Sequels are very difficult to pull off successfully. To recapture what audiences loved about one film and replicate that is no easy task for any director. More often than not, sequels are known for not quite living up to the expectations of their predecessors.
However it’s always the second sequel, the third chapter in a trilogy, where audiences are most often dissapointed. Why exactly is that so? Could it be directors and writers choke under the pressure or perhaps audiences simply grows tired after two movies.
What ever it may be, third sequels more often than not drop the ball in terms in many ways. But are these “3 movies” really deserving of all the flack they receive? Well seeing how the Coronavirus pandemic has rendered all of us homebound, I’ve decided to take a close look back at some of the most detested part 3s ever released and determine whether or not they’re truly deserving of all the hate. Welcome dear readers, to Threequel Month.
Aside from blunders such as “Batman and Robin” or “X-Men Origins,” “Spider-Man 3” is arguably the most despised comic-book movie sequel of all time. This highly anticipated followup to the critically praised “Spider-Man 2” was once again directed by Evil Dead director, Sam Raimi. While it was a financial success and highest-grossing “Spider-Man” film for roughly 12 years, “Spider-Man 3” left a bitter taste in the mouths of both fans and critics and dashed any hopes for a “Spider-Man 4.”
Fans complained about the strange casting choices and bizarre portrayal of Peter Parker’s turn to the dark side. While critics disliked the overabundance of characters and sloppily pasted together story.
While the first two Spider-Man films contain plenty of issues, the stories were always clear, concise and easy to follow. The first installment is about Peter Parker getting his powers, stopping a villain who happens to be connected to his best friend and choosing between desire and responsibility. “Spider-Man 2” delves deeper into the struggle between love and duty, as Peter’s home life becomes more difficult with the rise of a new villain pushing him to his limits.
“Spider-Man 3” on the other hand is a complete mess of unrelated narratives that are either underdeveloped, unnecessary or down-right ridiculous that never amount to anything in the end. Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship becomes more complicated as she struggles after losing her stint on Broadway while the city grows to praise Spider-Man more and more.
Harry Osborn has amnesia from a fight with Peter and completely forgets his motivation from the last two films until the final act. The symbiote alien drops from space and attaches itself to Spider-Man, causing him to become the dreaded Emo Peter Parker. Uncle Ben’s real killer is revealed as the Sandman and Peter Parker goes after him for a portion of the movie. Yet with all of that, the characters Gwen Stacy and Eddie Brock are thrown into the mix.
So from that description alone, it’s clear that Spider-man 3 is easily the messiest of the three Raimi films but does that make it ‘the worst superhero movie?’
12 years have passed since Toby Maguire last swung across the silver screen. Since 2007, there have been three other takes on the iconic web-slinger. Each of them managed to bring a unique spin on the character but none of them quite achieved what Sam Raimi did in the early 2000s. Despite the success of the MCU’s take on Spider-man and the excellent “Into the Spider-Verse,” people still seem to enjoy the campy, dated yet charming first and second Raimi films yet avoid the third film like the plague.
While it never hits the heights of the first two installments, Spider-man 3 is still a rather enjoyable film featuring stellar action sequences, (mostly) improved visuals and strong performances.
The action sequences are all directed very well. While the CGI is occasionally on par with the Spider-Man PS4 game, the stunts themselves look awesome. Spider-man’s fight with the sandman in the subway is intense and reminiscent of the brilliant train fight with Doc Ock even if it doesn’t always look real. In other words, the fights are more animation than actual stunts, but they are at least good animated fight scenes.
While action and visuals are important to any comic book movie, the key to any great story is the drama and development between the characters. In a sequel, this is tricky as you are required to build upon the drama from the previous film in order to keep audiences invested. “Spider-Man 3” accomplishes just that with what I believe to be the one element of the film that actually surpasses the first two, the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane.
For the first two thirds, at least, the relationship struggles the two characters experience are very relatable struggles. Unlike the first two, which mostly consisted of Peter playing with Mary Jane’s heart like a yoyo and vice versa, this time now that they’re together we see them go through actual issues young couples go through. The lies and insecurities which their relationship was founded on finally come to fruition and create interesting drama that’s not just ‘will they won’t they.’
The other characters, while poorly written and shoehorned into the story, bring some neat ideas in play. As much as there was lacking in Venom, and yes Topher Grace is a strange casting choice, the idea Raimi was going for with Spidey’s doppelganger isn’t the worst way you could handle this villain. This is a less traditional take on Venom. Rather than portraying him as a hulking jacque opposite of Peter Parker, Topher Grace portrays Eddie Brock as a funhouse mirror of Peter Parker. Even the design of Venom itself with the web pattern and warped facial features, not to mention his animal-like roaring and screeching, are fantastic and genuinely intimidating.
Even the Sandman was handled surprisingly well. While he is the least necessary villain in the movie, Thomas Hayden Church’s performance as Sandman is one of the best in the entire franchise. Sure having him be Uncle Ben’s actual killer is, well, dumb. But his motive is understandable and you genuinely feel sorry for his situation and how he handles it.
The scene in which Flint Marco is transformed into the Sandman is cinema at its most powerful. No dialog, no flashy action scenes, just a man trying to physically and emotionally pull himself together. The CGI looks stellar, the music is poignant, it’s a magnificent little short film inside this loud and over the top comic book movie.
In conclusion, “Spider-Man 3” is a significant step down from the heights of “Spider-Man 2.” The film is really let down by the third act. Once Harry’s memory returns and he forces Mary Jane to break up with Peter, the movie simply begins to fall apart. Peter tries to kill Harry, dances with Gwen Stacy at a jazz club, gets rid of the suit and Eddie turns into Venom. This results in a flashy screwball of an ending where all the important stakes built up throughout the movie amount to nothing.
With all that said, I don’t think it deserves to be ostracized from the trilogy. True, much like “X-Men 3” it’s sloppily written and the drama previously mentioned doesn’t amount to much in the end. But the elements that stand out genuinely stand out and make it at the very least and entertaining popcorn flick with a little bit of heart that never leaves you bored
Sure it has its fair share of ridiculous moments however people often forget that the first two movies were pretty goofy as well. So whether you’re a die-heart Maguire fan or simply view it for the meme value, “Spider-Man 3” is an uneven but fun superhero flick that deserves a second viewing.
Samuel J. Claude