No no, don’t run. It’s okay. This is a safe place.
Spider-Man 3 gets a bad rap, only some of which is deserved. It’s overstuffed, self-indulgent, and filled with are you-effing-kidding-me plot developments. Yet it’s not without its charms. The performances still mostly work, it’s ambitious (if too much for its own good), and in many ways, the action is more inventive than ever. So while it deserves to be studied as a textbook case of Franchise Bloat, the fanboy rage aimed at it is a bit over the top.
Most of all, I can’t fully hate it because it does offer a veritable buffet of fights. To finish what we started with this film series, let’s dive into them.
1) Spider-Man vs The New Goblin
- Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. You know the drill on his powers and whatnot. A lot happier than he’s been for pretty much the entire saga, and preparing to propose to his lady love. Played by Tobey Maguire.
- Harry Osborn, son of the first film’s Green Goblin. Driven to take revenge against Spider-Man for his father’s death and newly armed with the knowledge of his secret identity, he undergoes the same chemical treatments. The procedures increase his strength, durability and reaction time, but don’t seem to result in any multiple personalities. Guess that’s only an occasional side effect. Note that he’s only called “the New Goblin” in supplementary materials, not in the movie itself; when Harry took up his dad’s mantle in the comics, he just went by “Green Goblin” again. Played by precious snowflake James Franco.
- Armed with: A (thankfully) streamlined version of his dad’s equipment: the mask is simpler & retractable, the glider (which can also automatically return to Harry if separated) is about the size of a skateboard, and rather than bright green armor Harry has opted for a comfortable set of black clothing with light padding and a few attachments. He also has a set of retractable blades hooked up to at least one of his arms, and carries a green, katana-like sword. And while this Goblin tends to go for more up-close fighting, he also his father’s pumpkin-themed bombs and whatnot.
The Setup: At the end of the first film, Norman Osborn’s last-second attempt to kill Spider-Man inadvertently caused his own suicide, and Harry, ignorant of his father’s dual life, blames Spidey for it since that’s who he saw dropping the body off. At the end of the second film, Harry learned not only his “nemesis” Spider-Man’s true identity, but, after stumbling onto one of his backup lairs and talking to ghosts in the mirror (yep), about his father’s own legacy. Somehow his dad’s status as a certified supervillain (especially one who almost got Harry killed and either endangered or actively tried to murder his girlfriend Mary Jane on two separate occasions) doesn’t alter his view of Spidey’s apparent actions back in 2002, because apparently the Osborn intelligence genes skipped a generation.
And so it is that as Peter Parker is zipping happily along in a motor scooter, the masked Harry zooms in from out of nowhere and plucks him into the air.
The Fight: Our hero’s spider-sense may have been conveniently forgotten, but not his fighting instincts. As the two swerve all around the New York skyline, Peter doesn’t hesitate to trade punches with the mysterious figure who attacked him in broad, uh, nightlight.
The Goblin gets a good surface slash along Peter’s belly with his arm blades, but then Peter breaks free and webs himself to the spire of a tall building. As he swings slowly around it he fires several web “bullets” at his adversary, most of which have little effect.
Osborn cuts through the web rope and punches Peter hard enough to embed him into the brickwork of another building. It’s here he reveals his face to his genuinely surprised friend, telling him “you knew this was coming.” (Did he? It seems an odd thing to expect.) As he continues his attack, Parker tries to explain what he should have two movies ago– i.e., your dad was a freaking nutbar who accidentally killed himself while trying to murder me for no good reason– but Harry’s too worked up too listen. A few missed punches knock a whole section of wall off, with the uncostumed Spider-Man clinging to it as it falls. As it tumbles end over end through the air, Raimi tracks and slowly pushes into it, and somehow manages to pull off a sneaky transition from CGI to the real Tobey Maguire.
Peter leaps to safety but gets knocked around in mid-air some more, then seized and dragged against a building. After getting thrown through two sets of glass windows, he loses the family heirloom ring he’d been planning to give Mary Jane. Pissed off, he’s able to get solid footing on Harry’s board, wrestle him a bit, and knock him off. While Peter goes to retrieve the ring just in time (it should absolutely have hit the ground by then), Harry’s board auto-homes in on him and saves him from splattering on the pavement.
Perhaps sensing that his opponent’s flight gives him an advantage in the open air, Parker tries to escape down a series of narrow alleyways. The Goblin orients himself sideways gives chase at high speed, narrowly avoiding many obstacles as he closes the distance.
When he’s near enough, Harry whips out that sweet green sword and takes a few swings. When that doesn’t work, he launches a handful of his dad’s guided pumpkin blade/bombs, which Peter mutters that he (quite reasonably) hates.
Unable to dodge while being pursued, the hero gets cut up a good bit. But a vertical turnaround (he swings all the way straight up and reverses course in mid-air) puts Harry right in the line of fire instead, giving him a taste of his own medicine and Peter enough time to deflect most of them with his webbing. He grabs the last one with a web rope and flings it right at Harry, who manages to survive the explosion mostly unscathed.
But the ka-boom was only a distraction for Spider-Man to set up his real finisher. As soon as Osborn looks up, he runs neck-first into a web-clothesline Peter was holding taut. His trip comes to a brutally abrupt stop, and he even manages to hit a few more obstacles on the way down. Yowch.
To see how far superhero cinema had come in such a short amount of time, one has to do nothing more than look at this fight. Both characters’ abilities are creatively explored, with a few surprising developments that still arise organically from the way they operate (e.g., the finishing clothesline). As is the mark of many a good fight scene, there is a reasonable sense of give-and-take between the two; the New Goblin is formidable but not invincible, with Spidey needing to employ a combination of power and smarts to take him down.
Not only that, it happens in a wild, fast-paced frenzy; indeed, the action is so inventive and fast-paced here that it borders on ridiculous. We’re a long way from the original movie, with its admirable but stiff attempts at using special effects & stunt work to capture impossible combat, and where a simple lack of sucking prompted a collective sigh of relief. This fight here is more complex than anything in the first and arguably even the second film, and it’s the opening battle. There are surely other, legitimate reasons people found this movie disappointing, but a big one was that by 2007, we were plenty spoiled.
And, of course, the fight does end with this happening:
Coming Attractions: Bring me a dream.