How much was "Emo Peter's" behavior the symbiote and how much was it actually him? While the symbiote was indeed negatively influencing Peter's behavior, a lot of that was behavior normal Peter had been Innocently Insensitively displaying earlier in the movie, implying that the symbiote wasn't turning him evil so much as amplifying negative behaviors he already had, bringing out his dark side and turning that Innocent Insensitivity into outright callousness.
"Emo Peter's" behavior as a whole: Bad? Or a mixed bag that wasn't worth what it was doing to his personality? As explained in Misaimed Fandom below, some of Peter's behavior under the symbiote's influence does score him some genuine wins, but they were all things Peter could have accomplished without the angry outbursts, callousness, arrogance, and physical violence that came with them.
Was Mary Jane's decision to break up with Peter entirely forced on her by Harry? Or did some part of her genuinely want to end it? While it's implied that Harry forced her to break up with Peter, she and Peter had been having serious problems as a couple throughout the film, and the reasons she gave Peter for wanting to end it did have elements of truth to them. However, even if some part of her did want to end it with Peter, the pissed off look she gives Harry after the break up indicates that she at least did not like being coerced into it by a jealous third-party.
Venom's theme. It's a brilliant dark parallel to Spider-Man's Leitmotifnote which is also the trilogy's main theme - while Spidey's theme is heroic, often having a sense of tranquility and tragedy reflecting his Dark and Troubled Past, Venom's theme is dark and villainous, with a sense of anger and detest slowly rising, before culminating in a fit of rage - reflecting Venom's hatred towards Spider-Man after he humiliated Eddie and rejected the symbiote.
Better on DVD: The film had an altered yet shorter and improved version called Spider-Man 3: Editor's Cut with restored music and better focus on character development. It reinforces the belief many hold that there is a good movie buried inside here, it just got bogged down with all the Executive Meddling.
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The dance scene. Or anything that Emo Peter does between Dr. Connors trying to tell him the effects that bonding with the Symbiote might have on him and him striking MJ at the Jazz Club.
Broken Base: Want to start an argument? Ask if Peter's behavior under the symbiote's influence is bad or brilliant. Defenders claim that he's supposed to be super lame and just thinks he's being awesome, while detractors either take it at face value and/or cite the fact that the majority of characters respond positively to Peter's change like he's actually being cool. The editor's cut is also controversial in this regard as some hate that the "Emo Peter" montage was kept in at all, while others appreciate that it was given a darker context since it now immediately follows Peter throwing a bomb at Harry and hideously scarring him, emphasizing his sociopathic callousness as much as his geekiness.
Contested Sequel: One of the most definitive examples of this trope. It became the highest-grossing Spider-Man movie (mostly on the backs of the good-will of the first two films, whereas the bad-will of this film cast a pall on the Spider-Man reboots that came afterwards) until 2019, when it was dethroned by Spider-Man: Far From Home. Its overall reception from critics was mixed-to-positive, but it still earned lots of dissers, particularly among the fanbase. In general, most can agree it's the weakest installment of the trilogy, but the divide lies in whether or not it's because the quality is actually "bad." Many people felt that Harry Osborn and Sandman were impressive in their brief showings while others felt the stories and plots for both were wasted.
Critical Backlash: There's been a recent backlash against the film's negative reputation among comic book fans with an increasing number of people saying it's got some very good, even great, elements and is overall a fairly solid film that was simply overstuffed and suffered from interference that the others didn't.
Critical Dissonance: While it actually was divisive among critics, you'd be surprised that it has a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that most reviews were mixed to positive, with even the top critics giving it a 47% which is close to an even split. However, based on the hate it gets from fans, you'd think its score would be much, much lower.
For a genuine example, while this movie isn't fondly remembered, Thomas Haden Church's performance as the Sandman has still been widely praised and cited as the best part of the movie. That he looks exactly like the comic book character helps. It's widely agreed online that, had he been the movie's sole villain (or part of a Big Bad Duumvirate with Harry Osborn), he very easily could have saved the whole movie.
A number of people were rooting for an Ursula/Peter romance. Arguably, other than Aunt May, she's the only woman in the third movie who loves Peter just for being Peter.
Played with to the point of parody or deconstruction. Once Peter's bonded with the Venom symbiote, his moral restraint plummets, his feelings of aggression and confidence shoot through the roof and he adopts a dark, callous attitude and black leather wardrobe to match. However, since Peter is still, at heart, a lovable geek with no real idea what "cool" is, his new attitude's actually a goofily overdone caricature that draws eye-rolling disbelief from the people around him.
On the other hand, James Franco's Harry Osborn has drawn praise for his turn, especially when he becomes a manipulative jerk who gaslights his friends with his Evil Gloating being meme-worthy. Many also liked his scarred visage as somehow making him more cool and distinguished.
Evil Is Sexy: Played with. While Peter under the symbiote's influence isn't evil, he Took a Level in Jerkass, and has ladies falling over him. And there are some fans who actually do like Evil Tobey for his Proto-Kylo Ren Pretty Boy trying way too hard lameness.
Fan Wank: A very common fan wank is that the "Emo Peter" scenes are supposed to be awkward and cringe-y because Peter isn't actually cool, he just thinks he is. This is supported by a few passersby on the street looking at Peter funny during his dance. It's also contradicted by the fact that at the dance club he's genuinely treated as being exactly as cool as he thinks and of course Gwen Stacy goes out with him (albeit she walks out when she sees he did it to be a jerk to MJ) and the fact that in the comics, Peter does actually become legitimately cool when he goes to college, growing handsome and confident, becoming a textbook Hollywood Nerd.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: 62% of the film's profits were made overseas rather than in its home country, in contrast to the previous two where only 50% and 52% respectively came from other countres.
He's Just Hiding!: Some people theorized this about Eddie for a few reasons. The first reason being that there was no body left after he got blown up by the Pumpkin Bomb, which was evidenced by the first movie where their victims were at least reduced to skeletons. The second reason was Sony's plans for a Venom spin-off dating back to 2007, with some believing that Topher Grace was going to reprise his role.
Jerkass Woobie: Eddie Brock. While he was a pretty sleazy guy and an entitledStalker with a Crush towards Gwen, the way he begged Peter not to expose him as a fraud did seem genuine, he seemed just as genuinely crushed when he saw Gwen on Peter's arm later, and he's genuinely choking up when he prays to God to kill Peter after all this. And while Eddie had clearly been trying to muscle Peter out of a job, he only faked his photo of black suit Spider-Man because Peter (while in the black suit) sabotaged him by destroying his camera, with which he had gotten a legit picture. Eddie Brock wasn't a good person by any means, but the way Peter ruthlessly dealt with him under the symbiote's influence turned Eddie into a bigger problem than he otherwise would have been. After Eddie becomes Venom and asks if Peter remembered what he did to him, the way Eddie says it, again, comes off like he's genuinely holding back tears.
Memetic Loser: This film has two major contenders for the spot. One is "emo" Peter Parker (aka Peter Parker under the symbiote's influence), mainly because of his cringeworthy... everything really, from his ridiculous new hairstyle to his laughable dance moves. The other contender is Eddie Brock, due to being a whiny loser Manchild in this adaptation, which is not helped by being nothing like his comic book counterpart physically either because he was played by Topher Grace. Surprisingly, the symbiote is the common denominator between these two doofuses, almost as if it has an affinity for memetic losers despite being Evil Is Cool on its own.
The symbiote influenced Peter is supposed to be Peter Slowly Slipping Into Evil and the narm and lameness of "Emo Peter" is definitely an Intended Audience Reaction. But given that many audiences had grown fatigued over Raimi's portrayal of Peter as a serious Extreme DoormatHurting Hero in the previous films (even if Maguire himself was praised for his performance and screen presence), the fact that the one time we see Peter acting somewhat closer to his more rounded comics' portrayal such as him talking back to his landlord and giving Harry Osborn a piece of his mind, it's shown as a case of a Symbiote turning him evil, made many audiences outright root for Peter in that scene for finally showing some backbone, while also making others cite the mixed nature of these scenes as indicative of Raimi's misreading of the character as a suffering superhero monk.
Many fans especially feel this way about Peter negotiating a higher salary from Jameson. In the comics this happened at the end of the Master Planner arc (considered among the all-time greatest stories in Spider-Man mythos), and it was portrayed as a Hell Yes moment. The movie makes it seem like this is his Start of Darkness even if what Peter is doing, calling out Eddie Brock for his unethical work and fighting against Jameson's exploitation, is entirely legitimate. Even Emo Peter's humiliation of Mary Jane which is called out in the film is something that some fans like owing to her Damsel Scrappy reputation and as a vent towards their non-functional relationship as a couple.
Never Live It Down: The first thing that anyone who hates the film will mention is the dance scene, which only lasted for a couple of minutes out of the movie. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse further immortalized the scene by re-enacting it as a flash-back, with Peter being embarrassed to recall it.
Before the film's release, Stan Lee considered his cameo in the movie to be his personal favorite up to that point. In light of his passing, some fans have agreed that it's easily one of his most poignant.
This also applies to Venom, who appears in the movie for ten to fifteen minutes but does a lot in such a short time frame, not to mention that he has a memorable battle against Spider-Man.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Mary Jane for a number of people, for being a more sympathetic character, and actually doing something to help Peter even while being held in distress by Venom.
Romantic Plot Tumor: The film receives the most criticism on this count, since many fans felt that the second film was a fine conclusion to the romance. The fact that the film had three other major plotlines competing for screentime also caused problems. On the flip side, some thought the romance was better in the third film because it was more interesting to see Peter and MJ dealing with problems as a couple, rather than the first two's "Will They or Won't They?" drama that everyone knew the answer to.
Scapegoat Creator: In an unusual case, Sony Pictures and its producers are often painted as the bad guys for their Executive Meddling and needling of Sam Raimi and for forcing Venom into the film, with Bob Chipman in particularly slamming them for ruining Raimi's ideas for a finale. While obviously that decision didn't help, as many critics note, Venom was hardly the main and only problem of the film with many pointing out to MJ's Damsel Scrappy (which was Raimi's decision which he regretted doing but felt was necessary), the changes to Sandman's backstory and tacked-on plot (created by Raimi and his brother). Raimi himself took responsibility for the film turning out the way he did, and in any case executive feedback on the first two Spider-Man films was positive as well. Raimi also said that he didn't really have any ideas for a finale or a resolution to his version of the character. Sean Whitmore of Comics Critics satirized this:
"So it was Venom's fault that [Raimi] made Sandman the killer of uncle Ben to give him an actual point for being in the movie. That [he] cheaped out on giving him any real persoanlity by saddling his daughter with some phantom illness? That Harry Osborn's personality turned on a dime and went from a conflicted, reluctant villain to a sadistic manipulator?"
The annoying English newsreader who appears occasionally during the climax and could have easily been removed with no problems.
Harry's butler can also be considered one, since it was revealed that not only did he know that Harry's father's death was an accident, but he didn't even bother telling Harry the truth until this film's climax for some reason.Unwitting Instigator of Doom right here, people! Of the ENTIRE. FRANCHISE. Though Word of God says he wasn't really there in that scene, and Harry was just hallucinating him.
Tastes Like Diabetes: A lot of people find Sandman's "sympathetic" backstory to be this. Having a daughter who is the world's Littlest Cancer Patient, being divorced by his wife for being a criminal (what else was she supposed to do), makes what should feel like tragic and relatable motivations feel token and forced, and a cheap Freudian Excuse on top of that. The web animation series How It Should Have Ended parodied this with the refrain, "I have a daughter, she's sick! That makes it okay for me to break the law! I'm not a bad person!"
A big sticking point for some fans, even if the character on the whole was praised, was the Retcon that made Sandman into Uncle Ben's killer. It's not the first time a superhero film did this (Tim Burton's Batman did the same to Joker, and it was criticized even then by many reviewersnote It was an element that DC Comics, normally receptive to introducing elements from adaptations, absolutely refused to incorporate into the character since it drastically undermined the appeal of the Batman-Joker rivalry) but many audiences felt it drastically undercut and ruined Peter's origin from Spider-Man (since if the burglar Peter specifically didn't let escape kill Uncle Ben, and it was his getaway partner who did it in panic, then that means that Peter isn't actually responsible for his Uncle's death and his entire guilt was misplaced, which ruins the crucial theme from his story). Many also saw it as an inability for Raimi and Sony to create a nemesis who wasn't a free agent unconnected to Peter's story and life simply so that they could rehash simple beats. A tendency at Sony Pictures which continued in The Amazing Spider-Man Series and which the hacked Sony emails had one of Marvel's own executives call them out on.
As a number of comics fans note, the Symbiote was never Spider-Man's Superpowered Evil Side nor did it turn him into evil, and definitelynot emo. The original Symbiote was a sentient suit that liked Spider-Man and became a case of a Stalker with a Crush. It ended up taking Peter out as Spider-Man while in his sleep, and Peter worried about gaps and lack of control parted ways with it, which made the Symbiote a crazy jealous ex, who saw new host Eddie Brock as "sloppy seconds". The change in dynamics to a more simplistic Jekyll and Hyde story annoyed many for cheapening a great concept, as well as creating frustrating drama since Peter acts like a jerk to his loved ones but since it's not really his fault, all his actions can be blamed on Gollum Made Me Do It (which as many note was a beat that applied to the villain of Spider-Man and something which Peter didn't entirely accept there).
With very little screentime and a questionable casting choice, the general consensus is that Venom was completely wasted when a whole separate movie could have been made around him. In fact, this was originally the plan, for the movie to be released in two parts, with the second one being very Venom-focused, but Raimi disliked the character serving in any capacity, either as villain or as anti-hero. The resulting compromise (Raimi didn't want to use the villain Sony wanted, and Sony still wanted Raimi to continue as did the cast) led to Venom being hastily introduced and underused, the planned second film never getting anywhere for at least 10 more years, and the most iconic screen version of Spider-Man's mythos failing to get a proper conclusion. This ends up being hilarious (or harsher) in hindsight due to the fact that two-part movies would become in vogue just a few years later after the Harry Potter film series did it, and of course Venom (2018) turned out to be, unexpectedly, Sony's biggest commercial success with the Spider-Man property since 3.
Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy, who could have left more of an impression and had more of a relationship with Peter and MJ had it not been for all the other characters and their arcs fighting for screentime. Most notably she could have allowed for a Gwen to escape the shadow of her fridging and her status as the girl that had to die for Peter and Mary Jane to hook up (the real reasons why she was fridged in the comics), and actually return her character to her original roots (namely as a flawed beauty queen and would-be socialite). Instead, she's made into Ann Weying, Brock's ex, and introduced as a foil for Peter and Mary Jane's romance (which many note is absurd given how Peter is shown with Single-Target Sexuality in the first film). The fact that her one character moment (walking away from Peter appalled at using her to humiliate Mary Jane and expressing solidarity and compassion for her) was done really well by the actress which many felt could have been developed more.
Not to mention Sandman, who had many of his character arc scenes deleted and his original, much more conclusive send-off changed to one that doesn't answer any questions as to what he's going to do now. Those who liked the character effects also felt that Sandman was a chance to take the story to a new direction in that a villain who was unconnected to Peter's rogues and allowed Spider-Man to be the hero rather than merely an extension of his personal melodrama about daddy figures. The idea that to shoehorn him for the sake of building him up as another Arch-Enemy made many people lament its waste.
Likewise in the case of Peter Parker. As many fans note, Peter lashing out at Harry for being what is by any standards a terrible friend in the film series (considering his exploitative, resentful, and abusive behavior) and standing up to Jonah and his landlord, as well as express some of his own issues with Mary Jane, should have been done by the Prime!Peter and not the Symbiote influenced one. It removed any real scope of Character Development while making the little that happened as something that could be blamed on the evil side while also making the fallout of his actions (ending his friendship with Harry, straining his relationship with Mary Jane) something to be chalked up to Cartesian Karma.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Many fans were especially upset that the romance between Peter and MJ which was the focus at the first two films took a back seat and very little time was spent to showing them in a relationship which in the comics was the primarily appeal of them as a couple. Some felt it was an Author's Saving Throw that hung a lampshade on the unhealthy nature of Peter's attraction to her in the first two and their lack of compatibility, while others felt it was absurd to arbitrarily puncture something that was built up with straight intent across the first two films, especially given the chemistry of the actors and the fact the romance and relationship in the comics (which was healthy, compatible, and positive for both) gets turned on its head by melodramatic contrivances rather than something within the characters.
Spider-Man 3 had the unpleasant task of following up on the near-universally loved Spider-Man 2 and the genre defining Spider-Man. It's an understatement to say that it wasn't able to meet the level from the first two films.
This especially applies to the villains, after Dafoe's frightening and memetic turn as the Goblin, Alfred Molina's tragic take on Dr. Octopus, we get James Franco's amnesiac loser Goblin Jr, Topher Grace's sleazy loser Venom, and Thomas Haden Church's sad-sack Sandman. The former two being characters and actors who lack the oomph of the first two, and Grace especially being miscast as Venom, while Sandman is generally not considered a top-tier villain in Spider-Man's Rogues Gallery to really carry a movie on his own, even if Haden Church does a good turn.
Vindicated by History: The film is still unambiguously considered the worst of the original trilogy by a long way, easily worse than the MCU films and whether it's better or worse than the divisive Amazing films is a matter of opinion, but the major backlash against the film has somewhat lessened over time. Even some of the issues that made people write it off have been reexamined by various critics and perceived in a new light- long-time Spider-Man fan MadGoblin argued that the "too many villains" was actually necessary to balance out the climax where Harry sides with Peter against Sandman and Venom in a 2v2 battle, that none of the three would have been strong enough to carry the film solo, and that Harry's character arc had to conclude in this film but couldn't afford to just be a rehash of the first one, while Bob Chipman has defended "emo Peter" as being the correct portrayal of Peter under the influence of the suit, since Peter a natural nerd trying to be cool rather than an actual cool kid, and you're not supposed to enjoy him wearing the suit as it corrupts him.
Even several years on, the scene of the Sandman's 'birth' is still stellar to look at. A slow build, backed with an emotionally touching BGM, where the audience can see him gradually gain control of his powers and build his body back up.
This is probably going to be the best live-action Venom we'll see in a while, primarily because at several points, you can see that the fully-formed Venom is indeed a practical effect.
Why, exactly, did Peter think it would be a smart idea to plant a big wet one on Gwen Stacy right in front of Mary Jane, in the exact same way as he first kissed Mary Jane in the first film no less?
What on Earth possessed Harry's butler to not tell him that he knew Norman had been killed by his own gliderbefore Harry decided to dedicate his life to vengeance against Spider-Man? Word of God states that the butler, while a real person, was a hallucination in that scene, representing Harry's conscience... Yeah.
There's also Mary Jane going along with Harry's blackmail instead of just telling Peter (her very powerful superhero boyfriend) about Harry's amnesia recovery, especially considering that Harry was watching from a distance at the same place at the time!
Yes, Flint's introductory scene confirms to us the audience that he indeed does have a sick daughter he's committing his crimes for. But Peter doesn't know that nor should he believe it. Nor should he believe that Flint "accidentally" killed Uncle Ben by being startled. For all he knows, Flint might have been lying his ass off in order to gain sympathy and get away scot-free to continue robbing more banks and hurting people with his sand powers.
WTH, Casting Agency?: General consensus is that Topher Grace wasn't a very good cast for Venom. Word of God says that Topher was cast because Raimi enjoyed his acting and thought he'd make a perfect Anti-Peter Parker. Basically, the casting was more about this version of Eddie Brock than it was about Venom — which didn't work out for them in terms of fan reaction, as most fans either don't really care about the Eddie Brock part of Venom, or think that the usual version of Eddie Brock is much more interesting, at least after his Character Development and in the animatedadaptations.
Even Grace himself went on to state that he was surprised he was cast in the role.
WTH, Costuming Department?: While Venom's look was very much well-received, there were two aspects that weren't: him appearing much scrawnier than his comic book counterpart and lacking his trademark dragon-like tongue.
Sandman. The guy just wants to get his daughter cured, and he doesn't want to hurt anybody else in the way, but things just never worked out for him. He sums it up well with "I'm not a bad person... I've just had really bad luck." And by the way, just to get a picture of how rough things are for this guy? He says this line before he becomes the Sandman.
Mary Jane gets the worst of luck in this film; first she gets bashed by critics on Broadway, and gets replaced. Then Peter kisses Gwen in the same special way that she shared one with him in the alleyway years before, Harry blackmails her into breaking up with Peter, and is physically hurt and humiliated by Peter (when he's under the influence of the symbiote) in the Jazz Club, when he tries to make her jealous with Gwen, and even ends up hitting her on the jaw when she tries to break up a fight he's in.
The video game
Angst? What Angst?: In the PS2 and Wii versions, nobody seems to bat an eye when Harry gets killed.
Author's Saving Throw: In the PS3, 360 and PC versions of the game, Venom can be seen as this. He has more screentime than he does in the film, he's considerably bulkier like how he is in the comics, and both his voice and roars are much deepernote which is notable given that he is still voiced by Topher Grace, whose performance was derided for being too weaselly and having no filter on his voice like most versions of Venom, including this game (and in the case of his introductory scene, quite disturbing, too).
"Now let's talk about how we're going to destroy...the Spider."
Complete Monster: In the PS3, 360, and PC version of the game, Luke Carlyle is a former industrialist whose business crumbled after the Daily Bugle uncovered his corrupt practices. Seeking revenge against the city that ruined him, Carlyle adopted the identity of "Carlyle the Mad Bomber" and led a series of terrorist attacks across Manhattan. After destroying his old building, Carlyle had his men plant explosives throughout the city, focusing mostly on locations that would cause civilian casualties. When Spider-Man foils his plans, Carlyle launches an attack on the Daily Bugle and kidnaps J. Jonah Jameson. Carlyle places an explosive collar around Jameson's neck and tosses him out of his helicopter in an attempt to kill him and Spider-Man. Carlyle ultimately escapes after Spider-Man takes out his helicopter, but not before setting off the explosives he had rigged in each of his henchmen's suits.
Contested Sequel: The games were no better than the film in this regard, considering that they were made to tie in with this film, just like the previous two. Unlike Spider-Man 2, the games had ridiculous amounts of Press X to Not Die to an infuriating degree, especially the unforgiving final boss fight.
That One Level: The level in the PS3/360/PC version where Spider-Man has to protect a canister from the lizardmen is extremely difficult, particularly in the final round, as it's game over if the canister gets hit more than three times.