Completing Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy of films is Spider-Man 3. Production of Spider-Man 3 began almost immediately after the release of Spider-Man 2, which itself was a massive box office success. Raimi wanted to concentrate on the theme of ‘forgiveness’ and had plans to conclude the Green Goblin story and introduce Sandman as the major villain. After much protracted discussions however, Marvel bosses convinced him to include the fan favourite Venom into the story and the script had to undergo a major rewrite.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finds his life attaining some form of success, with the people of the city loving his alter-ego Spider-Man and him personally planning to propose to his high school sweetheart Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). While receiving the key to the city a former petty criminal-turned supervillain The Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) attacks trying to steal money to help his sick daughter. Meanwhile Mary-Jane begins to feel that Peter doesn’t understand what she is feeling and gets closer to Harry Osbourn (James Franco) who is suffering from amnesia.
There is a tendency for franchises to become overwhelmed with their back-story and Spider-Man 3 starting with an extended intro highlighting scenes from the previous two films, buckles under the weight of the new characters and themes introduced. There are so many plot strands and character arcs to keep track of that it becomes confused and frustrating to watch. Raimi’s vision focused on concluding Franco and Maguire’s friendship-turned-sour with the addition of minor character The Sandman. However under pressure from his studio he shoehorns the Eddie Brock Jr. (Topher Grace) and Venom storyline, which shifts Spider-Man 3‘s focus from ‘forgiveness’ to ‘identity.’
So with two distinct plot strands vying for the audiences attention it’s not long before Spider-Man 3 goes completely off the rails. We’re asked to care about a series of villains, including the increasingly dark behaviour of the evermore annoying Parker, but with no actual hero. The Sandman is a neat character but is completely out of place in the films’ context. James Franco’s New Goblin is tired and rushed, while Grace’s Venom is a horrible miscast and a waste of Spider-Man 3‘s best villain. All in all it’s a complete train wreck.
There is something frustrating about watching Spider-Man 3‘s over-complicated narrative slowly play out, which only heightens the problems with casting. Franco appears to be stoned throughout, giving an uneven performance as the conflicted Harry, while Church does a good job with The Sandman. The huge problems come with Maguire who camps up his geek-version of Peter Parker to new extreme levels, including a horribly misjudged strut and dance number. Grace attempts to inject Venom with some character and humour, which would actually be better suited to Spider-Man and as such completely ruins one of the most well-loved villains in the Marvel Universe.
Raimi, clearly uncomfortable with the Venom characters inclusion loses control and the result is one of the weakest big budget comic book film adaptations. It’s such a shame considering the strength of the first two films, but Spider-Man 3 has a messy structure, bad performances and some dodgy CG and sends the series out with whimper causing the studio to reboot in 2012 with The Amazing Spider-Man.