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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Tobey Maguire
Kirsten Dunst
James Franco
Thomas Haden Church
Topher Grace
Bryce Dallas Howard
Theresa Russell.
Directors
Sam Raimi.
Screenwriters
Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
Alvin Sargent.
Running Time
139 minutes

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Spider-Man 3
Is there such a thing as too many bad guys?


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Plot
Peter Parker (Maguire) is happily in love with Mary Jane Watson (Dunst). But he comes under attack from escaped convict Flint Marko, AKA the Sandman (Church); former best friend Harry Osborn (Franco), now the deranged New Goblin; and at the Daily Bugle, where ace snapper Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) threatens his job. Worst of all is a black symbiotic goo that affixes itself to Peter’s spider-suit and changes his personality. Can Spidey survive the venom within?


Review
Spider-Man 3
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Think of a great movie trilogy. Chances are you’ve come up with Star Wars (originals, of course). Or the Wishmaster flicks. Now think of a great comic-book movie trilogy. Chances are you’ve thought of... bugger all.
 
When it comes to completing a trilogy, superhero movies have been generally bobbins. The ideal trilogy closer should augment existing themes and visual motifs, while introducing new characters that drive the story to unexplored heights. Comic-book movies have tended to translate this as ‘more explosions’; ‘bigger nipples’; ‘hire Brett Ratner’, or ‘Richard Pryor — on skis!’
 
The Spider-Man franchise had all the potential in the world to become that great trilogy: with Sam Raimi at the helm the first two films triumphed at the box office and, more importantly, were crackers. So it’s a shame to report that, while Spider-Man 3 is a consistently enjoyable start to the summer silly season, it more pings off the post than completes the hat-trick.
 
One of Raimi’s most admirable traits throughout the series to date has been his refusal to pit his protagonist against multiple villains, thus avoiding the unfocused fate of, say, Batman Forever, in which the title character essentially cameoed in his own movie. In Spider-Man 3, however, Raimi breaks his own rules, racking up not one, not two, but THREE different nemeses (four, if you count the enemy within) for our friendly neighbourhood whatsit to contend with. And while the broth isn’t spoiled by the presence of too many cooks — there's too much giddy entertainment here for that — it sure tasted a lot better with just a spider in our soup.
 
Multiple villains can be done, of course, as shown in Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins. But where Nolan had his bad guys simply show up, bringing little-to-no back-story, Raimi has always insisted that his villains should have an arc. Great thinking when there’s only one — bit of a problem when there’s three. Huge problem when Raimi is also determined that the focus not move away from Maguire’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man. And so an otherwise smart and engaging movie becomes bloated as a result.
 
To wit, it’s well-known by now that the movie’s central conceit sees Spider-Man don a black suit that, being an alien parasite, begins to exert an evil influence over him. It’s the catalyst for many of the climactic events, including the birth of Venom, but it takes so long for Raimi to establish the threads of the plot — from the creation of Sandman; to several contrived love triangles involving Peter, M. J., Harry, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Gwen Stacy; to Harry’s thirst for revenge; to the origin of the alien suit — that it takes over an hour for Parker to even think of pulling on the black duds. It’s clear that something has gone askew during the planning stages.
 
That ‘something’ was, pure and simple, the decision to go with both Sandman and Venom as Spider-menaces. Apparently included because he’s a favourite of both Maguire and Raimi, Sandman is given a back-story that ties him to events in the first Spider-Man movie, but it’s an unnecessary complication. Fine actor though he is, even Thomas Haden Church struggles with the flimsy material he’s given. That’s when he’s actually on screen — most of the time it’s his enlarged, motion-captured CG self, bellowing in rage in sequences all too reminiscent of the sand FX in the Mummy movies.
 
Venom, meanwhile, is a mixed bag. Raimi has never been a fan of the alien symbiote, created when Spidey ditches the black substance and it latches onto a murderous Eddie Brock, and by his own admission had to be persuaded to include the character. Still, given the ‘dark Spidey’ storyline, Venom makes sense thematically and structurally: Eddie is what Peter might have been if the coin had landed tails. But because Brock’s screen time is so negligible (he’s introduced about 30 minutes in, almost as an afterthought), his murderous motivations seem forced. When Venom is finally created, in the third act, the drooling monster may be impressive visually, but lacks personality and, crucially for a creature that possesses the enhanced powers of Spider-Man, true menace. It’s almost as if Raimi was unable to withhold his disdain for the character.
 
Sadly, the gruesome twosome take some of the shine off Harry Osborn, as his vengeful New Goblin targets Peter physically and emotionally. James Franco’s complex and charismatic turn makes Harry into Spidey’s most interesting villain to date. With the benefit of an extended back-story, the two confrontations between Peter and Harry have an emotional undercurrent lacking from the battles with Sandman and Venom, and are easily the best of the movie’s many extended action sequences (we counted six). There’s nothing, however, that even comes close to the Doc Ock-Spidey train battle in Spider-Man 2, despite a budget reportedly north of $250 million, and sadly the final four-way showdown on a construction site comes dangerously close to being both familiar (oh look, it’s Mary Jane, screaming for her life. Again) and unintentionally hilarious (two words: British reporter).
Yet there is plenty to like about Spider-Man 3, and not a little to love. Commendably, Raimi develops his themes (the corruption of power; the burden of choice; is black really slimming?), applies them diligently to nearly every character, and pursues them to the bitter end. And despite such deadly earnestness, Spider-Man 3 can be very funny, with Bruce Campbell and J. K. Simmons — as blustering Daily Bugle editor and refugee from ’40s screwball comedies J. Jonah Jameson — showing Topher Grace and Haden Church how to make an impact with limited screen time.
 
While Raimi takes his time getting there, the exploration of Peter’s unleashed id sends the character into unexpectedly mature territory, as his relationship with Mary Jane comes under immense strain. Yes, the dialogue really ought to appear in bubbles over the actors’ heads, but there’s a genuine emotional intensity here, with one scene on a bridge proving particularly painful. Maguire, in particular, carries the film: more convincing now at the heroic stuff, he also clearly relishes Peter’s descent into hell, skilfully turning Spider-Man into a sleazeball while still making him sympathetic. It’s a good showing for what is probably his Spider-Man swansong.
 
Though there will be a Spider-Man 4, this outing is also likely to be Raimi’s last swing. If he doesn’t hit the heights this time around —  his impish visual sense feels a little boxed in by a need to keep the dense plot on track  — it’s not for a lack of ambition. In fact, anything but, and that should always be applauded. But for the love of God, just one bad guy next time, please?


Verdict
Still smart, still exciting and still action-packed. It’s just a shame to note that, after promising greatness, all Spider-Man 3 delivers is satisfaction.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Spider-Man 3
Empire Star Rating

The superhero threequel curse strikes again!

Hugely disappointing after the phenomenal Spider-Man 2. Pardon my french, but this movie is the definition of the word "clusterfuck". ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 00:30, 09 February 2013 | Report This Post


Spider-Man 3 Review

Though there are more characters and plotlines, and the action sequences still dazzle, Spider-Man 3 nonetheless isn't quite as refined as the first two. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 23:03, 13 December 2011 | Report This Post


REALLY ISN'T THAT BAD

I never caught on why there was so much bemoaning about Spiderman 3. Granted it isn't in the same league as its outstanding predacessor but compared to a lot of crap coming out these days, Spiderman 3 was still an intelligent and exciting movie. Admittedly it does try far too much; Venom and the 'bad' Peter Parker is completely misplaced for this movie. In fact Venom, Topher Grace and the bad 'bad' acting is in fact the movies only real failing. It's still high up compared to the awful X3. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DMeister at 12:10, 24 March 2011 | Report This Post


Nowhere Near As Bad As Everyone Says

Creating a darker, more cinematic world for Spidey to enter was always going to be a huge challenge, but for the most part, the filmmakers succeed admirably, combining the sheer excitement of the first two along with a newfound kinetic energy that's as refreshing as it is fun. Two many featured villains and a tangled web (sorry) of plotlines sour the fun, but these misdemeanour's can be forgiven, as the film is still extremely fun, and as always, features top-notch acting. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 15:25, 19 March 2011 | Report This Post


Mmmmmm..

Time has not been kind to this one. Sure, the first time you watch it you'll love it. And after awhile upon seeing 1 and 2 again you'll see it's as very good. But when you look back nostalically at the trilogy with the advent of the reboot, you'll see a hugely poor movie. All the effects are shit and cheap (not just Sandman), Venom is a poorly constructed characterwise (he gets fired and now he goes to a church sadistically asking for murder), and MJ becomes completely irrelevant to the movie as... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 3DCandyland at 15:58, 08 February 2011 | Report This Post


Great

This film gets so much slack for nothing. The character's are as rich as ever, the story may feel slightly clustered at times and i was longing for a bit more screen time for the black suit but other than that it was a highly intense and emotional thrill ride(i cry every time Harry dies/peter forgives sandman). and who can't say they weren't buzzing with adrenaline in the final boss fight forgiving of course the cheesy American flag bit... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Zayd Awan at 12:57, 14 November 2010 | Report This Post


spidy gone bad!!!!!

this boring film which is a so called action film is bad. the story was eastenders with secial effects and with no british accents it is lacking orignality bad. sadly i would say more bad stuff about it but you might have to cover the childern's ears. but on the good side the effects were fabulous and so groundbreaking but it isn't as bad elektra or batman and robin so on the whole this is a two star movie it would be one but i never left the cinema ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by conorpowell16 at 19:17, 07 July 2010 | Report This Post


Biggest Dissapointment Ever!

Two amazing Spiderman films, the same director doing the third. They all completely messed it up. I could deal with the soppy and stupid new dialougue, i got a little upset at the constant lovey-dovey crap, then there was the stupid unrealistic villians. I loved how the new Batman films and Spiderman films managed to keep the superheros and villians believable, but the Sandman, come on! Then some black goo that makes Parker turn into an emo. Just stupid. So at this point I'm very angry, luckily ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stevolegendbauer at 19:04, 29 June 2010 | Report This Post


So much to moan about!!!

The skinny geek from That 70's Show is Venom? Possibly Spiderman's best nemesis and they made a total fool out of the character! They also made a fool out of the 'cocky' Peter Parker! Black eyeliner! Eh?! Relationship between Peter and Mary Jane is as dull as mud! There is no chemistry there! Sandman looks like Pop Eye's nice twin! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shaunyboy27 at 14:57, 16 October 2009 | Report This Post


Work harder for S-4, Sam Raimi !

A single sentence for S-3: A string of sub-plots submerged and stuffed with sentimental stories. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by batbhai at 09:10, 30 May 2009 | Report This Post


Spider Ham 3

i only watch them because Bruce (Ash) Campbell steals the show with his cameos. first two spiderman movies were great but i think Raimi had his creative head elswhere whilst writing this confused, dare i say it lazy script, the sandman's character is wasted, Venom is wasted, Kirsten duntz, i love her ass so she is still awesome. Sorry sam this film was not one of your best. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Horrorguru at 19:16, 12 March 2009 | Report This Post


wud of been alright if it wasn't corny ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BRADENGUNNY at 00:32, 29 October 2008 | Report This Post


wud of been alright if it wasn't corny ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BRADENGUNNY at 00:31, 29 October 2008 | Report This Post


booooooo !!!

i loved the other two but this one sucked ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ryanand conor at 16:00, 26 July 2008 | Report This Post


Spiderman 3

Too much--plot, characters, backstory. Confusion marks the whole thing. Dunst looks angry for the whole film. McGuire is good and Grace is good but it doesn't add up. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 04:29, 22 July 2008 | Report This Post


Not even satisfying

Awful. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fug91 at 19:10, 04 July 2008 | Report This Post


Worst in series(but still not as bad HULK 1,Elektra and Daredevil.)

This was supposed to be a good movie,I was literally counting of the days since I found out the date this movie was coming out in cinema. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnPaul1996 at 13:58, 29 June 2008 | Report This Post


the movie was allright but i do like the black suit ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hedgehog Nolan at 19:27, 21 May 2008 | Report This Post


Who wants Spider-Man 3 Redux??

Even though i was amazingly disappointed with this film...i find myself to be re-watching it over and over....in the hope that it will get better.... i think it just needs a damn good editing!!!! get rid of all of the crap involving singing and dancing..... remove the terrible british reporter at the final battle....and the huge cheesey american flag.... snip stan lee....and a couple other flabby scenes...mostly involving emo parker!!! and then take out that shite scene where venom as... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jimibadboi7 at 13:34, 13 May 2008 | Report This Post


Spider-man 3

Okay, here is a damn realistic review about Spider-man 3. I simply ain't sayin' it's kick ass or damn f%$£*n crap. It was an okay movie. I was seriously hyped about watching this film and couldn't wait and I was hoping it could be the best film of the series. Boy was I wrong. Agree or disagree if you like and call me a couple of names if you want because the beginning of the film, pardon me, was slow, boring and crap, only the first 30 minutes or so. Then it started to get interesting. If y... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by usayeed haque at 12:55, 22 March 2008 | Report This Post


RE: "I forgive you." Oh Bu**er off!

Well that was two and a half hours I'll never get back. Oh and was that Willem Dafoe sitting behind Peter and Gwen in the jazz club? ... More

Posted by paul_ie86 at 21:28, 18 February 2008 | Report This Post


"I forgive you." Oh Bu**er off!

I've just re-watched the movie for the first time since I saw it on the big screen and I have to say that it 'reads' a lot better than the first time. It's solid thematically and Venom is a great character. The final third of the movie really let down what could have been a much greater and more satisfying whole. The one line that had me rolling the first time and is even more cringe-worthy a second time is Peter Parker's / Spider-Man's, "I forgive you" line to Flint Marko near the ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by diefenbaker1977 at 13:39, 01 February 2008 | Report This Post


Not as camp as Batman & Robin but not as dark as Spawn. It just rests uncomfortably between the two in a state of denial. Just not satisfying enough ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 21:07, 27 January 2008 | Report This Post


Not as camp as Batman & Robin but not as dark as Spawn. It just rests uncomfortably between the two in a state of denial. Just not satisfying enough ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 21:07, 27 January 2008 | Report This Post


This Should Be Acknowledged!!

I think that this is very solid film. Definitely the best in the series, but contrary to Jonathan Ross' comments, it is NOT the best superhero film. This film is, however, packing everything we want to see. One of the few drawbacks, is of course the Venom FX (He had a long tongue. Where the Hell Was it?) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 16:11, 25 January 2008 | Report This Post


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