Spider-Man 3 is once more directed by Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris, and Thomas Haden Church.
This film is the end of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and follows the continuing adventures of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Maguire), now living the life he’s always wanted. He’s a city-wide icon and hero, he’s found the love of his life, and he’s happier than he’s ever been. However, when Peter is suddenly stricken with a mysterious alien mutagen known as a “Symbiote” (SOUND FAMILIAR??), foes new and old begin to rise, threatening Peter and those he loves. Now, as both Peter and Spider-Man must rise to the occasion and defeat the new evil, Peter must also confront his own dark side, or risk losing himself forever.
To say the very least, the lead-up in this trilogy has been quite incredible, and Spider-Man 2 is far and beyond top-of-the-line in the world of superhero cinema. With so much riding on this film, can Raimi and his team pull out the right tricks one last time and cap an epic superhero trilogy?
No, not really. Well, I mean, sorta, but still, not really.
Unfortunately, after what’s been a pretty solid batting average for the Raimi trilogy, Spider-Man 3 fails to deliver on a lot of fronts, coming off as not much more than a melodramatic, directionless, and wildly bizarre trainwreck that fails to find its proper footing most of, if not all of the time. Occasional high points and things done right slightly allude to buried glimpses of potential, but are unfortunately bogged down by the laundry list of problems this movie has.
Something I’ve made a point to address in each of these Raimi reviews is that these films don’t always soar in terms of their tonal consistency. And while this particular issue is way more forgivable for a number of reasons in the case of the first two, Spider-Man 3 is by far the worst offender. This film’s tone completely runs all over the place like a child with an attention disorder, never once sitting still long enough for the audience to grasp the weight of what’s actually going on.
Anyone even slightly familiar with the inner-workings of Internet culture knows that there are tons of unintentionally hilarious moments in this movie, particularly when a character undergoes a bit of a personality swap for the duration of the middle (more on that in a bit). There’s actually quite a bit of morbid enjoyment to be had in watching these particular scenes unfold, and I’d probably say that this flick is worth at least one watch to see these monsters for yourself. But at the end of the day and beyond all the ridiculous fun, there still exists an underlying sadness to realizing that this film isn’t at all living up to its true potential, both as a trilogy cap and just as a stand-alone flick.
That said, this moment in the Jazz Club sequence will never fail to make me burst out laughing every time.
Being the third in a trilogy, a do-or-die element of this film’s foundation is undoubtedly the script, which at no point even makes so much as an attempt to hold the rest of this mess together. Solid momentum built by the first two films in terms of the narrative and characters is dropped, picked back up, dropped again, and ultimately ignored for the sake of one uncanny valley decision after the next. In fact, it’s fairly evident to any attentive viewer that Spider-Man 3’s script slowly crumbles further and faster as time goes on, like a car crash in slow motion that you can’t stop and have no choice but to witness. It’s truly amazing how each building plot point and character decision becomes more illogical than the previous, and actually makes for a solid crash course in how not to write the end of a trilogy.
From the word go, this movie immediately barrels forward in a blinding fury and doesn’t stop for anyone. The first hour of this film feels wholly like a collection of jumbled moments and events cut together at the speed of an F-22 with Liquid Schwartz in the tank. (Where are my Mel Brooks fans today?) Things get slightly better as the film goes on from there, despite a completely unignorable narrative collapse of epic proportions, but still aren’t really stellar and oftentimes come off as jarring and unfocused.
The action, while in no way terrible or even bad, is a noticeable downgrade from the masterful showcase put on by Spider-Man 2. There’s a much heavier reliance on CGI this time around, a decision which makes various moments in the action sequences feel inauthentic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not cool to look at. In fact, a handful of setpieces toward the film’s last third and conclusion are actually well done and contain a solid balance of both exciting action and important moments of character.
Much like a lot of things that Spider-Man 3 brings to the table, the performances in this film are completely all over the place in terms of both quality and consistency. Maguire takes a noticeable step down from his stellar work in Spider-Man 2, and he can’t even manage to deliver in some of the film’s biggest moments. Peter is unfortunately the victim of that “personality swap” I mentioned earlier, as he’s given a lot of ridiculous lines, moments, and decisions that make zero sense when viewed in the larger context of this trilogy. So ultimately, I’m gonna go ahead and say that Maguire is a victim of this film’s script, and shouldn’t at all be discredited for his fantastic work in the films prior. Each Spider-Man has a place on the big screen, and Tobey Maguire has definitely more than earned his right to be in the conversation.
As these reviews have progressed and I’ve discussed the performances all throughout, you may notice that there’s been a glaring omission each time: Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Dunst, while not a bad actress or even a bad MJ per se, has been omitted until now simply because she’s been given zero purpose in any of the other films. She really doesn’t do a thing in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 other than be in danger and scream because of said danger. MJ is given quite a solid purpose this time around, supplemented by Dunst’s very clear franchise-best performance. She’s honestly one of the best things this film has going for it, and in the case of a film with so much going on all at once, that’s nothing to be ignored.
If you’ve seen this film and/or know even the slightest thing about it, you know that this movie has three villains. And yes, even with everything working against this film, the presence of these three villains makes this film feel even more overstuffed, unfocused, and even uninteresting at times. The performances from each can simply be rated on a scale of the good (Franco), the bad (Church), and the ugly (Grace). Franco is also a franchise-best and actually puts forth quite a bit of effort to sell his more sinister moments leading up to his ultimate turn during the finale. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Church’s performance, but he ultimately brings nothing to a rather interesting arc with tons of potential, mostly boring me when he was on screen. Topher Grace is far and beyond one of the worst things this movie has to offer, and is laughably terrible as both Eddie Brock and Venom. Every second he’s in this movie steadily becomes more painful than the last, culminating in a forced, poorly written, poorly acted, and unnecessary character altogether.
It’s very worth noting that while I’ve had a considerable amount of fun at this movie’s expense, it’s not a complete failure, and as it turns out, may not entirely be Sam Raimi’s fault. As is kind of becoming a tradition around here, the true culprit responsible for Spider-Man 3’s demise may, in fact, be Sony.
This wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, because we’ve already addressed in the past that Sony is kind of notorious for this sort of thing. Still, it’s a shame to see one of the better superhero trilogies in modern cinema completely flop on the dismount because of unnecessary studio interference. I won’t hash out the details (mainly because not too many are known to this day), but I’ll leave some remarks from Sam Raimi himself right here.
While it’s not wholly irredeemable, there’s really no denying that Spider-Man 3 mostly feels like the disappointing cinematic equivalent of a 10-point dive suddenly turned belly flop. I know I’m gonna probably get a lot of flak from people who love this movie’s weird little odds and ends, but after watching each film in this trilogy continuously over the past few days, it’s quite literally impossible to ignore the dip in quality. Spider-Man 3 is, unfortunately, a disappointing end to the Raimi saga, and gets a D.