[We can have a debate about spoilers on Friday if you like. For now I want to talk about this movie freely while it still matters to people, and before my energy for this subject fades. Major spoilers follow.]
Though we love Romeo and Juliet today, it was considered a bad tragedy for hundreds of years. The point of tragedy, as it was originally conceived, is that there should be something inevitable about the fall of the hero; something intrinsic in his nature is his downfall. Centuries ago people objected that it is just dumb luck that Romeo does not find out about the potion Juliet takes, and so believes she is really dead and kills himself.
Those people would have hated Spiderman 3. At the beginning of the film Marko says "I am not a bad man. I have just had bad luck." At the end Peter gives him the moral: we have choices and we have to make the right ones-- we cannot let luck run our lives. But the film gives the lie to his moral, as the entire plot is driven by the most absurd luck. It is a coincidence that the asteroid lands right next to Peter. That is just bad writing: surely you have the asteroid land, Peter the science nerd goes to the teacher's lab to see it, and it bonds to him because it is attracted to his super-powers; the film suggests it could have just as easily have created a dark Mary Jane. It is a coincidence that Uncle Ben's killer runs into a particle physics experiment just as they fire up the machines. It is a coincidence that Brock is in the church at the exact moment Peter rejects the symbiote; we are lucky it was not Aunt May praying, or she would have been Venom. It is a coincidence Harry gets amnesia until his character is needed for the finale. It is a coincidence that Stacy is Brock's girlfriend, the daughter of the police commissioner, a genius girl in Peter's class AND a supermodel who happens to be in danger from the swinging crane so Spiderman can save her. The proximity of the church bell and and the aluminum rods are a coincidence. Luck may be realistic -- sometimes life just has dumb luck -- but in a film it is just lazy writing.
Because this movie had as much that I liked as I did not like, as much A and B material as D and F material, I think it deserves a C, the mid point between an A and an F. Here is what I am talking about:
Good: That scene with the Sandman forming himself is hauntingly beautiful -- a lesser director would have had him rise like a god; Rami has him rise and crumble, rise and crumble. A pool of sand lit by sunlight. Simple. Lovely.
Bad: Venom needs more screen time -- he should be the center point of the film, not the fourth man in a four man smashup. Obviously the film is overlong and has too many bad guys, which means less time with all the characters. Comparisons to Batman 3 and 4 have been made; it is not that bad, but it is still a big mistake. Peter attempts to kill one early on; that should have stuck. Then you would not have needed amnesia to delay the plot of the other one until you are ready to deal with it.
Good: Parker becomes a jerk on the street. Parker is the perennial loser, the schlemiel; even when he goes bad he is an idiot kind of bad (rather than an evil kind of bad) all black jeans and finger guns. Women look at him like, "Who is this schmuck?" Poor Peter, you have to love him, even when he goes bad.
Bad: But then in the jazz club it all changes; now the audience loves him and you have ruined your tone. Also, Peter Parker does. not. play. piano. He does not know on his own (he is a science guy and a nerd; musicians are cool); Venom did not teach him (because that would be too stupid by half).
Good: Since Peter Parker is the perennial loser, you have to do something different the third time around, so the film addresses the dangers of the opposite, becoming popular. He was well on his way to being a jerk before Venom found him. Mary Jane is right when she accuses him of betraying their moment (the upside-down kiss) for a photo op. The symbiote only exacerbated the existing conflict. We see internal conflict through external conflict. Nice. Also nice were the parallels between Brock and Peter, which work well with the dark side theme.
Bad: Peter and Mary were on their way to a break-up. What on earth is the point of having Harry force it. Just have him overhear and use what he overheard. Stupid.
Good: Flint Marko's little girl is BB from Kill Bill!
Bad: You cannot introduce a dying little girl and then not resolve her plot in the film. Have Peter help her, get money for the operation, SOMETHING. Sand blowing away is not an ending. (Thank you Brad for emphasizing what a mistake this is).
Good: Topher Grace is always fun, and Kirsten Dunst is always a cutie. When she got hit, my whole audience was stunned. Powerful.
Bad: Movies are artificial. Rami used real friends, family, contest winners, boy-scout troops, and fanboys as extras. These felt shoehorned in, badly edited and wrong -- real people such as the kids who say "Cool" "Wicked Cool" and the girl who sells J.J. Jameson a camera (a Rami family member) stand out badly and break the tone.
Good: Making the ring the emotional center of the first fight was wonderful. As an audience member I am PRAYING he does not lose that ring.
Bad: The old people. Stan Lee is dumb, the Village Voice noted that Aunt May sounds more and more like Yoda as the years go by, and Harry has a very convenient butler.
Good: Bruce Campbell as a waiter and the gag with JJ Jameson taking his pills were very funny I thought. Silly, but I laughed all the way through. Spot on fun. Brad noted that what makes Bruce Cambell so funny is that he is such a big cartoon -- he is just bursting at the seams as the waiter and you can feel the pent up energy.
Bad: Flashing back to the bells at the end. I just saw that. I do not need a reminder. I am not addle minded.
Good: Topher Grace praying for the death of Peter Parker. You get his character right there. Also, in my favorite moment in the film, the symbiote arches Topher Grace's eyebrow for him, so he looks extra evil. Hilarious and fun. (Sara pointed this out. Also, she would like to add that Topher needed more screen time.)
Bad: no information about this symbiote beyond, "it came from outer space." If you had less bad guys you would have more time to learn about them, and thus care more.
Good: They fixed the problem from Spiderman 1 and kept the masks off as much as possible.
Bad: Not one but two musical numbers. And a dance number.
Good: The ghost of Harry' father returns to spur his son's revenge of his death with the word's "remember me." I am teaching Hamlet this semester, and cannot wait to see if my students noticed that those words, which I lecture on as a key moment in act one, are the same words that the ghost of Hamlet's father uses before sending his son to revenge his death.
See how I started and ended with Shakespeare.