"I don't understand, Spiderman doesn't kill people! What happened?"
Written By: Sam & Ivan Raimi
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace
My rating: 4/5
For reasons unknown, the world has turned against our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman. The third installment of the enormously successful superhero franchise has been attcked ferociously by critics and audiences alike. Having loved Spiderman 3, I find myself in the same position as I was in after having loved the first Spiderman movie. I find that I must explain to people that they are missing the point of both Sam Raimi's intentions and of the intricacies of the story. Of course, I won't pretend I wasn't disappointed with Venom and Eddie Brock's miniscule screen time but that was more than made up for by the gloriously fleshed-out character of Sandman/Flint Marko and the wonderfully poignant character arc of Harry Osborn.
The main criticisms of Spiderman 3 seem to revolve around its clutter. Too many storylines, too many characters, too many villains. Well, in my eyes, the clutter in the story reflects the clutter in Peter's life, the clutter which led to the frustration which resulted in his gradual change to emo-Spidey. With problems in his reltionship with M.J., problems with his own self-esteem, and the shock news that Uncle Ben's killer is actually alive and still on the loose, Peter's frustrations mount, descending into that dark place that we all venture into during the hard times. However, most of us don't have evil space oil infecting our bodies and augmenting our dark side until it becomes quite literal. The glory of the comic book story is the literalisation of themes that reality just can't explore. This is never more spectacular than in Spiderman 3. Every action of emo-Peter is an augmented action of any hurt and disillusioned person.
Raimi should be especially lauded for allowing himself the indulgence of 20 minutes of pure silliness, a montage which shows "the new Peter Parker". He's hip, he's confident and he knows how to stand up for himself. Of course, as the montage progresses, the audience begin to realise that not only do we think he looks crazy, but so do the very people he's trying to impress. It dawns on us, at the same time it dawns on Peter, the seriousness of this new lease of life and the implications of the black suit. After a particularly kitsch scene in the bar where M.J. works turns very sour, Peter realises that the suit has affected him in ways he must now confront. In doing so, the oil infects Eddie Brock, Peter's rival at The Daily Bugle. The climax of the film gives Brock (as Venom) a moment of choice, like Peter had, a chance at redemption. Instead of taking it, Brock hungrily lunges after the alien oil ferociously rejecting any chance of humanity, thus resulting in his demise. Raimi's clever use of this mechanism allows the audience to compare hero to villain and therefore forgive Spiderman for his past indiscretions.
Such classic cinematic touches as this, and as the careful illustration of the brutish thug, Flint Marko's struggle with his alpha-male and paternal sides, are what makes Spiderman 3 one of the most cinematically articulate blockbusters of our time. This third installment addresses issues of masculine insecurities and also issues of sociological ideologies of crime and punishment, while never preaching and always keeping entertainment as the key priority.
Raimi commendably maintains the superbly comic-book visual aesthetic he created in the first two films, giving the audience the eye-candy they deserve in a summer blockbuster, but cleverly structures the film in such a way that Peter's character arc is central and connected to the stories of all the other villains. Unfortunately for Spiderman, the misunderstood masterpiece has been sidelined as a lazy action flick, but hopefully time will allow Spiderman 3 its chance in the limelight, along with its predecessors.