Columbia Pictures, 2007
Webcrawler stumbles a third time
Let’s get something straight from the beginning: Tobey Maguire, in no way, failed the Spider-Man franchise. There’s plenty of blame to go around outside of the cast of the once-juggernaut film property featuring everyone’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, but none of it needs to ensnare Maguire in its web. No, the blame game needs to be played like a who’s who gathering of spin the terrible film bottle with Sam Raimi and whoever was his casting director.
Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 had quite a bit going for each film, especially the first film. But by the time the third film rolls around, there isn’t much here to be seen that hasn’t been done before. That is the unfortunate nature of a trilogy.
There’s Peter Parker, Maguire’s lovable underdog that has as much rooting power and likability to carry a film from start to finish. Then there’s Mary Jane Watson, the heroine. While Kirsten Dunst does an admirable job of being the redheaded damsel in distress that is early Watson, she was kind of playing it by the numbers by the time the final piece of the puzzle was in place. For some reason, Bryce Dallas Howard is thrown in as longtime Spider-Man girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and James Franco round out the villainy, which is a rather numerous rogue gallery.
The fact that we’ve just typed three names in one sentence to describe the lineup of villains is a major problem and, quite frankly, the worst issue with the film. The story is fine and we like the origin story told here for Venom. The problem is there isn’t enough time to showcase Venom’s story properly. The reason? Too many villains. We’ve said it time and again: Too many foes for the protagonist can and will ruin a film. Spider-Man 3 is easily the worst offender of this practice.
The film feels overly long and bloated to start with, but when Sandman turns into New Goblin who turns into Venom, it’s just too much to deal with. The pacing suffers immediately after New Goblin makes his first appearance, and once Eddie Brock takes on the symbiote/“black suit,” the film swiftly devolves into unmitigated chaos.
Another problem was the terrible effect of dragging in villains for the sake of having a villain. Venom immediately suffers the brunt of the pain here and it’s appalling what’s done to the character. First of all, in the comics, a pumpkin bomb from the New Goblin does not kill Venom; cancer eventually does the job. Second of all, if you’re going to bother doing Venom at all, do him justice and get it right. Venom is arguably Spider-Man’s most lethal and engaging foe, a lot like the Joker is to Batman or Lex Luthor is to Superman. Venom deserved his own film, and pairing him up to fight the wall-crawler is an immediate injustice to the character’s history. Venom doesn’t need anyone else to carry his movie if done right. Finally, Venom looked terrible. The character CGI was awful and looked cheap. If this is the reason why it took so long to get Venom in a film against Spidey, they could have kept him and saved him for the eventual reboot we all knew was coming.
And that reboot? It was apparent with the rote aura surrounding the film long before its release. What is especially angering is the dumbed-down approach to the film itself. In the months leading up to the film, the mainstream appeal to the basic filmgoer was pandering at best, highly insulting at worst. Seriously? The advertising and trailer appeal of a “black suit” that makes Peter Parker flip out was terrible. Trust us when we say the average movie viewer had no idea what the alien symbiote was about let alone cared. So when the comic knowledgeable saw that, it caused a chuckle for what it was worth. Spider-Man had become a “movie event of the year” type of thing, and indeed, his cash sense was probably tingling. Too bad he had to sacrifice quality to do it.
Terrible pacing, too many villains, a tired subplot and an overall lackadaisical feel? Thanks but no thanks. The spider had done all that a spider can and it was well past time for him to move on.
Like the comics?: 7
Overall score: 19 out of 30 or 6
How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.