The life of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is going great and Spider-Man is loved by the citizens of New York City. When an alien substance bonds with Peter making him more aggressive, his personal relationships begin to strain, meanwhile new information is revealed about his uncle’s killer.
With both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 being critically acclaimed and financially successful, a third film was all but inevitable. This time, however, Sony intervened and forced Raimi to include the popular Spider-Man villain Venom into the story. This began a spiral of Raimi’s heart not being with the movie like it was before, as well as create a convoluted and excessive story that the series has avoided until this point. Spider-Man 3, despite all the greatness of Raimi’s previous Spider-Man films, failed to live up to the expectations of the series.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films have done a fantastic job of showing how being Spider-Man affects Peter’s daily life, as well as exploring Peter’s relationships with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and Harry Osborn (James Franco). Harry being the son of Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin and villain of Raimi’s first Spider-Man film, blames Spider-Man for the death of his father. After Harry finds out his best friend is also his worst enemy at the end of the previous film, it puts an obvious strain on their relationship, particularly when Harry takes his father’s villainous mantle as the New Goblin. This creates yet another layer in Harry and Peter’s relationship that we have seen develop over the last two films.
Also tying into Spider-Man’s history is Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), aka Sandman. Marko was present during Uncle Ben’s murder, the defining moment of Peter becoming Spider-Man. Again, this personal relationship is used to explore Peter’s character even more, giving him new emotional depth and growing on what has been seen from him in the series so far. Despite all the issues with this film, it did not fail to continue to grow and examine Peter’s character.
The first of many mistakes this film makes is casting Topher Grace as Eddie Brock. Eddie Brock is supposed to be a physically intimidating character, someone you don’t want to get into a fight with, even before he bonds with the symbiote. No offense to Topher Grace but I didn’t feel that; He didn’t have the build for the Eddie. Also, the way he was written did not fit the personality of the comic book version of the character. Not only was Eddie Brock / Venom miscast, but his character development was rushed as well. For a series that thus far had developed its characters and had deep and emotional back stories, it really dropped the ball on creating a truly terrifying version of one of Spider-Man’s best villains.
So far I’ve talked about three villains: New Goblin, Sandman, and Venom. Attempting to fit a trio of antagonists into a film like this only hurts all three. Harry spends most of the time in a with memory loss, only appearing as the New Goblin at the beginning and end of the film. Sandman gets an interesting story arc as a father who only wants to provide for his family, as well as ties into Peter’s history with Uncle Ben. He gets a few good moments before he disappears for a while before showing up for the final scenes. With the symbiote attached to Peter for the first two acts, Venom doesn’t appear until the final third of the film, stifling any significant development. There are just too many villains to successfully develop all of them.
While the first two films did a good job of using practical effects as much as possible, this movie fell into the same trap that many action films began falling into during this time period: it used CGI too heavily and was too reliant on it. Given the skill-set of the villains, it’s not surprising. I’m sure the CGI was good at the time, but it hasn’t aged well, especially scenes that required fully rendered people. Throughout the movie, Spider-Man has fight while falling through the air once with each villain. Not only does this feel repetitive but it showcases all the worst parts of the CGI of the film.
I thought Spider-Man 3 was OK 😐 Mark this as another case where studio intervention creates a sub-par film. With Raimi’s guidance, Sony’s Spider-Man series was on an upward trajectory. While it is doubtful Spider-Man 3 could have been a better film than Spider-Man 2, we will never know since its true potential was stifled.
Cast & Crew
Sam Raimi – Director / Writer
Ivan Raimi – Writer
Alvin Sargen – Writer
Christopher Young – Composer
Tobey Maguire – Spider-Man / Peter Parker
Kirsten Dunst – Mary Jane Watson
James Franco – New Goblin / Harry Osborn
Thomas Haden Church – Sandman / Flint Marko
Topher Grace – Venom / Eddie Brock
Rosemary Harris – May Parker
JK Simmons – J Jonah Hameson
Bryce Dallas Howard – Gwen Stacy
James Cromwell – Captain Stacy
Dylan Baker – Dr. Curt Connors
Bill Nunn – Joseph ‘Robbie’ Robertson
Bruce Campbell – Maitre D’
Ted Raimi – Hoffman
Elizabeth Banks – Betty Brant
Elya Baskin – Mr. Ditkovitch
Megeina Tovah – Ursula