I’m a geek. I have no problem admitting that. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my affinity for action figures and cartoons. I also have a thing for Kirsten Dunst. It’s a long story. I’ve sinced moved on to Ellen Page (also a long story) but that’s besides the point. Anyway, you can imagine my excitement when the first Spider-Man movie was announced, featuring the lovely Ms. Dunst as the Red-Headed object of Peter Parker’s devotion, Mary Jane Watson. That was 2002, along with the success of the X-Men movies we were privileged to an explosion of comic book properties on the big screen. The Dark Knight’s successes are well known. Watchmen has ridiculous hype (and fears) behind it. And there are plenty more comic book properties queued up, X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes to mind (Gamibt!). But here’s the thing. As awesome as the Spider-Man trilogy was, I believe it was fatally flawed. If someone gave me a movie-making wand to wave over those three movies, I think I have the master plan to do right by one of Stan Lee’s prized creations.
To be fair, if for some reason you haven’t seen all of these movies be warned: Mild Spoilers Ahead. Proceed with Caution.
The Spider-Man films have had a storied success, breaking box office records as each successive film is released. Spider-Man (2002) worldwide gross: $821,708,551. Spider-Man 2 (2004) worldwide gross: $783,766,341. Spider-Man 3 (2007) worldwide gross: $890,871,626. Needless to say, the Spider-Man franchise was beyond successful. Sadly, I’m proud to say that I was at midnight showings for all three of these movies, contributing to each of these movies smashing opening day box office records. I’m not sure where you reside on the rankings of these movies, but for me it’s Spider-Man 2, 1, and then 3. I’ll get into my gripes with the third film in a few paragraphs, but I can say right now that the emo hair didn’t win any points in my book. And to be clear, if I still need to justify my opinion any further I’ll leave you with this, I own Spider-Man 1, 2, 2.1 and 3 on DVD, and Spider-Man 1, 2, and 3 on Blu-ray. I’ve invested enough money in this trilogy to give me enough of a soapbox to stand on for the next couple hundred words.
Do you remember where you were when you first saw the different trailers for each of these movies? The idea of a live action Spider-Man movie seemed unbelievably badass when the very first trailers premiered. The teased shots of the train fight sequence in Spider-Man 2 upped the ante and the actual battle delivered on every possible level. And when the ComicCon trailer of Spider-Man 3 surfaced with Eddie Brock getting the symbiote and turning into Venom for the first time…nerds, fanboys and geeks around the world rejoiced. That is until we saw the final movie and left wondering why everyone was crying the whole time and what was up with the emo hair. I understand that there needed to be a distinct difference between “good” Peter Parker and “bad” Peter Parker. But the emo hair with the black eye liner…really? It left a bad taste in the mouths of movie goers everywhere. A taste that for some, no amount of mouthwash could possibly cleanse.
Which brings me to my main problem with Spider-Man 3: Venom. Each super hero has an iconic villain. Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman has Joker. The X-Men, Magneto. Spider-Man’s arch nemesis (IMHO) is Venom. To put the signature foe of one of comic’s most successful super heroes in just the second half of the final movie in a trilogy felt weak. The use of Venom in Spider-Man 3 felt like a cheap fan service to keep fanboys at bay. “Here take it and be happy that you got that much.” I have plenty of respect for what Sam Raimi did with all three films, but I have my doubts about the decision to include Venom in the final movie. If you look at the trilogy as a whole, it’s clear to see that the Harry Osborn relationship was the centerpiece for all of the drama throughout the 3 films. Their evolving relationship from best friends to bitter enemies to eventually redemption for both was the consistent plot line from the first shot of the 2002 blockbuster to the final credits of the third film. Looking back, this was the wrong way to go. Hopefully Spider-Man 4 (and beyond?) will fare better since James Franco’s character is no longer in the mix.
So how would you do it if you’re so smart, Chris? I’ll tell you eager reader. I would do it Peter Jackson style. Shoot all three films somewhat consecutively similar to Lord of the Rings. Tell the audience that there is a set story arc for the whole trilogy and sit back and enjoy the revenue stream. I’d probably have to make a hell of a sales pitch to Sony assuming they still had the rights to the franchise, and I would probably have to fund a big piece of it myself like Jackson did. As far as the basic story, I have no problem with the selection of villains used. Green Goblin for Spider-Man 1, Doctor Octopus for 2, and Venom for the final movie. I would introduce the symbiote and the end of Spider-Man 1 to tease the next movie. Black Suit Spider-Man would play an integral role in the second movie, pushing him to multiple regrettable actions before he ultimately removes it and defeats Doc Ock. The final scene of Spider-Man 2 would be seeing Eddie Brock get the symbiote and turn into Venom, similar to the sequences of the Venom Reveal Trailer that hit ComicCon. Now here’s the key: the entire third film would be devoted to Spider-Man doing battle against Venom, both physical and psychological. It’s the only way to do justice to Spidey’s definitive foe.
Hindsight is 20/20. Usually. Who am I to say that the entire Spider-Man trilogy was improperly constructed, for all I know Sam Raimi is a mastermind and knew what he was doing all along. Perhaps he had considered making Venom a more direct plot line throughout the three movies. Maybe it was determined by limitations of technology or budget that the decisions he made in production were the best options. Maybe studio pressure was too much to ignore. What gives me the right to say that I could do things any better? I’m just a stupid fan with too much time on my hands and I probably care too much for my own good. Being a fan with too much to say is sometimes more dangerous than being apathetic. Hopefully I’ve addressed this topic balancing the fine line between irrational fanboy and devoted fan.