As we approach the DVD release, let's have a brief discussion one of the reasons why I found Spider-Man 3 so less-than-compelling. If you haven't seen it and you don't want spoilers, scroll down and read about Gabby Hayes.
Of course, one of the enduring cornerstones of the Spider-Man mythos--hell, THE cornerstone--is how Peter Parker's guilt is the foundation of his sense of responsibility. If he had stopped that thief, he wouldn't have gone on to kill Uncle Ben. The consequences of not acting, when you could have, are that people could die. Yeah, it's been riffed a million times, but with great power comes great responsibility. And no where has that ever been better demonstrated than Amazing Fantasy #15 and the subsequent Spider-Man title.
And the Raimi movies, at least the first two, understood that...that Parker was consumed by guilt and unable to give up his life as Spider-Man, because not helping meant people getting hurt and dying.
But Spider-Man 3 needlessly and gratuitously changed all of that. In what felt incredibly tacked on and contradictory to the 1st movie, we found out that it WASN'T the thief that Parker could have stopped who shot Uncle Ben. Nope, it was his partner, waiting outside, who decided to jack Uncle Ben's car, and shot him while waiting for his partner to come out with the loot. And who just happened to be Flint Marko, who would become the Sandman.
You see what this means, of course: even if Peter had stopped the thief, Uncle Ben would have died ANYWAY. In the movie universe, Peter Parker is not at all responsible for Uncle Ben's death.
Now, you'd think that in a character who raison d'etre is to be consumed by his guilt, that this revelation might have SOME impact on Peter Parker. Some expression of relief, amazement, anything. Maybe some self-examination of why he became and was staying Spider-Man. Even one bloody sentence on the lines of "Hey, I didn't get my uncle killed!"
But not in this movie. Nope. Parker (and the script) are so un-self-aware that the obvious, necessary emotional reaction is never even hinted at. Instead, they've transmuted Spider-Man's origin into Batman's, and his raison d'etre becomes revenge, and all he can think of is to hunt down Joe Chill--oops, I mean Flint Marko. All of Peter Parker's angst from the 1st two movies is rendered irrelevant and is completely ignored.
Of course, the whole issue is handled clumsily and in a ridiculously ad hoc fashion. What, pray tell, is the new information that suddenly informed the police that Marko was the real killer, years later? Why does it come to light only, in an incredible coincidence, as Marko escapes? And don't get me started on the risible ending to this plotline.
But even if it had been handled brilliantly, what's the point? Why negate a fundamental part of Spider-Man's being--just to make Sandman more interesting? (SPOILER ALERT--the effort failed). Why completely alter Parker's moral universe, and then fail to even freakin' mention it?
It was a dumb move. It was an attempt to make the hero fit the villain and plot, and not to make them fit the hero you've already established. There were plenty of other problems with Spider-Man 3, but this was the one I found most telling, most grating, most disappointing--especially after the fine job this crew had done on 1 & 2.