In Defense of Spider-Man 3: What Went Wrong is an opinion piece. Many different opinions and theories have covered the topic over the years since the film released, and this is one more!
Spider-Man 3 (2007) is notorious for being labeled a “bad” superhero movie … and by all accounts, it probably is. I know a lot of people who hate this film and will disregard it entirely. But there are some people who can see past the messy plot points, odd character directions and the over-stuffed cast and appreciate this movie for what it is.
… or for what Sam Raimi had intended the move to be, at least.
It’s generally considered that both Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) are modern masterpieces, but Spider-Man 3 seems to be regarded as the black sheep of the bunch. It’s the type of movie that I like to refer to as a “beautiful disaster”, and I feel that the main reason for its reputation is because of a very few questionable scenes and story decisions that drag the rest of the movie down.
I keep coming back to Spider-Man 3 because I can’t help but want to fix it in my own way.
What follows will be a four part series that will focus on dissecting and analyzing its characters and storylines and asking What Went Wrong and What Went Right. Followed by What Could’ve Been and concluding with a pitch for a Spider-Man 4. Let’s get into it!
This is my one true gripe when it comes to this film: Eddie Brock. I remember the day it was announced that Topher Grace would be joining the cast of Spider-Man 3. It was the very next morning after his departure from That 70’s Show.
It felt odd at the time, Grace was on a hit show that very much could’ve gone on a lot longer and produced many more seasons had he decided to stick around. And even though he was my favorite character, what I didn’t realize was just how much he was keeping the show afloat. Perhaps he sensed that as well, which is why he choice to leave.
Regardless, I’ve never felt that he was the right fit for Eddie Brock. In the comics, Eddie is known by what is referred to as a “brick shithouse”. Basically, a muscular fellow and Topher Grace is far from that description. The first two Spider-Man films were able to cast actors who were the spitting image of their comic book counterparts so it was difficult to imagine what decision led to Topher Grace being the one who would portray this specific character.
This was a high profile gig for Grace to land, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) help but feel that Eddie Brock’s inclusion is a large part of what went wrong with the film. Or, if I want to get a little more specific: the transformation into Venom.
There is a lot of behind the scenes dram that became public knowledge after the movie had gotten criticized. It’s difficult to know what to believe but one story goes that Sam Raimi wasn’t interested in using Venom in the movie at all. He would’ve preferred to stick to the more “traditional” villains that had been introduced in the comics during the 1960’s.
However, due to Venom’s overwhelming popularity throughout the 1990’s, Avi Arad pushed for Raimi to include both Eddie Brock and Venom in the third installment.
This has always intrigued me. When I look at the film from a critical point of view, I can’t help but notice that Eddie doesn’t seem to really bring too much to the overall plot of the movie until the very end. Even more interesting is that I have always felt that both Eddie Brock and Harry Osborn (James Franco) appear to serve the same purpose in the film …
To quickly recap: Harry found out that Peter was Spider-Man at the end of Spider-Man 2 and he spent all of Spider-Man 3 being hellbent on killing Peter because he believes that Peter killed his father. I like Harry’s story for the most part and I buy the motivation.
Harry and Eddie serve the same purpose because the better part of the movie has gone to setting up Harry as the main antagonist, yet somehow Eddie is the one who becomes the villain in the end.
This doesn’t make sense from a storyboarding point of view because it feels like Eddie gets shoehorned into become the big bad in the final battle. Harry’s motivation in thinking that Peter was responsible for Norman’s death is a lot more convincing than Eddie simply blaming Peter for getting fired from the Daily Bugle. By eliminating Eddie from the movie, his screen time could’ve been used to flesh out Harry’s story a lot more. Especially when it comes to recovering from his memory loss and expanding on his descent into madness.
I also attribute this claim to the fact that there are not two, but three love triangles in the film. One between Peter, MJ and Gwen, another between Peter, Gwen and Eddie and a final one between Peter, MJ and Harry. This seems unnecessary and it doesn’t make sense to give two different characters the same type of story and plot point.
This is probably one of the more funny memes that the internet has chosen to adopt. I’m glad we can laugh about this now because this is the part of the movie that people will immediately point to when they want to dismiss it … and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s really hard to blame them. I’m not sure if I can exactly defend this whole, well, whatever it is because even I have to admit that this is something that truly hard to watch.
I do feel that “Bully” Parker is one of the more misunderstood moments of the movie. I’m not sure if he was meant to be “emo” per se, but what this is suppose to represent is Peter’s rebellious side (as opposed to the goodie two-shoes that we have gotten to know him as). It’s a great idea with a terrible execution. This entire scene is the equivalent of some 40-something year old throwing on a bandana, wearing a fake goatee whilst in inhaling Indonesian cigarettes and claiming “I’m a badass”.
It’s cringeworthy and even though I don’t feel that everything in cinema needs to be taken seriously, this entire montage is just a little too silly even for the sake of silly’s sake.
Additionally, “New” Goblin also gets the short end of the stick due to bother Eddie Brock and Venom taking over the role of the big bad in the end. New Goblin was setup at the end of Spider-Man 2 when Harry found his father’s secret room full of his pumpkin bombs and goblin glider. The audience was expecting it and it was a storyline that needed to happen, but it wasn’t able to manifest itself in a way that it should’ve.
Harry should’ve been the villain in the end because his story arc follows the formula. In the first act, the hero has to have a small battle with the villain where the hero is defeated and needs to realize the threat that he is up against. This happens when Peter leaves the opera and encounters New Goblin for the first time, (leading to Harry’s amnesia). This scrimmage is where the setup for final battle is initially supposed to get foreshadowed. Peter’s failure in the alleyway in the beginning would’ve had a lot more payoff when he is ultimately able to defeat Harry at the end of the movie.
I have always hated this whole spiel that Bernard gives to Harry about the night that Norman died. This suddenly makes Harry have this miraculous change of heart and go off to help Peter defeat Venom in the final battle. It has always felt like a copout and maybe that might get chalked up to the fact that they didn’t know what to do with Harry by this point in the story for the sake of shoehorning Venom as the villain. This is a move that tries but ultimately fails to redeem Harry’s previous actions.
When I talk about what I “hate” about this movie: Venom is what I am referring to. Even though this is Eddie Brock, I have chosen to give them their separate entry because I am not finished ragging on this character. Just joking. (Not really). I can see the appeal, but I have never found Venom to be all that interesting. I remember being disappointed when news broke that the character was going to be included in the movie and as far as I am concerned, Venom is the worst part and should never have been considered to be in Spider-Man 3.
The Stacy’s were done dirty. I still question why they were included in the movie in the first place. I don’t hate these characters, in fact I’m glad that they were even considered despite them both getting killed off in the 1970’s. They are being included in the What Went Wrong segment mainly because they both deserved better than the little that they were given.
I don’t know why Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) is in this movie. She has always felt very shoehorned in. In the comics, Gwen is a very bland, boring, “vanilla” of a character which is why she was ultimately killed off and replaced with Mary-Jane Watson as Peter’s main love interest. There is nothing really remarkable about Gwen Stacy apart from her death and including her in Spider-Man 3 felt unnecessary because she didn’t really do anything that any other character could’ve done in her place.
I can understand the decision in making her a potential rival love interest, (which only furthers Peter and MJ’s story). But making her a model was an odd choice because she was just given Mary Jane’s story from the comics. Making Gwen very much a carbon copy of the better character who replaced her, which disrespects both characters in the long run.
Captain George Stacy
I do believe that George Stacy (James Cromwell) was able to provide some type of point to the story, (the little that he did). There definitely needed be some type of introduction of a police captain for the people of New York City. He was able to provide some type of reaction to the supervillains who roam the streets and terrorize the citizens as well as how the police operate when their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is swinging around the city trying to help.
However, for George to be introduced this late in the trilogy makes him useless. Even though he was able to provide both Peter and Aunt May with the information about Flint Marko being apart of Uncle Ben’s death, it only works if he was there in the first place … which he wasn’t. This ultimately makes his appearance in Spider-Man 3 fail to have any type of relevancy when it could’ve been any other random character in the role.
These are the storylines and plot points that I feel went wrong with Spider-Man 3. As you can tell, it mostly centers around the few new characters who weren’t in the previous two films.
As I mentioned, “Bully” Parker is difficult to defend but I feel that the symbiote storyline works up to a certain point and that it’s Venom’s inclusion which is mostly responsible for this movie gaining the negative reputation that it’s received.
Even if Eddie was to simply remained Peter’s rival at the Daily Bugle, it still would’ve worked. It’s when he transforms into Venom that the story falls apart and the third act becomes a giant mess, because it’s Harry who had been setup as the main antagonist and should’ve been the villain in the end.
to be continued…