So Bad Boys It’s Good Boys? Unintentionally Comic Bad Boy in Spider-Man 3 – Craig Thornton

The spirit of Paracinema is not mutually exclusive to something outside of popular cinema, it can exist within franchises amongst the discourse of fandoms as texts are ranked next to their peers inside of their textual families. The canon of Spider-Man specifically is host to many variations of the web-slinger such as Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland and Shameik Moore, the voice actor of Myles Morales each franchise within the cannon inevitably compared to the former, but, one such film considered a flop can appear more prominently through the failure to uphold the family name. I am speaking of Spider-Man 3, and the scene where our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man goes bad, or attempts to do so.

Richard McCulloch states that the “So Bad It’s Good Film”;

“departs so constantly and exaggeratedly from established cinematic and narrative conventions, that the incongruity between what we expect and what we actually see becomes humorous.”

The flop within a cannon being one such aspect of intentional and unintentional comedy arising from the formal decisions employed within the film text, the intention here through costuming, sound and performance was to create a bad boy image which is incongruent to the sunny dispositioned Spider-Man, the unintentional result being a departure from a departure. The departure from character to establish an evil symbiote controlled dark version of Peter Parker does not deliver and unintentionally creates something laughable rather than inherently evil, but from 2007’s reception to now, the attitude toward a scene such as this can be seen for the comedy in spite of the intention, yet if this were released today with the comedic element now a commonplace alongside the gritty action of the superhero film then would it fair differently? As proposed by Dyck and Johnson “artistic failure can produce an aesthetically positive effect of bizarreness.”, although the intended bad boy persona does not hold gravitas, the result of the performance contains a different cultural power through laughter making this film not the best Spider-Man but possibly the funniest regardless of its intention, which then asks the question, if infamy can generate an equal or greater success than reverence?



John Dyck and Matt Johnson (2017), ‘Appreciating bad art’, Journal of Value Inquiry, 51(2), 279-292.

Richard McCulloch (2011), ‘“Most people bring their own spoons”: The Room’s participatory audiences as comedy mediators’, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 8: 2, 189-218.


One comment

  1. You’ve chosen an excellent scene to demonstrate an example of ‘so bad it’s good’ in Spiderman 3 (2007). I remember seeing this film in cinema when it came out – the hype for the film was HUGE and I even remember the overhead speaker asking us all to move up in our seats, as the theatre was at capacity.

    Although this scene is supposed to be Peter Parker in his ‘dark phase’ and there is no comic intention, I remember the audience in the cinema bursting into laughter when the scene played. As you’ve picked up from the Dyck and Johnson reading “artistic failure can produce an aesthetically positive effect of bizarreness,” which i think the scene effectively shows. Although there has been an attempt to ‘edge up’ the character, because Peter has been so straight laced throughout the franchise we just can’t read him as ‘edgy,’ instead the audience can’t help but cringe as we awkwardly watch the scene unfold.

Leave a Reply