Commentary: Another Look At The “Dumb” Twist In ‘Spider-Man 3’

by Frank Martin

Comic book fans are a passionate bunch. They take great pride in the stories and characters they’ve invested in — so much so that they feel strongly about comic adaptations. Our expectations are high and particular, so when they’re not met we often have instinctual reactions to things that surprise us. Spider-Man 3 was full of these. Personally, there was one major detail in particular that threw a loop in all of the Spider-Man mythos. I thought it tarnished the character, practically ruining him. But upon second watch, when I had time to process the change and appreciated it more for what it was.

This was the revelation that Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) was responsible for Uncle Ben’s (Cliff Robertson) death rather than the thief Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) let go free after his wrestling match in the first film. This scene is the cornerstone of Peter’s character. It builds up all of his responsibility and defines who he is as a person and a hero. To remove that is, essentially, to remove everything that makes him Spider-Man.

As a Spider-Man fan, I was appalled by this decision. For a movie filled with critical missteps, I viewed this as the worst. But after some time (specifically decades), I had a different approach to this wild decision. Spider-Man 3 was all about bucking responsibility. The influence of the symbiote allowed Peter to give into his base emotions and follow them wherever they may lead. The fact that the robber didn’t kill Uncle Ben — that if Peter had stopped him that day it wouldn’t have made any difference — relieved him of that burden, guilt, and responsibility. It freed him up to give into the symbiote and take revenge on Marko. That’s what Spider-Man 3 was all about, and this drastic change allowed it to happen. It wasn’t the story or decision I was expecting, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have merit in its own right.

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