You know the part where Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) is set to receive the key to the city for saving Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the crowd wants them to kiss? Because Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) knows since it’s their kiss. Somehow the writing has gotten progressively worse with each installment in the Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man movies that Peter knows MJ is watching in the crowd and still proceeds to kiss Gwen the same way he kissed MJ in the first film. You know, the most iconic kiss in comic book adapted films. These characters don’t resemble real people whatsoever – at least not how the characters should act in everyday situations.
To expand on what I mean by saying these characters don’t resemble real people – Peter Parker is clueless to the outside world and whats happening around him regarding those closest to him. His ego is out of control growing more arrogant because J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) can’t print libel against him anymore when the entire city loves Spider-Man. Now, Spider-Man has become a business, not one that Parker himself took advantage of – merchandise is being sold, making public appearances, and making himself available for photo opportunities. But Peter Parker is still poor and living in a 300 sq ft studio with a broken door that his landlord refuses to fix because he’s money hungry. Maybe Spidey should make a sign “will swing around the block for food”.
I’m starting to think (well not starting) that writers Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent don’t understand the characters they are writing about. Same with Maguire and Dunst in their approaches. Dialogue across the trilogy has been out of touch which translates to their performances – Tobey and Kirsten still, in their third movie together have the dullest chemistry on screen.
Picking up a year after the events of Spider-Man 2 and not much has changed. Harry (James Franco) hates his former friend even more after finding out Peter is Spider-Man – vowing revenge for the murder of his father Norman (Willem Dafoe). Peter and MJ have progressed in their relationship, or so Peter thinks. MJ is a runaway bride choosing Peter over Jameson’s son while Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) competes with Peter for a staff job at the Daily Bugle who turns into Venom when the symbiote crashes to earth in a meteorite. Brock isn’t the only new character and villain – Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) an escaped convict on the run from the police gets trapped in a particle accelerator turning him into the Sandman.
Spider-Man 3 is riddled with problems making it the weakest entry in the trilogy – the script being the major one with poor writing from top to bottom. Raimi is introducing a bunch of new characters including Gwen and her father Captain George Stacy (James Cromwell) that must get established with two of them being villains with Franco’s Hob Goblin. Peter and MJ’s relationship is recycled from the first film as the two follow the same story beats. But probably the worst aspect of Spider-Man 3 is the sequence after the symbiote attaches itself to Peter making him insufferable to watch. From a changed hair style (titled emo Peter) to treating MJ and Gwen less than they deserve (using one to make the other jealous) to the dancing. That’s right, Sam Raimi thought it was a good idea to make Peter dance in the street where people can see it, it exists. None of it is in good taste, with the various background actresses looking disgusted – perfectly emoting what we as the viewers are feeling watching this catastrophe.
What makes Spider-Man 3 tolerable resides in its technical elements – Bill Pope’s cinematography, Christopher Young’s score (with Elfman’s themes) and the CGI that holds up years later (most of it, green screen can be spotted in some scenes). The CGI of Sandman is gorgeous from the moment he transforms and crystalizes to turning to mud to when he floats away.
Thematically, Sam Raimi has captured the spirit of what makes Spider-Man the most endearing character to hit the big screen. The first two entries have focused on the weight of responsibility and how someone with the power handles it while Spider-Man 3’s theme focuses on forgiveness. There’s a danger of holding on to anger, it can turn the best of us into the worst bringing out the ugly side of a person. But letting that anger go is a harder task to accomplish than acting on revenge for something that was out of Peter’s control. His growth in the final moments have shaped this character into what we expect to see going forward – not just with Spider-Man but with other heroes as well.
3 villains are 2 too many to the point that none combined match up to Dafoe’s Goblin or Molina’s Doc Ock. Topher’s venom is out of place, added just to please the comic readers. Franco’s Goblin Jr. doesn’t compare to his fathers Goblin. Franco does not play a believable villain well, coming off as an angry privileged rich kid. Church’s Sandman is the only salvageable villain given a better established and written character arc. Everything with Marko’s daughter makes the character more sympathetic allowing us as the viewer to see his point of view for his actions that are connected back to the first film.
Overall, Sam Raimi’s trilogy is a disappointment. What started off promising with the first Spider-Man has dwindled with Spider-Man 2 and now to Spider-Man 3. Poor character development, writing, chemistry between the stars cripple this trilogy. With as many moving parts and sub-plots, Spider-Man 3 is a mess that never finds its footing stumbling across a haphazardly paced finish line. Any hopes of a fourth installment would end up being another let down. I’m not sure why this trilogy is held with such high regard – its subpar at best when averaging the three films together. And as someone who grew up with this trilogy having my first experience with Tobey as Peter, it’s even more disappointing.
Written By: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Music By: Christopher Young
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, James Cromwell, J. K. Simmons
Release Date: May 4, 2007
Running Time: 2 Hours 19 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
My Score: 2 out of 5
Based On: Spider-Man created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko