Spider-Man 3 ★½

I'm not quite sure where to begin with Spider-Man 3. I'd heard for many years how poor this was but, I'll be honest, I didn't quite believe it... until now. The biggest question really is: how did Sam Raimi get this quite so utterly wrong? I'm no fan of the first movie, but the second was a clear improvement - building the character dynamics and the journey of Peter Parker while laying track for the future. That future, it turns out, is a calamitous mess of a motion picture - poorly written, plotted presumably by a three-year-old with Crayola, making the unforgivable assumption that more more MORE equals more, when in this case it equated to very much less. The climax of Raimi's trilogy is no flourish, rather an embarrassing implosion.

For a start, Tobey Maguire is probably at his very worst as Peter, but where the second movie had a better script to shore up his limited ability and the, frankly, boring character of Peter, here he delivers flat lines with the charm of a mass grave. Peter is written selfish and petulant, the Raimi's script concussing us with the message that Peter is putting Spider-Man above his relationship with Mary-Jane Watson, played once again with grace by Kirsten Dunst - I feel for her, she's easily the best thing about this trilogy and far better than the offal she's served particularly in this film. Feel too for poor James Franco, relegated once again as Harry Osborn, a character Raimi never got right - here he flits from vengeance-seeking son to passive best friend, by way of a very convenient bout of amnesia, and it's among the most bipolar characterisation you'll come across, and again Franco is better than this crap. Speaking of crap, a word for the villains... man you could write essays on why they don't work, but simply the reason is there's too many and they're way underdeveloped. Thomas Haden Church's Sandman is monosyllabic and nothing more than a shoehorned retcon of Uncle Ben's death, given a painful attempt at characterisation, who spends most of the piece raging around like a reject from The Mummy. As for Topher Grace... what, honestly, was the point of Eddie Brock here? He's purely used to ultimately allow Spidey to face Venom (and, by the way, WHAT THE FUCK?), and spooling back to Maguire the whole Venom plot leads into some cringeworthy attempts at 'darkening' Peter that simply serve to make him camp and Maguire look even more of a bellend. I'm not even going to mention Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy, because to call her a foot note is generous.

I could keep ranting about how incredibly bad the characterisation here is but, well... life's too damn short. A word on the direction, if you can call it that; I am convinced Sam Raimi will never make a worse film than this, because he's a genuine talent - this film, however, proves the guy should not been given an endless pot of money. He has zero grasp on any kind of storyline, trying to keep a Peter/MJ through line while zig zagging half a dozen other places attempting to cram as much into the whole thing as possible; and he creates a succession of increasingly big action set pieces, most of which seem to involve Spidey falling or smacking into things, and none reaching anywhere near the heights of the train battle of the second movie (only an early skirmish between Spidey & the New Goblin comes close). It's just consistently inconsistent, and not reflective of Raimi whatsoever. On the plus side, Rosemary Harris provides a calm gravitas whenever she crops up as Aunt May (which is very little) and I warmed much more to JJ Jameson here, JK Simmons having fun with arguably the best moments of comedy in the piece. These are too little, of course, and by the time you reach the banal climax, you'll be long past forgiveness - I barely watched the last half hour, I gave that little a shit.

A huge huge waste of time then, Spider-Man 3. You were all right, feel vindicated. Having now watched the Raimi trilogy, I completely understand why Marvel are having another shot at the character... because on the whole, it never really clicked. Tobey Maguire is a duff Spider-Man, the balance between comic-book OTT action/comedy and the pattern of translating such pages to a movie is never entirely reached, and in this movie particularly all attempts at creating a memorable Spider-Man saga are undercut by how bloated, poorly written and underdeveloped the whole thing is. On the list, surely, of the worst comic-book movies ever made.

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