Geoff T’s review published on Letterboxd:
I blame studio interference for this one.
It's worth noting that this was the only instalment of the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy that I hadn't seen, until now. My expectations weren't exactly set high, considering it's divisive reputation amongst many fans. Upon seeing it for the first time, I wouldn't say it's a complete disaster, but it really pains me to think of how much of a missed opportunity it is.
Set right after Spider-Man 2 (presumably), Peter seems to be living the good life, where he's idolised city-wide as Spider-Man, and is getting engaged to Mary Jane, which is strange as she was getting married to Jonah Jameson's son Jonah at the end of the last (this is never elaborated on whatsoever by the way). However, he also finds himself up against some new foes, including escaped felon Flint Marko, who gets turned into Sandman via an experimental freak accident and goes on a city-wide rampage.
The main problem with this one is that it tries to cram in way too much at once. This is especially true in regards to the villains. As well as Sandman, we have of course Harry who after discovering the truth, wants revenge on Peter for the supposed killing of his father Norman (succeeding his role as the next Goblin). There's also Eddie Brock, a disgruntled ex-Bugle photographer who after being exposed as a fake, plans revenge on Peter after meteorite turns him into Venom, who's handled so poorly here that it's almost insulting.
To be honest, there's way, WAY too many subplots that are just needlessly inserted, like Harry's memory loss, the love triangle between Peter, MJ and Harry, MJ's struggles on broadway, and Marko's involvement with Uncle Ben's death. Then of course there's Peter's transformation when his suit gets affected by meteorite, which results in an atrocious new hairstyle, his new crush on fellow student Gwen Stacey (who had no real reason to exist in this) and a CRINGE-inducing dance that he engages in.
In regards to the battle sequences, they're still just as exciting as ever (especially Spidey's battling Sandman and Venom), even though a lot of the special effects have aged drastically and Raimi's touches aren't as noticeable. The performances from Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and are still fine and all, and Christopher Young does a good job of replicating Danny Elfman's music style for the first two, despite that the use of licensed music feels out-of-place (especially during the infamous dance scene).
Now for how much it shits the bed in various aspects, I did actually like quite a bit of it. That doesn't change the fact however that a lot of the plot points and villains (especially Venom) could have been used in a fourth film, and that the tone is so inconsistent (and often cringe-y as hell) that it makes me feel like I'm watching more of a romantic comedy rather than a superhero flick.
Maybe Raimi isn't entirely to blame (he even admitted it wasn't up to par), but there's no doubt that it could have been far, FAR better than it was. Very disappointing, but I suppose it's serviceable enough for what it is.