It’s tricky going back to watch Spider-Man 3 on DVD, especially now we know that it’s the last time we’ll see Tobey Macguire as the Webslinger (sniff) AND Sam Raimi’s precise eye behind the camera (sob). After the stunner that was Spider-Man 2 (in our humble opinion one of the best superhero films ever made), Spidey 3 certainly had a weight of expectation against it. And unfortunately, it’s not really the send-off the franchise – not the mention the considerable talents of Maguire, Dunst, Raimi et al – deserved.
Two’s Company, Three’s a Supervillain Crowd
The film starts off not long after the events of Spidey 2, with Peter Parker juggling his responsibilities as genius physics student, photographer, boyfriend and derring-do superhero. Still, he’s doing pretty well – multi-tasking being a spidey-sense not talked out much, presumably – which is more than can be said for spidey-squeeze and all-round foxy redhead Mary-Jane “MJ” Watson, who’s just been sacked from her Broadway debut. Doesn’t help that when she talks to Pete about it he just bangs on about how everyone loves Spider-Man, either. Jerk.
Still, before long we’ve got set-ups for some of the epic comic-book action to come. There’s on-the-run crim Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), turned into the Sandman by some implausible physics technobabble and some truly impressive special effects, as well as an odd blob of black tar that’s stalking Peter Parker. As any comic book geek knows, that blob of goop will eventually turn out to be Venom, one of Spidey’s most popular and pernicious nemeses.
Chuck in a severely cheesed off Harry Osbourne – soon to become the next Green Goblin – and there’s a recipe for success. But there’s too many chefs here – principally with the shoehorning in of Venom, and great character who’s totally underused in this instance. Blame here can be laid squarely at the door of studio execs, as Raimi never wanted to use Venom – though his trademark directorial flair is well in effect here, with genuinely exciting set pieces and visuals throughout. The acting’s of a similarly high standard, though Dunst and Maguire seem to pale rather when compared to Haden Church’s thoughtful and well-realised Sandman and Topher Grace as the seething, malavolent Eddie Brock.
Oh what a tangled web we weave…
But ultimately, it can’t be denied that Spiderman 3 is a bit of a mess. There’s a lot going on, and while it’s refreshing to have a Hollywood blockbuster with too much – as opposed to too little – plot, the film feels grossly uneven. It’s oddly paced, with chunks of action following chunks of action followed by occasionally melodramatic character-led scenes. But the script is taut enough, containing witty dialogue and interesting arcs for the various players. It’s just a shame that studio meddling turned what could have been a stunning movie into merely a watchable one.
Villains featurettes – “Covered in Black”, “Grains of Sand” and “Re-Imagining the Goblin”
Snow Patrol music video