What’s the Story: Everything seems to be going right with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) as he balances his normal life and his crime-fighting alter ego, Spider-Man. Besides being the responsible hero New York City needs, nothing is more important than his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), who he wants to pop the big question. But it could very well change since he has to deal with his former best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), avenging his father by killing him. At the same time, he also must face Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), a wanted fugitive who turns into Sandman after getting caught in a lab experiment and who turns out to be Uncle Ben’s true killer. Along with an alien symbiote from outer space, all of this latches into Peter that brings out the darker qualities not normally associated with Spider-Man.
If you were like me and loved everything associated with Spider-Man, then it was no surprise Spider-Man 3’s arrival was all hype. As someone who loves the 2002 original and its more-entertaining 2004 sequel, I was excited about this probably more than any other movie released that summer movie season, and let’s not forget 2007 was the season of threesequels, surprisingly. I even had the incredible teaser power in my room for a while. So I was in fourth grade when this came out, and my family and I saw it opening day, and the anticipation was all I could think about while learning at school. I remembered liking this sequel at age ten going on 11, but I thought something felt off. Years later, nothing disappointed me more than Spider-Man 3, where this could’ve been an excellent superhero trilogy if it stuck the landing.
Since then, it’s been one that puts people in three sections when this is in discussion:
1) Those who actually liked it from the beginning.
2) Those who disliked it from the beginning.
3) Those who think positively about it after rewatching it.
For me, it was just not a sequel I found myself enjoying. But I wouldn’t call this an awful comic book movie similar to X-Men: The Last Stand or the Fantastic Four reboot since, from my perspective, you can see director Sam Raimi and company tried their hardest to make another memorable Spider-Man movie for fans everywhere.
This was probably the first time Sony really meddled with one of their projects, which must’ve upset Raimi for not letting him do his own thing. When you watch Spider-Man 3, there’s no denying the problem as to why the third installment wasn’t as successful as the first two is the script— it’s very messy. A lot is going on here that doesn’t always mesh together well where a specific vision wasn’t clear to make everything entirely work. With all these characters and subplots going on about, it’s hard to understand what’s going on. Between the romance frustration of Peter & Mary Jane, there’s also have Peter with his new black suit, Peter hunting Flint after discovering he shot his Uncle, a kinda love triangle with Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Harry having memory loss. So much where it made this almost boring or a sense of less urgency.
That said, I think there are aspects about this sequel I happened to like then and now. For instance, Tobey Maguire still gives a committed performance as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, where he’s currently dealing with the sense of fame and the relationships with his friends once again. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson remains the damsel in distress, but she probably gives her best performance in the entire trilogy. The tone is, primarily, serious that I didn’t mind when a few lighthearted moments that’ll make or break your enjoyment. And most of the action sequences were pretty exciting, for the most part, with the standout being the fight between Black Suit Spidey and Sandman underneath the subway.
Everything else failed to impress me, even seeing this as an adult. Besides the story’s structure, this does have a villain problem because there’s no need to have three villains to by attention to as it becomes overstuffed. The main antagonist is Thomas Haden Church as Sandman, who escapes prison to provide money for his sick daughter. Honestly, Sandman has always been one of the weakest villains from the comics since he’s not entirely threatening with his sand powers. Marko’s pretty much forgettable where they didn’t explore his character too much, and for him to be the one who shot Uncle Ben for Peter to go on a path of revenge against him seems tacky. But I will admit the scene where Marko becomes Sandman showcases a beautiful moment with some neat visuals and no dialogue with Christopher Young’s score to give it one of the most impressive scenes in the trilogy. That whole scene took six months to complete.
Harry as New Goblin was set up nicely at the end of #2, and for him to have amnesia right in the first act where he doesn’t remember Peter is Spider-Man was weak, just like Franco’s performance. And then there’s the inclusion of Venom. This popular character was actually forced into the movie by Sony and producer Avi Arad despite Raimi not being a fan, and you can sense he was shoehorned at the late minute. What’s worse was Topher Grace playing Eddie Brock/ Venom. As much as I like Grace as an actor, he was so miscast as you couldn’t see him less as the freelance photographer nemesis for Peter at the Daily Bugle and more Eric Forman with a new haircut. We only get to see him in full during the battle, and it wasn’t enough time to give him. If I were in charge, there were be numerous changes, which would have Harry as the sole villain of the entire movie since it was set up well with the tension between him and Peter over how much Norman treated his friend like the son he always wanted.
The amount of fun is very uneven, and I liked the times when it wants to be serious around things to feel a bit grounded. After Peter gets his black suit and turns “emo,” I had difficulty finding him likable when his personality drastically changes who he really is on the outside. This movie jumps the shark when we see him acting cool on the streets and when he humiliates Mary Jane at the jazz club for a completely out-of-place dance number. All of that was funny as a kid, but it’s absolute cringe now. Unfortunately, the overall Black Suit stuff wasn’t handled as well as one would want. Watching it again, it’s crazy the screen time for the villains seems limited when there are periods where they aren’t shown. At the time, this was the most expensive blockbuster ever made, with an estimated budget of $258 million. With a considerable amount of money into this, how come the CGI isn’t nearly as good as before? Some moments looked fine, while the Peter vs. New Goblin scene in the first act took me out with how bad the green screen was.
Yeah, I know this has fans, but I don’t even know if I should trust anyone who dares says this is a better sequel than #2. You have to feel sad for Raimi since this wasn’t the movie he attended to make, and a lot of hands were involved not to have this work out ideally. He even said it was “awful” with the negative reviews, which is even sadder considering we were supposed to get a “Spider-Man 4” four years later, wanting Vulture and Black Cat as the main villains. So much was going on about the movie with different drafts that it was almost considered to be split into two parts. But it was sadly canceled in early 2010, leading to starting everything over with the 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, down the road. So while it still has divided opinions from everyone, it wasn’t shocking that it was the highest-grossing movie of 2007. But it’s one that’s labeled disappointing. Now, does it end with a nice song during the credits? I believe so with Snow Patrol’s “Signal Fire”, a track of theirs I like more than others.
Spider-Man 3 comes nowhere near the heart and passion found within its previous two installments. Instead, with all the potential it wanted to bring to the screen successfully, it leads to an underwhelming conclusion that manages to be incoherent and barely entertaining. An unfocused narrative and too many bad guys for our hero to face against, it’s not terrible, but I can’t say in good conscience it’s good.