Spider-Man 3 Revisited: Is It the Worst Spider-Man Movie?

In this episode of Marvel Revisited, we re-examine the much mocked Spider-Man 3, which prematurely ended the Sam Raimi trilogy.

For as long as film trilogies have existed, so has the unfortunate case of unremarkable final instalments. Whether it’s a lack of steam by the end of the saga, or a simple case of setting up more than you can pay off, the truth is that when it comes to trilogies, it can be VERY difficult to stick the landing.

And today, my friends, we get to discuss a movie that serves as the final instalment in the “Raimi-Verse” and although it was not originally meant to be the final instalment, it is the ending that we are stuck with. Of course, I’m talking about Spider-Man 3, the most memed Spider-Man movie to date!

This movie is divisive among Spider Man fans, with a sprinkle of nostalgic cult-fandom over a generally disliked final product. After the massive success of Spider-Man 2 and the exploding box office numbers that comic book films were starting to generate- Sam Raimi and the folks at Sony were locked in to make this movie and committed to the project immediately after Spider-Man 2 released. 

And to no one’s surprise, the hype leading up to this movie was at an all-time high. Fans were more invested in these movies than ever before thanks to the universally loved second film– and with the cast all set to return and some exciting new faces to the roster at the last minute, the masses were eager to see what adventures were in store. And we’re going to get into that later but what we really want to know is how does this movie hold up 15 years later?

Spider-Man 3 continues the story of Peter Parker played by Tobey Maguire as his personal life and career as the friendly neighborhood web swinger are thriving. Things in Peter’s life have never been more comfortable. 

It isn’t long before personal rivalries, past traumas, and old friends individually seek to take down Spider-Man once and for all.

This film opens with Peter and Mary Jane having a nice talk and filling us in on their lives. Maryjane is making her debut on Broadway and Peter is still splitting his time between being spider man and selling pictures of himself to the daily bugle.

They introduce the symbyote pretty early in the movie, although I must say- there is literally NO explanation of this stuff other than a few lines from Dr. Connors about it being dangerous. It just crashes into the park one day and its automatically part of the story now. 

So, Peter is thinking about proposing to Maryjane and goes to tell Aunt May who is of course played by the lovely Rosemary Harris. I love her in this movie. Well, she gives Pete her wedding ring to give to MJ and this moment is really sweet. I think it serves the story well in that it shows that the loss of Peter’s Uncle Ben is still a raw wound and neither Peter nor May have fully recovered. We’re going to need that emotional anchor later.

Just as it seems that things are looking up for Peter’s future, he gets attacked by Harry- who is out for revenge because he still thinks that Peter killed his father. And this is maybe the only villain in this movie that doesn’t need any further explaining. It’s weak, but Harry inherited all the technology from his father, so other than explaining how the fuck he made a new glider when he could barely graduate high school, the trilogy had already began setting up his arc so when the movie just throws him in full swing, it works. 

Peter and Harry fight and Peter almost loses the ring, but is able to retrieve it just before close-lining harry 40 feet above the ground and almost killing him.

Okay, here’s a problem I got with this movie…

Harry hitting his head and getting some vague form of amnesia is such a blatant way to push Harry out of the way for most of the movie. This movie definitely suffers from convenient storytelling in many instances but this one is by far the most noticeable. Harry splits his coconut and suddenly remembers most of his life EXCEPT for his hate and connection for Spider-Man. He knows his father is dead, but doesn’t remember how it happened. He remembers Peter and MJ, but he doesn’t remember his own house or that his family is rich.

So, basically, Harry is now a non-issue because for some reason he thought his father’s fully protective Goblin helmet was too retro. Nice one Harry.

This is done so that the movie can focus on its other villain- Flint Marko, AKA the Sandman. Played by Thomas Hayden Church. And the way that the movie chose to introduce him is pretty great. We see Flint fresh off of a prison-break and retreating to his home. It’s good character building and it quickly makes us empathize with the character. We learn that Flint is a family man who is committing crimes for cash in order to help his sick daughter. Completely easy to understand and sympathize with. It’s effective! But what I don’t like is how they explain his powers. 

He just kind of easily stumbles into a strange scientific research center that is doing some vague and completely unexplained tests on… you guessed it, sand.

Not only is it the middle of the night, which is strange, but there also clearly isn’t any security which you’d think there would be considering the hazard of what they’re working on. And once Flint falls into this giant sand hole, the scientists notice that there is something in there, but just assume it’s a bird and don’t verify AT ALL before firing up this giant light beam thing that inexplicably bonds Flint to the sand and boom- sand man. 

I dig the Sand Man look and the special effects in this movie. Like, wow, it looks amazing. But that quick armchair explanation of how he got his abilities is absolute bullshit. Moving on!

Now, the core struggle of this movie is Peter’s identity crisis. Is he Peter Parker? Is he Spider-Man? Can he be both? These are the questions we’re meant to ask, and this is kind of why the movie works overall. The scenes of Peter and Maryjane talking about the future but constantly being on different pages is my favorite part of this entire film. Peter is becoming very self-involved as Spider-Man has grown to be- *insert something of an icon clip*

And Peter’s behavior begins to drive the ones he loves away. With MJ not feeling like she has a place in Peter’s life, and aunt may learning that Flint Marco is the man who killed her beloved husband and is still on the loose. 

All of this is amplified of course by the re-introduction to the symbiote. 

Visually, best scene in the movie. Period. End of story.

spider-man-3 dance

So, the symbiote really just heightens all of Peter’s pre-existing rage and ego. This is of course the beginning of Bully Maguire and I’ll be damned if this isn’t the most talked about movie meme in Marvels entire catalogue.

So, I’m not going to beat a dead spider, this part of the movie is either lame or hilarious depending on who’s watching it. Personally, other than this one shot-

The rest of this stuff isn’t so bad in my opinion. I think the dancing is stupid and my reaction to this every time I see it is very similar to these ladies right here (showing reaction shot from dance scene) But it’s otherwise interesting enough. I like that Peter’s idea of a confident cool guy is to act like a complete maniac and talk like a 1950’s noir detective.

Long story short, the symbiote suit feels powerful and makes Peter feel numb to his real feelings. During this point we also meet Eddie Brock played by Topher Grace- and I feel like it’s time for a HOT take.

VENOM IS NOT THE PROBLEM WITH THIS MOVIE.

Listen, I know that Avi Aran and forced Raimi to shoehorn Venom into the movie for marketing and merchandising and yes, I know that Sam Raimi wasn’t interested in the character and had to find a way to make venom serve the story and YES, I know it doesn’t work for everyone but here me out.

I don’t like venom in this movie either. He was SO clearly miscast, and Topher Grace is closer to being Peter Parker than Venom. But that’s kind of the point.

Obviously, with the theme of the movie being duality and identity- Eddie Brock is introduced as the mirror opposite of Peter. He’s confident in all the ways that Peter isn’t, yet he lacks integrity in all the ways that Peter shines. I hate that this wasn’t saved for a fourth film where they could properly establish the character. And while I definitely don’t like what they did with Venom- I don’t believe that this is what’s responsible for it.

Also, can we take a minute just appreciate how f***ing perfect JK Simmons is as Jameson? It’s SO good.

So, Peter has officially hit rock bottom. He almost kills sand man, he hurts MJ in more ways than one, and he’s lost himself to his rage. After a super comic book accurate scene where Peter shakes the symbiote off and unknowingly gives it to Eddie- because Eddie just happened to be at the same church at the same time…

See what I mean when I talk about convenient storytelling here?

So, Harry very quickly and (you guessed it) inexplicably gets his memories back, and briefly plots to destroy Peter’s life. This could have been interesting to see, if the movie allowed these scenes to be at the center of the story. But, unfortunately for us, Harry sort of just disappears again after forcing MJ to break up with Peter and doesn’t pop up again until Peter needs his help to defeat Sand Man and Venom.

Okay, Peter has gone from being on top-of-the-world, to losing everything, to losing himself, to accidentally creating enemies as a result of his behavior, and now those enemies have kidnapped Mary Jane. This can only mean one thing.

IT’S FINAL BATTLE TIME.

So, let’s look at what we got here. Flint Marco is trying to get Spidey out of the way so that he can commit his crimes and save his sick kid, Eddie now has the symbiote and wants to kill Peter out of jealousy and revenge for Peter humiliating him, and we have Spidey himself finally back to full heroics and motivated to save MJ and right the wrongs he’s created. But just like the filmmakers, we forgot about Harry!

Peter needs Harry’s help to save MJ and after Harry basically tells Pete to take a hike, Spidey swings into action solo and faces off against his foes. 

I love the way that this final fight scene was handled for the most part. I love the intensity, the campiness, the comic-booky display of the villains’ powers, and of course the EPIC cinematography. 

This is what saves the movie. This scene showcases Venom, which is good and bad. I enjoy the way it all goes down with Eddie and the symbiote very much. And the Sand Man stuff is so massive in scope and so well-shot that it makes this entire battle feel like a rollercoaster ride that you can’t get off and I’m all about it. But just as the web head is about to fail, Harry shows up to help save the day. It’s… fine.

I appreciate the symbolism of Harry dying by his own glider to save Peter as opposed to father who died the same way, but in an attempt to kill peter. It’s poetic and I get that. But honestly, I could’ve done without it. To me, the thing that takes up the most unnecessary space in this film is James Franco’s Harry Osborn. There is NOTHING he does in this movie that I think is good. At all. He’s evil in the beginning, then gets rocked and forgets about it, then randomly remembers and goes dark again, only to show up and die at the last minute. And all of that just to stretch out a character who probably could’ve just died in the second movie. 

However, it was cool to see them team up for at least this one fight. So, whatever.

Peter recalls that the symbiote is sensitive to sound vibration, so he traps venom and successfully separates Eddie from the symbiote. But before Spider Man can destroy the symbiote with one of Harry’s pumpkin bombs, Eddie jumps into the symbiote and blows up along with it. It’s seriously sick- I really get into this part.

And I do love the way that they button the sand man. Instead of justice being served for the police, justice is served for Flint. The movie acknowledges that Flint is as much a victim as anyone else and his crimes are coming from a place of desperation- not greed, or vanity, or revenge. 

Peter is able to forgive Flint, and as such, forgive himself. 

At the end of the day, this movie works for some people, and doesn’t work for others. I certainly think overall this movie isn’t for me- but with that being said there are things within this movie that make up some of the characters’ best movie moments. I’ll give respect where it’s due- Sam Raimi made the best movie he could make with the ridiculous demands from the studio and the producers. And I don’t think it deserves to be shelved, but I’ll sick to Spider-Man 2 when I’m in the mood for a friendly neighborhood adventure.

Now, I MUST KNOW- What do YOU think about Spider-Man 3? Do you love it? Do you hate it? And do you think we will see Tobey again in Secret Wars? Let us know in the comments!

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