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What Went Wrong? Spider-Man 3

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Reviewing a bad movie that could’ve been better

Spider-Man 3 image
Sony Pictures

Peter Parker has been moonlighting as New York’s web-slinging superhero for close to 50 years. The Stan Lee invention has seen many incarnations including an impressive cinematic franchise. But, Spider-Man 3 is a bad movie.

One of the most lucrative Spidey stories includes Sam Raimi’s 2000’s trilogy. Yet, the third Raimi outing is a point of contention for many fans of Marvel Comics.

How could something so right, go so wrong? Join me as we take a look at another movie with promise, that fell short.

Was Venom Actually Good?

Sam Raimi’s trilogy saw Tobey Maguire don the red mask and successfully retell the origin and adventures of Spiderman. This was done in Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). A far cry from Raimi’s cinematic background as a horror pioneer with the Evil Dead series.

Both films were a one-two punch of silver screen success. They captured a new generation whilst honouring the original tale for the established fans of the comic book creation.

Yet it was this success that created the pitfalls for the third film in the trilogy. Raimi originally had no plans of including the villain of Venom into Spider-Man 3 due to his “lack of humanity” yet producer Avi Arad insisted.

A gallery of bad guys

All of the villains in the film have human characteristics and motives that fit the narrative. Harry Osborn/New Goblin (James Franco) is the son of the Green Goblin, the villain of the first film and involved in a love triangle with MJ and Peter. Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is a farther, trying to look after his sick daughter and caught in a life of crime. Plus, it’s revealed that Marko was responsible for the death of Uncle Ben, yet another tie to the first film in the series.

Yet, Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace) is just unfortunate. The extra-terrestrial symbiote of Venom crashes to earth on a meteor, and anyone who comes into contact with it just has bad luck. Yes, it affects their personality and holds some weight in the story, but overall it’s just shoehorned into an already busy film.

The number of villains goes a long way towards making Spider-Man 3 a bad movie in the eyes of many fans.

The studio influence

Raimi’s hand was forced following Arad’s case that the studio was receiving a large amount of fan mail about Venom. Sony Pictures also backed the character and the decision was made.

Whilst studio involvement is nothing new, it paints the picture of how this film was created. How it ultimately failed to meet expectations. The success of the two previous films in the franchise made this a high-pressure situation, with the studio keen to maximise every opportunity. This included fan service over the story. Raimi had proven that he could take the reins and create not one, but two successful comic book blockbusters. Ones rooted in human emotion and clear storytelling. By forcing the story of Venom into this film, we begin to see how it was doomed from the start…

Too many characters

Every good superhero film relies on its villains as the backbone of the story. With the inclusion of Venom as well as Sandman, and the New Goblin, every storyline becomes diluted.

After the slow burn and emotional investment seen in the two previous films. Instead we get a half-baked sympathetic backstory for Sandman and the infamous ‘Emo-Peter’ in leu of a credible threat in Venom.

We also have the introduction of Gwen Stacy. Here serving only as a separate love interest to Peter, and adding very little to this smorgasbord of undercooked characters. Stan Lee’s wife Joan was the inspiration for Stacy in 1965. Yet, instead of keeping with her comic origins, she has no back story with Peter, she isn’t killed and she has no real emotional connection with anyone in the film. Her character is stripped away and is replaced by nothing. She is simply the ’other woman’ to Mary Jane. This is one of the main issues with Spider-Man 3 in a nutshell.

Rather than being everything to everyone and overstuffing the text with characters, further investment should have been made into the core cast. This could have been the pay off the groundwork of the first two movies. The dominoes were all lined up ready to fall, but Play Doe and Jenga pieces were thrown instead.

How could it have been better?

Let’s start with the character issue. If the studio was forcing Venom into this film, lets compromise. We see Venom, but we introduce it and set the narrative up for Spider-Man 4 (the film that never happened).

Rather than rushing Eddy Brock and the symbiote through this film, it would slowly build as a subplot. Spider-Man 3 should remain focused on Harry becoming the New Goblin and using Sandman as the ‘muscle’. All whilst linking back to avenge the death of Uncle Ben.

Harry suffering amnesia after a battle with Spider-Man is a wasted opportunity in this film as he simply gets his memory back. Instead, a reveal that he never had amnesia and was playing into Peters compassionate side. This would have been a strong way to show his alliance with Sandman; like how he aided Dr Octopus in Spider-Man 2.

Gwen Stacy

Gwen Stacy’s’ one-dimensional character only adds a second love triangle into this film. Why not use the character to either be the only old friend that sticks by Peter when he loses it all? The only friend he reconnects with after Harry dives a wedge between Peter and MJ? Why not have her murdered by the Goblin/Sandman coalition? Or why not have the only beacon of hope turn on Spider-Man for personal gain?

From the opening shot of Parker watching himself on the outdoor screens, Spider-Man 3 establishes Peters ego at the centre of the film. So have the hero lose everything throughout the film. Then just as he’s pulling his life back together and slaying the demons that have arisen over this trilogy… Venom is born. All nicely setting up film number four.

Was it all bad?

Spider-Man 3 did have a lot going for it in fairness to avoid being a bad movie. The CGI is frequent throughout the film and can still hold up by today’s standards.

Harry and Peters chase through the alley is captivating. Sandman vs Spider-Man in the subway is gruesome. Then Sandman’s first transformation is a brilliant hybrid of cinematic storytelling and technological achievement.

The reliance on CGI can be criticized as part of the downfall of this film, but it adds to its campy nature. The effects and goofy performances all match with the tone of the movie, these are insane stories being told in insane ways. The films third act sees Harry and Peter team back up as Spider-Man and the New Goblin. Whilst a little hoky given Harry’s lineage and his inherited evilness brewing since the first film, it set the audience up for more. It saw a supergroup of sorts, working together against the villain, paving the way for the next step in the MCU with the Avengers.

The last of it’s type?

Whilst the next wave of superhero films took a serious turn favouring grit and drama, Spider-Man 3 was comfortable in its own skin. It knew it was a comedy at the core and didn’t shy away from it. Raimi was able to weave action, drama, heartfelt emotion and comedy into his trilogy without ever taking itself too seriously.

It may be a film, bursting at the seams with underdeveloped characters. But, it also gave us the infamous ‘dancing peter’ and one-liners that salute the comic book dialogue of yesteryear. If Peter was genuinely ‘cool’ and suave when playing the host to Venom, the tone would have been missed. He became this goofy, fake lothario, played for laughs as it embellishes the worst parts of his character. Raimi may have been forced to include this element, but he played his hand well.

Overall

Spider-Man 3 is far from a failure and perhaps it’s harsh to call it a bad movie. Making $895 million worldwide Sony went all out for this film. The PR campaign included a spider exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and Green Goblin mask-making workshop at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

In the end, going ‘all-out’ was the film’s problem. It failed to live up to its two cinematic siblings. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane described the film as a “shambles” which “makes the rules up as it goes along.”

Raimi had a lot on his plate for his third outing the Spider-Verse and he was up against a lot of creative voices wanting input. Ultimately, these voices resulted in a convoluted plot and stunted charters with a lack of substance.

Closing the series

In spite of this, Raimi somehow managed to tie up his trilogy with some poignancy. Eddy Brock, whilst rushed, embodies every bad part of Peter making him a perfect foe. Whilst Harry is impaled by his Glider, mirroring his father’s death in the first film. However, the New Goblin’s death was from giving into his human side, the Green Goblin’s death was from giving in to his Goblin side. Raimi somehow found a way to string some balance amongst the chaos.

Raimi’s final Spider-Man film didn’t fire on all cylinders. He’s has admitted himself he “didn’t really believe in all of the characters”. But within this bulging campy mess, he somehow created 139 minutes of fun and a film that laughs with you, not at you… at itself.


Thanks for reading our review of Spider-Man 3 (2007) a bad movie. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


More from our movies that could’ve been better HERE

Read IMDB information on Spider-Man 3 HERE.

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No Time To Die – Review

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James Bond No Time To Die image
Metro Goldwyn Mayer

No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Delays

Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.

A step up?

This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.

That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.

Screen time

The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.

Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.

There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.

Score

Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.

Duration

The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.

Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.

It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.

Wrapping up

I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.

Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.

It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.

Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.

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