Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 ★★★★

The initial fight between Harry and Peter works perfectly within the frame of the central romantic subplot of Peter and MJ's relationship, immediately relating it to the animosity between former friends that was established in S-M2's, and the terrible anger that will stalk the film at hand for most of its runtime. It's a relentless and unforgiving way to begin the deeply melancholic picture that follows—a feat only surpassed by the craftsmanship on show in how dynamically arranged and rhythmically edited this opening battle is (the wonderful slapstick beat provided when Harry's head bangs around at the end, amazing; and more incredible still given the tonal shift it opens up and ushers in). Indeed, it could be said that here Raimi gives us, perhaps, the most notable combat scene of his series. Yet, more than this, it denotes the film's strong intertextual interest in the films that preceded it. Throughout, Raimi sets about visually challenging and recomposing elements of the previous films, particularly by way of Peter's ego (e.g. the kiss at a public celebration not unlike the one Macy Gray sang at as in S-M1, the obvious retread of Uncle Ben's murder and Peter's response to the killer, Harry back in that coat which Peter hopes to exploit, dates and conversations in coffee shops as in 2, Peter's horrific strutting as a counter-point to the previous film, and Harry still wrestling with the memory of his father's death and who he is all stand out). It's an interesting device and it offers another window into and examination of Peter's understanding of his identity.

There was clearly a lot to balance in production, and it's incredible that the film doesn't spin out control and ends in as satisfying a way as it does. There's an off-beat elegance to it all, particularly in the immensely goofy news-reporting, but the risky dimension that could have seen it all collapse in on itself is avoided in how the enemies band together in response to the slights brought about by Peter's symbiote-affected ego. The work put in to show how he becomes such a monumental dick pays off exactly when Peter realises it himself, when he hits Mary-Jane—it's then we know unambiguously what comes next is well-deserved and needs to be healed. In fact, I might go as far as suggesting that Raimi gave us one of the strangest and most potent explorations of superheroes fucking up we've seen here. Yes, we can understand Peter's being upset in his Uncle's murderer being loose (considering his lack of access to motive), and while we've always been aware this Spider-Man would always fuck his life up in a profoundly awkward—and almost surreal—way; it's when we see in quick succession how this fuck up is playing out (e.g. scarring his friend, humiliating two women, striking one of them, taking advantage of another) that it truly hits home how brutal the juxtaposition and trajectory we're caught up in is.

It's a decidedly mature and knowing conclusion, ending the thematic recomposition of the previous films with the death of another Osborn and having Peter approach MJ (not walk away from as before, and so later require forgiveness and explanation) in the wake of that death, to silently offer up his regrets for his previous actions; as we become aware of just how desperately difficult and trying their lives are and how tenuous this resolution is. I'm ending here, because, my god, for as funny as this Raimi trilogy can be, this is a sobering end that should only leave one shaken. For all the praise Nolan's Batman trilogy (esp. The Dark Knight) gets as "realistic" and "serious", Raimi was there first and did it much better. Indeed, one hesitates to say it, but it seems only Zack Snyder has been able to capture, in a different form, the zaniness and visual energy Raimi channelled to create what he did in Spider-Man 3.

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