It almost hurts to acknowledge how old the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films have become. They’re George W. Bush first-term, clicky-wheel iPod old. The Tobey Maguire-starring flicks laid a lot of the superhero groundwork, so fanboys owe Mr. Raimi a debt of gratitude for getting the party started. Given everything he set up with Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (which Roger Ebert adored, calling it the “superhero movie for people who don’t go to superhero movies”), Sam Raimi birthed a tri-headed monster in the form of Spider-Man 3. While the promotional trailers caught our attention with teases of Spider-Man and his Venomous reflection, the third entry was The Godfather: Part 3 of the Marvel Universe.
With Marvel finally at the helm of one of Stan Lee’s most beloved characters, we’re only a few weeks away from seeing Tom Holland’s ballyhooed take on the web-slinger.
Just how misguided was Spider-Man 3? Well, let’s figure it out. Here are 16 Ways Spider-Man 3 Ruined The Character
16. The Web Hammock
We here at ScreenRant are by no means frigid and uncaring people. If we had the capacity to woo our women with web hammocks, we very well might. In theory. Therein lies the rub with Spider-Man 3, a film that took potentialities and brought them to life. With the web-hammock from hell, Sam Raimi green-lit one of the most impossibly saccharine love locations in any superhero film. It’s a whimsical idea, sure, and it clearly makes dearly beloved Mary Jane quite happy.
By letting Peter Parker make a web-hammock, however, Raimi single-handedly emasculates our superhero beyond the point of return. And let’s face it, there wasn’t a lot of room left for sappiness with Tobey Maguire’s earnest, yet frequently cloying portrayal.
15. Topher Grace
Topher Grace is a talented actor and a funny, high-energy performer. Without him, That 70’s Show would have never made it past the pilot. That being said, it remains very difficult to accept a reality where casting directors envisioned him taking on the role of Spider-Man’s beloved arch nemesis, Venom. With all due respect to Mr. Grace, this artistic “choice” has as much gravitas as casting Nick Offerman as Jor-El. He’s another fine actor in his own right, but as with Topher Grace, we simply couldn’t un-see his comedic roots long enough to accept his role in the comic-book universe.
Granted, Sam Raimi’s world-building was very heightened and histrionic, perhaps what the creatives perceived as a natural fit for Grace. Unfortunately, even if we ignore his arrogant and annoying quips in the film, watching Topher Venom-crawl in his black leotard is cause enough for an uprising.
14. Emo-Peter Parker
About an hour into Spider-Man 3, web-slinging is replaced with a musical battle of the wits. In one of the strangest romantic duels in recent memory, Sam Raimi had Peter Parker go toe-to-toe with Mary Jane, the struggling Broadway starlet. Not only does Spider-Man steal Mary Jane’s thunder from time to time, but there’s even a scene where a Dashboard Confessional-looking Parker combs his hair to the side and struts through SoHo like he’s in an early iTunes commercial. MJ, now relegated to a local jazz bar to flex her vocal muscles, gets beaten to the punch by emo-pete.
Sitting in the corner (as emo-artists do), Peter diddles the piano and applies his Spidey sense to some frighteningly burlesque dance moves. Straddling the line between horror and hysterics, this bizarre scene culminates in a close-up of a gyrating Peter Parker, whispering, “Now dig on this.” Historians continue to seek the etymology of this phrase and find it only on abandoned Sam Raimi hard drives. A modicum of respect is owed to Mr. Maguire for fulfilling the demands of this disturbing scene.
13. Absurd Birth of Sandman
There’s a lot to like in the digital creation of the mournful villain, Sandman. The shapeshifting sands are like a 3-D version of the desert scenes in Aladdin, but as cool as it might look, the scenes leading up to Sandman’s formation are astoundingly inane.
It all starts with Flint Marko, recently on the run from Rikers Island, who encounters some of the most startlingly inept police in the NYPD. When they finally catch on to him, Marko jumps over a jagged barbed-wire fence (without injury) and runs off into the night. Though it happens to be a particularly bright evening, Marko evades police capture and tumbles into a massive scientific pit. Falling into this monstrous and gaping manhole is so reckless that you’d almost have to do it on purpose. The scientists (who apparently perform such experiments in the middle of the night) notice a foreign object is in their own personal Sarlacc pit and assume it’s just a bird. It clearly wasn’t.
Then, after Marko becomes Sandman, indubitably the experiment none of the scientists expected, nobody comes to check on the facilities. Sure, Sandman is born, but it took a lot of foolish writing to get there.
12. Venom Blob Dormant for Two Acts
To highlight the underutilization and abuse of Venom in Spider-Man 3, consider the following analogy: Ben Affleck’s potential standalone Batman movie introduces a new Robin (exciting!), only to have him locked in a dungeon for 80% of the film. Alas, Venom arrives on earth early in Spider-Man 3 (conveniently, next to the sexy web-hammock), but he remains in larvae form for the first two acts.
Hiding behind Peter Parker’s desk, the Venom blob drips and drags rent-free, while incurring a high cost to the paying audience. Strangely, the Venom blob is more menacing than Topher Grace’s physical portrayal. Perhaps the blob should have stayed dormant for all three acts, lying in wait for the right director to put him to ultimate use. Could it finally happen in Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Man reboot?
11. Dramatic Harry
There’s an unspoken rule for actors playing what audiences perceive as “the villain.” Under no circumstances must you play into the idea of the character. Instead, find his humanity and justify his actions. For further discussion, check out what Jon Bernthal said about tackling the role of Frank Castle.
In Spider-Man 3, James Franco’s Harry Osborne plays out like a Bond villain, mixing martinis and smirking to show audiences that he’s really up to no good. The only thing missing is a Blofeld cat in Harry’s arms. To be fair, the tiff between Harry and Peter is somewhat justified. Lies and dissension eroded their relationship, and Harry’s dad died in Peter’s hands. The circumstances are undeniable, yet Raimi takes a clown hammer to the plot and forces us to watch Harry, often surrounded by well-timed lightning bolts, sulk, skulk and put on the full armor of his dead-Goblin dad.
10. Harry’s Bizarre Butler
As Harry plans to exact revenge on Peter Parker and anyone who stands in his way, a truly unexpected scene unfolds. Harry’s butler, Bernard Houseman, waddles into frame with all of the chutzpah of a man in hospice. It’s clear that we’re about to watch a deeply moving scene about fathers and sons. Unfortunately, Bernard unveils a key piece of information that either exposes his gross inadequacy as a butler or reveals his battle with Alzheimer’s.
Bernard tells the war-torn (and now scarred) Harry that he cleaned his dying father’s wounds. Though Spider-Man may look like the guilty party, the butler relates that Spidey did not end Norman Osborne’s life. Bernard, vengeful spirit and sage that he is, then sat on this information for approximately five years, waiting for the opportune moment to drop the bomb. This, combined with the knowledge that Bernard is played by Bill Paxton’s father, makes the scene almost impossible to watch.
9. Excessive Villainy
Besides creating a cluster of inchoate parts, movies with multiple villains prevent audiences from fully rallying behind the protagonist. There’s not enough screen time to go around, especially when people want to watch justice get served without too much diplomacy or politics. In Spider-Man 3, Sandman swirls through the city, Harry does his best Goblin skater-boy impression, and Venom claws his way into the movie’s grand finale.
The movie was more of a rollercoaster than a satisfying event, leaving audiences wondering why they should care about what just happened on screen. Three villains is enough for three standalone movies, but legend has it that Sam Raimi wanted to include a fourth baddie in the form of Vulture. Ben Kingsley was actually in talks before the role got scrapped (surely out of budget and not common sense), which is almost beyond imagination. Had he made it into the film, the title would have had to been altered to, Spider-Man V Everyone.”
8. Mary Jane’s Music Career
Rooting against people is rude, even in Spider-Man 3. Even if she has the pipes of Renee Fleming, however, people don’t want to watch MJ sing a showtune. That’s not why we preordered Spider-Man tickets on Fandango. Raimi almost dedicated enough time to Mary Jane’s musical passions to convert it into a spinoff series. If Spider-Man 3 had been released today, ABC would have picked up MJ: Birth of a Broadway Star with Agent Carter as its lead-in.
In all seriousness, the MJ subplot made audiences flat-out dislike her character, who seemed preening and self-obsessed with her fascination for “the lights.” Without question, the Raimi brothers built a script that essentially pitted the blooming “careers” of Peter and MJ against each other. They may be a power couple in many ways, but this was not the ideal way to depict their unique relationship.
7. Gwen Stacy
Turn on Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man reboot and watch how well Emma Stone captures the character of Gwen Stacy. Say what you will about the latest series, but she made Stacy a fun and enjoyable presence. In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, Gwen Stacy gets shoehorned into the plot, joining the ranks of the criminally underdeveloped villains.
Still in high school, Stacy gets a high-profile internship and basically plays the foil to Mary Jane’s goodie-two-shoes. Stacy, Peter Parker’s lab partner and “friend,” helps get Spidey’s senses tingling and basically distracts him from being a good guy. As with Sandman and Venom, the addition of Stacy muddies the water and undercuts the key development of other main characters. Bryce Dallas Howard surely isn’t to blame, but no one is completely innocent in this tornado of a film.
6. Incompetent NYPD
It all starts with a uniform cop standing atop a truck bed, trying to kill Sandman with a shovel. Fortunately, this brilliant police officer never made contact with the tip of his weapon, as he was thrown a few city blocks by the grainy hand of the Sandman. And that’s just the beginning.
In one of the most lackluster action sequences in all of Spider-Man 3, the Sandman takes shape in broad daylight, scaring the bejeezus out of countless bystanders. New Yorkers aren’t easily scared, and the only thing more frightening than a giant sandstorm in the Big Apple (cue: Darude) is the NYPD unloading thousands of ammunition rounds at heavily occupied buildings. No wonder Sandman throws them a haymaker. At that point, he’s the only one protecting the city.
5. Soap Opera Fights with Peter and MJ
There are two sequences in comic book movie lore that deserve to be deleted. The first is in Batman Begins, where Rachel (Katie Holmes) slaps Bruce Wayne not once, but twice, for considering to shoot his parents’ killer. The second most sinful depiction of male and female discord is, surprise, in Spider-Man 3. The scene in question shows Peter Parker jonesing to make Mary Jane his lawfully-wedded wife (don’t ask why).
Taking place in a unique location called Central Park, Peter and MJ continue their maudlin relationship on a quaint bridge, where Mary Jane calls it quits and Peter pulls out a ring. She’s “seeing someone else” and he can’t stop crying. Under duress from Harry, of course, MJ acts grossly out of character, but it’s hard to excuse such an embarrassingly forced attempt at drama. In Spider-Man 3, the two protagonists and erstwhile lovers are almost always fighting, creating an atmosphere where there is literally no safe-haven for anyone involved.
4. Forced Revisitation of Uncle Ben
Filming a scene in black and white alone doesn’t make it artistic. Unfortunately, Sam Raimi reworked the origins of Uncle Ben’s death in Spider-Man, made Flint Marko the culprit and filmed the scene in black and white to give it extra gravity. Even worse, Marko’s gun “accidentally” fires, completely nullifying the moral ramifications of the scene.
The forced revisitation of such a foundational moment is a disservice to the original film and the audiences who watched it. Besides, Marko is too bland and phlegmatic of a character to actually pull of this twist. Because he’s basically a misguided thug trying to do good, putting Ben’s blood on his hands invalidates the motivation for Peter Parker to accept his identity as crime-fighting Spider-Man.
3. Peter and Harry Battle for MJ
Enough is enough. When your two male leads are seated at a cafe, sharing pie and tales of romantic affection, you know it’s time to call it quits. Director Sam Raimi was clearly fascinated by the Harry-Peter-MJ love triangle, and wanted to milk whatever tension was in that story. Unsurprisingly, it grew tiresome early on.
When Peter learns of “another guy” winning Mary Jane’s heart, and Harry confesses, “I’m the other guy,” you could literally set a 15-second timer before tears well in Peter’s eyes. Why? Because that’s how every other confrontational scene ends in Spider-Man 3. The movie conveniently patches up Harry and Peter’s relationship, but only after young Osborne gets hoisted on his own petard. It’s a shame Peter and Harry had such a one-note relationship in Spider-Man 3.
2. Newscaster Narration
Exposition is a necessary evil, especially when you cram three villains, two romantic interests and more in one regular-length movie. In Spider-Man 3, however, newscasters become the driving force behind much of the plot, used to clarify points of confusion and steady the wheel when the narrative seas get rough.
Without exaggeration, there are at least sixty unadulterated seconds of pure newscaster narration: “Just thirty minutes ago, police came across this startling sight: a young woman in a taxi suspended 80 stories above the ground in what appears to be a giant web. Every attempt to rescue the hostage has been thwarted by the Sandman…compounding the danger is the appearance of a strange, black suited figure…” Apparently screenwriting isn’t that hard!
1. Flint Marko’s Resilient Locket
Despite all of the inconsistencies in the painfully messy Spider-Man 3, one thing remains truly reliable: Flint Marko’s indestructible locket. Holding a cute little picture of his daughter inside, this locket could withstand seven years of nuclear assaults, hydrogen-powered firehoses and total transmogrification.
In nearly every scene of importance with Flint Marko/Sandman, the locket survives each cataclysm. Even if it’s the science pit where Marko gets his sandy powers, or the sewage pipes that wash away his being, this locket cannot be destroyed. It won’t merely survive disintegration. No, that’d be too simple. It will also receive a series of highly rewarding (and well-lit) close-ups to really remind the audience that Marko is a lovable man. How touching.
Those are our top 16! Where do you stand on Spider-Man 3? Let us know in the comments below!