Saturday, March 6, 2021

Stubs - Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Spider-Man 3: The Editor's Cut (2017)

Spider-Man 3 (2007) Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace. Directed by Sam Raimi. Screenplay by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi. Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, Grant Curtis. Run time: 140 minutes. United States. Color.  Adventure, Action, Fantasy, Superhero.

I don’t know but if you’re like me, when the credits on Spider-Man 2 (2004) rolled and “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional played, I was more than ready for Spider-Man 3. When I did see that film at an employee screening at Sony Pictures three years later, I did not have the same reaction when the credits rolled. I don’t think I knew at the time that Sam Raimi wasn’t going to direct Spider-Man 4 but with the downbeat ending of Spider-Man 3, I can’t say I was surprised to learn that.

Harry Osborn (James Franco) is not happy to see Peter at Mary Jane's opening.

When the film opens,  Mary Jane is making her Broadway musical debut and Peter is there in the front row watching. In the balcony, Harry Osborn (James Franco) is watching Peter with disdain. When the play is over, Peter tries to confront Harry outside the theater but he is still angry about Spider-Man killing his father and refuses to talk with him.

Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) together after her show.

Afterward, Peter and Mary Jane are hanging out in Central Park stargazing when a meteorite lands and an extraterrestrial symbiote emerges. When Peter takes Mary Jane home, the symbiote catches a ride on the back of his scooter and stays there, even when Peter stops off at Aunt May’s (Rosemary Harris) apartment to tell her that he plans to ask Mary Jane to marry him. After making sure Peter’s ready to take on the responsibility, she gives him her engagement ring from Uncle Ben to use.

Peter (Tobey Maguire) manages to subdue Harry, who is dressed as the New Goblin.

On his way back to his own apartment, Peter is attacked by Harry, who, having taken the performance-enhancing gas that his father had developed, is dressed as the New Goblin and is out to seek revenge. Peter manages to get the upper hand on Harry and sends him crashing down. Harry suffers a head injury but lives. However, he appears to have amnesia and can’t remember anything since his father had died. He and Peter, as well Mary Jane, who shows up at the hospital, are all friends again

Harry and Peter are friends again as long as Harry has lost his memory.

Meanwhile, police pursue escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), who returns to his old apartment hoping to see his sick daughter Penny (Perla Haney-Jardine). His wife (Theresa Russell) wants him out of their apartment and he flees into the night.

Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) gets transformed into the Sandman.

The police have Flint on the run when he climbs a fence and runs into an experimental particle accelerator that fuses his body with the surrounding sand and transforms him into the Sandman, who can control sand and reform his body with it.

When a crane on a tall building malfunctions, a photoshoot featuring Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) turns tragic. Not only does the crane break windows in the office building she’s in, it also breaks the support from the floor below, leaving Gwen hanging on for her dear life.

NYPD Captain George Stacy (James Cromwell).

Her father, NYPD Captain George Stacy (James Cromwell), arrives on the scene and is powerless to help. He’s not overjoyed to meet Eddie Brock Jr (Topher Grace), who pretends to be a photographer with the Daily Bugle and also inflates his relationship with Gwen.

Lucky for everyone, Spider-Man shows up on the scene and rescues Stacy.

Someone that needs saving is Mary Jane. Already concerned about her performance and the bad review she read, she finds out that she has been replaced in the show. She has tried to talk to Peter before about her insecurities but he’s always referenced his success as Spider-Man, which means this time she doesn’t tell him.

Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) is encouraged to kiss Spider-Man during a city ceremony.

Her feelings are further tested when at a key to the city ceremony honoring Spider-Man, he kisses Stacy while dangling upside down. When Mary Jane sees this, she’s reminded of what she thought was their special kiss from earlier in the trilogy.

Spider-Man learns that fighting Sandman will be hard.

Soon after the ceremony, Sandman tries to rob an armored truck. Spider-Man tries to stop him but is ill-prepared for fighting him and fails to thwart the robbery.

Peter wants to propose to Mary Jane.

Peter tries to propose to Mary Jane at a fancy French restaurant, where the maître d' (Bruce Campbell) agrees to help him. But Gwen’s appearance and her familiarity with Peter, they’re in the same science class, leads to Mary Jane walking out.

Later, Captain Stacy informs Peter and his Aunt May that Flint was Uncle Ben's true killer; the deceased Dennis Carradine (Michael Papajohn) was Flint's accomplice but Flint had confessed to another prisoner that he was the shooter. Peter takes it hard because he had chased down Carradine and while he didn’t actually kill him, he was there when it happened.

Spider-Man feels enhanced when combined with the Symbiote.

At his apartment, Peter falls asleep in his Spider-Man suit while listening to the police scanner for a mention of Marko. While he sleeps, the symbiote assimilates the suit. Peter later awakens at the top of a building, discovering that his costume has changed to black and his powers are enhanced.

Though he feels better, the symbiote brings out his dark side. Peter locates and battles Flint in a subway tunnel. Discovering that water is Marko's weakness, he opens a pipe, releasing water that reduces Flint to mud and washes him away.

Peter's changed personality further alienates Mary Jane. Rather than spending time with Peter, she calls her ex-boyfriend, Harry, to see if he wants to hang out. But things go a little sideways and the two of them kiss, which freaks Mary Jane out and she leaves.

At Harry's insistence, Mary Jane breaks it off with Peter.

Afterward, Harry recovers from his amnesia and, urged by a hallucination of his father, decides he has to get revenge on Peter. He starts by coercing Mary Jane into breaking up with Peter. Peter tries to dissuade her but she tells him she loves "somebody else."

Distraught, Peter meets with Harry. But rather than help, Harry claims to be the other person in Mary Jane’s life.

Harry ends up disfigured after fighting Peter again.

Peter confronts Harry over this and the two get into a fight. Peter gets the upper hand and spitefully tells Harry that his father never loved him. After more fighting, Harry throws a pumpkin bomb at Peter, who deflects it back, disfiguring Harry's face.

Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) is a rival photographer to Peter.

Meanwhile, back at the Daily Bugle, Peter exposes rival photographer Eddie Brock, who has faked photos depicting Spider-Man as a criminal, in order to get the staff photographer position both men covet. Publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) fires Brock and hires Peter to be a staff photographer.

Peter dances with Gwen in order to make Mary Jane jealous.

Later, while Eddie spies on them, Peter brings Gwen to the jazz club where Mary Jane now works. When Mary Jane gets up to sing, Peter takes over and ends up passionately dancing with Gwen in front of Mary Jane in order to make her jealous. When she realizes this, Gwen apologizes to Mary Jane and leaves.

When they try to escort Peter out of the club, he gets into a fight with the bouncers and ends up accidentally knocking Mary Jane to the floor. It takes this to get Peter to finally realize that the symbiote is corrupting him.

Peter gets rid of the Symbiote at a church when the bells freak it out.

Meanwhile, Eddie has gone to a nearby church to pray for God to kill Peter. It happens to be the same church that Peter retreats to. When the church bells ring, the high-pitched sound disturbs the creature and Peter uses that as a way of ridding himself of the symbiote. Attracted by the noise, Eddie ends up being the new host of the symbiote and is transformed into Venom.

Eddie as Venom strikes a deal with Sandman to kill Spider-Man.

As Venom, Brock locates Flint, who has managed to survive being washed away and convinces him to join forces to kill Spider-Man, their common foe.

Brock abducts Mary Jane and holds her captive in a web high at a construction site, while Sandman keeps the police at bay.

Venom fights Spider-Man in a tall building under construction.

Knowing he can’t do it alone, Peter tries to get Harry to help him save Mary Jane. But Harry refuses. It is only then that the family butler (Bernard Houseman) finally tells Harry the truth about his father's death and that the wounds were self-inflicted.

Spider-Man is outmatched by Venom and Sandman working together.

Spider-Man is no match for Venom and Sandman and gets pinned down by them, when Harry arrives to help him with his Green Goblin technology. Together, they save Mary Jane. In the fight, Venom attempts to impale Peter with Harry's glider, but Harry jumps in and is impaled himself.

Peter remembers the symbiote's weakness and assembles a perimeter of metal pipes to create a sonic attack, weakening it and allowing Peter to separate Eddie from the symbiote. Spider-Man activates a pumpkin bomb from Harry's glider and throws it at the symbiote. Eddie, who became addicted to its influence, attempts to save it and ends up being vaporized along with the symbiote.

Flint explains what happened to Peter.

Afterward, Flint explains that Ben's death was an accident that has haunted him ever since. Peter forgives him and allows him to escape. Harry and Peter reconcile before Harry subsequently dies from his injuries.

Later, after Harry's funeral, Peter visits Mary Jane at the jazz club where she works. They reconcile and share a dance.

On a third (or is it fourth?) viewing, much of my initial criticism of the film was based in part on the rather down ending, especially as compared to how Spider-Man 2 ended so upbeat. That is not to say that there aren’t certain things that repeated viewings can’t allow me to get over.

Peter dances in public under the influence of the Symbiote.

Primary among them is the rather silliness of Peter, when under the influence of the symbiote, he thinks he’s pretty cool, so much so that he dances in public. This doesn’t get cooler with time and one has to imagine would be even more embarrassing to Tobey Maguire.

There was criticism that there were too many villains, but it is more that there is too much story. Peter at one time or another has to fight New Goblin, Venom and Sandman. That is not to mention the internal struggle he has to be going through as he discovers he doesn’t like the influence the symbiote is having on himself.

Sadly, all of that seems to weigh the film down. Rather than a bouncy super-hero film, Spider-Man 3 comes across as bloated and sluggish.

For the most part, the acting is pretty good as director Sam Raimi seems to get what he needs from each character. Despite the silly dancing, Tobey Maguire is still my favorite Spider-Man, I just wish this hadn’t been his last turn in the role.

By this time, I was growing tired of James Franco as much as an actor as a personality, so I wasn’t sad to see his character killed at the end of the film. He was fine as Harry if you asked me, but like Franco, the character was overstaying its welcome. I was never really sure if Harry was supposed to be dumb or savvy.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane seems like a good fit for Maguire’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I liked them together as a couple. While her roles in the Spider-Man trilogy may have cemented her stardom, Dunst was no newcomer, having appeared in films since she was six, when she made her film debut in Woody Allen’s short film Oedipus Wrecks (1989). In 1994, she gained more recognition as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire (1994). She is about the right age as the character she plays but she brings with her a lot of experience as an actress.

She was not upstaged by Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of Ron Howard. Bryce was already an established actress when she took on the role and has proven herself to be a bankable and gifted actress, running the gambit from Claire Dearing in Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) to portraying Sheila Eileen, Elton John’s mother in Rocketman (2019).

Bruce Campbell, a favorite of director Sam Raimi, brings great comedic timing to his role as a French restaurant maître d'. This is his third appearance in this trilogy, all playing different roles and each being a very nice touch.

Thomas Haden Church was a bit of a surprise as Flint Marko/Sandman. Perhaps best known for the role of Lowell Mather in 123 episodes of the sitcom Wings (1990-1995) and Jack Cole in the comedy-drama Sideways (2004), he seemed a surprise casting choice as the troubled convict turned supervillain. Church, however, does a good job and manages to bring some humanity to the role.

Another sitcom star turned film actor, Topher Grace, seems like a good fit for the role of Eddie Brock/Venom. His character’s bravado gets on your nerves so fast so deep that you’re almost happy to see Eddie get his comeuppance and Venom’s destruction. There is a certain talent required to make a character so dislikable.

The film was a huge worldwide success despite what might have been less than stellar reviews. The main criticism is that there were too many storylines. As Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle explains it, "the script is busy with so many supporting characters and plot detours that the series' charming idiosyncrasy is sometimes lost in the noise.” Even the filmmaker wasn’t particularly happy with the film, calling it “awful.” One of the producers, Avi Arad, also accepted responsibility for pushing Raimi to include Venom in the film, and how the end result had disappointed many fans of the character, saying in a 2018 interview in Screen Rant, "I think we learned that Venom is not a sideshow. In all fairness, I'll take the guilt because of what Sam Raimi used to say in all of these interviews feeling guilty that I forced him into it."

Spider-Man 3 – The Editor’s Cut (2017) Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace. Directed by Sam Raimi. Screenplay by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi. Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, Grant Curtis. Run time: 136 minutes. United States. Color.  Adventure, Action, Fantasy, Superhero.

As part of the celebration of Spider-Man 3’s 10th anniversary, Sony released, as part of a new Limited-Edition Box Set on June 13, 2017, The Editor’s Cut of the film. This new version traces back to editor Bob Murawski and apparently came out without much pre-release publicity.

Many, upon hearing its existence, were probably hoping that this version would miraculously make Spider-Man 3 a stronger film, though that was not the intent. It should be pointed out that this is not a Director’s Cut, which is usually the real prize when it comes to newer versions of films. It suggests that Raimi, who wasn’t really happy with the final film, was nevertheless not inclined to fiddle with it further and moved on.

One of the scenes added to The Editor's Cut is when Penny interacts with her father as a sandcastle.

The Editor’s Cut makes several changes to the film with several recuts and scenes with alternate footage, especially in the middle of the movie. The most significant changes are a sandcastle scene in which Sandman makes a connection with his daughter by becoming a very ornate sandcastle in a park where his wife Emma has taken Penny to play. While it doesn’t appear to have been a pre-arranged encounter, it does provide some depth to their story and makes Flint slightly more sympathetic, which might have been the intent.

There were other scenes that were apparently shot but not used in either version of the film, such as a scene where Flint’s family comes in during the final battle and tell him to stop fighting Spider-Man and that Penny is incurable. In a discussion about this scene as part of a Blu-ray forum, editor Bob Murawski explained, "That was cut long ago because it made the third act too slow. Plus, the goal of this cut was to go back to a version where the characters made their decisions themselves."

This train of thought seems to be carried through to include excising scenes from the film. The most noticeable may be the one in which the butler recounts to Harry the events on the night his father died. Instead of that speech changing Harry’s mind, it is instead a framed photo of Harry, Peter and Mary Jane from better days that does the trick. It is a different stimulus that makes him change his mind.

Also excised was a final scene between Peter and his Aunt in which she convinces him not to give up on that relationship. "It is a good scene, but we went back to an earlier version of the movie that existed before this scene was shot to create this alternate cut. In the original version of the script, Peter made up his own mind to try to make amends with Mary Jane after he rid himself of the black suit."

Murawski, in this forum, contends that one of the primary purposes of The Editor’s Cut was “fully restoring Christopher Young's great score from start to finish.” He adds that "The new edit was a bonus."

Does The Editor’s Cut add or subtract from the film viewing experience? The answer really depends on which side of the aisle you’re sitting on. With enough time and alternative takes you can meddle with a movie almost indefinitely, however, it would be very difficult to come up with a completely different story through editing. You could add more special effects, a la George Lucas and Star Wars, but that’s really not needed here. As an artist, you understand that you always want to make the best end product that you can but there are things like release schedules and budgets that can get in the way. At some point, you have to release it to the public and it will live or die by public opinion.

The Editor’s Cut does not really make Spider-Man 3 that much better of a movie. It does let the young characters make their own decisions without having to listen to advice from the elders but I don’t think that was anyone’s real complaint about the original film. The same issues are still there it’s just that the score has now been fully restored.

If you’re a fan of the Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy you may want to see The Editor’s Cut, the same way that you probably wanted to see Spider-Man 2.1. And just as that version didn’t really change your opinion of Spider-Man 2, I don’t think The Editor’s Cut will really change your opinion of Spider-Man 3.

All good things have to come to an end and while Spider-Man 3 is not a bad superhero film, certainly better than either of the Amazing Spider-Mans that followed, it still doesn’t ring the bell the way Spider-Man 2 did. And while the end of that film made you want more, the ending of Spider-Man 3 made you understand that it couldn’t continue on the way it was. Maybe the down ending was the right way to end it after all since there was no reason to get hyped up for a Spider-Man 4 that was never going to come.

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