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Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Excessively Long Analysis of Spider-Man 3 (Part 3 of 4)

We've already broken down what some of the mistakes of Spider-Man 3 were. They wrecked the emotional center of the first two movies, didn't keep Harry's personality consistent, and squandered all the goodwill they earned in the first two installments to the point that they had to reboot the series.

Let's keep piling on!
Venom is one of Spider-Man's most iconic villains. When Sam Raimi complained about him in pre-production and said that he didn't want to use him, it should have thrown up a red flag for us. Usually, if you're forced to do something you don't want to do, you don't give it your all. Venom certainly didn't get the big movie that he deserved.

In fact, Venom was really only like a bit character in Spider-Man 3. We spent so much time on the black suit and how it made Peter Parker all emo and mean that we didn't really get to the meat of Eddie Brock as Venom. When we finally do get a little bit of Venom, all he really does is catch Sandman, asks him to be BFFs and then they go off to fight Spider-Man.

Then, during the final fight, Venom is defeated by bells. Don't get me started on that.

Venom was wasted to such a grand degree that I'm sure the studio wanted him back for the next two installments. Raimi probably disagreed and they ended up parting ways. I wouldn't be surprised if Raimi purposely killed not only Eddie Brock but all vestiges of the suit just so that he could be rid of the character.

I'm sure that in the reboot, Venom is going to appear right at the beginning of the series. I mean, why waste our time doing character-building and slowly making Venom Spider-Man's biggest threat? Why not just jump right to the biggest villain right away? Who needs subtlety in the reboot?

That's why I get so mad at Raimi for using Venom so sparingly. He had an opportunity to take a character that he might not have had a lot of affection for and make it his own. He could have done for Venom what he did for Norman Osborn and Otto Octavious: Make them real characters. Instead, he just sniffed at Venom and tossed him aside, ticking him off like a checkbox on a form.

Next up, let's talk about how Dylan Baker as Curt Connors was used throughout the series. I know they were saving him for something, but all the waiting never produced anything. Maybe they were planning on using him in Spider-Man 4 or 5, but it still doesn't make any sense to wait that long. Curt Conners was already there and had a solid backstory. They could have almost jumped right into the action surrounding him. Instead, they spent an hour developing Flint Marko and wasted everyone's time.

That leads us to another problem. How many major characters were introduced in this movie? Eddie Brock, Gwen Tracy and Flint Marko, and Gwen Tracy's father was in the periphery as the police chief. Why? Why did we need so many new characters this late in the game?

Let's consider one of the best trilogies of the past decade and how it uses characters: The Bourne Trilogy. In the first movie, we're introduced to a lot of the major players. We have Jason Bourne, Nicky Parsons, Marie Kreutz, Ward Abbott and Alexander Conklin. (If you don't remember the character names, think of it this way: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Franka Potente, Brian Cox and Chris Cooper.)

At the end of the movie, only the first four are standing. In the second movie, they add in Joan Allen's character, Pamela Landy. By the end of the second movie, Bourne, Parsons, and Landy are the only major players left.

In the third movie they introduce Noah Vosen, played by David Strathairn. At the end of the movie, we're introduced to Dr. Hirsch, played by Albert Finney. When it's all over, Vosen and Hirsch are in prison, and everyone else is OK.

There are secondary characters who go in and out of the movie as well, but the movies don't concern themselves with filling those players out as much. They focus on the core cast and don't spend too much time worrying about the rest.

Here's the final tally for core characters:

Bourne Identity: 5
Bourne Supremacy: 5
Bourne Ultimatum: 5

Spider-Man 1 and 2 kept the cast pretty constant. They really only introduced Doc Ock in the second movie, and kept the rest intact. In the first movie, our core was Peter, Mary Jane, Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry and Norman. There were other people around the edges, but those were the most important players. In the second movie, it was Peter, Mary Jane, Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry, and Doc Ock. That's it.

In the third movie, our core is now Peter, Mary Jane, Aunt May (who's largely wasted), J. Jonah Jameson, Harry, Flint Marko, Eddie Brock and arguably Gwen Tracy.

Here's the final tally for core characters:

Spider-Man 1: 6
Spider-Man 2: 6
Spider-Man 3: 8

How can you juggle that many core characters in two hours worth of screentime? Unless you're Bryan Singer directing way above your head in X-Men 2, you really can't.

You may argue that Lord of the Rings juggled at least 10 core characters in each installment. That may be true, but each movie had three hours to do it in. When you have more time, you can juggle more characters. It's as simple as that.

What we're getting to is that Spider-Man 3 reached way over its head. It attempted to do too much with too many characters and ended up not developing any of its new leads in any satisfying way.

Now, let's circle back to Dylan Baker. Let's say we take out the Sandman as the big bad and replace him with Dylan Baker playing Curt Connors. Connors is already half-developed in our minds since we know him a little bit. Now we have the ability to spend more time with Eddie Brock and even Gwen Tracy if we're so inclined.

Click here for Part 4!