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 Toby 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.
Despite Venom's presence throughout Spider-Man 3, Sam Raimi is not a fan of Spider-Man's Symbiote-suited nemesis. Supposedly, Sony pushed Venom on Raimi because fans love the character, though this resulted in a film that the director just didn't care about.
To his credit, Raimi never lashed out at the fans for loving Venom but disliking his movie. He has admitted that he might not understand the character:
I don’t even want to comment on Venom, because I know he’s a great character and all the fans love him. I never want to say anything bad about a much-beloved character because usually it turns out that I’m the one that doesn’t understand what makes it great.
Raimi's first two Spider-Man films are filled with Easter eggs for super-fans, such as the Ramones' song "Spider-Man" and cameos from Bruce Campbell. For the third film, however, Sony insisted on a different type of fan service.
Raimi claimed the company only wanted faces the audience would recognize and get excited about. This is likely the only reason Venom appeared in the film. Raimi claims he already had a story ready, so adding a new character didn't make sense. According to Raimi in 2009, he was simply doing what he was told:
I had worked on the story with my brother Ivan, and primarily it was a story that featured the Sandman. It was really about Peter, Mary Jane, Harry, and that new character. But when we were done, Avi Arad, my partner and the former president of Marvel at the time, said to me, Sam, you’re so, you’re not paying attention to the fans enough. You need to think about them. You’ve made two movies now with your favorite villains, and now you’re about to make another one with your favorite villains. The fans love Venom, he is the fan favorite.
Spider-Man 2's quality stems from its multiple story threads and complex characters. The audience can sympathize with its villain, and its action sequences are unforgettable. Raimi wanted to top his own work with Spider-Man 3, but rather than simply focusing on the movie's quality, he attempted to make the third film bigger than the second in every way.
Rather than turning everything up a few notches and focusing on the character relationships forged in the sequel, Raimi tried to wow the audience with special effects, which backfired horribly. He said as much in a 2015 appearance on the Nerdist podcast:
I think [raising the stakes after Spider-Man 2] was the thinking going into it, and I think that’s what doomed us. I should’ve just stuck with the characters and the relationships and progressed them to the next step and not tried to top the bar.
Although Spider-Man 3 is a movie about a wall-crawling super-genius fighting a villain made of sand, fans believe its physics should still be logical. The first fight scene between the new Goblin and Spider-Man is widely considered the worst offender of the film's implausible physics.
Not only can Peter survive getting slammed into brick buildings and through large panes of glass without suffering so much as a cut, but Harry Osborne's appearances throughout the fight seem completely disconnected from one another. While fans agree the fights don't have to be perfect, a distinct lack of realism makes the action hard to follow.