Because you demanded it, we’re back with more breakdowns of the super hero movies you love, hate, and love to hate! Last time we covered the terrifying highs and gut wrenching, suicide inducing lows of the Batman franchise. This time we’re going with something a bit lighter, the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider-Man franchises. That’s right, five movies of web slinging, cool villains, not so cool villains, great character moments, horrible character misfires, great casting, worst case scenario casting, all of it. From Raimi to Webb, Dunst/Howard to Stone, Maguire to Garfield, we’ll cover it all.
First up, the one that started it all, and really kicked the super hero movie craze of the early 21st century into gear…
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Uncle Ben), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Joe Manganiello (Flash Thompson), Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant), and Bruce Campbell
Plot: Peter Parker is bit by a genetically modified spider gaining the proportionate strength and agility of a human spider. After his Uncle Ben is killed by a car jacker and he learns the killer is a man he could have stopped before, he tragically learns the lesson ‘with great power must also come great responsibility’. Now, as Spider-Man, he tries to balance fighting crime and the new menace of the Green Goblin with his personal life, which includes his now widowed Aunt May, his best friend (and son of his new enemy) Harry Osborn, and the girl he loves, Mary Jane Watson, as well as a new job taking pictures for J Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle.
Erik Smash: I don’t care what anyone says, this movie is awesome. Sure it’s got it’s flaws, but there’s two very important things of note about the Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire Spider-man movies: this series is very clearly influenced by the classic Stan Lee / Steve Ditko comics of the 60’s and these movies were practically pioneers of the genre. Prior to this we had the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, the early Batman movies (which we reviewed last time) and the first X-Men movie (which was completely different in tone). Before Iron Man, the Avengers, and a billion other super hero films, this was the one that set the standard for what a comic book movie could be.
This movie (and X-Men) were very influential in my addiction to comics, even before the damn thing hit theaters! Spider-man had one slick marketing campaign. This was back in the early days of online movie speculation, kids. I remember when I first saw that promotional image of Spidey’s suit and I was hooked.
I remember playing the game (on PS1) and learning everything I could about the world of Marvel, which led to a rabbit hole of character bios and story arc summaries. I even remember asking my uncle about who the Fantastic Four were, what’s up with this Captain America guy, and why super villains always seemed to have armies of henchmen operating out of the sewers. (He just shook his head and sighed, then handed me a stack of graphic novels) I picked up the Ultimate Spider-man comic series (by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley), shoved my home work into the trash, and waited fifteen minutes to download the teaser trailer on dial up internet.
That trailer, by the way, featured a really badass scene that was later cut from the film. It showed group of bank robbers escaping into a helicopter only to be caught in a gigantic web between the Twin Towers. And then 9-11 happened, and the movie was delayed a year. Fuck those terrorists.
That’s when I realized our world does have real life super villains, but heroes are few and far between. In a very real way, Spider-man showed us all that literally anyone could be a hero. We might not be able to control what happens to us, but we can choose who we are and what we do about it. Peter Park didn’t choose to get bitten by a genetically modified super spider, but he did choose to use his abilities to help people and punch goblins in the face. It might seem cliched at this point, but this movie really drove home Uncle Ben’s message: “With Great Power, must come Great Responsibility.”
Oh yeah, so back to the movie itself, I really loved it. I saw it probably five times or so in the theaters. I even snuck into watch it one time after seeing ‘Attack of the Clones’. The action, the humor, the awkward ‘teenage’ romance, and Danny Elfman’s powerful score, all of it worked. It’s a classic and very re-watchable. In fact I’ve seen it so much, I have to stop myself from quoting the whole thing. In retrospect though it’s a bit formulaic and that might be because so many movies have built off of the tropes this one first set up.
Some of the dialogue is admittedly terrible, but I think the actors do a decent job with what they have. Tobey is great as an awkward and nerdy teen, but… well, a little awkward and goofy as Spidey. Some of his lines are atrocious, but then again some of the old Spider-man comics aren’t much better. I think Kirsten Dunst does a decent job as Mary Jane, she’s cute and stuff. James Franco does a really good job as Harry Osborn, Peter’s conflicted friend and future adversary (his entire story arc is really well done up until part 3 – more on that to come).
Most of the supporting characters could’ve been ripped directly from the comics. J. K. Simmons especially nails it as the ridiculously over the top Editor and Chief of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson. Then there’s Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn. Dafoe is uber creepy as Norman, his face gives me nightmares, but then he puts on the Green Goblin mask and becomes a knock-off Power Ranger villain…
And that brings me to probably the biggest problem with the movie: the Green Goblin. Norman Osborn himself is handled really well in the movie. One of the best scenes in the movie is where Norman figures out Peter’s identity during Thanksgiving dinner. As the Goblin, he has the potential to be a terrifying villain, but he’s handled like a joke. I think it’s because they figured there would be kids watching it, but if you look at the original Alex Ross designs, he’s pretty cool looking.
Even so, the final fight scene kicks all kinds of ass.
After making Spider-man choose between saving Mary Jane and a tram full of kids (to which he chooses both), the Goblin grabs Spider-man and slams him into the ruins of an abandoned building where he proceeds to beat him senseless. It reminds me of a scene from Rocky. The Goblin then threatens his loved ones, giving Peter the strength to get the upper hand. Spider-man punches him so hard he starts to dent the Goblin’s dumb mask. Norman reveals himself and attempts to trick him and ends up impaling himself on his own glider.
Norman’s last words are “Don’t tell Harry.”
For some reason Peter doesn’t tell Harry, leading to his friend blaming Spider-man for his father’s murder and swearing revenge. Meanwhile, Peter decides it’s too dangerous for Mary Jane to date him. All in all a great open ending that leaves you wanting more, in the best way possible.
ComicZombie: I freely admit that out of all of the Marvel and DC characters, Spider-Man is the one I nerd out over the hardest. I have an obscenely large collection of Spider-Man comics and know the characters, their histories, and their powers and personalities like I know the people in my own life.
So, as you can imagine, when they announced this was happening back in the 1990’s I was through the roof excited. James Cameron directing? Sweet! Leonardo DiCaprio as Peter Par- wait. Sorry, wrong movie. Sam Raimi directing? Well, I love Evil Dead like nobody’s business, but I was a bit skeptical his talents would translate to Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker? I wasn’t terribly familiar with his work. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane? You mean that little kid from Interview with the Vampire? Hmmm. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn? OK, now THAT I could get behind.
Still, I was very skeptical about this movie. I thought it had the potential to be just like all of the other super hero movies that weren’t the first Burton Batman movie, or the recently released Blade, and that it would suck a huge bag of dicks.
Then the teaser came out (whoa…). Then the full trailer came out (WHOA!). Then a crazy barrage of marketing, with everything under the sun running Spider-Man themed commercials. Like every comic I bought had an ad for the movie. All of the right people were saying all the right things. It got to the point that a few months before the movie came out I was counting the days. I just had a feeling it was going to kick ass. And, sure enough, I was not disappointed.
It hasn’t aged well in more than a few areas. Specifically, Mary Jane is horrible, Aunt May and Uncle Ben seem like they were cast simply because they were old, and Maguire, for all that he does right, just seems so…wimpy? I dunno, I can’t ever put my finger on it, but something just seemed a little bit off about him at times. Maybe it was the dialogue, which at times is really clunky, or maybe it was the fact that he was the only one not named Dafoe that actually tries to freaking ACT in this movie (seriously, Franco and Dunst are a train wreck). I dunno.
But don’t get me wrong, despite some nitpicking, I really loved the movie. It was a trend setter in so many ways, and was about a thousand times better than X-Men, or really any other super hero movie before it.
Spider-Man looks great. The costume is pretty spot-on, and the CG holds together reasonably well to this day. Like Erik said, my major complaint was the Green Goblin costume. I liked Dafoe’s portrayal, and feel at times he’s legitimately creepy and intense. But they covered his face with that ludicrous costume…
Their fight at the end of the movie is terrific. It’s really brutal. Spidey gets his ass kicked all over the place.
The best surprise to me, however, was JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. The ol’ flat topped, Hitler mustached newspaperman was absolutely perfectly cast and portrayed. Of all the characters in the film series, he is the closest to his comic book counterpart.
The one thing this movie does not have that I think it was missing is humor. Sure, it’s got some kind of funny bits and lines here and there, but it just didn’t have the sense of humor I think it needed. Although, to this day I laugh any time anyone says “Bone Saw is reeeeaady!” Oh, Macho Man, you went and done did it again.
Spider-man 2 (2004)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Alfred Molina (Dr. Otto Octavius/Dr. Octopus), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Dylan Baker (Dr. Curt Connors), Donna Murphy (Rosalie Octavius), Daniel Gillies (John Jameson), Bill Nunn (Robbie Robertson), Willem Dafoe (Harry’s hallucination), Cliff Robertson (Ghost Uncle Ben), Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant), and Bruce Campbell
Plot: Spider-Man must battle Dr. Octopus for the fate of New York City, while, as Peter Parker, he tries to balance his time between his friend Harry Osborn (who hates Spider-Man and blames him for the death of his father), trying to win over Mary Jane Watson, his work for the Daily Bugle and his schoolwork at Empire State University.
Erik Smash: Spider-man 2 was, for a long time, considered one of the best super hero movies ever made. This, of course, was back when there weren’t really a lot of super hero movies to choose from, but still, it’s a damn good sequel. I love how this one really builds on the first one – Harry becomes obsessed with destroying Spider-man, regardless of the cost, MJ and Peter grow closer, which complicates things with his secret identity, and Spider-Man faces his greatest challenge yet: Doc Ock!
This movie definitely goes full-on super hero soap opera, but it works, because that’s kind of what makes the Spider-Man comics good. I like how it feels like you’re living a day in the life of Peter Parker, but at the same time, for a movie that features Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis, you’d think there’d be a lot more action. That said, the action in this movie is top notch.
The movie opens similarly to the first one, but this time we see a recap of the events of the first movie in comic book form, with the Danny Elfman theme slightly revamped. I am absolutely surprised this hasn’t since become a trope of these movies, because it’s very effective. You don’t even really need any exposition reminding the audience of what happened in the last movie, you just jump right into the next one.
For an otherwise great movie, there’s some really shoddy plot conveniences that pop up. That fusion generator stuff doesn’t really make a lot of sense for reasons not really worth going into, but Doctor Octopus himself is pretty badass. I also love the “Spider-man No More” storyline influence (from Amazing Spider-man Issue #50, for those keeping score), but him losing his powers was never really explained, except that he was depressed. However, it does work within the story even if it’s kind of a rip off of Superman II… but better executed.
Comic Zombie: This is what I’m talking about. Dr. Octopus and s non-origin story. As the kids say, this is better than a cherry phosphate from the corner drug store!
There are a few things that irk me about the film, so I’d like to get them out of the way before I nerd out.
First, I don’t like how they made Octavius sympathetic. His arms are really the bad guys in the movie. That doesn’t work for me. Dr. Octopus is a nasty bastard, and the very last of Spidey’s villains to have any kind of redeemable qualities, even over Norman Osborn.
Second, tritium. What the hell? Trying to create a self-renewing energy source for Oscorp is fine, but this shit made about as much sense as an NFL team drafting a club footed, blind midget to be their quarterback. The arms aren’t really explained, either. We just know that the energy source goes out of control and tries to ‘eat’ everything, and that the control chip on the arms shorts out which causes Ock to go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.
Third, the Mary Jane relationship is cringe worthy. Part of it is the dialogue between her and Peter, part of it is the plot dealing with them is stupid, and a big part of it is Kirsten Dunst being horrible. Really, her Mary Jane isn’t Mary Jane at all. She’s like a new, less interesting version of Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy rolled together that isn’t as good as either one of them. Also, she’s a total bitch. She uses John Jameson to get over Peter, then as soon as she finds out Peter is Spider-Man she ditches John- AT THE ALTAR ON THEIR WEDDING DAY- to go be with Peter? Fuck you, cunt!
Fourth, Rosemary Harris is awful as Aunt May. Just… no.
Finally, while the whole ‘losing his powers’ thing is from the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics, it does not fit in this movie the way it is used. It’s never explained properly, and is really a useless sub plot.
Now, onto the good stuff!
First, Doc Ock is awesome. He just don’t give a fuck. He’s a bank robbing, train smashing, people tossing sumbitch. When he’s not on screen I’m waiting for him to get back on screen. The scene where the doctors are trying to remove his arms and he just starts murdering everyone is GREAT, and is, in my opinion, the coolest thing in the series.
The fight scenes are excellent. The uses of Spider-Man’s powers are on full display, and look fantastic.
The train sequence is awesome (at least until Spidey takes his mask off). Discounting that these movies are supposed to be taking place in New York and New York does not have an elevated train system, it’s really intense and flows beautifully. From the top of the train to the side of the train to Spider-Man getting tossed off of the train back to the top of the train all the way to Doc Ock ripping the train’s brakes out (such a bastard) and going “You’ve got a train to catch.” It’s just awesome. However, it loses a lot when Spider-Man takes his mask off because it got a little burned and is just traipsing around in front of hundreds of passengers with no mask. He couldn’t have sprayed some web on or something?
Harry finding out Peter’s secret. It had to happen, and when it did you just knew bad shit was coming.
The ending had some cool stuff in it. Not the redemption and death (sigh) of Doc Ock, or the ‘Oh, God, look away!’ slow motion MJ running to Peter stuff, but what SHOULD have been the real ending. Harry starting to lose his shit and hallucinating his father, accidentally discovering the Goblin lair, and the slow pan out of Harry, his back to the camera, alone with his twisted legacy. It should have led to a new Green Goblin for the third movie that was a serious, dark, personal vendetta between two former best friends.
Spider-man 3 (2007)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn/The Green Goblin), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock/Venom), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marko/Sandman), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Dylan Baker (Dr. Curt Connors), James Cromwell (Captain Stacy), Bill Nunn (Robbie Robertson), Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant), and Bruce Campbell
Plot: Spider-Man must face the quadruple threat of the deadly Sandman, his friend turned enemy Harry Osborn (now the Green Goblin), the alien symbiote Venom, and sliding down the deadly slope towards being emo and …dancing?
Erik Smash: For a movie following two of Spider-man’s greatest enemies, it seems like a really odd choice that they picked The Sandman as the main villain this time around…
I was actually super pumped about this movie. The first two were great and the trailer to this one looked even better. Unfortunately, like many a trilogy, the third one missed the mark.
This movie actually starts out fairly promising, I love the Stan Lee cameo (per usual), and it’s nice to see the city supporting Spider-man for once, because you know shit’s bout to hit the fan, BUT you don’t expect to hate him even more than J. Jonah Jameson does by the end of the movie. Seriously, this movie really does it’s hardest to make you dislike the title character!
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
The stuff with Peter and Mary Jane is fine, even the scene with Mary Jane in the musical is very well done (including the ominous shot of Harry on the balcony) and the scene where Aunt May gives Peter the ring to propose to MJ is truly heartfelt. Then Harry becomes the Goblin and attacks Peter without his mask! That fight scene’s actually pretty intense, and I actually really like the new Goblin design with the blades, minus the snowboarding mask, but whatever, it’s a pretty bad ass fight.
Unfortunately this might actually be the highlight of the movie and we’re only 15 minutes in…
Then the fight scene takes a dramatic turn when it looks like Peter may have actually killed his friend.
This is where the movie takes a VERY dramatic turn… for the worse.
We’re introduced to Flint Marco, a two bit thug that we’re apparently supposed to care for more than the hero of the story, all because his daughter’s sick, but instead of getting a job and working on raising awareness, he decides to rob banks, break out of prison and shoot Uncle Ben.
Oh yeah, they decided to retcon a key moment that this entire trilogy is supposed to be built off of. Flashbacks can be very useful, but they can also be very overused. I have never seen so many flashbacks in a movie. It just kept reminding me how I wish I was watching a better movie, like the first two.
Anywho, they introduce Flint Marco in such a ham fisted way, it’s kinda like ‘Here’s our villain, but he’s sympathetic, don’t you feel bad for him? Oh by the way he killed Uncle Ben, so you know, fuck that guy… but wait, he has a daughter, so Spidey should go easy on him, right? Wait, no yeah, he definitely killed Uncle Ben for no damn reason. And now he’s trashing the city… Why are you letting him get away?!’
Then out of nowhere, even before the ‘black goo’ latches onto Peter, our main character starts to act completely out of character. Throughout the movie he’s a selfish prick. He’s a jerk to Mary Jane, he’s a jerk to Aunt May, he’s a jerk to Captain Stacy, he’s a jerk to Gwen, and he’s even a jerk to J. Jonah Jameson (ok that was kind of awesome).
Then if that’s not bad enough, MJ is even more of a selfish bitch than she was in the first two movies, but then I kind of don’t blame her with the way Peter treats her. Not only does Peter treat MJ like shit, but he then uses Gwen to get back at her. I really don’t understand why she goes back to him by the end of the movie. They both just seem terrible for each other. Which sucks, because the opening line of the first movie was that it was all about Peter and his love for a girl and the second one was ALL about how they were destined for each other (which is why they decided not to include Gwen, but oh wait….)
And if all that’s not bad enough, you then have James Franco turning in the cheesiest performance of his career as Harry Osborn. After starting out as the uber-vengeful Son of Goblin, Harry conveniently loses his memory and then immediately starts palling it up with Pete like the good ole’ days, that we never really got to see. It actually makes Peter look like an emotionally abusive asshole… which he clearly is given the evidence by his relationship with Mary Jane. Harry then remembers that Peter is Spider-Man, who allegedly killed his father (via another flashback), and decides to use Mary Jane to get back at Peter.
Then Peter shows up, trashes the Osborn mansion and almost kills Harry with a pumpkin bomb to the face (another cool scene in an otherwise craptastic movie). A few scenes later, Harry’s butler comes out of nowhere and reveals that not only is he fully aware of all the shady stuff his father was up to, but he decides to take this moment to have a heart to heart with Harry about the fact that he knew all along that Norman had killed himself.
Which kind of makes Harry’s butler the ultimate villain of the entire trilogy, because it seems that if only he’d acted on that information earlier… but I digress. What’s sad is I actually think Harry’s butler might be one of the only redeeming qualities of this train wreck.
Then you have a series of scenes that don’t seem to belong in this movie: Peter being emo, dancing, and being a total douche? Check. Harry and MJ making omelets? Check. Venom without proper set up? Yup…
When I heard that BOTH Gwen Stacy and Eddie Brock were going to be in this movie, I got really excited. Unfortunately Eddie Brock was horribly miscast (nothing against Topher Grace) and as hot as Bryce Dallas Howard is as Gwen, she really doesn’t fit in this movie. In fact you kind of wonder why Peter doesn’t dump Mary Jane for Gwen so that Harry can live happily ever after with MJ, and then Eddie can hook up with Betty Brant at the Daily Bugle or whatever.
So yeah, as the movie’s coming to a close we’re introduced to our third and final villain as Topher Grace is inexplicably taken over by the symbiote and becomes a shitty version of a great villain from the comics and teams up with a crappy version of a stupid villain from the comics to take down Spider-Man for no reason that I can easily discern.
I might be in the minority here, but I do kind of like how Peter and Harry overcome their differences and work together at the end, but it seems too little too late, and why the hell did they have to go and kill off Harry the way they did?! Mary Jane gets captured… AGAIN! Spider-Man loses his mask… AGAIN! The villain is redeemed (and subsequently dies)… AGAIN!
Originally I was kind of pissed they were rebooting the series after only a few years, but after re-watching this mess, I am sooooo glad they did, because… wow…
ComicZombie: I am going to go against type here and defend this movie a bit.
It gets a really, really bad wrap that I don’t think is fully deserved.
First of all, Sandman is not lame. He’s actually really cool, and other than a few missteps that I will get to, I think he was portrayed really well. Harry Osborn is really great at one point in this movie, when he gets to embrace being a villain. And Venom looks awesome. The action scenes are terrific, the special effects are amazing, and the black suit looks really, really cool. But there are problems, and people focus on them and seem to forget the good stuff (the subway fight? COME ON, that was the shit!!).
First, I will attempt to address where I think this film went wrong, then I will cover the stuff it did really well.
OK, so the wrong:
-They tried to do too much.
In this movie they tried to introduce the Sandman, Eddie Brock, Gwen Stacy, Captain Stacy, the alien symbiote, and Venom, all while continuing the story of Peter and Mary Jane, Harry’s journey to Goblin-hood, and Spider-Man’s acceptance by the populace of New York. It’s just too much for one movie!
Take the Stacys and the Venom/symbiote stuff out altogether and save that for another movie, or take out Sandman and the Stacys and give more time to Harry and actually explain where the symbiote came from and how it works, then set up Venom for the next movie by the end. Break Peter and MJ up, bring in the Stacys and Sandman for the next movie, and halfway through have Venom make his debut.
-Emo Peter… The symbiote should have made him stronger, and less inhibited, yes. But dance-y and emo? NO. NO NO NO. So much no.
It would have been fine if Harry was pretending so that he could really fuck Peter up, but we just spent a whole movie building to this fight, and then over half of this one avoiding it. Unnecessary and it works against the movie. And you can have Harry somewhat redeem himself by the end, but don’t kill him off. STOP KILLING ALL OF YOUR VILLAINS! Put him in jail, where he can operate under the radar, Peter is terrified he will let his identity out, and he can come back for sequels.
I know Erik likes this bit, for some unknown reason, but my God is it awful. This old raisin of a human being might have the worst line delivery I have ever seen outside of Halle Berry in the X-Men films. “I cleaned your father’s wounds, sir,” indeed. And, like Erik said, why in the ever-loving shit did he not mention this rather fucking important piece of information to Harry sooner? “Harry, I noticed you’re going rather batshit insane, might I mention that your father was a murdering super villain that killed himself? And that your friend didn’t do it? K Thanks Bye”. Alfred, this guy ain’t.
-Sandman killing Uncle Ben.
Besides the fact that it completely changes the whole “My not acting when I should have led to my Uncle’s death, now I feel super guilty and have to make it up to him by being a hero” thing, having Marko be the one to shoot Ben, albeit accidentally, adds nothing to the story other than a reason for Spider-Man to be pissed at him. It’s out of nowhere, and completely unnecessary.
-Symbiote drops out of nowhere, no explanation.
This was so lazy it’s mind boggling, and really points to the fact that Raimi had no interest at all in the storyline. Especially since you have already established John Jameson as an astronaut. Why not have his him come back from a mission with some weird thing they found, either on the ship or on the moon or something, like on the animated series from the 90’s? If a kids’ cartoon from twenty years earlier did something better in just a few minutes you know you messed up. Also, there is not explanation for how it works other than a very, very brief scene with Dr. Curt Connors that really just pays lip service to it. Could have been, and should have been, so much more than it was.
-Venom and Sandman’s team-up.
I wasn’t bothered by the team-up, per se, but how it came about. Sandman rebuilds himself after nearly being killed by Spider-Man attacking him with a ton of water, and the two just sort of run into each other and are like “let’s get ‘im!” In the video game adaptation of the movie, Venom grabs Sandman’s daughter and threatens to kill her if he doesn’t help kill Spider-Man. That’s twenty times better than the scene in the movie, which feels like they just threw it together in post production.
-NO DANCING! Do I really have to explain this? It’s the first thing people point to when they bash this movie.
OK, so that is the stuff I didn’t like, or thought could have been handled better. Now, on to what I liked:
-The Sandman effects were incredible. Regardless of how you feel about his inclusion in the film, or how he was handled story-wise, you have to admit that he looks perfect. The scene where he first tries to reconstitute himself is breathtaking. Everything about how he looks and moves, and how his powers work, was done perfectly, and shows how much affection Raimi has for the Ditko villains.
-The fights between Peter and Harry were great. Both of the fights between Peter and Harry were awesome. It didn’t even bother me that there wasn’t a Spider-Man vs Goblin fight, because their conflict was way more personal, and was much more Peter vs Harry than any super hero stuff. The first fight is intense (although I could do without the repercussions of the head wound Harry suffers), and the second fight is really dirty (although I could do without the Man With Half a Face look Harry gets).
-The black costume is awesome.
Spider-Man looks sweet, the presentation of how the suit makes him more ruthless and powerful was done really well, and I like how every time Peter starts acting like an asshole he slightly grabs at, or itches at, the suit.
-The subway fight!
Come on, this is the best action sequence in the whole series.
Hear me out, because as a child of the 80’s and 90’s I love me some Venom, and was disappointed with how he was shoehorned into the film. That said, he looks legit, and they did a good job of making him powerful and scary in the criminally short amount of screen time he got. I also liked how they cast Eddie Brock, and made him the anti-Peter Parker in the way that Venom is the anti-Spider-Man.
It didn’t bother me that he wasn’t a mucle-bound disgraced reporter, and I thought Grace did a good job of being a scumbag. I really feel like the scene in the church where the suit ‘claims’ him should have been the last we saw of him until part 4, or at least until the very end of the film teasing his role in part 4. But he does kick the shit out of Spider-Man, and he kills Harry, so he has that going for him. But, AGAIN, they killed the villains. The ONLY villain to not die in the trilogy is Sandman, and that’s cause he said ‘sorry’.
-J. Jonah Jameson is, once again, perfect.
He steals every scene he’s in. I love the bit where he goes to buy the camera from the little girl and she tells him film will cost extra. It looks like he is seriously considering assaulting a child.
While she should not have been in the film to begin with (and why was she a model? MJ is the model in the comics, but Kirsten Dunst is NO model), Bryce Dallas Howard did a good job portraying her as a thoughtful, sweet, likeable, beautiful young woman. Watching the movie you really want Peter to be like “Holy CRAP have I been wasting my time with horse face over here, I’m going to try to get with Gwen”. However she leaves the film after the whole jazz club fiasco, and is never heard from again.
So is it a perfect movie? Not in a million years. It’s not even a particularly good movie, but it is far from the shit storm people claim it to be. It’s a bit of a mess, yes, but that’s because they tried to fit three movies into one. Sony forced Raimi to use characters and story ideas he did not want to use, and the result is the end of a very strong franchise of films. It’s a shame, because there is a really great movie in here, and enough to build three more movies in the universe, easily.
Oh right, this one never got made…