Monday, June 12, 2017

Recap: "Spider-Man 3" Intro

Spider-Man 3 was inevitable.

The first film helped breathe new life into the superhero genre, and the second one has been referred to by some as one of the greatest superhero films of all time. Mostly right when it came out.

So, really, why wouldn't they make a third?

I seriously don’t think anything could have stopped this. Even if Tobey Maguire had suddenly and tragically passed away before they started filming, I’m certain they would have simply recast the role with Jake Gyllenhaal. After all, Sony was seriously considering it for the second film after Maguire kept complaining about a back injury he received during Seabiscuit.

In fact, I recently found out that Maguire was technically fired by Sony before they filmed the second movie, with Maguire having to fight to re-earn his role. (Maguire definitely came out on top, since they raised his pay by $13 million to do the second film, compared to the first.)

It wouldn’t be the last time Sony played hardball with the lead in their Spider-Man films, but that’s a story for another time.

Today, it’s time to see how what was to be a surefire hit left an entire franchise in question.

Like that time an even-numbered Star Trek movie turned out to be terrible and their only hope was to reboot.
Spider-Man 3 was already being developed before Spider-Man 2 was even released, so the positive reviews must have been nothing but a boost for Sony’s confidence. Naturally, Sony got Alan Sargent to return to write the third film, having already worked on the second. And they even left the door open for him to write a fourth film, because by Galactus, they were going to keep going until all that was left were villains like Stegron the Dinosaur Man and Typeface.

I seriously can’t decide if Stegron is the lamest or coolest Spidey villain.
As Sam Raimi began work on the film, he became the first director ever to stick with a superhero franchise for three films, followed by Christopher Nolan with the Dark Knight Trilogy. Before this, Richard Donner had only made one-and-a-half Superman films, Tim Burton had only made two Batman films, and Bryan Singer only made the first two X-Men films. (He was later inducted into the club when he directed Days of Future Past.)

Ivan Raimi, the Raimi brother who neither directed the Spider-Man films nor portrayed Hoffman in them, spent a couple months on a film treatment that ended up laying out some of the central themes of the movie; the idea that even if with great power comes great responsibility, power can still corrupt.

For a villain, there was really only one choice. While giving interviews for the first two Spider-Man films, Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire would always mention Sandman as a villain they wanted to see in the next one. So for the third film, they decided to tie their pet villain into the conclusion of the main Spider-Man narrative. Ben Kingsley as the Vulture was also tossed around before the idea was ultimately shelved for Spider-Man 4. It's kind of funny that that particular villain would take an extra decade to finally appear.

But you know which villain Raimi never wanted to include? Venom. Sam Raimi always claimed that Venom had no humanity, which made him less interesting than the rest of Spidey’s foes. But Marvel film producer Avi Arad convinced him that everybody loved Venom and wanted to see him (which was basically true), so Raimi gave in and tried to figure out how to adapt the character. Since Eddie Brock already had a cameo in the film, the role was simply expanded.

Producers also suggested adding a romantic rival into the Peter/MJ mix (which resulted in the addition of Gwen Stacy), and the film was basically spiraling out of control at this point. So many villains, characters, and subplots were being juggled that they considered splitting the film into two parts. But they couldn’t come up with a way to create a satisfying climax for the end of the third movie, so Sargent had to start hacking away at the script and sewing what was left together. I’ll get into some of the missing scenes during the Recap and Review.

With a few new characters to introduce, it was time to begin that Spider-Man film casting we all love. I mean, quite honestly, this trilogy had some of the best casting. Academy Award-winner J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn, Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius… Perfect choices.

The streak continued with Thomas Hayden Church as Sandman, a near-universally-praised casting choice, due in no small part to his performance in Sideways, which is actually how he got the part. And he accepted the job even though there was no real script at the time.

When Gwen Stacy was added to the script, potential actresses included none other than Scarlett Johansson, which is honestly hard to imagine these days. But the role went to Bryce Dallas Howard, meaning that a natural redhead was playing a blonde, and a natural blonde was playing a redhead.

And then… Topher Grace as Eddie Brock. Not only did he accept the role, but he left That 70s Show to take it, since he wanted to break into film acting. According to legend, casting Topher Grace as someone who is big, burly, and confident in the source material was Raimi’s way of sticking it to the Sony executives who demanded Venom’s inclusion. But… well, I’ll save further analysis for when we’ve seen the character in action.

As for the music, Danny Elfman was not originally going to return. Elfman has gone on record saying that he was “miserable” during Spider-Man 2. Christopher Young was brought in to replace him, but in the end, the two collaborated on the film’s score.

Even though the film’s budget was $250 million, nobody quite knows how much money was spent to make this movie. They had to invent the software to render the Sandman’s CGI from scratch, filming in New York allegedly cost a million dollars every day, more than 600 balloons had to have webs hand-drawn on them, and who knows what they spent on reshoots? A few sources have guesstimated a final cost somewhere around $350 million.

Spider-Man 3 broke records by opening in 4252 theatres, defeating Shrek 2’s 4223 theatres and making over $100 million in its first weekend alone. Until The Dark Knight Rises and the first Hunger Games movie came out, this was the most successful film to not be nominated for an Oscar.

So… sounds like it was pretty successful, right?

Well… here’s the thing. The internet would have you believe that this movie is Batman and Robin-bad. Batman v. Superman-bad. And in some cases, The Room-bad.

But many critics at the time thought it was either simply okay or pretty good, if quite flawed. And plenty of audiences ate it up. I mean, the people who disliked it were always there, but the passage of time and the internet have allowed them to be more vocal about it, since all the people who thought it was simply okay probably don’t care about the issue as much as people who hate the movie with a burning passion. So while the movie is seen as an awful franchise-ender today, I dug up a couple decade-old reviews from when the movie first came out, though, and they seem to paint a picture of a flawed, but enjoyable film.

So what the heck happened these past ten years that turned a successful, rather positively-reviewed film into a laughingstock? I guess it’s time to find out.

Coming up in Part 1! The arachnid and his adoration!


  1. I'll be honest:
    Spider-Man 3 is my favorite Spider-Man film so far.

    1. I knew there had to be someone out there. I mean, as much as I'm about to criticize this movie, I do appreciate certain parts of it.

      Any reasons in particular?

  2. *nods with approval and re-adds Newtcave to bookmarks bar*

    - Faceless Enigma