Spider-Man 3 (PG-13)
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As you will no doubt recall, I wrote my review of the second movie in this franchise on the night in July that the reboot movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, opened in theaters. Well, now it's November 10, 2012, and that movie just came out on DVD yesterday. (I wouldn't see it until January 2015.) But I suppose this is as apt a time as any to finally watch the third and final movie of the old franchise, for the first time ever (five years after it came out). And, obviously, to write a review. So, here we go. To begin with, it seems to me a lot of people didn't like Spider-Man 3 that much, but I've always looked forward to seeing it anyway, to form my own opinion. As it turns out, I found the movie pretty awesome, for the most part. It did seem as if there were too many different villains, but then again, I thought the way the story ultimately tied together all the seemingly disparate plot elements actually made for a sort of perfect storm. So I can't complain about that. I should also mention that I don't really know about what characters were like in the comics, so some of the characters in this movie I can only compare to how they were portrayed in the TV series The Spectacular Spider-Man (which premiered the year after this movie came out, though obviously I saw it before I saw this). There are definitely some major differences, plot points in the movie that on the surface didn't seem to make sense, or that were unnecessary departures from the original story (I'm pretty sure the animated series was closer to the comics than the movie was). But again... I think any changes made for the movie actually served the story that was being told. As the movie wore on, I began seeing that the changes that bugged me at first were in fact more necessary than they originally seemed. So I guess I can't complain about that, either. And in the end, I thought this movie served as a fitting climax to the trilogy.
Peter Parker starts this movie happier than he ever was in the first two movies. The city of New York adores Spider-Man, Peter himself is finally dating Mary Jane, he's doing well in school (we even get to see more of Dr. Connors), and basically, everything seems right with the world. Well, almost everything. See, at the end of the second movie, MJ learned that Peter was Spider-Man, and chose to be with him in spite of the problems that might cause. But Harry also learned that he was Spider-Man, so of course he ended his friendship with Peter. But other than that... things were great. Peter was even planning to propose to MJ. But naturally, his happiness couldn't last, or there'd be no movie.
Meanwhile, there was this escaped convict named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), who it turns out was the guy who really killed Ben Parker (he was an accomplice of the guy from the first movie who had supposedly done it). This is one of the changes that annoyed me, at first. But we're also supposed to feel sorry for Marko, because he'd turned to a life of crime to try to get money to help his daughter, who is very sick. (I don't recall ever hearing about Marko having a daughter in the animated series, but I have no idea about the comics. And my memory's not perfect, anyway.) Anyway... the cops are chasing him, and he stumbles into some inexplicable experiment that involves sand and radiation, I guess. And the sand basically fuses with him, changes his entire physiology. He becomes sand, himself, but he learns to control his shape, so he can look like himself. And has new sand-based super powers.
Also meanwhile, while Peter and MJ were on a date, a meteorite crashed near them, and some black goo came out of it, and hitched a ride on Peter's scooter. It eventually goes back to his place, and then just sits around doing nothing, for quite awhile. Also, there's a new photographer named Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), looking to replace Peter at the Bugle. And he's more than willing to do whatever it takes to get a photo of Spider-Man committing a crime, which is of course what Jameson has always wanted. (This characterization is quite different from the show, but I can't imagine how Eddie could have been involved in the story without drastically changing the character for the movie, or at least, if he hadn't been changed, his plot would have been too similar to Harry's.) Also, Eddie has a girlfriend named Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who happens to be Peter's lab partner in Dr. Connor's class. I was under the impression before seeing the movie that she was going to be a romantic rival to MJ for Peter's affection, which bugged me, because I had no idea who she was, and I always loved Peter and MJ together. However, when I saw the series, I became more of a Peter-Gwen shipper, so I had no idea how I'd end up feeling about her in the movie. I just figured I could root for different teams in different incarnations of the story. But now that I've seen the movie... meh, she's really not that important, in this incarnation. Nothing more than one of various symptoms of the problems that begin to erode Peter and MJ's relationship.
Anyway... fairly early on, we see that Harry has been using his late father's serum or whatever, to enhance his strength and whatnot. And he uses some of the tech that Norman Osborn had used as the Green Goblin, to attack Peter. That was a pretty awesome fight scene... which ended in Harry suffering injuries that left him with amnesia. He didn't remember his fight with Peter, or much of anything that had happened in the last few years. So he and Pete and MJ could all be friends again. Very convenient, and one bright spot in Peter's life.
However, after Peter and Aunt May learned that Uncle Ben's real killer was at large, Peter became obsessed with finding him, which apparently put him in a mental state that the black goo from space had been waiting for. It attached itself to him, becoming a black Spider-Man suit, replacing the good old red & blue suit. It also gave him more power than he'd ever had. So he was happy. But it soon started making him do things he never would have done if he was in complete control of his wits (even if they were things some part of him might have wanted to do). This contributed to the problems that developed between Peter and MJ, but there were problems to begin with. Pete... well, he was too caught up in the city's love of Spider-Man to really understand the way MJ felt about certain aspects of her life that weren't going so well. Which made it harder for her to be completely open with him about her problems, so without Pete even realizing it at first, they were growing apart. This meant MJ needed someone to talk to, and that turned out to be Harry.
Eventually Harry gets his memory back, and decides to hurt Peter by messing with his relationship with MJ. And that in turn makes Peter more susceptible to the influence of the black suit. And before long, the movie gets darker than either of the previous movies. For awhile, Peter is enjoying his new attitude, just doing whatever he feels like (which includes getting his job back at the Bugle, effectively ending Eddie Brock's chance of a career, and also steals Gwen from him... sort of). Naturally, Eddie wants revenge. Meanwhile, Peter eventually does things that make him realize he needs to escape the space goo's influence once and for all. And the goo doesn't take kindly to that....
Shut up. I know I'm probably making it sound silly. But it's not. Trust me. I also know it sounds like I've explained enough plot for two and a half movies in this one review, but I haven't. Trust me. I've left a lot out. Sort of. It's a hard movie to explain in a basic way without giving away a great deal. But this is all essential information, okay? By the way... let's dispense with using terms like "space goo" and "black suit." As Dr. Connors called it, it was a symbiote. People who are familiar with other incarnations of Spider-Man will know to call it "Venom" (or maybe Venom is just what the goo becomes... after Peter rejects it); either way, I don't think the name "Venom" was ever used in this movie, but we might as well call it that. Anyway, people who know Venom will know what the space goo does when Peter casts it off, but I'm not spoiling that. And I'm not gonna say anything about the movie's final four-way battle. (Oh, also I apologize for switching between past and present tenses at different points. I do that sometimes. Because I suck.)
So... my overall thoughts on the movie are that it was complicated, and dark. And that if this were a completely original story with no previous incarnations, I probably would have liked it a lot better than I did. As it is, I have to compare it to "The Spectacular Spider-Man," which I liked a lot more than this movie. But it's an unfair comparison, because TV shows have a lot more time to tell a story than movies do. Even so, there are some plot points that the movie maybe could have handled better than it did. But I feel like the things most people (including critics) complain about- primarily, too many storylines- weren't really a bad thing. Like I said, it all ties together, even if I'm not really explaining how, except that it's all connected to Peter's personal descent and subsequent redemption. (It's not just too many villains for the sake of too many villains, like say, "Batman Forever" or "Batman & Robin.") Other than that... I could say the movie has considerably less humor than the first two Spidey films, but there is some. And it has awesome special effects, awesome battles... but mostly, awesome personal drama. And a satisfying resolution to various plot threads that were created in the first movie, so... the trilogy comes full circle. Before seeing the movie, I was a bit upset that a totally new Spider-Man franchise was being started instead of continuing this one, but now... I see it as a fitting conclusion to the original film series. Which makes me more eager than ever to see the new franchise, dammit....