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Spider-Man 3

June 1, 2018

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Director: Sam Raimi
Actors: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco

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Synopsis: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) wrestles a number of foes old and new, while also struggling with a symbiote that has invaded his body and darkened not only his Spider-Man persona but his own psyche too.

Review: Anyone familiar with my cinematic tastes will know I’ve kept a steady distance from the slavish, fanboy reception of the decade-long superhero assault on the multiplexes with its barrage of MCU and DCEU packages. It’s probably one of the reasons I never followed up my relative admiration for Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man installments to see the final effort in his (and Tobey Maguire’s) run. Well, that, and the fact it’s always had such a maligned reputation anyway.

Correcting that omission last night, I can clearly see why it’s earned the mantle as by far the worst of Raimi’s trilogy, and it is clear evidence that Raimi and Maguire were right to close the iteration out from this point. The film is phenomenally poorly structured: it has far too many characters necessitating their own little arcs and epiphanies, and Raimi struggles to balance the dramatic integrity of each of those storylines by bouncing inorganically between them – he’s still desperately trying to handle half a dozen resolutions in the final furlong. This choppiness is probably best betrayed by the fact that, three films in, James Franco’s Harry Osborn-Green Goblin subplot still feels out of place and awkwardly tagged on, and Topher Grace’s character morphing into Venom (the obligatory villain origin shtick) occurs incredibly belatedly in the film – perhaps even in the last 30 minutes?

Spider-Man 3 is as rich thematically as the previous two films, but its over-condensed plot sees it speed past more fruitful avenues. The best scene in the whole film is Thomas Haden Church’s escaped convict’s emotional scene with his despairing wife (a great cameo by Theresa Russell) and sick daughter, but this pathos is never really tapped into again as the character soon transforms into Sandman – one of the crappiest villains imaginable both from a conceptual and visual perspective.

Also, the invasive symbiote that turns Peter Parker/Spider-Man to somewhat of a ‘darker’ side is an ingenious philosophical idea – especially when it passes from Parker to Topher Grace’s jealous photographer (a metaphor for your sins passing on to the people around you) – but it’s so lamely introduced (of all the places in the world this meteor could land, it ends up metres away from Peter Parker in New York!) and it gets largely forgotten amid all the other subplots – Sandman, Harry Osborn, Venom, Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy etc.

Just a final thought: the film’s closing set-piece of Mary Jane in another ‘damsel in distress’ moment seems extremely quaint and dated. It’s a sign the intervening 10 years since this film was released have been stratospheric, and, I’m not entirely sure in the current climate that a female character being quite so helpless amid the cacophony of male protagonists and antagonists would be accepted.

Incidentally – here’s a good video essay on the film:

(June 2018)

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