The Franchise that Couldn't: Looking Back on the Amazing Spider-Man
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
January 16, 2017
Although 14 years later it might not completely hold up, at the time Spider-Man was a revelation. The movie captured the spirit and earnestness of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era comic books. It was also bolstered by a generally strong cast. Tobey Maguire was at the center and captured the innocence and everyman quality perfectly. He seemed to be Peter Parker brought to life. (And he was a pretty good Spider-Man, too.)
Both critics and fans gave the movie a passing grade. And where X-Men was a big hit, Spider-Man was an unqualified smash. The movie grossed $403 million domestically and $821 million worldwide. And although the sequel, Spider-Man 2, took a drop at the box office at $373 million domestically/$783 million worldwide, fans and critics loved it. In fact, many still consider it a highlight of the genre. But unfortunately things went sour, very quickly, with the third entry.
Spider-Man 3 was easily the worst reviewed of the three Raimi films, and audiences weren't much kinder. But because the first two movies were so beloved, audience excitement was incredibly high for the third entry. This led to a then record-setting opening weekend of $151 million. Except this time around, fans were disappointed and the movie faded faster than the previous two, topping out at a still very impressive $336 million domestically.
But that number doesn't accurately portray the backlash towards the franchise. There is no doubt that the movie was a big hit. But the fact that it grossed about 45% of its domestic total over the first three days shows that it didn't have the staying power that the previous two entries enjoyed. For comparison's sake, the first movie made about 28% of its total on the opening weekend. (Spider-Man 2 opened on a Wednesday, so it doesn't fit the comparison.) It's hard to overstate just how quickly and harshly public opinion turned on the Spider-Man franchise. After Spider-Man 2, it was practically the gold standard for comic book movies. But just one movie later, the franchise was damaged goods.
There are a lot of reasons Spider-Man 3 failed so dramatically, and a whole other article could be written to fully cover it. But a big problem was the fact that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama. Sony, for some reason, didn't have faith in Raimi, even though he directed two great movies for them. And because of this, there seemed to be two competing movies jammed into Spider-Man 3. The movie Raimi wanted to make had to battle the movie Sony wanted to see. And the result was a convoluted, uneven mess that eviscerated all of the goodwill the first two movies earned. But overseas audiences seemed to enjoy it more and helped make it the biggest one on a worldwide basis, with $890 million.
But regardless of how much money Spider-Man 3 made, it was clear that some course correcting needed to be done. A fourth film, scheduled to be released in 2011, was announced but it ultimately fell apart. Sony then went ahead with its reboot plans that would eventually become The Amazing Spider-Man. It was directed by Marc Webb and starred Andrew Garfield in the title role.