Spider-Man 3 may be considered the worse of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy, but between all the bad and the ugly, Spider-Man 3 still has a lot of good to go around. 10 greats to be exact. We lay these 10 down, to put light on the reasons why we still keep coming back to Spider-Man 3 every now and then even if we all say we don’t like it. These are the 10 reasons Spider-Man 3 is better than you remember.
Tobey Maguire As Peter Parker
Tobey Maguire is the note-perfect awkward Puny Parker. He looks gangly and weird and somewhat off-putting, but that's how he is supposed to be if he is playing a nerdy guy like Peter Parker. Maguire is not some glamorous actor in glasses insisting he is a geek, he is the real deal. In an alternate universe where Sam Raimi did not take the reigns, Spider-Man would have been played by Freddie Prinze Jr., and wouldn’t that have been a nightmare. Maguire strikes the perfect balance of sad, awkward, and vulnerable so we feel bad for him but is also off-putting enough that we understand why people don’t want to really get to know him.
All of these aspects of Maguire’s performance did not change in Spider-Man 3. The perfect balance he makes of sincere but awkward gestures in front of Mary Jane that cliff at the edge of creepy, is half-removed to amped up the creepy when he slowly turns into a more aggressive person in the influence of the symbiote. Many may be turned off by the dancing scenes, but let’s face it, that’s how an awkward geek that thinks he is a cool bad boy would look like.
J.K. Simons As J. Jonah Jameson
No other comic book character came straight out of the page the way J.K. Simons brought J. Jonah Jameson to life. He looks like Jonah, he sounds the way one would imagine Jonah would sound like with his loud and fast voice. The way he delivers his jokes is the way Jonah should be funny. And Spider-Man 3 might be J.K Simons at his funniest in the Spider-Man Trilogy. From the blood pressure medication gag to the look of disbelief he shows seeing Peter sitting cockily on his chair. It came to a point that the audience preemptively laugh the moment they see him. Despite Spider-Man 3’s shortcomings, J.K Simons as J. Jonah Jameson is not one of them, and his legacy remains so strong that when the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanted to cast their version of J. Jonah Jameson, they just went with the only choice.
The Fight Scenes
Every Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie has great fight scenes and Spider-Man 3 is no different, one would argue it even has the best fight scenes on average. The final fight in the construction site might be built on contrivance but there is still so much fun to be had in seeing Spider-Man team up with Harry’s version of Goblin versus a giant sand monster and a black evil Spider-Man. All with pumpkin bombs, spraying fire, and the camera following Goblin and his glider around as he flies circles around Sandman.
The best fight scene by far is Harry’s ambush on Peter as Peter rides his scooter at night. The speed in the way Harry attacks Peter. The way he does not give Peter any time to react while he tosses him around through brick walls and building windows while up in the air never setting foot to the ground. There is so much suspense in one man trying hard not to lose an engagement ring than most big action blockbusters. Then it finishes strong with a chase scene through an alley, where Harry shows off a quick succession of pumpkin bombs and flying blades where Peter is forced to think on his feet.
The Visual Effects
Being the latest of the trilogy makes it obvious that this Spider-Man 3 has the best visual effects out of the trilogy. What Spider-Man 3 has that the other movies don’t is the revolutionary sand CGI for Sandman. The CGI on him aged like fine wine today. He looks impressive to the granular level, which the camera can close up to every now and then. When Sandman becomes a towering sand monster, it looks realistic, like it can actually be touched. The symbiote living black fluid CGI is not so bad either.
Spider-Man 3 also has the best transition from CGI stunt doubles to the real actors too. When Flint Marko rises from the sandpit for the birth of Sandman, it went from a forming sand CGI to a Thomas Haden Church CGI stunt double, to the real Thomas Haden Church so smoothly, you cannot pause the frame to know when the CGI double ends and the real Thomas Haden Church begins.
The Musical Score
Christopher Young does justice to the legendary Danny Elfman as the musical score of Spider-Man 3 is as good as any in the trilogy - meaning it is still one of the best scores in the genre. The Spider-Man original score that is still played here might be the most emotional superhero score of all time that can be played for both the most triumphant moments and the saddest of moments. While the new additions of the Sandman and symbiote musical scores are worthy accompaniments.
The symbiote theme’s foreground wind instruments evoke a lumbering reckless power with a climax of a tragic fall, while the Sandman theme is so tender in its sadness, perfectly capturing the moment when he first crumbled and then put himself back together again.
In the early 2000s when most of the aesthetics of blockbuster films are dark, grim, and edgy, who knew that the horror master Sam Raimi is going to be the one to break the mold and give us a bright and colorful Spider-Man movie that is the balance of a Steve Ditko inspired comic book New York of an optimistic 60s crossed with contemporary 2002? It is fast forward in Spider-Man 3 that he balances the bright and colorful with the dark and edgy aesthetic when Peter is becoming a darker person. But because of his history of making indie movies of the carnival spook house retro B-movie persuasion, he destroys most competition of this type of tone out of the water.
When Spider-Man is in his black suit on the prowl, it is Phantom of the Opera style gothic horror shadows on aging halls and cathedral architecture. The way he shoots Peter trying to take off the black suit in the church bells is like Sam Raimi is auditioning for a modern remake of a Universal monster movie like, Frankenstein. Combined that with Sam Raimi’s signature frenetic camera movements that he imbues with so much personality, and Spider-Man 3 is one beautiful movie.
The New Cast Members
The Spider-Man trilogy always enjoyed their multi-flavor of perfect casting. Who is better at playing Puny Parker than Puny Maguire? Who is a bigger face of the 2000s girl next door image than Kirsten Dunst? Who is better at playing the likable but lightly toxic to his friends, Harry Osborn than James Franco? And may we forget J.K. Simons? Then in Spider-Man 3, we again enjoy a new wave of perfect casting.
Not only does Thomas Haden Church look exactly like Sandman from the comics, but if Sam Raimi is going to inject him with a heavy dose of pathos, then Thomas Haden Church is perfect for the job. A lot has been said about Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, but if the idea is that he is a dark reflection of Peter Parker, then who better to cast than the guy who can also play Peter Parker in his sleep?
This even goes to the tertiary characters like Gwen Stacy and her father George Captain. Bryce Dallas Howard is wasted as Gwen but there is no argument, she can play her if given more screentime. While James Cromwell has a history of playing high-ranking authority figures for a reason.
Mr. Ditkovich and Ursula
Elya Baskin as Mr. Ditkovich may be one of the all-time movie landlords with even his limited screentime in the Spider-Man Trilogy. With that heavy Ukrainian accent, off-putting remarks, and strict insistence to get rent out of Peter Parker, he is one of the funnier running gag characters that also highlights Peter Parker’s struggling life. Then in Spider-Man 3, there is this rare moment where he is injected with more dimension than just being Peter’s funny landlord. When Peter is under the influence of the symbiote and Mr. Ditkovich tries to get rent out of him again, Peter shouts at him. Instead of being angry at Peter, he insists that he is a good kid, and might just be having a bad day. At that moment you get to sense he is a kinder person than he presents himself to be and actually likes Peter.
On the other hand, her daughter Ursula is a welcome friendly presence. One of the few people, if not the only person that understands and supports Peter when life brings him down that she becomes a breath of fresh air. Mageina Tovah plays Ursula, and in her few scenes with Peter, makes for good chemistry with Tobey Maguire as a potential love interest.
Bruce Campbell Cameo
From the ring announcer in the first movie to the snooty usher in the second movie, Bruce Campbell's cameos are always welcomed in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man universe. Spider-Man 3 has his longest cameo yet, and arguably his funniest. Here he is the French maître d' of an expensive French restaurant called Restaurant Constellation where Peter plans to propose to MJ. Where the two other cameos have a snarky attitude towards Peter, This Bruce Campbell character is very eager and invested in helping Peter out with his surprise. With his thick French accent that pronounces Peter’s name as “Peker”, his exaggerated snappy movements that emphasize pride in his professionalism as a maître d', and his misunderstandings in Peter’s signals to ready the engagement ring in his eagerness to present it, he is a very funny character. All throughout his accent is obviously fake, which makes it even funnier. Coupled that with the likening he takes for Peter, he is also an endearing friend to the audience.
Sandman Is Born
Flint Marko being reborn as the Sandman might be the best scene in Spider-Man 3. Without any words, this scene tells a story of a man crumbling at rock bottom and then building himself back for someone he loves. The part where he reached for the pendant with her daughter’s picture and the half-formed face of his reacting to it is just so sad. It perfectly encapsulates Sandman’s power set and motivation. Every time he uses his power, we know how he achieved such mastery with his powers. Accompanied by that tender music that swells to haunting with each of his accomplishments in his sand reformation to Flint Marko, this scene should be studied in universities for decades to come.