In Spider-Man 1 and 2, director Sam Raimi’s passion for Spider-Man was not to be reckoned with. He was able to tell terrific stories with one of the most prolific comic book characters ever created, matching the Web-Head up with two greatly handled villains: Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Unfortunately in Spider-Man 3, the itsy bitsy passion went up the water spout, down came the pressure, and washed that passion out.
In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has it all. The city is praising him, he’s at the top of his class, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) loves him, and everything seems fine. But it gets to his head, and he has complications on other fronts. His best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco) still blames him for killing his father and follows in his dad’s footsteps as the New Goblin, while the cocky Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) tries to move in on his Daily Bugle spot. Not to mention a new villain, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), has emerged and is believed to be the real killer of Peter’s Uncle Ben.
To make matters worse, while he is in the park with Mary Jane, a strange meteorite strikes the ground and releases an alien symbiote that attaches itself to Peter’s bike. The problems start: he and Mary Jane are on thin ice because of a fling with the newly-introduced Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), issues heat up with Harry, and Peter grows angrier. The symbiote, which feeds on anger, takes hold of Peter while he sleeps and creates a darker Spider-Man/Peter Parker. After it deteriorates his life, Peter rids himself of the symbiote, and it attaches itself to Eddie Brock. Spider-Man then finds himself matched up against Harry, Sandman, and Brock’s newly formed self, Venom.
From the trailers and such, the film looked very promising. Spider-Man 2 was a great step up from its predecessor, so it would have made sense for 3 to follow suit. Apparently, that was too much to ask for.
The story is what really kills the film. Sam Raimi publicly declared that he did not want to include Venom into the films because of his disdain for the character, but was forced into it by Marvel President-CEO Avi Arad. That is clearly shown because Venom is incredibly underdeveloped, with a “whopping” 30 minutes of screen time-most of which he spends off-screen. Venom is supposed to completely screw with Spider-Man. He’s a poison (hence, Venom) to his life, trying to destroy everything dear to him. There is one moment where the true Eddie Brock/Venom character emerges as he becomes desperate for the symbiote, but it goes as quickly as it came.
Sandman’s story provides a bit more depth. Seeking money to help cure his daughter Penny, he stumbles into becoming a villain. But like Venom, a lot of his time is spent off screen as well. He’s developed, but not nearly enough. There was much more potential here because Raimi had wanted to use this character, unlike Venom.
The New Goblin plot line is probably the best in the film. The tension between Harry and Peter has been mounting for the past two films, and he finally tries to avenge his father’s death. His psychological warfare with Peter adds drama in a positive way, and he should have been focused on more.
The worst comes with the symbiote. The symbiote is supposed to gradually deteriorate Peter’s life, mostly breaking him down from the inside out while amplifying his anger. Instead, the film version turns Tobey Maguire into a dopey fool with a horrible hairstyle and an overly cocky attitude. He dances around like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, acting like an idiot. It is by far one of the WORST montages in comic films, and completely unnecessary. He also acts too much on rage, and the psychological aspect is not emphasized enough. Clearly, Maguire’s acting range does not stretch very far, and it painstakingly shows, especially with Kirsten Dunst-who also brings down the movie with her acting and “singing”-in a scene on a bridge. It was absolutely horrible acting.
Despite all the various plots, towards the end of the film you will undoubtedly be thinking, “Oh, well there you go then.” So much happens without enough development. The term “cop-out” is a severe understatement when applied to this film. So many corners were cut and most things that happened were just to service fans (thankfully, Bruce Campbell’s cameo does not disappoint). And even though Harry provided a great story for the most part, his amnesiac state through most of the film ruins it. Gwen Stacy’s role only serves as a platter for Dunst’s ego. There are way too many plot-holes throughout the whole film.
So overall, Spider-Man 3 ends up being the train crash that would have happened in Spider-Man 2 if Spidey hadn’t have stopped it. It is clear that the Spider-Man films need a break, and possibly a cast replacement. Another set of three films has already been confirmed, but seeing how much this film wrapped up (too much for its own good), there is not much to work with for that many more films. This movie is a must-see for Spider-Man fans for the sake of finishing the trilogy, but other than that, it is a half-hearted effort and falls flat on its symbiotic face.