Spider-Man 3 (2007)


Like they say, “Once you go black, you never go back.”

When we last left Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), things seemed to be going relatively fine. Not only did he save the day, once again, but he got the girl of his dreams, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), patched things up with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and finally told his best-friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) about the fact that he’s not only Spider-Man, but that his father tried to kill him. Sure, the relationship between those two may be strained and even have Harry himself go a bit coo-coo with vengeance, but for the most part, Pete’s life is happy, joyful and one that makes him happy to wake up in the day. However, that all changes one day when he finds out that his Uncle Ben’s killer, believe it or not, is still out there, and he’s going by the name of the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). To make matters even worse, Peter’s finding it hard to keep things going steady at work, and is finding some stiff competition in the newsroom with aspiring, fellow photo-journalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Also, remember the girl of his dreams that he thought he won, hook, line and sinker last time? Well, she’s starting to get second-thoughts about dating a superhero. Oh, and as if that wasn’t all bad enough for Spidey, for some reason, there’s this black, venomous acid following him around and latching onto his suit, changing up his hair-do, and making him act in a totally different way, that may make him feel great and all, but pushes those whom are close to him, further and further away.

Okay, so yeah, that’s a long premise. But it needed to be because let’s face it: This movie is a total, complete, over-stuffed mess. I knew that the second I walked out of the theater back in the early days of summer ’07, and I knew that less than three or four days ago when I found enough guts to go through with it and actually give this movie another try. Shame on me, but you know what? I gotta do it for all of you.

"Kame me, kame me...huh?"
“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

But, to be honest, even though I’m getting off of on the wrong foot and making it seem like I absolutely loathe the heck out of this movie, I can’t say that I really do. Because somehow, I was able to find little, itty, bitty, pleasures here and there throughout the movie. Now, whether or not these pleasures were indeed intended to be “pleasureful” is totally up to Sam Raimi and the creative-powers that be whom got behind this, but the fact remains: Spider-Man 3 isn’t all that terrible. It’s not good, that’s for certain, but it’s not shitty either.

Confused by what I’m trying to say? Don’t worry, I am too. Here, let me try to explain:

What I like to think of this movie as being is one, big, nearly-two-and-a-half-hour long “fuck you” from Sam Raimi. No, not a “fuck you” to us, the dedicated, lovely audience that spent all of our minimum-wages on seeing his past couple of Spider-Man movies, but more as a “fuck you” to those who tried to get in the way of his creative-vision way too many times before. Maybe I’m just making this all up in my head to make myself feel better, but there’s no way in hell that Sam Raimi, the creator of some of the greatest, most iconic cult films of all time, thought that this was a good idea. Or hell, even this! And oh god no, dare I even talk about this travesty!

No, no, no! I refuse to believe that the some mastermind behind Ash would ever stoop this low and give us something as painstaking as most of this movie can be! I don’t care what anybody says, I will stand by my grave if I have to! They always say that “money can’t buy happiness”, well, nor do I think that it can buy creative consciences either. It’s clear to me that Sam Raimi doesn’t know what to do with each and everyone of these subplots, so instead, he just crams them altogether in a way that’s incoherent, but wholly uneven. One second, you’ll be getting something out of a comedy-sketch in which Peter Parker is walking down the street, dancing, walking all fly, acting cool and hitting on the ladies, while some funky bass-action plays in the background; and then, all of a sudden, the next second, you’ll get a scene or two in which the Sandman talks about his dying-kid and how he does all of this crime and whatnot for her.

One second, it’s a laugh-out-lough, camp-fest; the next second, it’s a total downer that will make you want to say “party’s over”. I’m not saying that certain movies can’t be both frothy and dramatic at the same time, there’s just a specific-balance that these movies are capable of handling and maintaining, and it’s clear early on that Raimi is not able to do that. Whether or not this was him just having an off-day and deciding to hell with it all, is sort of beyond me, but there’s just so much going wrong here, that it’s almost too hard to think of it as anything else other than a ruse played on all of us, as well as the numerous Hollywood producers backing this thing.

Which is a total shame, because with all of the material and promise Raimi had at his disposal here, he could have done some wonders – given that he had a three-hour run-time and at least took away a villain or two. But what happens here is that we get just about three villains, four-to-five conflicts for Spidey (not including his own conflict with himself), three-to-four extraneous subplots that literally add nothing to the story, and a two-hour-and-twenty-minute run-time that goes by quick, but only because the movie is never comfortable enough focusing on one thing. Raimi always has to be moving from one end of the story, to another, which makes a lot of sense since he clearly has a lot on his plate to chew on, but made it seem like it didn’t really know what to do or say with its plot, or any of its characters. So instead, it just fell back on the same old, high-flying, CGI-galore action that was always there to make things better for these movies in the past.

Yup, they're totally boned from here-on-out.
Yup, they’re totally boned from here-on-out.

However, this time around, everything else is so poorly-developed, that it just feels like a cheat to get our minds out of everything else that’s going on so wrong with this movie – especially with the characters. And hell, if there’s anything about this movie that fuels me even more is how they wasted the whole potential that Eddie Brock/Venom had as a villain. Don’t get me wrong, I think Topher Grace is a fine actor that’s been trying his hardest since day one to get out of that Eric Forman-shell that’s been carved for him since, well, yeah, day one, but he’s not right for this role. I get what Raimi was trying to do with the casting of him – make him something of an over-the-top, immoral, sneaky and sly son-of-a-bitch – which yes, does work when he’s being Eddie Brock, the photojournalist for the Daily Bugle, but when he has to transform to Venom with about 15 minutes left of the movie, it feels like an after-thought. Almost as if the producers wanted Raimi to throw him in there for good measure, only to realize that the rest of the movie was stacked with so much to begin with.

And since I’m on the subject of new faces to this franchise, I have to say that I feel very bad for Thomas Haden Church here, because the dude is a great talent who just about makes everything better the minute he shows up in it. The problem with him here, as the Sandman, is that he’s given just about nothing to do. We get enough back-story to his character so that we can sort of see where he’s coming from, but it gets so convoluted once they start talking about how he apparently killed Uncle Ben in the past, that I just wanted them to stop with it all and move on. Give me the action, give me more scenes of Thomas Haden Church actually talking and showing some personality, and give me more of the core that really makes these movies tick in the first place: Pete and M.J.

It doesn’t matter what you’re own, personal opinions may be on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as working-professionals, but it should be noted that without them and their chemistry (or in some cases, lack thereof), this franchise would have fallen flat on its face as soon as it hit theaters. There would have been no “superhero movie boom”; no Spider-Man 2; no Amazing Spider-Man; no Amazing Spider-Man 2; nobody remembering who the hell James Franco was; and sure as hell no Spider-Man 3. Maybe we could have lived peacefully with that last aspect being gone and lost forever, but you get the picture – M.J. and P.P. gave these movies an extra oomph of heart and emotion that so many superhero movies try to recreate nowadays, but just can’t seem to get down perfectly.

However, here, the whole idea is that M.J. and Pete stop loving one another and grow apart, which kind of sucks to see since we’ve invested so much of our time in them, but by the same token, needs to happen in order for us to make them just a tad bit believable in terms of character-development and rounding the two out as individual beings, rather than just a couple. If this was done right, it would have been phenomenal to see, in a big-budget, superhero movie no less, but the movie really stumbles when it’s paying dear attention to this subplot. Pete eventually becomes a bit of a dick because of this venomous, gooey thing that keeps on attaching to his suit and making him act differently; and M.J. is coming at a bit of an existential crisis where she wants the focus to be constantly on her, her failing-career as a Broadway actress, and the fact that she’s been so loyal and dedicated to Pete, despite going around and starting to sleep with Harry, once again.

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don't just do us the favor, do yourself one.
Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don’t just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Tobey Maguire, god bless him, tries his heart out but once Peter Parker gets that new, emo hairdo, it’s all downhill for him from there; Dunst looks bad because Mary Jane is so unlikable and unsympathetic in her whiniest performance yet; and James Franco, believe it if you will, probably has the best performance out of everyone here, just by getting a chance to live a little and show some of that Daniel Desario charm that was so absent from the two other movies. Which is strange considering that right as soon as this movie came out, hit theaters, broke a bunch of box-office records and basically ended the franchise that came to be known as “Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man“, Franco started popping-up in some interesting movies like Milk, Pineapple Express and In the Valley of Elah that not only stretched him a bit as an actor, but also showed the world that he wasn’t going to be doomed by his infamous past as “Harry Osborne, snobby, prick-ish son of a crazy billionaire”.

So yes, if there is anything, heck, anything at all good that you can take away from Spider-Man 3, it’s that it allowed James Franco to break-out from his cage and start trying his hand at some weird, quite frankly, goofy shit. But hey, we’re better as a society for it. Because seriously, when was the last time you actually got amped-up for something either Kirsten Dunst or Tobey Maguire were doing?

I rest my case.

Consensus: Long, overstuffed, uneventful, confusing, incoherent, and definitely disappointing, Spider-Man 3 may go down in the history books as one of the weakest superhero movies made in the past decade or so, but it isn’t without its small pleasures found along the way, if only for its most dedicated, easy, and calm viewers.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I tan."
“Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I’m trying to get that summer glow.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

37 comments

  1. The person to really blame for this debacle is producer Avi Arad who was the one who pushed for the film to have Venom. Well, that was a crap idea. It was a bloated mess. I still want my $7 of the $9 I spent back. The other $2 goes for that entire sequence with Bruce Campbell who was the best thing in that movie.

  2. What a mess this movie is! I actually think it was a great idea for Venom to be in this movie. The way they crammed him in was not. He should have been the only villain, and should not have been played by Topher Grace. And the whole “oops, forget about part 1…THAT guy didn’t kill Uncle Ben…THIS guy did” was just ridiculous. The only thing this movie really has going for it are the visuals. It is the prettiest of the three but easily the worst.

  3. Great write-up Dan. Absolutely – only saw the film once but I remember the strut down the street with his new ’emo’ haircut being the jumping the shark moment. The Sandman plot confused me – didn’t somebody else kill uncle Ben in the first installment? And has Topher Grace been seen since?

    • Not really. He’s going to be in Chris Nolan’s new movie, “Interstellar”, later this year, so I guess that’s a positive, right?

  4. It was a cluster**** of characters and overarching plot arcs. Bad pacing as well. I agree that SM3 was Raimi’s middle-finger to Sony and also Avi Arad.

  5. None of the Tobey Maguire Spider Man movies really worked for me. My problem is with Tobey Maguire. I think he looks too weepy to be effective as a smart alecky fun superhero. No offense meant to his fans. He was a great fit for Gatsby tho. Great review Dan 😀

  6. Everything feels second rate in Spider-Man 2 and is silly. Even the designs and performances don’t work. I like the dance for its comedy though, but for a Spider-Man film though, no.

    The biggest travesty of this film is them changing the origin of Spider-Man to shoe in Sandman as the murderer or non-murderer, if you believe the stupid ending. I don’t even get it. Stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.

  7. I will forever remember this as the only movie where the entire theater was laughing at the unintentional absurdity of it. Packed theater and we all walked out stupefied.

  8. Yeah, I’d only seen this movie once and it was in theaters. Every other time it’s on cable, it’s way too long with all the commericals.
    Overstuffed is definitely how I’d describe it. Too many bad guys. The whole twist on who was behind Uncle Ben’s death, to me, I felt kinda cheated. That something that propelled Peter to become a crime fighting superhero… the guy he went after wasn’t the one who killed Uncle Ben? Geez! I hate when sequels do that.

    The progression of Peter’s relationship with MJ made sense, but after a while, it got too melodramatic for me. And the storyline with Harry had me feeling that they were better off stopping with the 2nd movie. This wouldn’t have happened if Peter flat out told him that his dad went psycho 😛
    the only real bright spot for me was Emo Peter. All the fan boys moan and groan about that, but those scenes made me smile. Something I wasn’t doing a lot during that movie.
    and yeah, it’s all been said about Venom. Yet people don’t complain about them just throwing Two-Face into the end of The Dark Knight… but this is coming from someone who had “Batman Forever” as their first Batman movie, so I already wasn’t like what they were doing with a villain I knew well from that movie.

    • I think with Venom, it was such a shame that a great, iconic villain was wasted so late and obviously. As for the movie itself, it is a mess, but it isn’t without its small delights. As puny as they may be.

  9. Great, great review of an awful, awful movie. I loved this when it came out and rewatched it about last year. I was so stunned at it’s awfulness I started laughing. Which is disappointing because I always loved the Spider-Man films and Raimi himself (as you obviously also do). Sorry about this movie.

  10. I’m gonna be honest here: I have never ever ever understood the massive allergic backlash to this film, particular the “EMO-dance” Peter Parker scenes. Everything to do with Parker’s goofiness was obviously tongue-in-cheek, and I personally found it a lot of fun. Was it and the rest of the movie campy? Sure! but certainly no more campy or cartoony or goofy than Marc Web’s totally unnecessary reboot a few odd years later.

    To me, this film was a loud, proud, campy comic book movie that did its job just fine. I don’t think it’s nearly as polished or focused as the first two Raimi films, and you certainly have a point that the film often balances far more subplots than it could handle, but honestly I loved Spidey-Venom transformation and thought the tag-team battle at the end was great fun. People complain that the film’s melodramatic, but this is a Marvel film about a teenage superhero — to me, the melodrama seems to fit.

    I think it’s fair to dislike this film for its excesses and cartoonishness, but it makes no sense to me why fans endlessly hate on this Raimi flick yet applaud Web’s “AMAZING” reboot which is guilty of essentially the same faults. The Lizard guy, the doomsday spray-gas-everywhere plot, + Garfield’s wooden acting….

    I dunno, I guess I’m just in the minority here, but I can’t hate on Spidey 3 no matter how hard I try. EMO-DANCE TIME! 😛

    • I’m with the Celtic Predator, but also want to back up Dan — and you can correct me if I’m wrong but Dan isn’t “hating” Spider-Man 3, he’s just saying it’s a mess. And it is, it totally is, there’s no denying it and while it’s the weakest film, it’s not unwatchable.

      I especially like Dan’s first paragraph on Raimi’s prowess. I like to think Raimi used J.J. Jameson vicariously in the third film. He’s trying to create his own voice/message for who Spider-Man is and the outside influences (i.e. studio) is telling him to take some pills.

      • That’s totally fair, and I’m with the general consensus that S3 is by far the weakest in Raimi’s trilogy. My problem is when people start holding Marc Web’s reboot above Raimi’s S3. I strongly argue that even the weakest of Rami’s take on the Spider-Man is better than the best of the “Amazing” ones.

      • Couldn’t agree more!
        And I can’t tell if it’s Webb’s fault as a director or the studio’s involvement, but the “Amazing” series is just very weak storytelling.

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