Spider-Man 3 ends Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy on a low note. Just like every other Marvel superhero trilogy at the time. This time the obvious problem was overcrowding. Something Spider-Man 2 nearly suffered from before they focused all their attention on Doctor Octopus. My excitement and knowledge of Spider-Man was bigger than ever when Spider-Man 3 was set to come out in 2007. The 3 year wait was painful, but comics and animated shows kept me invested. Rather than focus on one supervillain, Spider-Man 3 is stuffed with not two, but three separate antagonists. My brother and I immediately recognized the Sandman, expected to see Harry become the new Green Goblin, and were thrilled to finally see a live-action Venom.
I was so excited to see Spider-Man 3 that my parents took us straight to the theater immediately after I finished school. Although I was 11, I was still too young to really see any problem with the movie. So I still enjoy it today despite those obvious flaws. Many of which can be blamed on studio interference and stubbornness from director Sam Raimi. Raimi naturally wanted to complete Harry’s revenge arc, but he also really wanted to use Sandman as the main villain. It was long time Marvel producer Avi Arad’s idea to use the more fan favorite Venom. And since there weren’t already too many characters, Sony threw Gwen Stacy in as well…
Spider-Man 3 starts with the traditional web and Spidey theme, but a more villainous theme is added on. Clips of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are simply shown along with sand and the alien symbiote. Spider-Man 3 is mostly a loose retelling of the “Alien Costume” storyline from the comics. By loose, I mean a meteor containing the symbiote very conveniently lands right next to the only person on the planet with superpowers. The black suit is the second most iconic Spider-Man costume. The simple design is ever so slightly altered to include webbing. Although it should give the threequel a darker edge, the brooding teaser poster does not represent the whole movie. Unlike Spider-Man 2, everything starts to go well for Peter Parker. New York loves Spider-Man, the city is safe, and Peter & Mary Jane Watson are happily together. So he starts to get cocky and unable to notice any problems around him. This time MJ is the one who faces many misfortunes. Although I have no idea why she’d become a broadway singer after being a more successful actress and model.
Despite those problems, Peter still wants to marry MJ. By this point, Rosemary Harris’ only purpose as Aunt May is to give Peter her ring and moral lessons whenever time permits. An added strain on the relationship is Gwen Stacy. Fans of the comics know her as Spider-Man’s first true love, before she was infamously killed off. Since the movies did things in reverse, Gwen is mostly just there to be the “other woman.” Still, Bryce Dallas Howard is good at portraying Gwen’s kindness without seeming like a rival. Ironically, Howard is a natural redhead playing a blonde, while Kirsten Dunst is a natural blonde playing a redhead. Gwen is conveniently Peter’s lab partner, Spider-Man conveniently rescues her from a bizarre crane accident, she gives Spidey the key to the city, and they share an unfortunate upside down kiss. Her father, police Captain George Stacy doesn’t serve his comic destiny either and James Cromwell is mostly just around for exposition.
The Daily Bugle is still a good place for comic relief, but it’s definitely gotten more exaggerated. J. K. Simmons still shines even with his over-the-top anger problem. Bill Nunn and Ted Raimi’s roles are slightly expanded on as Robbie and Hoffman respectively. But it’s Elizabeth Banks who really starts to feel more like the Betty Brant from the comics. Specifically when she more openly flirts with Peter. Mr. Ditkovich and Ursula are still fun to see, but I haven’t even gotten to the villains yet. Each villain birth happens simultaneously. A more vengeful Harry Osborn enhances himself and becomes the New Goblin. Although I expected the Green Goblin suit again, the look they went with was way too extreme. New Goblin looks more like James Franco dressed as a ninja with wrist blades, a katana, and surfboard glider. The only carryover is the pumpkin bombs.
The movie then becomes a soap opera, when Harry conveniently gets amnesia and has a child-like innocence. The butler Bernard also gets more screen time, because why not. When Peter’s proposal fails, MJ finds comfort in Harry. Which includes an extremely cringy omelet making scene. Nothing happens between them, so Norman restores Harry’s memory and he forces a rom-com style breakup. Since things are more personal between Peter & Harry, both fights are done without the Spider-suit. The first fight sets the stage for more off the wall battles. Their second fight is more brutally realistic thanks to the concealed black suit, but there’s still a trace of silliness. The fight leaves Harry scared, but his arc is fulfilled when he discovers the truth about his father.
At the exact same time, Thomas Haden Church truly shines as the Sandman. With a striped green shirt that leaps off the page. Since Raimi is notorious for having sympathetic villains, Flint Marko isn’t just a petty criminal. I’m not crazy about the excessive sympathy, but I can’t deny how good Church is at the drama. Flint is just trying to pay for his sick daughter’s medical expenses. When a freak accident (caused by ridiculous oversight) leaves Flint with sand powers, it’s a hauntingly beautiful moment of realization. Spider-Man just rights him off in their more lighthearted first fight in a runaway armored truck, but everything changes when Peter discovers the truth. They make the terrible decision to recton Uncle Ben’s murder, so that Flint Marko is the one responsible. Making Dennis Carradine just an accomplice. The inaccuracy is completely forced and adds yet another subplot onto the movie. Although it does support the theme of revenge.
Leading to the very patient symbiote latching onto Peter as he sleeps. Dylan Baker never got a chance to play the Lizard, but Dr. Connors at least helps in analyzing the black extraterrestrial substance. Like the comics, Peter is drawn to its power and his second fight with Sandman in the black suit is all the more intense. The subway fight ends when Spider-Man seemingly kills him by liquefaction. Leading to what is easily the most embarrassing part of Spider-Man 3. It’s impossible to take Tobey Maguire seriously as emo Peter. He tries to act cool, but he still ends up looking like a dork. Leading to many hilarious memes and his notorious funky music strut. Which is made even more ridiculous with the constant barrage of gorgeous women who are clearly not impressed. I swear Sam Ramiai just wanted to make a musical, because Peter’s jazz club dance number has to be some kind of joke. Peter tries to make Mary Jane jealous by dancing with Gwen, but he goes a step too far by accidentally hitting MJ. A shocking moment that’s about as dark as the arc gets.
Just like the comic, sound vibrations from church bells are what remove the suit. Dripping onto the closest living lifeform. Topher Grace is always funny, but he’ll forever be the most miscast actor in the franchise. In the comics, Eddie Brock is a bulky journalist. In the movie, he’s just Eric Foreman with blonde hair. I get that Eddie is supposed to mirror Peter’s job at the Daily Bugle, but you can’t take him seriously as a villain. Adding onto the convenience is the fact that he’s sort of dating Gwen. His comic accurate downward spiral begins when he fakes a criminal photo of Spider-Man, Jameson fires him, Gwen dumps him, and Eddie begins to resent Peter Parker. He’s conveniently in the same church when the symbiote falls on him and I can’t deny how cool the Venom face reveal is. Even though it’s clear Raimi only threw Venom in to please fans. He didn’t like the characters “lack of humanity,” despite that being the point of a villain. Venom has the sharp teeth, long tongue, and pseudo-spider look, but Grace is not big enough. He also randomly peels back his face and his voice isn’t intimidating.
The climax brings everyone together at a construction sight that’s made a bit more cheesy by having an audience and being televised. Mary Jane is once again kidnapped and Spider-Man has to face the combined forces of Sandman & Venom. They get the upper hand, but Harry arrives just in time to help. Save for the expected battle damaged costume. They team up for an intense final battle that ends in the tragic loss of Harry. Unlike every other antagonist, Eddie doesn’t redeem himself. A sound cage subdues the monstrous symbiote, but Eddie foolishly dies in the pumpkin bomb explosion. Peter only learns acceptance from Sandman and he drifts away in a cloud of sand. Harry dies in the arms of his friends and everyone attends his funeral (even Flash Thompson). The trilogy then ends with a somber final dance from Peter & MJ.
Spider-Man 3 is practically 2 hours & 36 minutes of nonstop chaos, but there are good ideas that could have worked better in a less crowded film. Web slinging is as good as it’s ever been. CGI on the sand looks very convincing and the symbiote is just how you’d imagine it would look in live-action. Bruce Campbell has his usual cameo. This time as a cartoonishly over-the-top French maitre d’. I was never crazy about the Stan Lee cameo as a New Yorker talking directly to Peter in Time Square, because I felt having him front & center was too on the nose. Now it’s a heartfelt testament to how awesome he was (sealed with his trademark “Nuff’ Said”). Although most of it is cheesy, there are good humorous moments. Along with all the well choreographed action I always hope to see. When you get past the excessive storylines, it’s possible to really enjoy the original Spidey’s final swing in Spider-Man 3.
Preceded by: Spider-Man 2