Written by David Holland
I wrote previously about how the X-Men trilogy started good with “X-Men”, got awesome with “X2”, and then went off the rails with “Last Stand”. If only X-Men had served as a warning to other trilogies that would follow. Alas, the Spider-Man franchise looked at the burning dumpster fire of “Last Stand” and thought… “Yeah, let’s do that.”
What Went Well:
Seeing Venom in a Spider-Man movie is certainly satisfying. Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock fits right in with the witty camp of Raimi’s Spider-verse and watching Brock slowly lose himself to the Venom symbiote is entertaining, even if it doesn’t get as much attention as it could when the film moves on to other priorities. In “Spider-Man 2” we watched the world start out terrible for Spider-Man and get worse, but this film turns that on its head – things are going great for Spider-Man before getting… well… worse.
The action sequences are, of course, on point. A final showdown between Spider-Man and a redeemed Harry-Goblin against Sandman and Venom is a delight to watch. As a bonus, it is Peter’s intellect, not his Spidey powers, that solve the problem of defeating Venom through sonic vibrations – a nice reminder that Spider-Man needs brains and brawn.
What Went Wrong:
I like to say that “Spider-Man 3” suffers from “Villain Overload”. We’ve got Sandman, Harry as Green Goblin, and Venom. Any of these villains could have provided enough emotional resonance to carry this whole story. I don’t love that Sandman is suddenly revealed as Uncle Ben’s “real” killer – it seems like retconning in order to force raised stakes, but if that’s the direction you want to go then that’s plenty. Or Venom, the anti-Spider-Man, could explore the duality of the power/responsibility tightrope. Or Green Goblin could force Spider-Man to struggle against his best friend and deal with the culmination of his failures that helped lead Harry to this point.
This film tries to do all of these things, and therefore doesn’t do any particularly well. Harry’s convenient amnesia delays that confrontation. Instead Harry flirts with MJ, who breaks up with Peter partially because of his erratic, Venom-altered behavior. In fact, Peter’s entire romantic arc is frustrating, from kissing Gwen Stacy (pre-Venom, I might add), to failing to take MJ’s problems seriously (this is the girl of his dreams, I might add again), to the dance. You know. That dance.
Flashy, entertaining, but too full of villains and subplots to do any one thing well.