I saw Spider-Man 3 Saturday night. It was a total mess, but the visuals were incredible, the fight scenes were thrilling, and I enjoyed enough of the film to make it worth my time. Still, it occurred to me on the way home that with a few simple changes, the film could have been a superhero classic. And
Before we begin, please know that I'm not a die-hard Spidey fan. The first two Spider-Man films were entertaining enough, but I forgot them immediately afterward. I know when you read that heading you probably thought this article would consist of complaints like "Why didn't they do such-and-such with the character of Venom like they did in Issue #231 of blah-blah-bloo?" But that's not me. This article comes from the point of view of an average guy with no knowledge of comic books who went into Spider-Man 3 with no expectations. Here's what I would have changed to make the movie more entertaining to me. SPOILERS AHEAD!
1) Kill Mary Jane in the opening scene
The Uncle stuff is played out, Peter needs something new to be upset about. And I used to love Kirsten Dunst, but now she "acts" her scenes like she can't wait for someone to yell "Cut!" so she can go and make out with one of The Strokes. Are we really supposed to believe that Peter would choose Dunst's dehydrated, negative, miserable Mary Jane over Bryce Dallas Howard's pants-explodingly hot, upbeat, and cheerful Gwen Stacey? Mary Jane is a terrible girlfriend! She spends the entire film whining about her lackluster singing abilities to a guy who spends his time keeping the city free from evil! She's dull, she's pouty, and she participates in elaborate Chubby Checker-scored cooking/dancing/infidelity montages with James Franco! Dump her!
2) Have your villains get upset before the last twenty minutes roll around
A no-brainer. I can't recall seeing a movie where the villains decided "You know, maybe we should kill the hero" so late in the game. The Sandman appeared to be thinking about what to have for dinner for most of the film. Venom doesn't even enter the picture until the last third. It's screenwriting 101, especially in a movie of this kind. By the end of Act One, you better be damn sure your audience knows who the antagonist is, and what your hero is up against. Nobody seems to have clear motives here. All the characters are confused and conflicted and don't really know who they want to kill and why or if they even want to. That's fine for a Scorsese film, but this is Spider-Man, people!
3) More J.K. Simmons and Bruce Campbell
In the few moments of screen time given to each of these fantastic character actors, they charged the movie with an energy that nearly all of the other actors lacked. As a huge Oz fan, it's always a little jarring to see J.K. Simmons in other roles – I kept expecting him to sexually assault Peter Parker. But once I got past that, the guy was hilarious. And Bruce Campbell's champagne back-and-forth in the restaurant was pure gold. Truth be told, Campbell should have played The Sandman. He certainly would have brought more life to it than Thomas Haden Church -- who must have thought he was playing the Sandman who puts kids to sleep.