Sequential Cinema: “Spider-Man 3” (2007)

Spider-Man 3 is a terrible movie.”

That’s been the public conscience since it hit theaters back in 2007. This also is not my opinion on the film. I have not come to bury Spider-Man 3, nor have I come to praise it. Comic book movies are a hard act to make. Trilogies are an even harder act to close. Combine the two and there is a recipe for chaos to ensue.

Allow me to elaborate on me saying the quote is not my opinion. I held that opinion for the longest time, joining in on the hate bandwagon for Spider-Man 3. I had not seen it since high school all the way through, so I rewatched it. It’s definitely a step down from the first two outings, but it’s mediocre at best. Raimi is still at the helm, so it retains its look and style a tad. The real problem comes from one source: studio interference.

Matt McMuscles did a brilliant recap of the behind-the-scenes drama for his Wha Happun? Series on YouTube. I recommend giving that a watch as most of the stuff featured I’ll be reiterating here. Columbia had all the money in the world after the success of Spider-Man 2. They also had been in collaboration with MGM and Eon Productions for the James Bond reboot.

Columbia and producer Avi Arad decided to bring Venom into the mix for the trilogy. Raimi did not care much for Venom, wanting to focus on Sandman and Vulture instead. Arad, who had helped produce Spidey since day one, assured Raimi fans wanted to see the Lethal Protector in action. Much to the chagrin of Raimi, they added him in any way. Venom is not the main reason people fell out of love with the trilogy, but rather one of them.

Venom made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #300. Source: Marvel

Others complained it’s overloaded with too many villains. Some say the movie was too long. A seldom few did say it was boring. This was also 2007 when the reaction to the latest Marvel-based films was not doing so hot. X-Men: The Last Stand faltered among critics and with the general audience the year prior. In 2007 alone, Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer met a similar fate. Spider-Man 3 was a blow to the Marvel-based films that had repercussions for years to come. Who the hell am I kidding? 2008’s Iron Man came out the next year and the whole world has been Marvel films since then. The Dark Knight was also released that year becoming one of the best comic films. Those two films combined assured the third wave of comics-based films would be fine.

3 has Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) balancing life as Spidey and life with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). He wishes to propose to her soon to finally settle down. Yet, a meteorite crashes into New York with a symbiotic goo coming out of it. This goo latches to Peter in the film to give him a black suit that grants him more power.

Flint Marko a.ka. The Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is also causing chaos whilst Harry Osborn (James Franco) discovers his father’s formula. This makes him a new version of the Goblin ready to kill Peter once and for all. In Peter’s work life, he comes across hotshot photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who grows envious of Parker. As Spidey, he saves Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) from death to become her hero. The new suit starts to turn Peter into a monster in how he carries himself. Peter must try to overcome the suit’s grasp or face the dire consequences of it in a new form.

I had to write that plot synopsis five times because, holy hell, is this movie a convoluted and bloated one. I said upfront that the comment about being a terrible movie is something I don’t quite believe.

“Is it bad?”
Well, it’s not good.

“So is it great?”
Don’t kid yourself.

Spider-MAn (Tober Maguire) acquires the power of the alien symbiote in the palm of his hands. Source: Columbia Pictures

It’s a middle-of-the-road movie. The studio interference is obvious. The main standbys of the cast seem to be going through the motions. It’s scatterbrained at best, confusing at worst. It’s a superhero movie that cannot stick to one plot at a time. That’s due to the fault of Columbia shoehorning Venom with Raimi having to succumb to it. Profit was more important than the vision he wanted to go with. The addition of Harry as a new Goblin is a waste too. Double for not straight up not making him the Hobgoblin.

I was hesitant to write about this, as I’m hesitant to write about any maligned sequel in this because what the heck else is there to say? Everyone has said their piece on the film since its release in ‘07, so what can be added. To play Devil’s Advocate would only be in the same vein as countless clickbait articles. The rampant “NewsRant” article of “Spider-Man 3 is Good, Actually” or “Spider-Man 3’s Better Than Before – Here’s Why” have run their course. Rather than repeat what others have written and beaten to death, it’s best to shift into something else: fan backlash and immediate reactions.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) comes face-to-face with Venom (Topher Grace and a jar of Nickelodeon Gak!) in the third act. Source: Columbia Pictures

Spider-Man 3 is the earliest memory I have of seeing a film get tons of heat from the fans. I was too younger for Star Wars Episode I’s reactions. I wasn’t even in the know about The Matrix reactions. This was the big one. Everyone I knew was hyped as hell in high school ready only to be met with disappointment. I still remember a senior shouting out all the spoilers in front of the library like a town crier warning us younger students about the film. The reaction on the internet via early MySpace was rampant. Jokes left and right from friends and everyone dunking on the film. It was pure anger from everyone it seemed. It made me back away from it for months.

I finally watched it months later and it bored me. It was too long, too boring, and not a fun time. The second time around, I made it to the end and didn’t enjoy it. The less said about the take on Venom, the better. The third time around? I enjoyed it, albeit this was knowing the production issues surrounding it. It’s not Raimi’s fault in the end nor is it the actors’ fault in the slightest. This was a rush job no one involved was excited for in with a hard deadline to meet. Due to the immense backlash and executive meddling, Raimi stepped away from Spider-Man 4. It bummed him the hell out and he did not want to return to the world.

“It’s a movie that just didn’t work very well. I tried to make it work, but I didn’t really believe in all the characters, so that couldn’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man,” Raimi said in an interview on the Nerdist podcast.

“If the director doesn’t love something, it’s wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it. I think raising the stakes after Spider-Man 2 was the thinking going into it, and I think that’s what doomed us. I should’ve just stuck with the characters and the relationships and progressed them to the next step and not tried to top the bar.”

– Sam Raimi on Spider-Man 3

Raimi would go on to go back to his horror roots with the underrated Drag Me to Hell. He also delved into the fantastical with Oz: The Great and Powerful to work with James Franco once again. That film was a decent success, but quite forgettable alongside Raimi’s other films. Raimi decided to return to the realm of heroes to replace director Scott Derrickson for this year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Raimi remains quite hesitant.

“I didn’t know that I could face it again because it was so awful, having been the director of Spider-Man 3,” Raimi said in an interview with Collider.

“The internet was getting revved up and people disliked that movie and they sure let me know about it. So, it was difficult to take back on. But then, I found out that there was an opening on Doctor Strange 2. My agent called me and said, ‘They’re looking for a director at Marvel for this movie and your name came up. Would you be interested?’ And I thought, ‘I wonder if I could still do it.’ They’re really demanding, those types of pictures. And I felt, ‘Well, that’s reason enough.’ I’ve always really liked the character of Doctor Strange.”

– Sam Raimi on directing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

As long as Raimi gets to be Raimi in his style and direction, all will turn out fine. I’m knocking on wood to see what he does in the Marvel Cinematic Universe now that the possibilities of what could happen to seem endless.
Spider-Man 3 is not a terrible movie, but not a great one either. It is a flawed film burdened with the task of appeasing the Spidey-loving audience and studio heads at the same time. It instead pleases a seldom few and frustrates those tangled in a web of way too many characters. It makes studio heads shudder at the critical reaction to try for another sequel or reboot their biggest moneymaker. Spidey would return in a new form five years later in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, but that’s a story for another time. ‘Nuff said.

Final Verdict: 3 out of 5
Spider-Man: The Raimi Trilogy Sequence Complete

That’ll do it for the Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy. Before I announce the next series, it’s important to say that this will become bi-weekly from here on out. This is not because it is hard to get these out. I honestly blame the holidays for the delay. This is because I’ll be doing another series titled the ‘92 Cinema Revue. 

‘92 Cinema Revue will be a weekly look at films released 30 years ago from that week in 1992. I’m turning 30 myself this year and I wanted to see what was popular back in ‘92. The list is ready to go and it’s going to be a hell of a trip through ‘92 from number one film debuts with absolute classics and films I’ve never before. That all kicks off with the psychological nanny thriller The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.

As for the next series, a simple question: What is The Matrix? Till the next sequence.

Full Schedule – January

Jan. 10: ‘92 Cinema Revue – The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Jan. 17: ‘92CR – Juice
Jan. 19: Sequential Cinema – The Matrix
Jan. 24: ’92CR – Freejack
Jan. 31: ’92CR – Shining Through

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