Just because it's Spiderman 3, doesn't mean you need three villains.
"3's A Crowd"
In a world where "comic book" movies had become a dime a dozen and we were treated to endless promotions for sure-fire flops like Nicholas Cage's "Ghost Rider", there used to be two franchises that fans of the graphic novel could always count on for a quality production: X-Men and Spiderman. The first two movies in each of these franchises clearly qualify as the best four comic book movies ever made. They were supremely entertaining because they stayed true to the essence of the franchise and never went too "Hollywood" by pushing the envelope and doing too much. The experience they gave was basically like watching a comic book play out in real-time. And with the seemingly endless amount of material to draw from, you almost got the feeling that ten years from now we could be watching Spiderman 8 and the film would've still "worked".
Then came X3: The Last Stand. This movie just destroyed everything the first two had worked so hard to set up. It was like the writers said, "Yeah, we know that if we work hard to plot out the storyline the right way, we could be looking at a very long and lucrative movie franchise, but let's just come out with our guns blazing and start prematurely pulling out plotlines, killing key characters randomly, and basically mutilate this series so badly that the only way to repair it is to pretend this movie never happened."
That left us comic book fans with just Spiderman. And that was ok with me. I mean I'm a huge fan of the X-Men, but Spiderman has always been my favorite superhero. And in my opinion, the huge cast of X-Men just didn't work as well in the "two and a half hours of footage every three years" format like Spiderman did. So when it came time for the third installment, I was pretty pumped...
Then I saw the previews. I don't know what exactly it was about them, but they just made the movie come of as "cheesy" to me. Peter Parker grabbing for the ring in slow-motion, James Franco's bad acting as the "new" Green Goblin, the inclusion of The Sandman, one of my least favorite Spiderman villians - all these things just left me feeling a little less than thrilled.
However, when opening weekend came around and the movie started shattering every box office record imaginable and getting good reviews, I started getting excited for the third installment. And then when I heard that Venom, my all-time favorite comic book character, made an appearance, I knew I had to go see the movie. I had originally expected Venom to be the main villian for Spiderman 4. It just seemed like the logical progression after the arrival of Black Spiderman in this film. Part of me felt like the writers were sort of jumping the gun by putting him in this film, but after the last two masterpieces that they churned out, I was more than willing to trust their creative judgements.
And that's where this movie fell apart for me. I went into this movie believing that the people who brought us Spiderman 1 and 2 couldn't possibly churn out the drivel that the previews were so clearly depicting. I silenced my gut instincts and actually expected something good. And in today's Hollywood full of shallow special effects and garbage storylines hyped up to turn a profit, it's never a good thing to expect quality. You're almost always going to be let down.
Before I get onto the negatives, here's what I did like about Spiderman 3...
The Sandman, The Villian - It's always a good thing when a villian is so powerful, you sit there scratching your head trying to figure out how the hero could possibly defeat him. My impressions of The Sandman from old comic books was that he was a grumpy looking oaf in an ugly green shirt who could turn into sand. He just never struck me as a true super-villian. Spiderman 3's Sandman was absolutely incredible. He was enormously powerful, impossible to hurt, impossible to capture - I just didn't see a way to really stop him. I mean, I guess you could've wet him and then frozen him or something, but that's a reach. He was, by far, the most formidable opponent in all of the Spiderman movies.
Gwen Stacy - I always wondered when she was going to make an appearance. From my memories of the cartoon series, Peter actually dated Gwen before he was able to win the heart of Mary Jane. So throwing Gwen in the mix at this point was a much needed changeup of the relationship.
The Overall Storyline - The major plot arch was a good one. Covering the true cause of Uncle Ben's death, Harry Osborne going bad, and then ultimately coming up good and dying, Peter going from Mary Jane to Gwen Stacy and then back to Mary Jane - these were all things that needed to happen in Spiderman 3...
That's by far the biggest beef I have with Spiderman 3. It should've been two movies. The writers tried to cram in so much plotline and so many villians all into one 2 1/2 hour movie that they never had the opportunity to develop any of it. The result was that it all came off extremely shallow and ultimately unsatisfying to any fan of Spiderman. I'll delve into this topic a little bit more, but first, here are some other things I didn't like about Spiderman 3...
The Sandman, The Wuss - I'm totally for The Sandman being a loving father who is only commiting these crimes in the hope that he can use the money to heal his sick daughter. In actuality, that's how most of the Spiderman villians are. Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, The Lizard - these are all good men who were turned evil by some outside force. So adding that wrinkle to The Sandman's character was a good move. However, they played it up way too much. As a result, he was way, way, way too sappy. What they should've done was have him be the loving father, but then make him go completely evil and insane once he gained his powers. That's the type of true-villian this movie entirely lacked.
Venom - Look, if the writer's wanted to really play up the Peter Parker/Eddie Brock parallel by casting Topher Grace, that's fine. Turning the tough Brock into a pencil neck is a creative liberty I'm willing to put up with. But if you're going to do that, there's absolutely no excuse for not altering Venom's voice. All those years when I was reading comic books, I always pictured Venom as having this raspy evil sounding voice that matched his outward look. Now after watching Spiderman 3, my perception of my favorite character is forever scarred. I can't tell you how jarring it was to look at the black behemoth with his monstrous fangs and slithering tongue, and then have the voice of Eric from "That 70's Show" come out from him. That right there almost killed the entire movie for me.
But what may have been even worse is the way that they just wasted the character of Venom by having him appear on screen for all of fifteen minutes before dying. I couldn't believe that the writer's flew through him so quickly. Killing Venom was like having a Royal Flush going and folding on the flop. It was just inexplicable. Yeah, there's a piece of symbiote still alive, and the comics do have Venom being played by several characters. But for the most part, Venom is Eddie Brock. I just don't see the point in ruining such a potentially amazing plotline.
So how should have Spiderman 3, Spiderman 4, and the rest of the movie franchise played out? Here's the master plan that I felt the creators totally tore to shreds by doing too much in this film.
Spiderman 3 - You have the initial battle between Spiderman and The "New" Green Goblin, where Harry Osborne loses his memory just like what happened. Then you have the evil Sandman I mentioned above start wreaking havoc. Next the symbiote suit bonds with Spiderman giving him his increased powers. You have Harry regaining his memory and forcing Mary Jane to end the relationship with Peter. Peter starts getting warped by the suit and begins dating Gwen Stacy. He then does something to hurt Mary Jane that's a lot less lame than the whole ridiculous "dance scene" that actually played out. Black Spiderman fights The "New" Goblin again, and in his rage permanently scars Harry just like in the movie. Peter realizes that the suit is controlling him, but needs his powers to defeat Sandman. In the big final battle, Black Spiderman defeats Sandman, but Peter manages to regain control and spares Sandman's life, choosing to not take revenge for his uncle's death. Peter sheds the symbiote for good...
Spiderman 4 - Peter is with Gwen Stacy. Eddie Brock comes in contact with the symbiote and Venom begins tearing up the city. Venom ends up capturing Mary Jane and using her as bait to lure Spiderman. Peter has to go to Harry and ask him for his help to defeat Venom. Spidey and The Goblin team up to defeat, but not kill, Venom. Harry ends up dying in the fight. Peter gets back with Mary Jane.
Spiderman 5 - Here's where you break out The Lizard. Throw in a little wedding bliss between Peter and MJ, fill in the gaps and you've got yourself a fine flick.
Spiderman 6 - And now, in the grand conclusion to the series, it's time to break out some Maximum Carnage. Spiderman teams up with Venom to take on the most powerful enemy the web-slinger has ever faced!
That's how I think they should've done it. Is the series completely ruined with the premature deaths of Harry and Venom? Not really, although it certainly was a major blow. You could always bring The Scorpion into Spiderman 4, as he eventually becomes the new Venom anyway.
Look, I'm not pretending to have all the answers or be some movie writing genius. But it has been pretty bothersome that both X-Men 3 and Spiderman 3 managed to completely sell-out for the quick bucks instead of building an intricate plotline that could entertain fans for years. The plan has already been mapped out for them in the comic books. All they need to do now is just carry it out. Here's hoping that they do that and save both of these now-struggling franchises.