Spider-Man 3

I get that some alien goo from outer space, apropos of nothing, lands mere feet away from the protagonist. I get it.

I get that an escaped convict, the man who killed the protagonist’s uncle, stumbles into an open-air particle-accelerator thing, and that he thus gets the ability to commune with and manipulate sand.  I totally buy it.  I get that a bump on the head is guaranteed to give another antagonist amnesia just when the protagonist most needs it to happen. I get that in a city of eight million people, the protagonist and another antagonist just happen to be in the same church bell-tower at the same time, so that alien goo can drip from one to the other.  I get all that.

What I don’t get is the career of Mary Jane Watson.

In Spider-Man 2, Mary Jane was, like, a super-model or something and the celebrated star of The Importance of Being Earnest Off-Broadway.  Cool.  And at the beginning of Spider-Man 3, she’s the third lead in a new musical on Broadway.  Also cool.

Okay.  So, opening night doesn’t go well, MJ gets panned, and the next day is fired from the show without notice.  Just walks into the theater to find she’s been replaced.  Someone mutters something about how she should have called her agent and she dashes out of the theater.  Next thing we know, she’s a singing waitress in a — gasp — jazz bar.

1.  How did the producers of the Broadway show get all the way through rehearsals and up to opening night without realizing that their third lead couldn’t sing?  Two possible answers: MJ is so famous as a model/actress that they didn’t care that she couldn’t sing, or else she has extremely powerful representation.  If she’s so freaking famous that she gets cast in a Broadway show with no singing talent, she’s famous enough to sell out her run without good reviews.  Broadway producers don’t care if the show stinks, they care about if there are butts in the seats.  End of story.  You think Madonna got cast in Speed-the-Plow because of her acting talent?

2.  How did MJ get through opening night and the next day without calling her agent?  What kind of Broadway star is she?  I’ve done shows with actors who call their agents onstage, during rehearsals.

3.  What kind of agent is her agent?  How could an agent have the power to cast a non-singer in a major role on Broadway but not have the brains to call his client when she gets unceremoniously canned from the show?

4.  Why is she so upset about being fired?  She must have had a pay-or-play contract, you don’t get to be third lead on Broadway without a  decent contract  — she should just take a few weeks, on the show’s dime, to absorb the impact of her bad reviews and figure out what she wants to do next.  But no, first thing, she dumps her boyfriend, takes up with his arch-enemy and starts working as a singing waitress in a jazz bar.  If memory serves, supermodel + Off-Broadway trimuph + Broadway singing failure does not = singing waitress.  Where is the indie feature co-starring James

?  Where are the modeling gigs to fall back on?  What did she do with all the money from the perfume ads?  She sure didn’t spend it on furniture — her crummy studio apartment looks like it was furnished by Goodwill.  Does MJ have a drug problem?

5.  And while we’re at it, who makes the money from all the Spider-Man merchandise on display throughout the movie?  We see that Peter Parker doesn’t have any money.  And yet, one of the major plot-points is that NYC is flooded with Spider-Man merchandise.  Costumes, t-shirts, dolls, posters, everything.  Who’s making all that merchandise, and who is profiting from its sale?  Why doesn’t Spider-Man do anything to control the dissemination of his image?  Pirate merchandisers are making a killing off him while he lives in a studio apartment with a broken door.  And, Spider-Man is on the cover of every newspaper and magazine — how did he pose for all those covers?  Are those all photos by Peter Parker?  If so, why does he not get any money for them?  What is wrong with these people?

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52 Responses to “Spider-Man 3
  1. thebitterguy says:

    That’s beautiful.

    I think the whole “Peter can’t make money off Spider-Man” thing is part of his mythos.

    • innocent_man says:

      I think the whole “Peter can’t make money off Spider-Man” thing is part of his mythos.

      He’s mentioned it in the comics at least once, but buggered if I can remember where.

      And I had some of the same questions about MJ. I assume Raimi was banking on the audience not thinking about that, and for the most part, he was probably right.

      • Todd says:

        But Peter does make money off Spider-Man, by being the one guy at the Bugle who can get pictures of him. What I’m wondering is, if he can make money off of taking pictures of Spider-Man for the Bugle, why can’t he make money off of taking pictures of Spider-Man for other publications? If the Bugle is the only paper in the Spider-Man universe, that’s one thing, but we see in Spider-Man 3 that there are all kinds of magazines and newspapers in New York and they’re all wild about Spider-Man and they all feature photos of Spidey on their covers. Peter, by all logic, should be able to live comfortably by selling Spider-Man photos to New York magazine, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, any number of high-profile publications. What is his problem? It can’t be loyalty to J. Jonah Jameson. He’s a tightwad and a cheapskate and his son is Peter’s romantic foil — he should get as far away from the Bugle as possible.

        • innocent_man says:

          Aw, he’s too busy being Spider-Man to go pounding pavement.

          (Seriously, he should really get on eBay and auction off a night’s swinging around the city with Spidey once a month.)

        • chadu says:

          In one iteration of the mythos, Peter actually made a decent amount of money on a collection of his Spidey photos, called “Webs.”

          About the only two things I can say about MJ’s career; either:

          1. It was total stunt casting, she didn’t know, and burned all her bridges because she was now on Broadway, dammit! (Which is a lot dumber than I give her credit for being.)

          2. Raimi got the whole thing backwards — she could have been in this play in SM2, and her star turn in TIoBE should’ve happened in SM3.

          Ultimately, my biggest complaint about the movie is simply this: quit taking yer goddamned masks off. I swear to god, it’s got to be in their contracts or something.


          • Todd says:

            I have a feeling you’re exactly right — it has gotta be in their contracts. Actors want to play characters, not masks, and studios want to sell faces. We had three different Batmans last time around and none of them were happy in the part because of the mask. But the “mask-taking-off” choreography could have been handled more gracefully.

            • chadu says:

              All I gotta say is:
              * What, these actors never did Mask work in drama school?
              * What about those crazy Greeks back in the day, when they ALL USED MASKS?
              * The POINT of the secret identity bits is for them to mug and emote with their naked faces; the POINT of the masked bits is to emote more subtly, using eyes and voices.
              * Dammit, the mask doesn’t cover spiderman’s face, the mask IS spiderman’s face.
              * Have none of these actors done any voice acting, where there real faces are never seen? How is acting in a mask different from acting behind an animated figure.

              God bless Christian Bale. He at least seems to understand (at the moment) that you play the secret id and the masked id as two separate (but springing from the same foundation) characters.


              • Todd says:

                What, these actors never did Mask work in drama school?

                They did, and then they did merchandising contracts in studio conference rooms — which most likely state that the actor only gets money from merchandise that has his or her likeness, not from toys, shirts and posters with Marvel-trademarked masks. For a movie like Spider-Man 3, we’re talking about potential windfalls of tens of millions of dollars — reason enough to put up with some clumsy mask-choreography.

                • chadu says:

                  You may have a point, but… How much merchandise has the “Spidey-costume, no/ripped mask” thing going on?

                  Like I said, you probably have an insight here, but I don’t see how it connects to the real world (except for actors’ pride purposes).

                  I mean, I can’t think of much merchandise at all that plays up the actor’s face to the exclusion of the character mask, for any superhero/sci-fi/fantasy movie.


                • Anonymous says:


                  I recall there was quite a bit of negative press about the fact that the first Spiderman film had a class actor like William Dafoe (i.e. can do closeups and expressive actor material) hidden behind a stiff, inflexible mask for long, loonng exchanges of dialog. In the end you were watching masked spiderunit against masked green goblinunit, and in dialog, so…. rip those masks off as often as possible leads to Siderman 2 and that scene in the subway car against Doc Ock etc… where everyone agrees “not to tell” what he looks like…

                  As for MJ, my feeling is the original Spidey film started out trying to capture some “slacker” ethos, a bit late in the game, so she is a warm, loveable, lost, loser. It then changed gears and tried to bring her into her own, only to discover… it isn’t worth promoting the actress Dunst that much, and then dumped on her with some odd script changes: “yes Kirsten, you had the Broadway role, only now after our changes, you get fired right away and scrub floors while singing…” Meanwhile the cgi gets better as her acting skills remain what they are…

            • I dunno. I kind of like the fact that the first big action sequence in the film is completely out of costume. The first film and the second film were pretty much completely behind the mask, so these two films, by way of thier masklessness was a nice change of pace. Although the way the movie does it, I’m going to guess there’s a good group of people who’ve put 2 and 2 together and figured out who Spider Man is approximately at least. Also, there’s the scene in SM3 wher right before he swings onto the stage for his parade, he’s putting his mask on right behind the audience on top of the building. One kid yells ‘look!’ and its all over!

              The masks are fine and dandy, but when they look hideous, the less of them the better. Most pre-Spiderman superhero flicks come to mind. I can’t imagine any of the pre-Nolan Batman costumes worth fighting in.

        • eyebeams says:

          Contract fucked him. Probably work for hire with a non-compete that he signed when he was starting out.

  2. urbaniak says:

    My all-time favorite movie representation of theatre is the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive, where the director of Tony Manero’s Broadway musical is shown creating the show’s light cues on opening night while the show is in progress. (“Now give me a spotlight here!”)

    Oh, and Madonna is one of our greatest Mametians. How dare you.

    • Todd says:

      How would you know? You can’t even spell “Mamettian.”

      The night I saw Madonna in Speed-the-Plow I had a hard time getting to the subway afterward because the street was so jammed with teenagers waiting at the stage door for a glimpse of the star (the third-billed star, I might add). Madonna came out the door, the crowd surged, and I was pushed into a little old lady whom I almost knocked down. I apologized to her and then realized I was talking to Geraldine Page, who was doing the Scottish Play across the street at the time. A true “changing of the guard” moment.

  3. curt_holman says:

    Broadway geography, etc.

    “Why doesn’t Spider-Man do anything to control the dissemination of his image?”

    Perhaps he needs to visit with Matt Murdock, who as a lawyer could give him legal advice on how to control and profit from his image without giving away his secret identity, which is probably PP’s greatest concern.

    At one point in Spider-man 3, it seemed as though Mary Jane was living directly across the street from the playhouse from which she was fired. Is that plausible?

    I never thought Kirsten Dunst has the “face-it-Tiger-you-hit-the-jackpot” spunk that I associate with Mary Jane in the comics. Maybe Amanda Peet?

    • innocent_man says:

      Re: Broadway geography, etc.

      I never thought Kirsten Dunst has the “face-it-Tiger-you-hit-the-jackpot” spunk that I associate with Mary Jane in the comics. Maybe Amanda Peet?

      Damn. Where were you when they needed you? 🙂

    • chadu says:

      Re: Broadway geography, etc.

      I never thought Kirsten Dunst has the “face-it-Tiger-you-hit-the-jackpot” spunk that I associate with Mary Jane in the comics. Maybe Amanda Peet?

      A younger Angelina Jolie = perfect MJ.


    • planettom says:

      Re: Broadway geography, etc.

      Perhaps he needs to visit with Matt Murdock, who as a lawyer could give him legal advice on how to control and profit from his image without giving away his secret identity, which is probably PP’s greatest concern.

      If you’re a superhero in need of a superhero lawyer, go with Ally McHulk.

      • curt_holman says:

        Ally McHulk

        It never occurred to me until just now that the superhero lawyer concept in She-Hulk is basically the same as ‘Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.’

        I’d love for there to be a good ‘She-Hulk’ movie/TV show, but I can’t imagine how it could be executed in any way that wouldn’t be a sucky embarassment.

  4. vertamae says:

    I believe the theatre production only fired MJ because of the bad review.

  5. jkcarrier says:

    The problem with trying to profit off of Spider-Man merchandise is that Pete would have to reveal his real identity in order to do so. As Stan pointed out in one of the early comics, it’s hard to cash a check made out to “Spider-Man”. You do have a point about the photos, though — he should be selling his exclusive shots to Rolling Stone, People, Vanity Fair, et. al. I suppose he’s just paranoid about being *too* closely associated with Spidey. Jonah is probably making a tidy profit re-selling all his photos to various outlets, after they’ve run in the Bugle. Sounds like something he’d do.

    I was hoping the movie would use my favorite bit from the first Sandman story: After Spidey beats him, he realizes that he didn’t get any pictures of the fight. So he stages a “reenactment” by throwing handfuls of sand in the air and punching at them for the camera. Might’ve made an interesting compare/contrast to Eddie Brock’s photo faking…

    • Todd says:

      I understand that Peter can’t make money off the merchandising — but then who does? That’s millions of dollars in profits being made off Peter’s work, and he seems to think it’s all cool.

      Actually, given the fact that there is no single, controlling power for the merchandise, I’m surprised at the relative high quality of it all. If there were a bunch of yahoo pirates making Spidey merchandise, chances are it would get everything wrong, put the colors in the wrong places, making his eyes the wrong shape, etc.

      • chadu says:

        Maybe that’s one of the reasons New Yorkers love Spidey: anybody with a silk-screen t-shirt shop or a balloon concession and a sharpie can make a couple extra bucks off his image, free and clear?


      • greyaenigma says:

        I think he just loves being loved. In the movies, at least — it’s worth noting that in the Civil War storyline, he was one of the ones that took of his mask and went public.

        Maybe he did that for the merchandising rights — I wonder if someone could have claimed the rights as long as he maintains anonymous? That would be an interesting legal challenge.

  6. stainedecho says:

    In the comic books, MJ is a chain smoker. I forget if she has dropped the habit since.. but I know her smoking made Spidey cry.

    • Todd says:

      I know cigarettes are expensive, but even if she smoked two packs a day she should still be able to make ends meet, between the supermodel gig and the Broadway show.

  7. sheherazahde says:

    Mary Jane

    “But no, first thing, she dumps her boyfriend, takes up with his arch-enemy and starts working as a singing waitress in a jazz bar.”

    She didn’t actually do all that. She was mad at Peter so she called Harry (her other friend from high school). But she ran away after she kissed him because she still loved Peter. She only told Peter she was seeing someone else because Harry told her he would kill Peter if she didn’t. (We didn’t see that. We just say him threatening her and saying she had to do something.) And Mary Jane never knew (until Harry was holding her against the wall by her neck) that Harry was Peter’s arch-enemy.

    But yeah, I agree that the singing waitress in a jazz bar was a bit of a step down from third lead. Where is her agent?

    • Todd says:

      Re: Mary Jane

      I’m only a professional screenwriter, you can’t expect me to be able to keep track of the events of a movie.

  8. It sounds like MJ has the worst manager ever.

    IMHO, the comedic moments are what made Spidey 3 enjoyable in spite of its many flaws. Tobey Maguire and Simmons/Jameson were hilarious.

  9. nom_de_grr says:

    Perhaps Mary Jane can do a guest spot on The Venture Bros. playing Lydia Lunch. If Lydia wasn’t available, that is. Also:

  10. mikeyed says:

    Man, MJ is spoiled. Many actors get canned. She has fame, she should be happy. I know some people who’d kill to be Jazz singers. Oh no! Dear god. Heaven forbid she’s not making it on Broadway. Broadway’s totally overrated. Some people die just to be on off-off-Broadway productions.

    Either way, Spiderman comes out as a total dick in the end. He’s hit his high school crush, gotten his best friend killed (and his amazing actor dad), and even made his uncle’s killer looked innocent compared to himself. Revealing a fraudulent journalistm, though, was totally justified no matter what costume anybody’s wearing. Brock shouldn’t have done what he did. Especially on the basis of Journalistic integrity(sheesh! Journalists have it hard enough these days).

    I think the butler has to be the most interesting of all the characters. In love with his boss, even though he’s aware of his homicidal tendencies. He also knows how to recognize wounds from weapons he’s never probably seen. His whole speech was awkward, but who hasn’t fallen in love with Willem Dafoe for some reason or another?

  11. mr_noy says:

    It’s a shame that the most expensive movie ever made was hampered by what should have been the cheapest part of the process, namely writing the script.

    The black goo falling to earth? Couldn’t someone else have found it and brought it to Dr. Connors to analyze? Peter could have then later encountered it there. It might have been a nice touch if he got infected by Venom in the lab much as he was infected by the super-spider in the first film.

    I would have liked to have seen Peter find out about Marko BEFORE he became Sandman. It would have been a cool Venom/Dark Side Spidey thing to chase Marko and trap him in the particle accelarator only to have this come back to haunt him later.

    As for Mary Jane’s “career” I agree. I found that ridiculous. We’re supposed to care for her but by the time “Bad Peter” begins to hurt her you almost feel that she deserves it, just a little bit. Interestingly, what emerges from Spider-Man 3 is that the arc of the entire series is really about the relationship between Peter and Harry.

    • curt_holman says:

      black goo

      I found myself wishing, in the brief scene when Eddie Brock tries to take blacksuit Spiderman’s photo (before he fights Sandman in the subway), that he had TOUCHED Spider-man in some way, like grabbed his shoulder or something, and maybe come away with just a smudge of the symbiote on his fingers. Because that would have established a “relationship” between Eddie Brock and the symbiote that would have paid off later, rather than having them link up because the symbiote, in effect, fell on him with a plop. Eddie could have come to the church because the symbiote was “calling to him,” something like that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Black goo

      Since the chance timing that brought Spidey films to be related to 9-11, the film configured NYcityscape as one of the main actors. It’s a NYC on steroids, where everything is SYMBOLS, and spideystorylines get plotted out like connect the dots between, in stories of redemption.

      MJ acting? – no, no, no the point is “BROADWAY.” Symbols have heirarchy of course – there are FREEDOM symbols, Statue of Liberty etc.. ECONOMIC power, etc.. and naturally the most “meaningful” occur in Christian symbols. For lazy post 9-11 audiences, it’s always the basic goodvsevil of Bible reading symbols. They meet, in a CHURCH as symbol, forget geography or script-logic. Any other chance occurence is too secular, less pumped up on its own metaphysical significance and self-worth.

      Touching a shoulder by accident? PLEASE. “The darkness” that has taken over Peter/Spidey, that releases his inner demons, that came from foreign sources, is being transferred onto nothing less than a weak Christian – a person we viewers witness mistakenly praying in the Church or another’s downfall. And so on. Everything has to have redemption writ large. NYC is now American redemption writ large. And oh yeah… christian.

      Imagine if you could the same scene is in a synagogue – VENOM is jewish even – no way would that be treated neutral. Or for that matter, haHA, a mosque. But Churches… are now “neutral”.

      As for MJ, Dunst really isn’t a bonafide star, but she has that in common with Toby… So she has to be less powerful a presence on the screen than Spidey and friends, so Dunst fits..

  12. What’s amazing is that almost everyone’s comments, complaints and suggestions for this film are both completely right and fairly obvious. It’s like they went ahead and shot the first draft of the script or something. I could almost see the typos on the screen. Did no one stop and think twice about some of the logic of the story, or, dare to dream, perhaps the balance of exposition-to-action-to-comedy-to-drag-ass-love-subplot?

    And for the love of Christ, WHO APPROVED THE DANCE NUMBER?!?

    • Todd says:

      In the middle of the dance number, my wife (who is no fanboy) whispered to me “I liked everything about this movie — right up to here.”

  13. teamwak says:

    Saturday Night Fever aside, is it any good?

    I think Spidey 2 night be the best comic book movie ever, although my love for the first X-Men knows no bounds.

    • Todd says:

      Saturday Night Fever aside, is it any good?

      It’s fine. As far as gargantuan, over-long summer blockbusters go, it’s way more than fine. And even with its moments of lame narrative convenience, it is thematically rich and coherent. If it has a single over-riding problem, its that it should have either been a half-hour shorter or an hour longer. Or two different movies. But it’s no Matrix Revolutions or anything.

      • teamwak says:

        Cool. I have faith in Sam Raimi.

        I wonder if in modern dictionarys the definition of hubris would be a reference to Matrix Convolutions. After hearing storys of how the Wakowskis might have borrowed from someone elses sceenplay for the original Matrix, and seeing what a dogs dinner the next too were; I am a little worried about their next project Speed Racer. However they guys can shoot a car chase so it may be a fun pop-corn flick, but I’m not holding my breathe. Except psudo-pyschology crap in there somewhere.

  14. moroccomole says:

    And then, as if to punch up the fact that Kirsten Dunst makes an unconvincing redhead, they throw in Bryce Dallas Howard, who makes an unconvincing blonde.

  15. greyaenigma says:

    Someone mutters something about how she should have called her agent and she dashes out of the theater.

    I the the impression this was one of the two bigwigs (director and producer?) in the play chastising the other one, not her, for not having called her agent.

    I was OK with the goo and the church. (Although an establishing shot of Brock stalking Pete would have been nice.) What I had troule with was that there was secluded high-energy particle physics experiment in an open field apparently in the middle of the city.

    Also, that locket must be made of adamantium.

  16. Anonymous says:


    I would assume all that merchandise is going to pay for the lawsuits Spiderman is party to. This guy causes A LOT of damage just to get across town.

  17. craigjclark says:

    But no, first thing, she dumps her boyfriend, takes up with his arch-enemy and starts working as a singing waitress in a jazz bar.

    Maybe she’s hoping to be discovered by the lead singer of the Human League.