Benjamin has been reviewing films for sixteen years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the big deal?
Spider-Man 3 is an action superhero film released in 2007 and is the third and final film in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, it sees Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) do battle with a trio of villains - the alien symbiote Venom, Flint Marko who turns into the Sandman after a freak accident and the vengeful Harry Osborn who takes on the mantle of his late father to become the new Goblin. The film stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, JK Simmons, Bryce Dallas Howard and Rosemary Harris. At the time, the film was the most expensive movie ever made with an estimated budget of $258 million - however, the film was a box office smash with global takings of $895 million. Unlike its predecessors, the film received a mixed reception from critics who praised the film's effects but were less happy about the confusing narrative. The film remains hugely divisive among fans of the character with the film's portrayal of the Venom character in particular enraging many viewers.
What's it about?
Twelve months after the events of Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker has finally gained the trust of the general public as the masked crime-fighter Spider-Man. Peter is planning to ask his long-time girlfriend Mary Jane Watson to marry him as she begins her musical career appearing on Broadway. But New York is a city that rarely sleeps and escaped convict Flint Marko evades recapture by the NYPD by hiding inside a particle accelerator. Unfortunately, he is caught inside during an experiment and finds his DNA bonding with surrounding sand, able to control it with the power of his mind.
Meanwhile, a small meteorite crashes into Central Park and unbeknownst to Peter, a small alien symbiote follows him back to his apartment. After learning that Marko was the one who actually killed Peter's beloved Uncle Ben, Peter dons his Spider-Man costume and decides to avenge him but he unknowingly binds with the symbiote, granting him immense power but also corrupting his personality and brings out his darker side. But Peter is not alone - his friend Harry Osborn, now aware that Peter killed his father Norman Osborn as Spider-Man, also decides to seek revenge and uncovers a hidden cache of his father's destructive technology...
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Mary Jane Watson
Harry Osborn / New Goblin
Thomas Haden Church
Flint Marko / Sandman
Eddie Brock / Venom
Bryce Dallas Howard
Capt. George Stacy
J. Jonah Jameson
Sam & Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent*
Release Date (UK)
4th May, 2007
Action, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
OK, deep breath.
While it has since been superseded by more recent efforts such as Spider-Man: Homecoming with the quality that comes with being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's important to remember that Raimi's films were hugely popular and for good reason. With a baby-faced Maguire in the lead, genuine chemistry between himself and Dunst and some truly exciting action sequences highlighted by some impressive CG, Raimi's mix of sci-fi, humour and an eye for detail helped to shape the MCU that would come after it. Sure enough, the recipe is the same for the final entry in Maguire's contribution and you certainly can't fault the film for a lack of ambition. With three members of his rogue's gallery to face off against, the film delivers a breath-taking spectacle to delight fans of the character.
The film also dares to take some risks, particularly with Peter's characterisation. As his ego begins to emerge following the merge with the symbiote, Maguire gives us an emo-flavoured version of the character that struts around New York like he owns the place - which, if you're Spider-Man, you can well imagine he might. Maguire's performance may have put some fans off but I enjoyed it. It was good to see some humour in the film that wasn't reliant on Simmons' faultless portrayal of the permanently angry newspaper editor, J. Jonah Jameson. If you enjoyed the first two films then chances are, you'll get a kick out of this third film too. However, there is a very real possibility that this movie will infuriate you beyond belief.
- With this movie, Raimi became the first director to shoot a trilogy of superhero films. Bryan Singer had shot two X-Men films but didn't make his third until 2014's X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Christopher Nolan became the second such director with his Dark Knight trilogy.
- In total, the film took almost three years to make with over a thousand people working on the film, putting in 8000 hours of work making some 40 costumes for Spider-Man and the complicated CG scenes. The film's estimated $258 million budget does not take into account the development of the software used to animate Sandman, the expensive shoot on location in New York or numerous reshoots which added another 8 months to the production time. It's been speculated that the film actually cost around $350 millon...
- Raimi was unhappy with how the film ended up - he was against including Venom in the film but was overruled by producer Avi Arad. Raimi had hoped to redeem himself with a fourth film featuring Dr Curt Conners (The Lizard, who did appear in the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man) and Carnage but it never happened due to the poor reception this film received from fans.
What's not to like?
While merely replicating the formula from earlier films has kinda worked in other sequels, Spider-Man 3 does make a couple of significant mistakes that make this easily the worst of Raimi's trilogy. The amount of CG involved in the film is far too excessive, especially given that there is an uneasy transfer between Church's goofy-looking character and the tornado-of-terror that is Sandman. It just never looks real and while Maguire swinging around the New York skyline looks good enough, it isn't enough of a forward step to justify the eye-watering development. The narrative feels confused and plodding at times and then, there's Venom. Specifically, everything to do with the character.
Grace is miscast as Brock who is meant to be a mirror image of Parker but ends up feeling like a dim-witted douchebag. The symbiote itself, like Sandman, never looks believable enough on screen while Venom himself doesn't really appear until the final third of the film. It feels like an unnecessary inclusion - if you're going to feature arguably the coolest of Spidey's many villains, why restrict him to the last fight scene in the film? I also wasn't a fan of Church's portrayal of the Sandman, making him much more sympathetic than he is in the comics and not strong enough of a main villain compared to Alfred Molina's scene-stealing Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. The film is also too long for what should be a piece of comic escapism - it's as though Raimi watched Batman Begins and wanted to take that film's introspection and apply to the Wall Crawler. But Spider-Man is a light-hearted character at his core and should avoid the internal trauma Bruce Wayne suffers from. Basically, the film tries too hard to do too much and ends up falling short.
Should I watch it?
Spider-Man 3 has its defenders and detractors in equal measure and on a basic level, the film just about works as a decent superhero film. But it is noticeably worse than the first two films and die-hard Spidey fans will probably argue about the film's merits until the apocalypse. It isn't the worst Spider-Man film ever made but considering the quality of the earlier films, this can't help but feel like a massive disappointment.
Great For: forgiving fans of the earlier Raimi films, derailing careers, sparking debate
Not So Great For: fans of the characters (especially Venom), stratospheric expectations, anyone hoping for Spider-Man 4...
What else should I watch?
The first Spider-Man came out of nowhere and proved that superhero films didn't have to be made on the cheap, tongue-in-cheek or uninspired slug fests. But the second one was even better - Molina's multi-limbed menace was an improvement in every respect over Willem Dafoe's swivel-eyed Green Goblin and the film was a genuinely exciting superhero effort that underlined the viability of the superhero pic. The year after Spider-Man 3, Marvel unleashed the game-changing Iron Man which started the MCU rolling into cinemas all over the world and flooding the market to please comic geeks everywhere. In the years since, we've been treated to some brilliant movies like Avengers Assemble, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Black Panther.
DC Comics aren't without ambitions either although they have been playing catch-up ever they launched their own integrated movie universe with 2013's Man Of Steel. Sadly, they haven't managed to find much success with critics although audiences are still lapping up their movies so perhaps the market isn't oversaturated just yet. So far, the only films worth investigating are Wonder Woman which beat Marvel to become the first female-led superhero film that was any good, the fun but uneven Suicide Squad and the tongue-in-cheek Shazam! With another attempt at Bruce Wayne's crime fighting alter ego The Batman as well as an Eighties-themed sequel to Wonder Woman on the horizon, we'll soon see if DC can start to generate some traction.
© 2020 Benjamin Cox