Spider-Man hasn’t fared well on screen in the last ten years. After 2004’s Spider-Man 2 (still thought of by many as one of the great superhero films), the character saw a downward trajectory in 2007 with Spider-Man 3. In the 2010s, Spidey’s cultural cachet took another hit when both Amazing Spider-Man installments were met with a considerably more tepid response than Sam Raimi’s second entry in the series.
Andrew Garfield, the once and future friendly neighborhood webslinger (or maybe not), took the time to mull over his feelings on The Amazing Spider Man 2‘s reception in the press; if his candor hasn’t exactly served him well in his relationship with Sony, it’s no less appreciated. Now it’s Sam Raimi’s turn to make a statement about his own worst contribution to the Spider-Man franchise, which, despite occurring eight years after the fact, is also no less appreciated.
Raimi, currently embedded in that Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series for Starz, recently went on the Nerdist podcast with Chris Hardwick to shoot the breeze about his career; in the midst of that conversation (which the folks at Panjiba diligently, partially transcribed), the subject of Spider-Man 3 arose, and Raimi took the opportunity to get self-critical about that film’s ups and downs and where it went wrong.
Reading over Raimi’s comments may fill you with a sense of validation – they echo some of the more common complaints made about the film – but maybe, like Garfield’s, they’ll simply strike you as refreshing for their honesty:
It’s a movie that just didn’t work very well. I tried to make it work, but I didn’t really believe in all the characters, so that couldn’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man. If the director doesn’t love something, it’s wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it. I think [raising the stakes after Spider-Man 2] was the thinking going into it, and I think that’s what doomed us. I should’ve just stuck with the characters and the relationships and progressed them to the next step and not tried to top the bar …
Also noted by Raimi is that “directors don’t like to talk about their bad films”, which is true enough and just serves to make his frankness even more welcome.
Like both Amazing Spider-Man films, Spider-Man 3 has its proponents, but taking Raimi’s words into account, one has to wonder what a more streamlined Spider-Man 3 would have looked like. Might a low key Spider-Man 3 have served the series better by organically expanding on its themes and characters? In an alternate timeline, that movie could have succeeded both critically and commercially (and not just the latter).
Reading between the lines, Raimi’s sentiment becomes even more interesting; fans are indeed attuned to how well a filmmaker likes the source material they’re directing. Perhaps more importantly, though, the tendency to go bigger with each entry in a franchise may not be the healthiest impulse for studio tentpole. Spider-Man 3 suffered from too many villains and plot threads (not to mention some cheesy dance moves). Maybe in the case of films like it, less could actually be more.
But all being said and done, the key thing here is seeing a celebrated, successful director take a step back and humble himself. It might not make Spider-Man 3 a better movie, but Raimi’s sincerity at least invites us to consider it in a new light.