After the glory of the first two “Spider-Man” movies, “Spider-Man 3” was a colossal disappointment. It’s not even a horrible movie as much as it is a frustratingly flawed one. I’ve spent hours wondering what could be cut from the film so that it wasn’t such a bloated mess, but the elements do work together. If you cut out Sandman, then you lose that amazing FX work and the overarching story about wrath and forgiveness. If anything, revenge and forgiveness is the whole theme of the film and both Venom, the alien symbiote, and the Second Green Goblin all tie into that theme. But it all just comes up as mess. The villains are under-developed, there are some laughably bad moments (like Spider-Man leaving the city to deal with the out of control giant crane; or Harry’s butler turning out to be, as my friend Jeremy put it, an “amateur stab wound enthusiast”), and somewhere through all the morass, there’s a tighter, more efficient film that could have been the best in the series.
From a recent interview with Empire, Raimi reflects on the process thoughtfully and it’s comments like these and not “Who’s the villain?! Will Kirsten Dunst still play Marry Jane?!” that are highly reassuring: “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.”
Raimi continues, “I don’t even want to comment on Venom,” says Raimi, “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.”
I believe Raimi actually came close to not understanding what makes Venom great (I don’t think there’s anything inherently fascinating about the character) but actually creating greatness in the character with that brilliant scene where Eddie Brock prays to God to kill Peter Parker. Sadly, like most of Spidey 3’s problems, there’s too many characters and not enough time to develop their motives and history.