Why Spider-Man 3 Deserves More Credit
Spider-Man has an enduring appeal as one of the most beloved superheroes of all time. Over the years, the web-slinger has been a popular character on the big screen. The premise of Spidey’s origin story movie may seem quaint now, two decades after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man hit theaters in 2002. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was trying to save Mary Jane and stop Green Goblin, played by Willem Dafoe. However, Spider-Man’s adventures have expanded beyond the confines of Earth with space and Multiverse storylines, and crossovers with other versions of himself.
Each iteration of the Spider-Man franchise has its defenders and adamant fans, but they all face high expectations. Andrew Garfield’s updated, hipper version of Peter in The Amazing Spider-Man garnered interest, but the quality of the franchise dipped with the disastrous 2014 sequel. Although Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has found a home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has been challenging for the films to stand alone given the rapid expansions to the Marvel universe.
Sony is determined to expand the Spider-Man universe with more installments in the Spider-Verse franchise, additional Venom sequels, and even a spinoff focused on Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery. However, Spider-Man 3 deserves another chance, despite being dismissed by some. While it may not be the franchise’s best, it is a throwback to a less cynical and more straightforward era of comic book storytelling.
Spider-Man 3 faced harsh criticism from critics and fans before its release, as it followed two groundbreaking films. Even those who loved the first two films were much harsher on the third installment in the series. Roger Ebert, who loved Spider-Man 2, criticized Spider-Man 3 for having too many villains, plot strands, romantic misunderstandings, conversations, and street crowds looking high into the air and shouting. Ebert’s chief criticism seemed to be shared by many fans, as the film featured three primary villains.
While the plot may be more complex than the first two films, the emotional stakes of Spider-Man 3 remain high. The franchise is ultimately about Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane more than his alter ego as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The love triangle that the two share with Harry reaches a thoughtful conclusion by the end of Spider-Man 3.
Spider-Man 3 had a villain problem with three main antagonists, and Grace’s version of Venom felt like a complete waste of the character’s potential. While Franco did a good job portraying Harry in the previous two films, Church’s portrayal of the heartbroken scientist who becomes “Sandman” was brilliant. If the best Spider-Man villains are those that are relatable, few characters in the series have more compelling motivations than Marko, who is just trying to save his daughter from illness.
Raimi, known for his horror films, was an odd director to helm a massive superhero franchise. However, he took creative storytelling risks, adding jump scares and dark humor that tie the two sagas together. Despite being mocked, Maguire’s “emo Peter Parker” dance sequence was an intentionally humorous moment.
In conclusion, Spider-Man 3 deserves another chance, as it offers a throwback to a simpler era of comic book storytelling. Despite its villain problem, Church’s portrayal of Sandman was brilliant, and the emotional stakes of Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane remained high. Raimi’s creative storytelling risks added to the franchise’s overall appeal. As Sony continues to expand the Spider-Man universe, Spider-Man 3 remains a worthwhile addition to the franchise.
Spider-Man is undoubtedly one of the most beloved superheroes of all-time, and unsurprisingly, the web-slinger has been one of the most popular superheroes on the big screen. In the two decades that have passed since the debut of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in theaters back in the summer movie season of 2002, the premise of Spidey’s origin story movie now seems rather quaint. Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter Parker may have just been trying to save Mary Jane (Kristen Dunst) and stop Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), but now there’s been Spider-Man adventures in space, the Multiverse, and alongside other versions of himself!
Each iteration of the Spider-Man franchise has both its defenders and adamant fans. While some found the updated, hipper version of Peter that Andrew Garfield played in The Amazing Spider-Man to be an interesting update on the character, the potential for that universe seemed to dip in quality after the disastrous 2014 sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2. While Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Spider-Man: No Way Home found interesting ways to incorporate Tom Holland’s Peter Parker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s been harder for those films to stand-alone given the rapid expansions to the Marvel universe.
Although Sony is adamant about expanding the Spider-Man universe with more installments in the Spider-Verse franchise, additional Venom sequels, and even spinoff focused on Spider-Man rogue’s gallery, Spider-Man 3 certainly deserves another shot from those that dismissed it in its entirety to begin with. While it’s certainly not the franchise’s best, Spider-Man 3 is a throwback to a less cynical and more simple era of comic book storytelling.
The Conclusion of the Character Arcs
Part of the reason that Spider-Man 3 had to face so many judgments from critics and fans prior to its release was the high standard that the series had established for itself with its first two installments. Even if 2000’s X-Men is the film that proved that superhero movies could be blockbusters, 2002’s Spider-Man is the film that saw them become sensational cultural hits. 2004’s Spider-Man 2 has been commonly referred to as one of the best superhero movies and sequels of all time, and many would still cite it as the high-water mark for the overall franchise. After two groundbreaking films, Spider-Man 3 was going to have “Return of the Jedi syndrome” going into it no matter what; even if it satisfied some expectations, fans would be undoubtedly disappointed in one way or another.
This was sadly the case with Spider-Man 3as even those that loved the first two films seemed to be much harsher on the third installment in the series. Roger Ebert had loved Spider-Man 2 and cited it as one of the best films of 2004, but said that Spider-Man 3 had “too many villains, too many pale plot strands, too many romantic misunderstandings, too many conversations, too many street crowds looking high into the air and shouting.” Ebert’s chief criticism seemed to be one that many fans shared, as Spider-Man 3 featured three primary villains with Harry Osborn’s New Goblin (James Franco), Edward Brock’s Venom (Topher Grace), and Flint Marko’s Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church).
While there is certainly more going on with the plot than the first two films, the complexity doesn’t detract from the emotional stakes of Spider-Man 3. The franchise is ultimately more about Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane more than his alter ego as the “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” and the love triangle that the two share with Harry reaches a thoughtful conclusion by the end of Spider-Man 3. While it would have been interesting to see what Raimi’s versions of Spider-Man 4 and Spider-Man 5 would have been, the multiverse storyline of Spider-Man: No Way Home at least found a way to conclude Maguire’s iteration of the character and send him off on a high note.
The Brilliance of Sandman
Like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 had a villain problem. Three main antagonists was a lot for any superhero movie, and it didn’t help that Grace’s version of the beloved character Venom felt like a complete waste of the character’s potential. While Franco is a talented actor and did a good job portraying Harry in the previous two films, he sadly didn’t have the dramatic abilities to make Harry a menacing version of the same villain that his father had been.
That being said, Church is downright brilliant in his depiction of the heartbroken scientist who becomes “Sandman.” If the best Spider-Man villains are those that are relatable, few characters in the series have more compelling motivations than Marko, who is just trying to save his daughter from illness. Many of the film’s best scenes are those that are just dialogue between Peter and Flint; the final moment when Peter tells the man that killed his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) that he forgives him is tear-jerking, and stands as one of the most moving moments in any superhero movie. Church was another actor who thankfully got to have a more fleshed out conclusion to his story when he appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Creative Storytelling Risks
Raimi always felt like an odd director to be chosen to helm a massive superhero franchise, as prior to venturing into superhero movies, he had been best known for his horror films. Raimi is one of the few directors to have two great trilogies on his resume, as The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness might be the best horror film trilogy in history. Raimi’s Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell has fun cameos in all three of his Spider-Man films, and Spider-Man 3 certainly adds more jump scares and fun dark humor that tie the two sagas together. While many have mocked the “emo Peter Parker” dance sequenceMaguire has always defended the moment as being an intentionally humorous one.