I'm a huge fan of Spider-Man 3. The movie gets hated on by just about every other person, but I personally feel that it is, by far, the best Spider-Man movie to date, and remains one of my most favorite movies of all time. The main conflict in these movies has always been with finding that balance between being a superhero and being a regular person, and I feel that Spider-Man 3 is the ultimate culmination of this idea that "with great power comes great responsibility". Now, I did have certain reservations concerning the changes they were making to Peter's backstory, by having the Sandman be the guy who actually killed Uncle Ben. And even after my first few viewings I wouldn't have rated it quite as up to par as its predecessors. But the more I've revisited this film, the more I was able to look past any preconceived expectations based on other Spidey properties and take the movie based solely on its own merits. And once I was able to do that, I saw the sheer brilliance that was hiding deep inside this darker Spider-Man story.
I honestly believe a lot of the negative reception for this movie comes from said expectations going in. For instance, one of the biggest complaints I hear about the movie is the way the movie misuses Venom. And I actually shared that complaint for a long time at first. It bugged me a bit that Venom was only technically in the movie for about ten minutes, and that even then, he acted very little like how the Venom we know from the comics is supposed to act. But then I was watching it again one day when it suddenly hit me: Venom was never intended to be a villain in this movie. At least, not in the traditional sense that one would expect.
The movie was never building up to an introduction of the Venom character as we know him from the comic books or other media. And even when Eddie Brock does obtain the suit, at no point is he even referred to by the name of Venom in the movie. And that's because the movie's not about Venom. No, Spider-Man himself is the villain in this one. The movie chronicles Peter's inner battles with himself, and it uses the black suit symbiote as a means to express that battle in a physical form. And the only reason he's even separated from the suit in the end is for him to have that last climactic one on one physical fight.
Another complaint concerning Venom was the casting of Topher Grace to play Eddie Brock, a character who is known for being a fairly large musclehead in the comics. But I, again, found this casting to be brilliant. By getting a guy of similar build as Tobey Maguire, and by giving the character a bit more of a similarly dorky personality as Peter Parker, it only furthers the idea of a mirror match that the movie is setting out to accomplish. Hell, all of the promotion hints at this, with Spider-Man looking at his reflection on the sides of buildings wearing the black suit, an image that was perfectly portrayed throughout the course of the movie. And taking all of that into account, I think that the execution of this entire scenario was handled very well. In fact, my own personal complaint that stuck out on multiple views was how convenient it was that the symbiote just happened to attach itself to Peter Parker of all people. But sitting back and giving it a little thought, it actually makes sense that it would seek out someone like Peter, who would be able to provide it with the kind of strength that no one else could. And the fact that Eddie Brock is so similar to Peter makes equal sense why the symbiote would be attracted to him as a suitable replacement.
That the movie was juggling too many villains is another one I hear all the time, especially the inclusion of the Sandman. And I mentioned how I had reservations concerning this character initially, but I again thought that his story arc was pulled off really well. It gave Spider-Man a villain to contend with while he was still wearing the black suit, and the fact that the Sandman was now responsible for Uncle Ben's death gave Peter a personal vendetta against him that allowed the character to reach those darker places in his personality.
But I also liked how they made the Sandman a character in personal conflict over his actions as well, someone who Peter could relate to, which furthers the mirror match parallels in the movie. Sandman wasn't necessarily a villain. Sure, he was doing bad things, but there was a noble purpose behind them, and he didn't see that he had any other choice. There was just such a surprising amount of depth behind this character, without any added "mind warping" effects determining his actions, like has been the case for the villains in all the other Spidey movies, which was a refreshing change of pace this time around. Not to mention the scene in which he gains his sand powers, which is one of the few things that even people who hate the film will agree was a strikingly beautiful moment. So all things considered, I was very impressed with how the Sandman turned out.
And as much as the movie was about personal conflict, it was also about how that conflict can affect and ruin your relationships you have with other people. The issues between Peter and Harry Osborn have been brewing for two films now, and while it may seem like a bit of a cop-out for them to pull the amnesia angle here, I still like the way their story played out, with Harry coming full swing with his realization of who both he and Peter really are. And the problems between Peter and Mary Jane had all the potential to be something that was constantly annoying and uncomfortable to sit through, yet they balanced it out well enough so that you could feel the very real contention on screen driving these two apart, without feeling driven away from the movie itself.
I also loved this movie's sense of style. It definitely still resides in the world that Sam Raimi has built for us, but he appropriately darkens the tone just enough, without losing any of the awesome campiness. I liked the direction he chose for Peter's "black suit" personality, as I could definitely buy that this more dorky version of Peter Parker would totally go for that exact "emo" style, thinking it made him look cool. The scenes with him strutting down the streets, pointing at the ladies, just had me dying. And if you were to ask most people, the movie's biggest offense would, hands down, have to be the dance scene in the jazz club. Yet, in my opinion, that scene is actually the highlight of the movie, and is what originally dragged me out to a second viewing in theaters. I just found Raimi's choice to go with the jazz scene so appropriate, as it definitely fits the movie's dark yet campy tone, and I love how he totally ran with it all the way through, even playing a jazzy little number when Peter and Harry were brawling through his house.
So yeah, I thought this movie was great, and it's one that's only gotten better with each viewing. I can see where people continue to hate on this, and there were certain aspects that I initially wasn't a big fan of either. And by no means am I trying to call this a perfect movie. It certainly does have its share of flaws, but I just don't feel they're as big of flaws as people make them out to be. But overall, I feel this was a tightly woven, thematically well structured and well written finale to the original Spider-Man trilogy, with strong characterization all around that goes deep without taking itself seriously at all, which is a rare find indeed. It's one of my favorite movies, and by far the best in the series as a whole. Give it another chance, and see if you can't see some of the same brilliance that I do.