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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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

I'm not too happy with Mary Jane and Peter's role reversal in Spider-Man 3.

In previous movies, Mary Jane had all the power in the relationship. Sure, many times she was a damsel in distress, but she had a quality about her that made their relationship a little different. She was the unattainable beauty queen from the troubled background, and he was the forlorn, helpless nerd who couldn't bring himself to be with her.


In Spider-Man 3, their positions are reversed. Spider-Man is the toast of the town, and everyone loves him. He's getting great grades and doing pretty good at the Daily Bugle too. That's not a bad place to start our hero in. After two movies of seeing him down-and-out, it's nice to see Peter Parker get ahead a little bit.

At the beginning of the movie, Mary Jane is getting bad reviews for her play, singing in a nightclub and looking like she's bottoming out. Never mind that she just starred in a play and was the face of a fashion campaign. Putting that aside, in a lot of relationships, there's some give and take. Sometimes, you're up and your significant other is down, and sometimes you're down and your partner is up. That's just how life works.

In this instance, it creates a major issue. It's a very significant change to their relationship dynamic. Now Peter Parker has everything and his girlfriend has nothing. He's in charge even before he slips on the symbiotic suit. Peter Parker no longer needs Mary Jane. That's totally wrong for Peter Parker's character. On top of that, in a real relationship, you're happy for your partner when something good happens to them. If they're doing well, it makes you happy. The only way that it wouldn't is if you were completely self-absorbed.

(sound of record scratch) Wait, you mean we've changed another character's personality irrationally? Get out of town!

There's never been any indication that Mary Jane is too self-absorbed. Sure, in Spider-Man 2 she's performing in a play and is kind of upset that Peter's not there, but she has good reason to expect that a person who supposedly loves her would be there for an important time in her life. Heretofore, she's been pretty reasonable.

Of course, now that Peter's doing well, she doesn't like it at all and finds herself upset that the success is going to his head. There's never been any indication that the success is going to his head other than one kiss from Gwen Tracy and his advice to her based on what he's done as Spider-Man. However, because of those things, she stomps out of a dinner with him.

(Side note: I wish Bruce Campbell had a little more to do in Spider-Man 3. I'm a little gay for him now.)

I respect the filmmakers for trying to change the relationship a little bit and seeing if these crazy kids can muddle through. Every relationship hits rough patches. That being said, it was the wrong choice. If you really wanted to make Peter Parker's crash more devastating, how about this: Peter's life is going great. Mary Jane's is still modeling, and her acting is getting good reviews. That way, you keep their dynamic intact.

The added benefit? When Peter's life gets destroyed by the suit, it would be even worse. Peter is cruising along great and gets blindsided. Mary Jane thought her man was good and finds out that he's seemingly awful. It makes their situation that much more difficult to deal with and puts them under even more stress.

We're in the home stretch here, but let's go back and pile on to the movie's biggest flaw: Flint Marko. First of all, we're led to believe that he's some sort of Robin Hood character who only steals because he cares for his daughter and wants to get her treatment. It's a blatantly manipulative ploy. It's like the screenwriters just said, "When in doubt, throw in a sick kid." It's really kind of cynical to think that we're so easily manipulated to think that having a sick kid excuses murder, accidental though it may be.

Plus, with all this money he's supposedly stealing, how much of it actually goes to his kid? We see that he supposedly cares about the kid, but that's really the end of it. There's no follow-up, no attempts to get the money to the mother, and no more attempts to contact his child.

As much as I hated Marko, they could have redeemed it. How about if this scene was in the movie: After a fashion, Marko sneaks into his daughter's bedroom through the window and finds his daughter sleeping. He puts some of the stolen money under her pillow and kisses her on the cheek, leaving some sand on her face. She wakes up and smiles weakly.

The police have been waiting. They burst into the room and slam the window shut behind him. They have him surrounded. The kid is scared. He turns into sand and takes down all the officers while shots echo throughout the room.

Once it's all over, Marko comes back together and the mother comes in the room with a gun in her shaking hand, ready to shoot him. The daughter is scared and scurries away from him, crying. Marko tries to reach for her, but the mother threatens him. Marko can't do anything but escape through a hole that was shot in the window.

He's a freak rejected by his family, and there's nothing he can do about it.

Now you tell me, would that work or wouldn't it? It's just something I threw together in thirty seconds, and it's still a little manipulative, but wouldn't it put a bit of a coda on Flint Marko? Wouldn't it give his arc a little bit of depth and poignancy? Instead, we have him just running around stealing crap while fighting Spider-Man and claiming that it’s for his kid.

Last thing: In the end of the movie, Spider-Man forgives Marko for murdering Ben and Marko floats away. So, we're supposed to believe Spider-Man will just let him go after all the stuff he's stolen, after endangering the life of Mary Jane, directly killing Ben and indirectly killing Harry? I mean, a few minutes ago, Marko was just pounding Peter with a giant sand-shaped hammer, and now they're totally cool?

I think this was due to Raimi really liking Sandman. He liked Sandman as a character and as a concept, and it blinded him a bit. I'll bet he wanted to use Sandman again in the next movie and make him more of a good/bad guy.

Even if that never was the plan, isn't it odd that Venom got such finality and Sandman such an ambiguous ending? Raimi left no doubt that Venom was destroyed. All that was left of Venom was a pile of ash and a tiny bit of the suit left in Curt Connors' lab. Sandman gets away scot-free. It's also a little coincidental that Raimi really liked Sandman and disliked Venom.

Once again: What you like and what you have to do aren’t always the same thing.

So let's tally up the sins of Spider-Man 3:

1) Retconned Uncle Ben's death in the worst way possible, negating the emotional impact of the first two movies retroactively.
2) Ruined Harry Osborn's character arc.
3) Wasted Venom as a character, concept and villain.
4) Attempted to introduce too many new characters and ended developing all of them poorly.
5) Ruined Peter Parker and Mary Jane's relationship dynamic, as well as completely misunderstanding her character.
6) Wasted far too much screen time on Flint Marko and just sort of let him go at the end.

So am I going to watch The Amazing Spider-Man? Probably not. I'm pretty angry about how they ruined Spider-Man. I have interest in re-watching his origin story. I don't care about what happened to Peter Parker's parents. I don't want to see Sally Field play Aunt May.

What I want is for the story that was started by Sam Raimi to be brought to a conclusion the right way. Spider-Man 3 was a huge, disappointing missed opportunity. I know Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can, but it's too bad spiders don't have time-travel powers so he could go back and fix this atrocity of a film.