I'm not a comic book fan. I've never read a single comic book in my life. But I have successfully enjoyed many movies based on comic books. I guess that's why I don't care if the filmmakers behind the comic book movie decide to take their own liberties and do whatever they want for their adaptation. Of course, what makes many adaptations so great is that the filmmakers take liberties in what they choose to put on film when they adapt a comic book or novel. The filmmakers are able to develop their own perspectives on the original product and it makes the adaptations interesting to watch. As long as the final product is well-made and brilliantly watchable, I'm content. This goes to all the things I am a semi-fan of, like Harry Potter.
So, I finally got around seeing Spider-Man 3 (dir. Sam Raimi | rel. 2007). And I loved it.
What a surprise, too. I enjoyed the first two immensely, but they were not enough to make me a fanatic of the series. I was really expecting to hate the third movie because of all the negative criticisms I've heard regarding the film. But I ended up loving it, for all the right and wrong reasons. Right now, the movie is bouncing between the lines of epic greatness and guilty pleasure. In defense of the truly nasty things that have been said about the film, I present you with the list of 8 Things I Loved About Spider-Man 3 in defense to all the criticism. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.)
1. It focuses more on Peter Parker than Spider-Man.
This was a complaint many people had about this film. It was like the camera had some love affair with Tobey Maguire's face. But I personally didn't think it detracted my enjoyment of this film whatsoever. In fact, I think it accentuated my enjoyment. Sure, in reality, everyone in New York City would know that Peter is Spider-Man (Maguire) with the time he has with the mask off and his suit on, hey, small goofs in film land are usually easily forgiven by me unless the movie is just down-right terrible. In that case, nothing about the film's existence will ever be forgiven.
When I watch superhero movies, I've always been more interested with the guy behind the mask. I don't care about balance at all, although Batman Begins did a fine job with the concept of equilibrium in a superhero movie. I'm glad to see more Peter and less Spider-Man. I understand that isn't exactly the case with those who grew up with the comic books and idolized Spider-Man. In a way, I'm totally undermining the purpose of a superhero movie but...I'm just completely fascinated with the life of a superhero without the mask and I'm ecstatic that Spider-Man 2 and 3 explored that--and 3 does it with some great length. With the time Peter spends with his mask off, his character develops. Because of the character development, there is more of a complex foundation beneath the surface of the Spidey suit.
While watching Peter's daily life outside his Spider-Man activities, you realize that he's just the average guy that is far from an image of a city's savior. He has some very personal problems to deal with: his best friend hates him, his relationship with his girlfriend is uncertain, he has to seek revenge for the man who killed his uncle, etc. The writers understood those were important aspects of Peter's life and how those aspects dictate his direction as a superhero.
I don't think anyone will ever forget Emo Peter, but hey, it works for me. It is silly, but it makes sense how Peter reacted to symbiote because of how well the movie developed his character.
2. It is a film about forgiveness and redemption.
There are dozens of corny elements to 3 that I occasionally winced at, but they played out nicely anyway. The film never tries to go over-the-top with any of its preachy themes, but it shows it like it is. The good intentions and the sentimental heart beating at the center of 3 is incredibly, surprisingly touching. I never mind a little sentimentality, especially when it is done with profoundness and believability.
One of the many plot lines in 3 was the relationship between Peter and his best friend, Harry Osbourne (James Franco). Early in the film, tensions are high between the two because Harry believes that Peter, as Spider-Man, killed his father in the first movie. When Harry rises as the New Goblin to seek his revenge against Peter, he experiences a terrible fall and gets amnesia as a result. Peter and Harry are buddies for a while because Harry can't remember that he was seeking revenge. But when he does, he hates Peter again. Harry then creates a strain in the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) because he is still deeply in love with Mary Jane. Emo Peter and Harry battle it out and the fight results in the scarring of a side of Harry's face.
Yes, what a soap opera! (Another thing I love about this movie. Take a look at #3.)
I know this is another reason people hate the film, but...I didn't really mind the butler who tells Harry about how his father truly died. I mean, I didn't think it was a big deal. Sure, the butler could have told Harry much earlier (uh, like some time by the end of the first movie?), but at least he told him in the nick of time. The big fight scene in the end with Spider-Man and the Goblin as a team is totally awesome. Harry's death scene is a very pivotal, touching moment in the series. I've never believed in Peter, Harry, and Mary Jane as BFFs, but in this film, I did. They cared plenty about each other, and I cared for them too. I just loved the way Harry redeemed himself because it compensated for his annoying presence in the first two films.
Even though Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is the main villain of the movie, I didn't care a whole lot for him. Okay, I guess I did to some extent. I sympathized with the guy. I'm a sucker for sympathetic villains, like Darth Vader. Unlike Darth Vader, Sandman won't be going down in history as one of cinema's greatest villains, but he had a nice thread of a storyline. Apparently, he, Flint Marko, became "bad" because he wanted to get money to help his sick daughter and that is pretty much what motivates him to be a thief. He is an escaped convict, so his wife doesn't want anything to do with him anymore. So in a chase with the cops, he enters this fenced area where scientists are doing experiments and BAM--he accidentally becomes Sandman! In the midst of all the action, Peter and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) finds out from the police that it was this Marko guy who killed Uncle Ben in the first movie. With much vengeance, Peter, as Spider-Man, aims to seek an end to Marko's life.
After an extravagant fight scene between Spider-Man, New Goblin, Sandman, and Venom, there is a brief confrontation between Peter and Marko. What makes this confrontation worthwhile is that Peter forgives Marko, which I was (again) very touched by. When Peter forgives Marko, it is a powerful sign of Peter's maturity and shows the kind of integrity Peter possessed. The moment gives Spider-Man a new dimensions and that dimension comes from the depths of his alter-ego, Peter Parker.
3. It is an amazingly grand soap opera, with enough drama to fuel the entire film.
Peter and Mary Jane are happy together. Harry is jealous of the relationship, plus, he hates Peter because he thinks Peter killed his father. Harry, as New Goblin, gets amnesia because he fell down during a battle with Peter. Mary Jane gets mad because her acting career isn't working well and Peter is getting too much attention as Spider-Man. Peter has sort of a crush on Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), a cute girl in his science class. But Peter's photography rival, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), has a crush on Gwen too. Harry regains his memory, realizes he is in love with Mary Jane, and gets Mary Jane to break up with Peter. Emo Peter asks Gwen out on a date and Eddie sees them together and becomes jealous. Emo Peter does some dance with Gwen at the place Mary Jane works as a waitress just to make Mary Jane jealous...and so on.
And...I WAS ENTERTAINED. I guess it's because I like melodramatic stuff like that. I can really care less if Spider-Man 3 resembles "The O.C."
4. The 3-4 villains are handled appropriately.
It works. Again, I've never read any of the comic books, so how am I supposed to have any expectations on how the villains should be portrayed in the movie? Exactly. I have not the slightest clue.
Sandman is obviously used as the main villain of the movie. Although he is far from the perfect villain and pales in comparison with Alfred Molina's Doc Ock from the second movie, he is a worthy antagonist. The whole redemption/forgiveness dynamic between Peter and Marko is fantastically executed. Marko being the murderer of Uncle Ben ties in quite well to Spider-Man/Peter's relentless detestation towards Sandman. The situation becomes very personal.
Harry/Goblin is an aggressive force in this film. The relationship between Peter and Harry seems more developed, more realized in this installment. There are moments in the film that you see the two characters bond, especially when Harry gets amnesia. The Goblin's villainous quality is never without his angry vengeance towards Peter. The want for personal justice is what makes the Goblin click throughout the film.
The symbiote is a tool of character development. It is Peter/Spider-Man fighting between the good and evil within himself. When Peter gets rid of the symbiote, it is an interesting turn to have the symbiote fall onto no other than Eddie Brock. How is Venom sudden? I think Eddie Brock's rivalry with Peter Parker has been leading up to something self-destructive and horrible, and for Eddie to transform into Venom and attempt to kill Peter makes a lot of sense to me. Sure, Venom only dominates the last few minutes of the film, but that has been the purpose of Eddie Brock's character all along. Fans talk about how the film doesn't do Venom justice, but for a comic book outsider like myself, Venom makes a point about the kind of person Eddie Brock is. Even when Eddie Brock walks right into his own death, Spider-Man still wants to save him. When Eddie Brock becomes Venom, it beautifully contrasts the characteristics between he and Peter. He serves as a foil to Peter Parker, plain and simple.
The villain-hero relationship in this movie are all very personal. What drives them and motivates them are not only for the sake of being villainous or heroic, but it is what lies in the heart of their alter ego, their true self.
5. It is a very funny movie...both intentionally and unintentionally.
- Oh, the waterworks! Am I the only one who thinks Tobey Maguire is a very bad crier? Whenever he cries, it's so...awkward. And funny.
- Emo Peter. Funniest thing ever. I mean, the bangs, the eyeliner, the goofy dancing--how...original.
- Topher Grace as Eddie Brock: Very Eric Forman-esque, but it adds some flair to Eddie. He is a bit of a smart-ass suck-up and is sort of a rivalof Peter's. We're not supposed to like him very much and the dry, cynical sarcasm makes Eddie both charming and fatal.
- J.K. Simmons just nourishes every second he has on-screen as the newspaper editor Peter and Eddie works for. The sense of urgency in every word he utters makes the lines much more crisp and funny.
6. The visual effects are AWESOME.
This movie looks amazing. Alright, I'll admit, the part where Spider-Man is saving Gwen Stacy looks sort of like a typical video game, but the rest looks wonderful. It never occurred to me on how CGI has developed over the years in movies until I watched this. Spider-Man 3 just takes advantage of CGI to the fullest and produce visually extravagant results.
7. Danny Elfman's score is more effective than ever.
Danny Elfman is almost as good as John Williams now. His score really adds suspense to the film, much more than any of the previous films. Tim Burton really overplayed the Elfman score in Batman, but director Sam Raimi finds all the right places to use the score to add an one-two punch to this epically satisfying blockbuster.
8. The ending.
The ending is well...stunning. I've already discussed many of the things that happens in the end in #2, but that shot of Harry's death and Peter and Mary Jane beside him is simply beautiful. The very end where Mary Jane is singing, "I'm Through With Love" at the restaurant she works at as Peter enters and they silently reconcile is a sweet finale to Raimi's splendid opus.
As much as I loved Spider-Man 3, I can also understand why people hate it. It's not for everybody. The movie is a bit goofy and far-fetched. There are a couple of plot holes that some people just don't have the willingness to forgive them. I can also see how a fan who has grown up with the Spider-Man characters can have an entirely different perspective on the film's take. Some people hate this kind of soap operish drama, but I dig that kind of stuff. But I will never understand why people complain about the shot with Spider-Man in front of the American flag. That was like, three seconds.
I felt a rush of giddiness when I watched this movie. It has so much energy injected into every single scene. The cast does a fine and consistent job with their roles The movie has the gleeful wonder of what you expect a comic book movie should look and be like. Spider-Man 3 is pure fun, complete with smashing ambition, profoundness, and drama. Despite the flaws, I absolutely loved it.