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Spider-Man 3
Your November Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: How long can any man fight the darkness... before he finds it in himself?

Pizza: Joe Peeps




I've seen many comic book movies, but sadly, have enjoyed few. Mostly because I don't care what happens to these heroes any more than I care about what happens to a character in a video game or an L-shape in Tetris.

And it's not like I haven't tried. I've seen 7 BATMEN, 5 SUPERMEN, a DAREDEVIL, a CATWOMAN, a not-so-SUPERGIRL, a FANTASTICly bad 4 (both), 3 X MEN (WOLVERINE? Oh puh-lease...), two less than credible HULKs, ELEKTRA, WATCHMEN and the man in the iron suit. Only two have thrilled me (answers coming up). Sure, an occasional one slips through that's pretty great (oh boy, did KICK-ASS kick ass, and they had the Nic Cage Liability). But you gotta give me this - I've really tried. So it shocks me to say that...I did not hate SPIDER-MAN 3. But...I sure didn't love it either. The theme of SPIDER-MAN 3 is forgiveness (a great theme for a super hero movie), but I can't seem to forgive this movie. At all.

When I was a lad, I loved the Spidey comics and also the 70s cartoon. Hell, I even had (err, still have) the record THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, A ROCKOMIC. So when the first movie came out I was really excited until...I saw the movie. I liked Tobey and Kirsten and the whole origin story, but Spider-Man himself looked wrong. He looked like a cartoon. No, he looked like a video game avatar. I kept feeling like a first-person shooter, like I should have a gun in my hand so I could shoot him and get 200 points. Now don't get me (too) wrong, there is indeed a logic to movies looking like video games, as their demo is largely the video game generation (a demo I'm not in). So it also makes some sense that there are interminable fight scenes where no matter how many things are thrown at you or you're thrown into, you don't really ever get a scratch. But this isn't a video game, it's a movie. Why does it have to be a joystick without the joy (sorry, it was that or "joystick-in-the-mud")?

But with Spidey 3, I seemed to care a little more than usual. In fact, if you removed the comic book from the movie, you'd be left with a pretty decent romantic drama/comedy coupled with its forgiveness theme. It's about the choices we make, be they good or bad, which leads to an underlying theme - good people doing bad things and bad people doing good things. The problem is, the moviemakers are good people doing bad things, because this movie never punches through. First off, there are simply way too many things going on, and because of this, you can lose sight of major threads. In other words, SPIDER-MAN 3 is bloated (IRONY ALERT: Eddie Brock, Parker's photog rival at the Daily Bugle, actually says to Spider-Man, "I've noticed his stuff [Parker's Spider-Man fotos] makes you look a little bloated."). S3 also has moments where it could be really original, and instead, goes for the #1 cliche. That's cheap. And the holes that they don't even make an attempt to fill? That's just lazy. Yep, SPIDER-MAN 3 is bloated, cheap and lazy.

Let's explore. First up, bloated. All these things happen in what feels like a 24 hour period. NOTE: A few spoilers lay ahead...


  • Peter wants to marry MJ.
  • MJ is on Broadway, but after one performance, that dream dies.
  • A meteorite containing black goo (called "symbiote" in the comic world) lands near an unsuspecting Peter Parker.
  • Flint Marko escapes from Rikers, tumbles into a secret particle accelerator, and becomes Sandman.
  • Harry, Peter's best friend, wants to kill Peter.
  • Harry gets amnesia.
  • The police chief's daughter, Gwen Stacy, puts a wedge between Peter and MJ.
  • Harry's amnesia goes away.
  • Harry becomes the New Goblin (or Goblin 2, or Goblin Jr), and wants to kill Peter...again.
  • Sandman wants to kill Spider-Man.
  • Daily Bugle editor Jameson wants to get a picture of Spider-Man doing something bad.
  • MJ breaks up with Peter.
  • Affected by the symbiote, Peter becomes, well, an asshole.
  • Eddie Brock becomes Venom after symbiote slimes him.
  • Venom wants to kill Spider-Man.
That's just too much. And as for the holes, here are a few examples of writing that just seem lazy. Lazy in the sense that, I felt they just said, "We don't have to explain ourselves. Moviegoers won't care." I realize the comic world is different than the real world, but that shouldn't mean you can do anything you want.


  • Why would Flint, still in his orange prison jumpsuit, go to his wife's place to see his kid when "The cops are looking for you!" Seems to me that would be the last place to go.
  • Why doesn't Peter just tell Harry that he didn't kill Harry's father, instead of saying things like "I need to talk to you. Explain things" and "I'm your friend, Harry. I cared about your father." It would have taken ten seconds.
  • When Harry and Peter (in his Peter Parker clothes) have a loud, 5.1 fight that bashes buildings and bricks and glass, not one person in the city sees and hears this??
  • Out of 6.8 billion people, how come there are only two people in the church - Spider-Man and Eddie Brock, who just happens to be praying for Spidey's death? And...to up the odds, Peter's discarded symbiote lands on Eddie?
  • When Venom has Spidey's wrists tied, Spidey can't break free. Yet he does, when it's convenient (in other words, how come he couldn't break free earlier?).
  • How exactly does Eddie/Venom know about Flint? After researching this online, the possible answer is that the symbiote knows what Spider-Man knows, so when it attaches to Eddie, it comes with that knowledge. But even if that's true, how the hell are we supposed to know that from watching the movie??
  • Why doesn't Harry or Eddie ever tell anyone that Peter is Spider-Man?
  • The absolute worse case of laziness occurs towards the end of the movie, when Harry's butler tells him that Parker had nothing to do with Harry's father's death. HUH? NOW YOU TELL HIM? NOW???? You know what, Butler-Man? You're fired.
  • Out of 6.8 billion people in the world, why does the symbiote latch onto one person, a kid who happens to be a super hero?
  • Out of 6.8 billion people, why was it Flint who happened to fall into a particle accelerator?

Okay, I suppose if I were a defense attorney, I'd argue that it's possible that millions of people got slimed by symbiote or fell into particle accelerators that day and that we're just following these two stories. Sure. That must be it. Wait. What? It's a comic book, you say? And that I need to let those things go? Well, no I don't. Maybe if they tackled some of these questions, perhaps weaving them into the story, instead of a popcorn movie they could have made a phenomenal movie. But since they didn't, that means their rules are basically whittled down to one:
  1. To serve the story, anything can happen at any time, with no real logic.
This irks me, in case you haven't noticed. For all the money they put into this film (hang onto your seats...SPIDER-MAN 3 is the most expensive film ever made, though the stats aren't in for AVATAR), couldn't they have made this a bit more...perfect?

As for cheap, here are some cliches they chose to use instead of rise above.


  • Flint's daughter hands him a locket? What is this, 1872? Come on! Couldn't you think of something else? A freakin' pretzel would have worked better, because it's his daughter's and she gave it to him.
  • The character that "disappears" after the truck passes in front of him. Yep, haven't seen that before. And by before, I mean, before the invention of film.
  • Amnesia?????????????

And while I'm ranting...I just figured out why all those fight scenes don't work for me. Let's take the fight between Peter and Harry, a fight with (according to producers) at least 130 shots. But I ask them this - How many of those shots are static? Answer: None. See, I think if we even had one shot (or better yet, fifty) where the camera doesn't move at all, and only the characters do, we'd actually be able to see the fight, or see Spider-Man swooping between buildings. Instead, the camera swoops at 100mph, following them from behind, in front, the side, beneath, and on top. The geography becomes useless, and once that happens, who cares?

Yes, I'm being hard on Spidey. It is, after all, a comic book movie. So I guess my point is really - just because it's a comic book movie doesn't mean you have to settle. And just because the movie made a trillion dollars doesn't make it good or bad, creatively, though I bet the men in the Sony suits have different criteria. Maybe they should watch 1978's SUPERMAN and 1980's SUPERMAN II and see that they're all about story and character, and because of this, hold up today better than any super hero movie. Who will remember SPIDER-MAN 3 in thirty years?

So this is my plea for makers of super hero movies: Respect your audience the way other genres do. You couldn't get away with this stuff in, say, THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Or even BAMBI.

Okay, let me take a breath and tell you a few things I loved about SPIDER-MAN 3. First off, I love how flawed Peter is. He gets revenge-happy, which is surely a human trait. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson after revenge on the fight promoter in the first movie is what helped get his Uncle Ben (not of converted rice fame) killed. But he's still human (mostly), and it's these very issues that torment him. Especially when the symbiote brings out his darker side, in the form of cocky struts, obnoxious behavior and a Crispin Glover haircut. Also, I like that he's still poor (he has a crummy apartment, moped and no cell phone), when he could certainly exploit himself and earn some coin.

And I loved the jazz club scene, a scene that's lost more than one moviegoer. Parker goes for jazz-cool, exhibiting Fosse moves with all the grace of Springsteen DANCING IN THE DARK. But besides the comic relief, the scene ends with a pivotal Jekyll/Hyde that asks - just how dark are our dark sides?

I also really liked, as mentioned earlier, the forgiveness theme. The best line in the movie for me was when Parker corners Eddie, who is begging him to not reveal his misdeed - Parker: "You want forgiveness? Get religion." And then later, both Parker and Eddie take that advice.

And then there's the acting. Boy oh boy do I love Tobey Maguire in this movie. I believe it's Maguire who lifts this movie above what it really is. His performance is so right. It's nuanced when it needs to be, and other times, fittingly over-the-top. But it's the Peter Parker stuff that gets me. Just watch his face when Harry tells him who the other guy in MJ's life is. No, not just his face...his eyes. They are processing the information he's hearing. It's a touch that goes largely unnoticed yet is as, no, is more important than him beating up a bad guy. I also like Topher Grace a whole lot. I mean, he's just good in everything (I've enjoyed him in IN GOOD COMPANY and WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON). Also great, J.K. Simmons (you know, Juno's dad) as Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson.

As for effects, well, I go on record stating that Sandman is, by far, the best villain in decades. Menacing yet conflicted, Sandman is someone you could understand. I never felt that with the stupid Green Goblin. All the Sandman stuff is all great. The transformation scene is the best scene in the movie. It's poetry. That moment when he goes to grab the pretzel, I mean, the locket, and it slips through his sandy fingers...wow. I was thrilled with Sandman.

It's about time we held these movies up to better standards, okay brothers Raimi? We need comic book movies that are less bloated, lazy and cheap. We need them to be smarter. We need to care about the characters (even though the producers on the commentary track kept reminding us how much we care about them) like we cared about Christopher Reeve.

Wrapping up, I'd say that SPIDER-MAN 3 is not a terrible movie. It's a movie that made me feel terrible.


This was a special from 1995. They made another in '98 which we'll get to someday. Our pizza came super fast, so we only got to watch 9 minutes of the show. But that was enough to see two segments. After watching them, we voted to watch more of this episode at a later RMC.

Hosted by Los Angeles radio and TV personality (for over half a century!) Ralph Story (who died in 2006), this was a guided tour telling us about things that, you guessed it, aren't there anymore. Each segment featured people who worked at the venues, reminiscing.

First up, The Big Red Car. Railcars that took you everywhere in L.A. Places you can't even get to today (try getting from Downtown to Venice now). Then came Clifton's Pacific Seas, the first of what would be nine locations. Exotic in a kitschy way, it was a tourist destination as well as local fave. It was a "pay what you wish" place, meaning, they never turned anyone away if they didn't have money. I think Denny's does that, right? This Clifton's closed in 1960, and is now, how does Joni Mitchell sing it? A parking lot. In fact, all but one of Clifton's is gone. There's one left, in Downtown L.A.

When the pizza guy came, the next segment was just about to start. I only caught a glimpse of it, and saw a man riding an ostrich. Yep. We'll be watching more of this one.

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