for the Hobgoblin, he was another villain of Spidermans – essentially just the Green Goblin with a different colored costume – with an even more complicated back story (his identity turned out to be Ned Leeds, the husband of Betty Brant, the woman who we know as J. Jonah Jameson's secretary. See?) I guessed that they would have pared that story down to the point that they'd let Harry fly around with a new name. I was wrong.)

Luckily, the filmmakers were wise enough to keep this door open (how crazy would it have been to have tied up the Venom storyline in only one-third of a film!) – It would have been crazy, wouldn’t it?

…we have the Sandman storyline begun and ended, though thankfully they kept relatively light on the deeper motivations of this villain. – I NEVER would have imagined, when I first wrote this article, that THIS would be the sentence that was most wrong in the entire piece. First of all, this storyline ultimately ends up to be the first one in the entire franchise that ISN’T tied up. And as for the deeper motivations…I can’t remember the Sandman ever being anything OTHER than a meathead thug who used his powers for evil. And yet, in the movie, not only do we find that all of his crimes were done to raise money for his sick daughter’s medical expenses, but it was HIS fault that Peter’s uncle Ben was shot and killed; a crime that has tormented both hero and villain ever since. These added details created by far the most awkward, least successful scenes in the entire film.

This pretty much covers my guesswork for Spider-man 3. Now, how about my real thoughts, on the actual movie?

Like the previous two installments, Spider-Man 3 is full of fun action sequences, amusing segments, and enough “inside” references to keep the die-hard fans nodding in smug satisfaction. However, there are some aspects of the movie that are just abominable. For example:

The “Evil Peter Parker” section – When Peter has his professor examine the strange substance that forms his new costume, he learns that, when the stuff bonds with other cells, it accentuates the dominant characteristics of those cells, and makes them more aggressive. (Or something like that. It doesn’t really matter.) This causes Spiderman to become a bloodthirsty animal, and Peter Parker to become an incredible douchebag. While wearing the costume underneath his civilian clothes, Peter struts around town with his hair devilishly askew, shooting finger guns at any and all passing ladies. These scenes were so painfully awkward that you could hear audibly hear the audience rustle in their seats.

The Crying – I simply can not believe how much crying there was in this movie! Throughout the course of the two hours, our beloved hero visibly sheds tears FOUR times, and I can honestly say that the audience at the screening I attended burst into self-conscious laughter during at least two of these scenes. Not a good sign.

Lots of little issues – How come J. Jonah Jameson still employs Peter Parker, even after Parker essentially stole his son’s fiancée right out from underneath him? In a world where cell phone cameras are commonplace and seemingly everything that happens ends up on YouTube, how is it possible that Spiderman can repeatedly leap out of his apartment window/sit on buildings in full costume with his mask off/walk through town with his costume showing through his shirt, IN NEW YORK CITY, and have no one ever notice? How can one of the Goblin’s pumpkin bombs detonate inches from one character’s face and merely wound him, while another one can completely vaporize its intended target?

In the end, I did enjoy this movie, but like the others, it’s impossible for me to say whether this enjoyment was due empirically to the film itself, or to my pre-existent love of the Spiderman canon. Whatever the case, and it pains me to say this, I think that one thing I wrote in my fake future article will prove to be the truest thing in the real future:

I … think that this will be the installment that, down the road, people will look back on as the one that started to sink the franchise.

I hope I'm wrong about this, and only time will tell if I'm ultimately correct. All we can do is wait and see…that is, unless someone out there has a time machine.



Author: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

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