With a box office gross of $890 million worldwide, Spider-Man 3 is the most commercially successful film of the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy but is also the one that draws in the most amount of criticism. The worst part about Spider-Man 3 is that one can see the potential for good within it, but the film is the messiest of the trilogy.
It also has a scene that is considered something of a low point of the series and of the comic book movie genre: the image of Peter Parker dancing on the street, a moment that has become a popular meme and gif on social media, and was even spoofed in the recently released, and truly brilliant, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
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The film that would make its way into theatres in the summer of 2007 was undeniably popular, but it would also bear the brunt of many of the creative differences that were going on behind the scenes and be indicative of just how much Sony was starting to try and invoke their own creative direction on the series, as opposed to relying on Raimi’s voice as they had done on the first two films.
Raimi had wanted to explore Peter’s character once again, with the main villain being Sandman, played here by Thomas Haden Church who does great work despite the fact the film ends up forgetting he is there for half the time. Unfortunately, producer Avi Arad and Sony ended up being more eager to shoehorn Venom into the film, a very popular character but one that Raimi had professed in interviews and to the media that he wasn’t a fan of.
Undeniably a cool looking character, the decision to have the symbiote in here was evident of a studio who clearly were obsessed with trying to get that character on screen, an eagerness that would negatively impact this film and a never-ending attempt at trying to get a Venom film off the ground. This would eventually reach fruition in 2018, with a critically panned film that would achieve a high box office gross.
Unfortunately for Raimi’s third Spider-Man, it would end up falling into the same problem that would mire the later Batman films from the 1990s that Warner Bros. had produced; mainly trying to throw too much on to the screen and focusing on too many villains.
It’s clear that Spider-Man 3 wants to focus on concluding the Norman Osborne story that has played a massive part in the series thus far, while using the Sandman story to bring events full circle with the first film; the key revelation here involving Sandman’s involvement in Uncle Ben’s death is a deviation from the comics similar to The Joker being responsible for the death of the Waynes in Tim Burton’s Batman, but the film become a mess due to having to facilitate Raimi’s storytelling interests along with what the studio and Arad wanted.
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Not only do we get Sandman and Norman as the new Green Goblin, on top of Venom, we also get the introduction of Gwen Stacey to the series, a wasted Bryce Dallas Howard, along with the film segueing into the effects of the Venom symbiote on Peter for the majority of the second act before it finally affects Eddie Brock (Topher Grace).
Even worse, the film relies, like the previous two movies, on having Mary Jane be kidnapped in the third act in order to facilitate its final set piece, and since this is the usual storytelling move by these movies, they pretty much deliver this key piece of plot via exposition delivered by two stereotypical news reporters after we see Mary Jane get into a taxi cab with Brock.
Even the team up between Sandman and Brock is delivered by a dialogue exchange that is essentially: – ‘Want to team up?’ – ‘Yeah, sure.’
Even more bizarrely the first half of the film relies on the old trope of amnesia infecting Norman, stopping him from being a threat until the second half. It tries to be a dramatic source of tension, but it never really works and even when he gets his memory back, and bearing in mind this is after trying to kill Peter in the first act, he pretty much resorts to petty behaviour such as breaking Peter and Mary Jane up, while a change of character facilitated by his butler has subsequently become a source of ridicule.
There is no doubt the film is very good looking and the production values are very high, and while Sony didn’t lose any sleep given the commercial success of the film, the fact that the fourth film with this creative team and cast failed to get off the ground is rather telling.
It would be five years before there would be another Spider-Man film on screen, and with it would come a new team and a new creative direction. Spider-Man would have a new face and the film would go back to his high school years, rebooting and relaunching the character with a new interpretation of the origin tale, a mere ten year years after we had seen such events depicted on screen.
The film we would get in 2012 would be a wonderful one, but it would be an iteration of the character and a franchise where the wheels would come off even faster than in this series.