This is Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and he is actually Spider-Man, the costumed and superpowered vigilante who is currently the most popular person in New York City, a fact which lends him great pride. Things couldn't be better, really, as his college studies are going well, criminals cower at the mention of his name, and he is finally working up the courage to propose to the love of his life, Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). The musical play she is starring in has just opened, but there's a problem with Peter's best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco)...
Yup, as is the way with movies such as these, just when the characters think they have life sussed and it's all going to settle down, something springs up and smacks them in the face. For the driving force behind the 00s Spider-Man trilogy, Sam Raimi, much the same thing was the case as while the first two instalments had opened to great box office returns and favourable audiences, by the time Part 3 was out, there was a snag. It's not that it didn't take enough money, indeed it was the most lucrative of the series, it's that even though they all went to see it, nobody much seemed to like it, and this poor reaction appeared to make Raimi swear off making a fourth one.
That in spite of the ending being open for another entry, with Peter and Mary-Jane facing an uncertain future either with or without each other, and besides, we still hadn't seen Dylan Baker turn into original comic villain The Lizard. Not that there was a dearth of bad guys for this, as in an attempt to please everyone, including himself, Raimi and his team were somewhat strongarmed into featuring latter day fan favourite Venom into the mix, when the plot didn't really need him (it?). The consensus among those fans was that the movie had fumbled the approach with the alien symbiotic creature, but then few of the comic's followers were altogether pleased.
However, if you appreciated that Raimi had a tough job in achieving his goals here, Spider-Man 3 was nowhere near the artistic disaster that it became in the common consciousness. You can see why it turned so many off, naturally, as Peter becomes far less sympathetic; both the effects of all that adulation and later the Venom influence transforms your friendly neighbourhood Spidey into an arrogant bighead using his powers for less salubrious purposes. His relationship with MJ suffers, and to make matters worse the man who murdered his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) emerges as petty thief Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) who stumbles into an experiment while on the run to change into Sandman, literally a man made of living sand.
Then there was Peter's professional rival Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a photographer threatening to oust him as the Daily Bugle's go to guy for Spider-Man pics; add to that Harry's grudge against Peter for "killing" his father having him adopt the Green Goblin's mantle - and subsequent insanity - and you had a film that even at two-and-a-half hours or so was packed to the gills with plot. The whole point here, that nobody was wholly good or wholly evil, was not what audiences were comfortable with: they were not seeking moral ambiguity in their superhero flicks, they wanted more black and white morality. But if you took this on its own terms, Raimi came up with something interesting here, as Sandman simply wants to save his infirm daughter, while Peter needs badly to learn humility, very important for all that great power, not to mention the great responsibility. Sure, there was action a-plenty, but the characters were what bothered us here, brave for a multimillion dollar blockbuster; if it didn't pay off, the select few seeking more shaded personalities would be intrigued. Music by Christopher Young.
Precociously talented American director with a penchant for horror/fantasy and inventive camerawork. Raimi made a huge impact with his debut film The Evil Dead at the tender age of 22, a gory, often breathtaking horror romp made on a tiny budget with a variety of friends from his hometown of Detroit. Follow-up Crimewave was a comic misfire, but Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness were supremely entertaining, while tragic superhero yarn Darkman was Raimi's first time wielding a big budget.
Raimi showed a more serious side with the baseball drama For Love of the Game, thriller A Simple Plan and supernatural chiller The Gift, before directing one of 2002's biggest grossing films, Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 was released in summer 2004, with Spider-Man 3 following two years later. He then returned to outright horror with the thrill ride Drag Me to Hell, and hit Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful after that. On the small screen, Raimi co-created American Gothic and the hugely popular Hercules and Xena series. Bruce Campbell usually pops up in his films, as does his trusty Oldsmobile car.