Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco
Director: Sam Raimi
Running Time: 139 mins
Spider-Man 3 is an American film and the third in the Spider-Man trilogy. Now on top of the world, Peter Parker is living the dream with Mary-Jane, while feeling almost invincible in his crime-fighting exploits as Spider-Man. However, the emergence of three new villains, as well as a sudden personal change, threaten to bring him back down to earth.
While it’s often derided as the worst in the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 is by no means as bad as its reputation may have you believe. It certainly lacks the grand, sweeping majesty of its two predecessors, and definitely loses its crowd-pleasing magic with some odd narrative choices, but it’s still a captivating superhero blockbuster that combines great character depth with yet more impressive action.
As with the past two films, let’s start with the action. One of the biggest strengths of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is its impressive use of practical effects alongside CGI, which makes many of the action sequences in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 far more enjoyable to watch than many of the CGI-heavy action we’re used to nowadays.
Spider-Man 3 is a lot heavier in its use of CGI, mainly to create its main villains in Sandman and Venom. However, even the CGI in this fourteen year-old movie holds up very well today, and is a lot less messy and intrusive than many of the big blockbusters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As for the villains themselves, there’s no denying that Spider-Man 3 has the weakest adversaries of the franchise. Sandman, as lovely as his back story is, is little more than a forced plot point which actually undermines one of the most emotionally thought-provoking beats from the first film, in which Spider-Man recognised the impact of his actions after the death of Uncle Ben.
Venom is more interesting, with Eddie Brock proving an enjoyably nasty adversary to Peter Parker at The Daily Bugle, and then proving equally menacing in his supervillain guise in the action-packed finale. In fact, with that, Spider-Man 3 might just have the best action finale of the trilogy, with a blend of good stakes and great special effects that make for a hugely entertaining conclusion to the film.
That being said, it’s what happens in the hour and a half or so before the climax that throws up the biggest questions. In general, the opening act of Spider-Man 3 is fairly good, with some nice tension surrounding Peter and Harry’s friendship, and a convincing deterioration in Peter’s relationship with Mary-Jane. That leads onto a massive rupture among the trio, which delivers some brilliantly captivating emotional drama in the early part of the middle act.
However, while all of this brings an interesting perspective on the darker parts of Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s mind, this movie takes those central themes a little too literally. The infamous dark Spider-Man that still does the rounds as the example of why this movie doesn’t work is frustrating to say the least, and never as funny as the movie thinks it is.
While it’s pretty sobering to see Peter Parker, infected with a dark symbiote, behave so badly to Mary-Jane and the rest of those around him, it feels too abrupt, and just a little too comical to be a genuinely interesting emotional beat for the movie. It’s different, certainly, but it’s a long way from the mellow, introspective middle act we saw in Spider-Man 2 that made that film’s action even better.
As a result, Spider-Man 3 ends up as a bit of a mixed bag. Its best moments are really good, with some really strong action towards the end that, despite a heavier use of CGI, deliver some of the most exciting moments of the trilogy. There’s good drama early on too, and although the film loses its way with a couple of narrative choices throughout, it’s still a largely entertaining watch throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Spider-Man 3 a 7.5 overall.