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Spider-Man is dead. (Review of Spider-Man 3 with SPOILERS)

By Scott Tibbs, May 6, 2007

After watching Spider-Man 3, I was disappointed that the film basically killed the Spider-Man character more effectively than any pumpkin bomb, alien symbiote or electric-powered thug could.

The whole reason for Spider-Man to exist is his guilt over refusing to stop the criminal who would go on to kill his beloved Uncle Ben. Now every time Peter Parker stops a criminal, he is saving his uncle. He knows that "with great power comes great responsibility", and he is trying to redeem himself by putting his life on the line each night.

In a way, this is more powerful than Batman's motivation. Batman avenges his parents every time he takes down one of the lunatics in his rogue's gallery, but there was nothing Bruce Wayne could have done to save his parents from a random act of violence. The tragic event that created Spider-Man, however, was completely preventable.

But it turns out that the random thug from the first movie was not the guy who killed Uncle Ben after all. The killer was Flint Marko, the Sandman. By making the killer someone else, Spider-Man 3 eliminates the motive for Peter to be Spider-Man. Even if he had been responsible and stopped the random thug, Uncle Ben still would have been killed. Worse yet, the killing was basically an accident.

Harry Osborn swore to kill Spider-Man after Norman Osborn died in battle with Spider-Man, and attempts to do so early on in Spider-Man 3. Harry later blackmails Mary Jane into breaking up with Peter Parker by threatening to kill him. Peter, devastated by MJ's rejection and corrupted by the alien costume, attacks Harry in his home and tries to kill him with a pumpkin bomb. This leaves Harry's face horribly scarred.

When Venom and Sandman kidnap Mary Jane and hold her hostage high above New York, Spider-Man knows he cannot defeat both - he could not even defeat the Sandman without the extra power of the alien costume. So he asks Harry for help. Just as all looks lost for our hero, the Hobgoblin flies in to save the day.

While it is understandable that Harry would want to save Mary Jane, his forgiveness of Spider-Man was too quick. While Peter did not kill Norman Osborn, he did try to kill Harry for no other reason than vindictiveness. The final battle would have worked much better had Harry swooped in to fight Venom and Sandman without renewing his friendship with Peter.

There are other problems. Having Peter kiss Gwen Stacy right in front of Mary Jane (and all of New York City) at a public ceremony was silly. Peter should have more common sense than that. In addition, Eddie Brock's descent into madness should have been slower and more believable. Finally, why did Sandman suddenly give up his plan to get revenge on Spider-Man? Having those two set aside their differences was forced. It would have been better to have Sandman simply escape. In the end, there were too many characters and not enough time to delve deeply into all of the sub-plots, even with 2 and a half hours. This should have been split into two 2-hour movies.

Do not misunderstand me here. I liked the movie. The Venom character was a welcome addition to the franchise. The movie captured the animalistic nature of Venom very well, and the special effects were great. (Venom was far too easy for Spider-Man to defeat, however.) Nonetheless, Spider-Man 3 was definitely the weakest of the three movies.

Final Grade: B