Quick note before we start: I’m sorry that I’m posting this five days too late. I had a really packed weekend, and I couldn’t get around to writing this in time. However, I’m already on the next one, and I’ll be sure to have that out by Friday. If you’re just discovering the site and you haven’t read the first two episodes in the series, click here to read the one for “Spider-Man” and here for “Spider-Man 2.” Thanks!
Alright, we made it to the “Godfather Part III” of superhero movies. This is where the fun begins. It’s all come down to this. I finally get to talk about how much I LOVE “Spider-Man 3. No joke, I actually like this movie. I wasn’t always a fan of it, but I think over time I came to appreciate it for what it is so let’s talk about it.
“Spider-Man 3” came out when I was eight years old in 2007, and this was probably the first movie that I can remember being extremely excited for. Like before, I was like, oh that movie came out, that’s cool. However, I was pumped to see this. I had the release date marked, I would nonstop watch the trailers and read about anything related to the film. This movie marketed itself as the dark and gritty sequel that finally featured the famous “black symbiote suit” and Venom. It also set up a more personal story by going back to the death of Uncle Ben. This was also right around the time I first got into reading comic books, and the Spider-Man’s symbiote arc was one of my favorites (still is). So I was ready for a great film. If you haven’t seen the Comic Con trailer for this in 2007, it’s really cool.
Then the movie came out. It actually received okay reviews with a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 59 on Metacritic. It’s not the completely critically panned movie that everyone thinks it is. People tend to focus on the “emo Peter Parker” stuff a ton, which I’ll get to, but come on it’s not that bad. However, it was a massive disappointment.
The story finds Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) now in the prime of his Spider-Man life. People really like him in the city, and he’s become used to fighting villains. He’s also finally at the point in his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) where he’s ready to propose. However, Peter must battle his own demons when an alien symbiote gets attached to him and gives him new powers. Also, an old friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco) emerges as the new Green Goblin (I guess he’s called the New Goblin). There’s also Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), who by the way killed Uncle Ben because he’s trying to pay for his daughter’s medical expenses. There’s also Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who each find their way into Peter’s life.
As many people have pointed out over the years, “Spider-Man 3” suffered from an overload of subplots. At a run-time of 139 minutes, this is a lot crammed into one movie. It’s really hard to balance these many different characters. It’s not impossible as we’ve seen with “Infinity War,” but certainly in 2007, this movie was a massive task. After the critical success of “Spider-Man 2,” fans wanted something bigger. Originally, the story revolved around both Sandman and Harry Osborn, but then the studio supposedly told director Sam Raimi to include Venom because I guess they thought it would mean more box office potential. I guess they were right in that Venom eventually became the main selling point of the movie. However, Venom wasn’t the main villain and doesn’t show up until the third act before he dies. Raimi had a big dilemma, you can either have Sandman or Venom, not both. With either of those, you can add in Harry Osborn, but you can’t do all three at once without it turning into a complete cluster.
A lot of the movie is actually pretty good. I really like Sandman’s plot in that he just wants to get the money to save his daughter. He says in the beginning of the film that he’s not a bad person, he just has bad luck. After finding out the truth that Flint Marko is Uncle Ben’s killer, Peter becomes fully unhinged with his new black suit in this. At first, you really want him to get this guy, but the movie actually makes you sympathize to an extent with Marko. His story was good lesson for Peter to not judge people without knowing the full story, and I like how they end on peaceful terms. It’s a nuanced portrayal of Sandman compared to the classic comics version, and I’m fine with that. I especially love the scene when Flint gets transformed into Sandman and there’s this incredible CGI scene where he’s coming to terms with his new state. He reaches out for a picture he keeps of his daughter, but he at first can’t grab it because he’s made of sand. He struggles for a bit just to get this one tiny thing he holds most dear to him, and it’s honestly a really touching scene.
The big story of this movie is Peter and his new black suit that he got from the symbiote. I think this is a good way to show what separates Peter from the villains, but he too has demons inside of him. Peter initially likes the new suit and feels great, but it fuels Peter’s revenge to go after Sandman. I think this quote from Aunt May sums it up pretty well:
“Uncle Ben meant the world to us. But he wouldn’t want us living one second with revenge in our hearts. It’s like a poison. It can – It can take you over. Before you know it, turn us into something ugly.”
I also like how Peter wants to propose to Mary Jane, but Aunt May tells him that he has to be completely responsible to make this step. She tells him the story of how she initially rejected Uncle Ben’s proposal because they weren’t ready. This sets up the rest of the movie well because Peter’s actions in his black suit directly contradict his thoughts that he’s ready for this.
I also especially like Harry Osborn’s arc… up to a point. From the end of the first film, Harry was set up to be a villain in the franchise and everything was leading up to his turn in this movie. In the beginning, I really like how he’s just rage filled and can’t wait to get revenge on Peter. The two get into a great aerial fight that has Peter without his costume on. It’s a fantastic action sequence that has callbacks to the weapons that Green Goblin used in the first film. I like how Peter is focused on the ring Aunt May gave him to propose to Mary Jane, and this ring gets knocked out of his pocket. The scene ends with Harry getting tripped by one of Peter’s webs and hitting his head. Tobey Maguire’s reaction in this scene is great. As soon as he sees Harry fall to the ground, he quickly changes faces and realizes that this is his best friend he just nearly killed. Harry loses his memory of the first two films and sort of exits the plot after this for a while, and this is where things start to get a little messy.
I like the concept of him suffering from memory loss and basically hitting the reset button on his friendship with Peter. I get that the point of the movie (all of these movies for that matter) is that choices you make have consequences, so it makes sense that Raimi would make this fake-out to the audience. However, the movie makes a sharp left turn when he remembers his past (because he sees a vision of his dad?) and James Franco just becomes a cartoon for a while. There’s a hilarious scene when he finds Mary Jane and forces her to break up with Peter and say that she’s seeing someone else.
As a side note, I don’t know if it’s just me, but Tobey Maguire has the funniest crying face ever. Like he can give an Oscar performance for all I care, and if he cries I’m still going to laugh out loud.
Anyways, so Peter meets up with Harry to talk about it, and Harry says that he’s the other guy. After Peter gets upset and leaves, a waitress walks up to Harry and asks him how the pancakes are, to which he responds with this weird, slightly creepy “it’s sooooo good.”
Peter turns around, sees Harry give this weird smile, then a bus passes buy, and then somehow Harry just disappears. I get it, it’s a horror movie trope, but that just doesn’t make any sense in this world. WHERE DID HE GO? DID HE HIDE UNDERNEATH THE TABLE? I DON’T SEE ANY OTHER WAY, THIS MAN LITERALLY HID UNDER THE TABLE LIKE A CHILD.
It’s a little weird how they eventually fight together even though Peter literally blows his face up. Harry’s butler tells him that his father was stabbed by his own glider and I guess this makes Peter innocent now. I don’t know why this butler didn’t tell anyone sooner because it makes no sense why Harry wouldn’t already know that. If the butler knew Norman was Green Goblin, he probably knew Harry was too. I like how the movie redeemed itself by having a noble ending for Harry. I personally think it’s a good death scene, but that might just be me.
I guess Gwen Stacy is in this too, but she’s sort of packaged into the Venom subplot. Wow, I didn’t even get to Venom yet. So I guess Gwen Stacy is a model in this and she’s the daughter of the police captain. She’s also in Peter’s college class (I think Physics major), and they’re both super smart. Oh yeah, and she’s dating Eddie Brock, but I guess she has a crush on Spider-Man too?
I personally don’t mind Topher Grace’s portrayal of Eddie Brock. Sure, he’s not the comics character we know and love, but I like the character for what he is. He’s a snarky up-and-coming photographer, and I think Grace fits the role pretty well. His arc is dependent on Peter’s darkness (which is from the symbiote), and the film does a good job showing the rivalry between them. I think the church scene when Eddie prays that Peter dies is really haunting. When the symbiote finally leaves Peter and latches onto Eddie, it’s actually terrifying. I remember that when I was younger, I would always get scared when the symbiote enters Eddie’s body through his mouth.
That’s where the good stuff ends with Venom because after that, it’s awful. Venom goes from an interesting concept to a cartoon character real quick, and he just didn’t look threatening. I’m not too excited for this new “Venom” movie with Tom Hardy, but at least Venom actually looks imposing in that. In this movie, Venom just looks like Topher Grace in a skin-tight costume, and it doesn’t feel right. You can still have a great time with his scenes, just in an ironic way.
So as you can see, there’s a lot going on in this movie. I think Raimi juggled it as well as he could, and there’s clearly a better movie in here somewhere. If the studio let Raimi stick to two villains (Harry and either Venom or Sandman), this movie could have been a lot more focused. Thematically speaking, I think Harry’s storyline could have had a lot to say about keeping secrets from your friends. Likewise, Peter’s story with Sandman deals with secrets being kept from him, and those two could have worked that way. On the flip side, with Venom as the villain, the movie could have done more to draw more contradictions between Peter and Eddie and give Eddie a more ruthless edge. I’m not super disappointed with the film we got like most people are, but I think that this is a good example of what studios shouldn’t do to these franchises. Big Spider-Man comic book arcs can take the liberty of adding in a bunch of villains because we’ve gotten to know these characters over time. When you pull of a “Spider-Man 3” and punch in as many new characters as you can in the misguided name of fan-service, you lose focus.
Overall, “Spider-Man 3” has a lot to like about it. It maintains the campiness of the last two movies and expands on the characters we’ve become accustomed to in a mostly positive way. The new characters are also welcome additions to an extent because they quickly get fumbled by the mess that this movie becomes right around the halfway point.
Oh wait… Y’all thought I wasn’t gonna talk about emo Spider-Man…
FINGER GUNS EVERYONE, FINGER GUNS
ROLL THOSE ARMS KID
TELL EM WHO’S BOSS
OH YES, TOBEY
Screw it, double points, this movie is amazing.
Alright, three episodes down! What are your thoughts on the movie and this trilogy as a whole? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section!
This Friday on Heroic Weekly, we’re talking about the Richard Donner’s 1978 “Superman,” a genuine classic that I can’t wait to discuss!
If you liked this article, be sure to check out an analysis I did of streaming services and theater subscription services!
Thanks for reading 🙂