Spider-Man 3 (2007): ***
Directed by Sam Raimi
Easily the weakest of the three Spider-Man films,
Spider-Man 3 suffers from the same problem that plagued
the Batman franchise in the 90s. No, not Joel Schumacher.
I'm talking about the too many villains syndrome.
Spider-Man 3 has three full-fledged villains fighting
for screen time with Spider-Man and his relationship with Mary Jane.
There's Sandman, Venom, and Harry Osborne as the new Green Goblin.
And after watching the film I very quickly realized that Sandman
serves absolutely no purpose in the movie that Harry couldn't have
served, and served better because of his personal relationship with
I'll do a quick re-cap to show you what I mean. In the end of the
last film Harry learned that Peter was Spider-Man, and thinks that
Peter killed his dad Norman. So in Spider-Man 3 Harry dons
a modified, streamlined set of Green Goblin gear and sets out for
revenge. Peter defeats him with a staggering blow to the head that
makes Harry forget the last several years. Then the Sandman gets
created and goes on a spree of robberies. And an alien symbiote
randomly attaches itself to Peter and creates the Black Suit.
The purpose that Sandman has in the movie is to show just how bad
the Black Suit has made Spider-Man go. Spider-Man seemingly purposefully
kills Sandman. He's gone bad! But then he also seemingly tries to
kill Harry (he callously lets an explosive blow up right next to
Harry's head). He's gone bad! Why did we have to see it twice, though?
If they'd just cut Sandman completely out of this movie and made
it all about Harry & Peter it would have been a lot stronger.
Sandman later resurfaces and teams up with Venom (after Spidey shakes
him off), which sets up the ending team-up of Peter and Harry 'cause
Peter couldn't take them both on at once. But couldn't they just
have made Venom so powerful that Spidey couldn't defeat him without
Harry's help? The answer is yes.
But despite this big problem, the movie was very enjoyable. And
very Sam Raimi. Raimi did some really interesting things with drama
and comedy. Scenes that could have been very dramatic were played
off for comic effect (the scene with Bruce Campbell's obligatory
cameo, for instance).
Most fascinating of all is the fact that when Peter fully embraces
Venom's influence and goes all-the-way bad, the movie, instead of
becoming deadly dark and serious, turns into an absolutely rip-roaring
comedy and goes wacky, wacky, wacky! So wacky, in fact, that my
wife leaned over to me and asked in all seriousness, "Am I
asleep? Am I just dreaming this?" The montage of "evil"
Peter becoming more and more like a sleazy disco dancer, culminating
in the absolutely insane dance scene with Gwen Stacy, are pound
for pound some of the most purely entertaining parts of any Spider-Man
film, for sheer gleeful audacity and bizarreness alone.
The film does have a good heart. The Peter & MJ plot is probably
the most coherent and effective thing about it. Its action scenes
are exciting and well-done, and I did enjoy it despite it's tendency
to over-complicate itself and lose focus.