Tobey Maguire

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

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.

REVIEW: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 is truly a fantastic film, never mind a fantastic superhero film. Upon rewatch after seeing so many other MCU and DCEU films (some of which I do generally love) it’s easy to see why Spider-Man 2 is still considered to be one of the best examples of a superhero film. It’s fun, the character work great, the “low stakes” relationship drama is just as compelling as the high stakes battles with the villains.

Spider-Man 2 builds on what was laid out in the first film with great success. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is struggling to juggle life as Spider-Man while also going to college and holding a job. Meanwhile Harry Osborn (James Franco) is now the head of his father’s company and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has made it as an actor and has a starring role on stage and is dating an astronaut who happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s (J.K. Simmons) son.

The idea of Peter losing his Spider-Man-abilities because he’s torn between two lives is a really interesting one. This is where this Peter Parker having organic webs shooting from his wrists rather than being something he built really works. He has no control as he’s becoming indecisive over what he wants, if he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man, he can’t be Spider-Man. Likewise, you get to see how good a person Peter Parker is even without the suit and the powers. He runs into a burning building to save a little girl because that’s the right thing to do and he can’t walk away. Side note: the moment where the little girl helps pull him up is one of the sweetest things ever.

Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) is a brilliant villain because through one small dinner scene with him, his wife (Donna Murphy), and Peter you get to see the man who likes poetry and loves his wife and science. Having the robotic arms have powerful AI be part of the cause of his descent into villainy is a clever idea. He’s smart, perhaps too smart, and comes up with a failsafe to protect himself but when that fails and he sees the love of his life die in front of him, it’s easy to see how he’d be manipulated by AI that’s smarter than him to solely focus on redoing the experiment no matter the cost.

The action sequences in Spider-Man 2 are still some of the best in the superhero movie genre. They are shot so you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another and the majority of them happen in the daytime so that along with not being too heavily edited means you can see what’s happening. The bank sequence is a lot of fun and is a great prelude to Spider-Man and Doc Ock’s next confrontation. The train sequence is still something that stands out even after over 15 years or more superhero movies. It’s exciting and while it’s a fight between Peter and Doc Ock it’s also a fight for Spider-Man to save the passengers on the train. The New Yorker’s standing up for Spider-Man is something that still gets me in the feels. It shows the good of the average person and how while the Daily Bugle and others may hate Spider-Man, there’s still many who feel like he’s a hero.

One thing I didn’t expect to get from this film was how much I empathised with Harry Osborn. He’s constantly in people’s shadows and no wonder it makes him act out. First it was his father, never living up to his expectations and pleasing him, and then Peter, not being as smart as him or being the one that MJ wants out of the two of them. I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of Spider-Man 3 after not seeing it for so long as there’s so much good groundwork laid in this film for Harry’s arc. He feels lost and desperate after suddenly being thrust into the role of head of Oscorp and then finding out that his best friend is who is (supposedly) to blame for his father’s death. It’s a lot for him and while Harry’s plot is a minor part of Spider-Man 2, James Franco does a great job with what he’s given.

Spider-Man 2 is truly a brilliant film. Even after all this time it’s still the film other Spider-Man films aspire to be as great as. It’s the combination of Peter’s struggles with responsibility and the various relationships in his life, it’s the villain that can be very creepy and almost horrifying at times, and it’s just how there is still humour to be found even though Peter’s life really does suck the majority of the time. 5/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man (2002)

As Spider-Man: No Way Home is being released next month and there’s talk of it including multiple universes and characters we’ve seen from past Spider-Man franchises (I watched the first trailer when it was released in August and have done by best to avoid everything Spider-Man-related ever since) I thought it was about time to revisit some of the previous iterations of Spider-Man. I’ve reviewed Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home but I’m pretty sure I’ve never reviewed the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. Plus, I’ve not even seen many of those films in their entirety for years, or in some cases, since the cinema.

As these films are older and are rewatches there may be some vague spoilers in these reviews.

So to kick it off we go back to the beginning and to the Summer of 2002. I was 10 years old when Spider-Man came out and I distinctly remember seeing it in the cinema with my dad, my (much older) sister and her then-boyfriend. I know I enjoyed it then and on rewatch nearly 20 years later I still really enjoy it.

What director Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man is really help lay the blueprint of how brilliant a superhero movie could be. There are a lot of elements at play in this film with the different characters and relationships and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) doesn’t even get into his Spider-Man suit until practically half way through the film. But that doesn’t bother me because the things going on in Peter’s life are just as compelling as any Spidey-related adventure.

Spider-Man sets up the relationship/potential love triangle between Peter, his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) and the girl he’s been in love with forever Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) so well. You get why Peter and Harry are friends even though they come from completely different worlds and you get why Mary Jane would be attracted to both Peter and Harry. All three of them have believable relationships with one another.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin is one of those instances of perfect casting. Ever since I saw him in Speed 2: Cruise Control Dafoe has been able to freak me out with just his eyes – he can put so much intensity/craziness in his eyes it’s almost concerning. How the Green Goblin toys with Peter is so good. He believes he knows what makes Spider-Man tick and once he figures out who Spider-Man is he’s even more certain of it. The scenes where it’s just Norman Osborn talking to the Green Goblin, either via the mask or a mirror are just captivating. They’re unsettling and show so much of the two sides of this character. Because really, while Norman Osborn may have pushed his son and his staff, he was also someone who wanted to succeed in their business ventures and wasn’t necessarily an inherently cruel person until he became the Green Goblin.

Some of the CGI may now look a bit dated but on the whole the action set pieces really hold up. The attack on the parade is fun with how Spider-Man bounces on the giant balloons and how he goes between fighting Green Goblin to rescuing bystanders shows what kind of a hero he is. The hand-to-hand fights with Green Goblin are pretty brutal and Peter Parker sure goes through a lot in this film. All the fight and action sequences are well shot and choregraphed and you know exactly where characters are in relation to one another.

I have to mention J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson – an actor who made the role his own that there was no way he could be played by anyone else in any of the other Spider-Man franchises. J. Jonah Jameson is loud and brash but he’s also quick-witted and all the scenes at the Daily Bugle are funny because of him and his various underlings. What really stood out to me (because I’d completely forgotten about it) is that that when he’s being threatened by the Green Goblin who wants to know who takes Spider-Man’s picture, James lies. He says he doesn’t know and they’re sent in the mail. He might be a mean and rude boss but it shows he does care about Peter Parker and the rest of his staff. He has a moral backbone and won’t sell out his staff. It’s little moments like that in Spider-Man that make a lot of the character work stand out.

Spider-Man is a very entertaining superhero film and is truly one of the great origin stories. It’s filled with drama and action and so many believable characters. Seeing Spider-Man swing through New York still looks fantastic and when that Spider-Man theme by Danny Elfman kicks in it’s hard not to get goosebumps. 5/5.