When superhero films get it right, they get it really right, but when they get it wrong, boy are we in trouble. Recent outings like Wonder Woman and Logan will be celebrated for years to come, while other entries like Suicide Squad and Fant4stic are a dark shadow over the superhero genre.
Now, as we embrace our third Peter Parker since 2002, Spider-Man: Homecoming hopes to learn from the mistakes of its predecessors. With Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film lauded as one of the first films to kickstart our current obsession with superheroes in cinema, the Raimiverse was a Spider-Man spectacle to behold.
Between Tobey Maguire’s titular performance, J.K. Simmons as J.J. Jameson, and Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, there was so much to love. However, as Maguire put on the black suit for Spider-Man 3, it seems that something went wrong.
Long discussed as one of the worst superhero films of all time, the third Raimi film stopped plans for Spider-Man 4, 5, and even 6 in their tracks. However, with over a decade since Maguire last swung onto our screens as Peter Parker, is Spider-Man 3 really as bad as we remember?
Here are 15 Reasons Spider-Man 3 Is Actually Underrated.
15 It Rounded Off The Trilogy
Spider-Man 3 may have flopped on many levels, but it was still a faithful close to a memorable trilogy. Fortunately, by the time we got to Raimi’s third film, we had five years of action and adventure under our utility belts.
Just as Return of the Jedi was dubbed the “worst” of the Star Wars bunch, there is no denying Spider-Man 3 failed to live up to its predecessors, but that didn’t stop it trying. But compare it to Garfield's tenure of our friendly hero under Marc Webb, and we still have a clear winner.
Perhaps the best example of closure was the addition of Flint Marko tying back to Uncle Ben’s demise in 2002’s original feature. We also had the passing of the Green Goblin saga and Peter finally embracing his true fate. However, at the core, we still have the beating heart of Raimi’s Spider-Man. He could’ve palmed the film off on someone else, but the acclaimed horror maestro injected his own feel of comedy and tragedy into the threequel and made it very much his own.
14 Resurrecting The Green Goblin
So, when it comes to the best-known Spider-Man villain, what do you do? Well, kill him off obviously!
Ridding your franchise of Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in the first entry was certainly a risky move. Marc Webb’s films sucked all the fun out of that with his pale imitation of the Goblin saga, but for Raimi, it worked. We always knew that there would be more films, but who knows if it was always Raimi’s idea to have Harry take on the Goblin mantle in SM3.
What’s more, the use of the Green Goblin(s) still strayed away from his most famous comic book acts like killing Gwen Stacy and chose not to resurrect Norman via cloning - certainly a popular choice given Dafoe’s acting credentials.
Instead, James Franco embraced that side that had always bubbled beneath the surface and went full villain. With a souped-up and modernized take on the same villain, within a five-year franchise, it was a clever piece of work from Raimi. Also, whereas Norman failed to get his hero’s end, Harry became his very own Darth Vader and saved our titular hero.
13 Eddie Brock Became Peter Parker
Topher Grace’s divisive performance as Eddie Brock is undoubtedly one of the most divisive parts of Spider-Man 3. While Grace himself once defended his part, even he has jumped ship into the “hate camp.” What Raimi did get right though, was reinventing a character that was two decades old and giving us a whole new feel of someone we thought we knew.
We all remember the cocky Brock from ‘90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series, whereas Grace’s version was less of a meathead and more of a weasel. Eddie Brock is usually seen as a muscular bully who would perfectly fit Tom Hardy’s portrayal in the Venom spin-off, but Raimi was having none of it.
Giving us a villain that didn’t seem that intimidating made Eddie all the more sinister when he adopted his Venom persona. However, the real trick was how Raimi made Eddie mirror an early Peter Parker. Brock bagged his own girl next door with Gwen, got a lucrative job at The Daily Bugle, and became obsessed with our web-slinging her0. S
pider-Man 3's Brock was ultimately a "what if" had Peter taken himself down a different path or accepted the symbiote alien.
12 MJ's Tragic Story
Picking Mary Jane Watson over Gwen Stacy was one of Raimi’s first bold choices for the series, but having her story arc over all three films made Kirsten Dunst a Hollywood star. As the actual girl next door, MJ was a fiery redhead who we always hoped would be with Peter, but you knew probably wouldn’t. We longed for the duo to unite over the entire trilogy, but Raimi and fate intervened.
Being honest, MJ had a particularly rough time of it in Spider-Man 3. From the bombing of Manhattan Memories to slumming it at a jazz cafe, and losing Harry, Mary Jane didn’t have the luxury of taking to the skies and swinging away from her troubles. Many directors would’ve given her and Peter the happy ending they deserved, but there was something refreshing about the duo parting with a simple hug at the film’s close.
Whereas some see the Raimiverse as just Peter’s story, it actually was just as much about MJ as our wall-crawler. Just as Peter got his bittersweet ending, the same went for Mary Jane.
11 The Action Sequences
What about the action that we all pay to come and see in a good popcorn flick? Given the epic train sequence from Spider-Man 2, the third entry was keen to one-up itself.
Sandman's truck of robbery climaxed in that excellent (albeit brief) sewer fight. There was also that dizzying Goblin glider scene, which made the best use of CGI that 2007 had to offer. And that's all before we even talk about the dramatic Gwen Stacy scene and that sky-high crane stunt.
The film can be accused of sometimes overdoing the effects, but you can see the look Raimi was going for. Everything ultimately climaxed in that dramatic final fight at the construction site, with MJ as bait and Spider-Man battling his three foes.
The film basically wove the stories of Peter’s emotional journey between him facing off against Green Goblin, Sandman, and Venom. Everything led to that climactic battle as the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Importantly, we swapped out Peter’s nerdy quips and delved straight into the action to further emphasize the film’s more mature tone.
10 It Was Darker
To fit with a grittier take on action, the whole film took a more violent turn and the characters themselves went down a murky path. If we can forgive Peter’s emo phase and that appalling jazz dancing, a darker side of our leading man gave Spider-Man another layer. For two films, we had seen Maguire plod along while bad stuff happened, but this time, the alien symbiote snapped something inside of Peter.
Then we have Harry Osborn’s Goblin 2.0. Whereas Norman was an animal driven by rage, Harry was powered by revenge. It was sad to see Harry’s slow descent into evil, but it was refreshing compared to his father’s quick snap into being a villain. The former friends were poles apart by the time we got to the end of Spider-Man 3, when they united in their fight against Venom.
Speaking of which, the film's conclusion was a veritable bloodbath. Harry impaled by his own glider, Brock sacrificing himself to death by pumpkin bomb, and Sandman literally blowing away with the breeze. Peter was left pretty much alone and the whole movie ended with a funeral - hardly the cheerful MCU fodder we are used to nowadays.
9 Sandman's Tragedy
Ignoring the villain overload of the threequel, one actor shone more than the rest. The character of Flint Marko/Sandman was brilliantly performed by Thomas Haden Church - you know, that guy from George of the Jungle? It will likely split audiences on whether the Marko/Uncle Ben tie was a clever bit of scripting or a cheap cash-in, but at least Raimi stuck to his guns and went with it anyway.
At the very core of what made Sandman great was his antihero status. A man who still loved his daughter, the tale of Marko was one of the most tragic stories to ever grace a superhero movie. Whereas the likes of Dafoe’s Goblin or Molina’s Octavius had nothing left to live for, Marko just wanted his old life back.
The “heart” of Sandman ran through to the film’s climax, where audiences got that rare glimmer of hope and he was allowed to live. Instead of turning Marko over the authorities, a humbled Peter let the father go free.
8 Gwen Stacy Lives
Long before Bryce Dallas Howard was battling dinosaurs, you may remember that she had a small, but significant, part as Peter Parker’s potential long-term love interest/tragic girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Not only did Raimi give us his own version of Gwen, we also got a rehash of that upside-down kiss which made his first film so famous. Part love rival, part scene-stealer, it’s just sad we didn’t get more of Gwen.
It would’ve been all too easy for Raimi to tackle the iconic “The Night that Gwen Stacy Died Storyline” and swap out Norman for Harry, but the director carved his own way for the character. While we don’t know Raimi's plans for Gwen in his rumored fourth entry, it feels only right that it was MJ who closed out with the Raimiverse.
That being said, what little we did see of Bryce Dallas Howard in the role was wonderful. With everyone expecting Ms. Stacy to pop up in Peter’s younger years for the MCU (and possibly become Spider-Gwen), whichever lucky lady nabs the part should look to Howard’s performance for inspiration.
7 The Black Suit
Originally suggested by a fan in 1982, Spider-Man’s black suit premiered in the comics during 1984’s Secret Wars storyline. After his red and blue number was damaged, Spidey’s costume was repaired by a mysterious black goo. That same black suit eventually made its big screen debut in Spider-Man 3.
Just like in the comics, we all know that the good was in fact the symbiote lifeform. In the film, the symbiote came from a meteorite in the park and attached itself to Peter to make him stronger and more aggressive. It was under symbiote rule that he discarded his feelings for others and scarred Harry using his own Goblin weaponry.
In the comics, fans were originally skeptical of the black suit, but eventually came round to it. This lead comic book artists to design a version that wasn’t an evil alien lifeform and had actually been designed by Black Cat. Raimi successful updated the Secret Wars storyline and brought us the fan-favorite suit. Who can forget the iconic imagery of Spider-Man facing off against his own reflection from Spider-Man 3?
6 The Relationships
More complicated than an episode of Jerry Springer, it was hard to keep up with the complex web of relationships that Raimi threw our way in the third entry.
A cocky Peter had clearly lost his appeal to Mary Jane, who was growing older and in search of more than just being a damsel in distress on the arm of a superhero. Gwen was the new addition who was wooed by flash spandex, but also found herself trapped with the sleazy Brock. Peter’s selfish attitude basically pushed everyone close to him away, and it can’t be blamed just on the gloopy alien hiding under your bed.
We also had Peter and Harry teetering on a knife edge, and even with the lazy amnesia plot, we knew the truth would come out. Elsewhere, Rosemary Harris was once again superb as Aunt May, offering stoic council to her adoptive son in fear of losing him.
Spider-Man 3 had much more love and loss (both emotional and physical) than its predecessors and everyone’s messed up relationships fell apart for a more adult take on the superhero genre.
5 Bruce Campbell's Cameo
Being best buds with the director is one surefire way to get yourself in whatever film you want. With Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi sharing their Evil Dead history, the actor had a habit of popping up in the Raimiverse.
The mighty chin of Bruce Campbell appeared in all three Spider-Man films, playing a wrestling MC in the first film, the comedic theater usher in Spider-Man 2, and a snooty maître d’ in the final film. Almost as big a scene-stealer as J.K. Simmons, Campbell’s appearance in Spider-Man 3 was undoubtedly his best. We all remember the restaurant scene, particularly for Peter’s awkward attempts at proposing to Mary Jane and Campbell maintaining his deadpan face as the maître d’.
However, before Raimi’s fourth entry hit the dirt, there were rumors that Campbell would’ve played a major part and get to flex his villain muscles. Not only would the talented actor get more screen time, he would’ve been playing Quentin Beck, aka the legendary Mysterio. Although we never got to see where Raimi and Campbell would’ve taken their version of Mysterio, the legacy of the character lives on.
4 The Ideas Of A Fourth Film
Speaking of continuing a legacy, Raimi clearly had plans for the fourth film (and beyond). Spider-Man 3 laid these in place without just becoming a filler film. There was enough of a story to stand on its own and we weren't left with a cliffhanger ending. Quite the opposite, we had the bittersweet ending of Peter and MJ reconciling, and there was still as much room to carry on as there was to leave the story there.
After three films of Dylan Baker as Dr. Curt Connors, there were rumors that the doc would finally embrace his reptilian villainy for #4. Despite fan pleas, Raimi held off giving us Lizard from the get-go and slowly built the character instead. Elsewhere, John Malkovich was rumored to be playing Vulture, and Anne Hathaway was rumored to be playing a new character “Vultress" - which was probably a ruse for Felicia Hardy.
A possible tease of the Sinister Six or the wedding of Peter and MJ, the opportunities were endless, but Spider-Man 3 alluded to them subtly. We had already seen a more grown-up Peter, so God only knows how dark the future would’ve got for our clumsy crusader.
3 J. Jonah Jameson
The main cast (and Campbell) aside, someone else hogged the limelight away from Peter Parker’s busy life. Looking across the entire slate of superhero films since the boom of the early ‘00s, J.K. Simmons’ casting as J. Jonah Jameson is one of the best. Up there with Chris Evans as Captain America and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, some people are just made for the parts they take.
Just as crabby as his first two entries, J.J. Jameson was the same curmudgeonly editor of The Daily Bugle. If Peter didn’t have enough to deal with, Jameson then tried to put him out of a job by bringing Eddie Brock onto the paper’s staff. He wasn’t really a villain, but he wasn’t exactly a Spider-fan.
Simmons was so good as Jameson, there were even rumors that he could reprise the role for Spider-Man: Homecoming. With us currently focusing on Parker’s younger days, J.J. won’t make his premiere just yet, however, we know the mustachioed madman is out there somewhere.
2 It Introduced Venom To Live-Action
Being both a blessing and a curse, Spider-Man 3 gave us the first ever live-action Venom. It may not have been to everyone’s taste, but it solidified Venom as even more of a fan-favorite than his comic book counterpart. Officially debuting in 1988, it was always inevitable that Venom was coming to the Spideyverse and we should embrace it, even if we weren't happy with how it was handled.
Taking the alien symbiote away from Peter, Spider-Man 3 really picked up the pace when Eddie Brock accepted his fate as Venom. The snarling beast added a layer of horror to the film and took the movie on an even darker path. Raimi must’ve got something right, because Sony has been exploring the idea of a Venom solo film ever since.
It has only taken a decade, but Venom is finally getting the justice he deserves. Say what you want about Spider-Man 3, but it is doubtful we would be exploring Venom if the character hadn’t premiered back in 2007.
Also, with Tom Hardy signed on to play Eddie Brock this time around, the acclaimed actor will undoubtedly be watching Raimi’s film for some helpful hints and ideas of what to avoid!
1 It's Better Than The Amazing Spider-Man 2
It may not be a particular claim to fame, but Spider-Man 3 is officially better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Reviews may not be everything, but Spider-Man 3 stands at 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s 52%. Even better, Raimi’s film earned $890.9 million worldwide and Webb’s “only” grossed $709.
Clearly, Marc Webb didn't learn from the mistakes of Raimi and clogged his sequel with too many villains and rehashed ideas. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came off as a pale comparison to Spider-Man 3, with Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn not being a patch on Franco. Also, ask yourself, which film do you remember more?
With Maguire established in his role by Spider-Man 3, Andrew Garfield still felt a little tentative as Peter Parker. Also, any film that screws up The Night Gwen Stacy Died storyline should hang its head in shame. While Spider-Man 3 may have killed the Raimiverse dead in its tracks, at least the franchise lasted longer than the “Amazing” years. Is there a better example in cinema of it could always be worse?
Is Spider-Man 3 as bad as everyone says? Sound off in the comments below.