Ben Child's week in geek: Sam Raimi: Spider-Man 3 not my fault

Sam Raimi will return to direct Spider-Man 4 in 2011. Meantime, he's been hard at work convincing us someone else is to blame for the disappointing third instalment

Batman and the Watchmen have dominated fan-sites for the last couple of years. But we shouldn't forget the film that kick-started the current comic-book movie revolution: Sam Raimi's bright and sparky 2002 effort, Spider-Man.

Arriving at a time when the Caped Crusader was still reeling from Joel Schumacher's abominable Batman & Robin, and Superman had spent the last 15 years consigned to the gaping hole in space once known as planet Krypton, Spider-Man struck exactly the right breezy Manhattanite tone, with wide-eyed Tobey Maguire perfectly cast as geeky nice-guy Peter Parker.

Spider-Man 2 arrived in 2004, and was arguably even better. It brought souped-up special effects, and a superior villain in the shape of Alfred Molina's Doc Oc. Raimi, director of the much-loved Evil Dead series, could apparently do no wrong. But 2007's Spider-Man 3 was a major let-down, featuring a convoluted storyline, too many villains, and a cast who looked as confused as the rest of us watching.

Earlier this week, Raimi told Sci Fi Wire that the script for Spider-Man 4, which is being penned by David Lindsay-Abaire, should be ready this summer. The aim was to shoot the film in time for a 2011 release, he said. But a separate interview in Empire magazine contained something far more eye-catching. Here, Raimi claimed he "didn't really have creative control" over Spider-Man 3, in the way he did over the first two films. The implication was that the critical panning which the third movie received was, as Han Solo might have said, "not my fault":

The best way for me to move forward on films, I realise … and this was a lesson I had to learn for myself … is that I've gotta be the singular voice that makes the creative choices on the film. I love Spider-Man so much that I'd like to continue telling Spider-Man stories, but only under those circumstances where I think I can honour him. I don't think I can honour him any other way.

There has been speculation that Raimi was forced to add the Venom storyline to Spider-Man 3 as the result of a last-minute intervention from producers, something he pointedly refused to deny. "I don't even want to comment on Venom, because I know he's a great character and all the fans love him," he said. "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."
Humility aside, it's clear that Raimi is doing his best to draw a line under Spider-Man 3 in an effort to convince the all-important fanboy demographic to get behind the fourth film. But what jars somewhat here is this: how could a director who made two successful Spider-Man films (which took in excess of $1.5bn across the globe between them) struggle to impose his vision on the third?

Look at the way Warner Bros have treated The Dark Knight's Christopher Nolan: tiptoeing around him like he was a baby who might wake at any moment and cry down a house of missed financial opportunities. If executives were foolish enough to get in Raimi's way on Spider-Man 3, then it seems the brave new dawn of film-maker control, which the likes of Watchmen and The Dark Knight seem to have ushered in, has not yet arrived at Sony.

Part of me wonders if it isn't a little too convenient for directors to blame shadowy producers for the failure of a particular piece of cinema. But whether Raimi took his eye off the ball, or really was booby trapped by unseen forces, let's hope things get back on track for Spidey, because this series got it so right initially, it's tempting to hope for more to come.

The first two Spider-Man films, like Iron Man last summer, turned up the brightness dial. They presented wonderfully throwaway, unpretentious romps, populated by larger-than-life characters that just erred on the right side of pantomime.

At 35, Tobey Maguire is getting too old for Peter Parker. Spider-Man works best as a teenager (and has no comic book tradition as an older version, unlike Frank Miller's late-era Batman) - so Spider-Man 4 could well be his last chance to go out on the right note.

• You can now follow Ben Child's The Week in Geek on Twitter


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Week in geek: Spider-Man 4 needs a Peter Parker. How about Jamie Bell?
Week in geek: Do we really want a teen heart-throb as our favourite geek superhero? We need an unknown, preferably from the UK

Ben Child

27, May, 2010 @2:21 PM

Article image
Can Marvel help Spider-Man's Sam Raimi escape from Hollywood purgatory?
He’s directing the Doctor Strange sequel – but will the Raimi we get be the indie-horror enfant terrible we want or the Spider-Man 3 dud we don’t?

Ben Child

16, Apr, 2020 @12:54 PM

Article image
Could Spider-Man’s return leave Marvel tangled in Sony’s web?
The way has been cleared for the prodigal web-slinger to appear on the big screen for the company that created him. But can a satisfying new creative direction emerge out of the mess left by Sony?

Ben Child

10, Feb, 2015 @4:29 PM

Article image
The week in geek: Can Sam Raimi raise his game for World of Warcraft?

Ben Child: Films based on fantasy videogames have a terrible reputation. But World of Warcraft fans are hoping director Sam Raimi, the saviour of Spider-Man, might change all that

Ben Child

23, Jul, 2009 @1:56 PM

Article image
Tom Hardy's casting as Venom is a masterstroke for Sony's superhero universe
A leading man with the skill to illuminate Eddie Brock’s twisted soul, Hardy is sure to turn the limited raw materials of this antihero into a titan of cinema

Ben Child

22, May, 2017 @3:15 PM

Article image
Spider-Man 3 'didn't work' says director Sam Raimi
Though at the helm for three wallcrawler movies, Raimi admits he ‘messed up’ with Tobey Maguire’s final superhero turn

Ben Child

31, Dec, 2014 @1:55 PM

Watchmen - the hype machine begins

Ben Child: Warner Bros has kickstarted its viral hype machine for what's being billed as the ultimate superhero movie

Ben Child

11, Feb, 2009 @10:58 AM

You review: Spider-Man 3

The critics reckon Spidey should be flushed down the plug'ole, but this weekend saw it break box office records. Have you seen it - and what did you think?

Ben Child

08, May, 2007 @8:07 AM

Article image
Six reasons not to write off Drew Goddard's Spider-Man v Sinister Six movie
The Cabin in the Woods director still wants to shoot his epic supervillain smackdown - and it might just work now Spidey’s joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Ben Child

25, Sep, 2015 @7:17 AM

Article image
The week in geek: Branagh to cast Josh Hartnett as Thor?

Ben Child: Marvel is said to be clamouring for a familiar face to play the Norse deity. But Kenneth Branagh should remember Ben Affleck in Daredevil

Ben Child

18, Mar, 2009 @3:48 PM