Spider-Man 3 is the stuff of legends, but not in a positive way. It has become a black sheep of superhero movies over the years, especially the Spider-Man franchise. This movie is responsible for killing off the possibility of a fourth Sam Raimi Spider-man movie and paving the way for two mediocre Andrew Garfield Spider-man movies. But it has also become a never-ending source for memes. Especially emo Peter Parker will forever be part of Internet history. If there is a redeeming factor of this movie, it’s that people are still laughing at it 13 years later.
I’ve seen Spider-man 3 only once before: when it became available for home viewing. With me revisiting the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, this will be the first time in 13 years that I will watch this movie. Which, for me, is a rather big interval and only happens when a movie did not leave much of an impact on me. At least not a positive one. But people change, opinions and views alter and a movie can be misunderstood upon its release. So I was really curious as to how this movie holds up after all these years.
Sadly it doesn’t. Spider-Man 3 is not a movie that was something like “ahead of its time”. The amount of problems this movie has is enormous, which will surprise most people since the creative team of all three movies is largely the same. It’s well documented that this movie had a disease called “studio interference”. They really wanted Venom in this movie, so they shoehorned him in. While the first Spider-Man movie drew its inspiration from a good comic book movie (Superman), Spider-Man three seems to be modeled after the Joel Schumacher Batman movies. Where the first two Spider-Man movies contain just one villain, Spider-Man 3 has no less than three villains.
It makes for a crowded affair in which no character actually gets the screen time they deserve in order to develop their character. Aside from the three villains it also has to juggle all the stuff going on in Peter’s private life. This results in severe pacing issues with soap-opera storytelling added to it. Especially the way they deal with Harry Osborn’s Green Goblin character. After fighting Peter as the Green Goblin he ends up in the hospital with amnesia. Since scriptwriting 101 dictates that he will eventually get his memory back, we all know where this is going to.
But that’s not all that is going on. There is so much more. Since this movie is almost 15 years old I feel I can give a brief synopsis of the other events that occur:
A meteorite crashes onto earth with a symbiote on it. The symbiote temporarily binds with Peter, turning Peter into an “evil” version of himself. Somebody else turns out to be responsible for the death of Uncle Ben and that guy is an escaped convict who turns into the Sandman. Peter has a bit of a fling with Gwen Stacy. Stage actress Mary-Jane gets a bad review and is fired from her play. She also kisses Harry. Peter finds professional competition in Eddie brock, who is trying to replace him at The Daily Bugle. He manages to get Brock fired leaving him disgruntled. Brock then comes into contact with the symbiote turning him into Venom.
And all this takes place over the course of 2 hours and 15 minutes.
This seems like a size 14 girl trying to fit herself in a size 10. It can be done, but the result isn’t aesthetically pleasing. That is the case with Spider-Man 3. A movie that has too much on its plate.
But to be honest: in a way this movie was ahead of its time. At the time most superhero movies were rather linear and small in scope. Spider-Man 3 doesn’t feel like a generic three act structure superhero movie. That is because so much is going on which makes the movie feel much bigger in scope. A year later The Dark Knight would take a similar approach, but avoiding the pitfalls Spider-Man 3 fell into.
It’s a shame, because this movie did have a lot of potential. Maybe it would have been better if the whole Venom part of the story was split over two movies with Spider-man 3 only focusing on introducing the character of Eddie Brock and maybe even the black suit, but have Venom be the villain in a fourth movie. But that is just speculating in hindsight.
Even though it’s an overcrowded movie, there are some moments that are mentionable for reasons of beauty instead of ridicule. Most notably the creation of Sandman. His first scene is beautiful. Despite him being a purely CG-sand creature this performance evokes more emotion than Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin in the entire first movie. It’s scenes like this that keep this movie from being a complete mess, but these few scenes deserve to be in a better movie.