Few big-budget action films have as nasty a reputation as Spider-Man 3. The movie is remembered as a complete disaster, but was is it really that bad? The film has some interesting story elements, and the cast and crew did a great job - even Tobey Maguire, who was put in some truly ridiculous scenarios in the second act. Director Sam Raimi even followed through on most of the threads from the first film, so why don't people like Spider-Man 3?
How do you follow up a universally beloved film like Spider-Man 2? In Raimi's case, he tried to make a spectacle with Spider-Man 3 by making everything bigger - unfortunately, this strategy was ineffective. Many fractures lurked behind the scenes of Spider-Man 3. Not only did Sony not want to give Raimi complete control over the third film, but they insisted upon Venom's inclusion, even if he didn’t fit within the trilogy's overarching narrative. Here are the reasons why Spider-Man 3 was destined to be a huge flop.
Vulture's Set-Up For ‘Spider-Man 4’ Was Left OutPhoto: Sony PIctures
Early on, Spider-Man 3 was meant to whet the audience's appetite for Vulture, a character that Raimi planned to include in Spider-Man 4. Ben Kingsley and John Malkovich, among others, were rumored to have been slated for the role, but the plan was shut down when Venom was added to Spider-Man 3's roster.
Since Peter Parker was tackling three different villains in the series's third installment, there was simply no room to set up a character for a fourth film. In addition to Vulture rumors, Anne Hathaway may have been cast as Black Cat.
Only Two Villains Were Meant To Be In The Film
Spider-Man 3 was meant to be similar to its predecessor in that it was supposed to have two villains. This is logical from a narrative standpoint. While Peter continues to work out his issues with Harry once Harry fully transforms into a supervillain, Peter also has to fend off a new foe who was responsible for Uncle Ben's demise.
While this plot sounds overstuffed, Raimi would have been able to make it work. By all accounts, this story was planned from the beginning, but at some point, everything changed. Raimi's Sandman, Thomas Haden Church, told Joblo in 2018:
The studio felt like they had me, they had [James] Franco’s story continuing, and they were like, we need one more that’s more of a millennial. And that’s how Venom and Topher Grace came into the picture.
Gwen Stacy Is Only In The Film To Sow Discord
For all its supposed shortcomings, The Amazing Spider-Man does successfully nail Gwen Stacy's characterization. She's smart, she's cool, and she conducts research - but Sam Raimi's version of the character doesn't do much of anything in Spider-Man 3. In the comics, Gwen is one of the loves of Peter's life. When she falls to her doom, he's completely devastated.
Spider-Man 3 does a huge disservice to an important character by hardly spending any time with her. Aside from simply brushing her character to the side, Raimi strips her of her intellectual abilities and turns her into a model. While being a model has no bearing on a person's intelligence, Raimi isn't interested in exploring this concept. Gwen seemingly only exists in the film to make MJ jealous.
Raimi Didn’t Have Creative Control
The element of Spider-Man 3 likely most responsible for the film's failure was Raimi's lack of creative control. With no one at the helm, the film lacked focus. Raimi has spoken about the film being gradually taken from him. According to Raimi, Sony simply wanted to do something different, even at the expense of a successful franchise.
Raimi's complete creative control over the first two films not only meant he could use whatever characters he wanted, but he could also utilize a darker, more serious tone. That changed with the third film, whose tone is less cohesive than the series's first two installments. Raimi explained:
They really gave me a tremendous amount of control on the first two films, actually. But then there were different opinions on the third film and I didn’t really have creative control, so to speak.