I remembered very little of Spider-Man 3 going into it and what I did know/remember was more the general consensus of it rather than how I felt about it myself. Watching it now, about 15 years since I last saw it in its entirety, I can certainly say that Spider-Man 3 is a bit of a mess. There are some great action sequences and character moments but it’s all bogged down by trying to juggle too many characters.
Was Spider-Man 3 the origins of the “too many villains” flaw? Because I definitely feel like removing one of the villains and tweaking the script here and there would have solved a lot of the film’s problems. By having three villains as well as a lot of relationship drama between Peter (Tobey Maguire) and MJ (Kirsten Dunst) not enough time is really spent on any of them to flesh them out. Well Harry Osborn’s (James Franco) arc mostly works but that’s down to two prior films worth of character work.
Peter and MJ were having issues long before “Venom” became involved in Peter’s life so if that plot/villain was scrapped then there’d still be a lot of the conflict between the two of them and then more time could have been spent on the other villains – Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Harry Osborn’s descent into becoming the New Goblin as he’s called in this film. Peter and MJ are having issues because for the first time their fortunes are reversed.
In previous films Peter has been the loser, struggling to hold a job and be Spider-Man at the same time while MJ has been the popular, successful Broadway star with confidence in who she is and her dreams. In Spider-Man 3 you have a Peter Parker who is totally comfortable with his dual life and enjoys being Spider-Man and in some ways because of that becomes oblivious to MJ’s struggles. MJ on the other hand is now the one with a struggling career and is having knocks to her confidence at every turn, even by Peter though it’s not intentional on his part.
I’m pretty sure I’ve read over the years that it was studio interference that meant “Venom” had to be included in Spider-Man 3 but so much of the conflict that the symbiote exacerbated was already there, it just made Peter an asshole rather than a clueless idiot when it came to people in his life he’s supposed to care about.
The CGI in Spider-Man 3 is noticeably worse than in the previous two films. Scenes where Spider-Man is swinging through the city look weird and Spider-Man looks like a computer-generated character, all plasticky and not real. Also, maybe sand monsters never look great on camera as some of those sequences reminded me of The Mummy and not necessarily in a good way – a film with almost ten years-worth of special effects advancement shouldn’t look as good as and sometimes worse than a film from the 1990s.
The sequence where Harry first attacks Peter is pretty good though and is a personal highlight of the film. The way there’s longer shots and the camera swoops around following the two of them as they fly/swing through the city is genuinely engaging.
Like I said in my Spider-Man 2 review, I did not expect this revisit to the Raimi trilogy to have me loving Harry Osborn so much but that love is even more prevalent in Spider-Man 3. The ending of Spider-Man 3 is one of the few things I could really remember about this film going into it so when Harry with memory loss called MJ and Peter his best friends and he’d die for them it was just such sad foreshadowing. The three of them love each other so much that even the final scene where MJ and Peter are reunited, it’s not really a grand romantic moment! They don’t kiss, they just hold each other with tears in their eyes as they are the only person who understands the grief they are going through.
While obviously there was never a Spider-Man 4, it would have been interesting to see what this Peter and MJ would’ve been like without Harry. Because the three of them seemed to help each other in different ways and both Peter and MJ got something from their relationship with Harry that they didn’t necessarily get from each other.
Overall Spider-Man 3 is not great but it’s my love of the central trio and their relationship that makes me not hate it as much as some seem to. I guess Spider-Man 3 follows the pattern for me that if there’s characters that I like in a form of media, if I enjoy spending time with those characters the film/TV show around them could be terrible but I wont care too much if what’s happening in the plot doesn’t destroy the characters I love. Though Peter Parker certainly came close to falling down in my estimations a number of times in this film. 3/5.