The story of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 is a long and frustrating one. After two massively successful instalments, the Spider-Man franchise was the reigning king of the super-hero film genre. A third film was a no-brainer, and Raimi & co. set about developing Spider-Man 3 with a May 2007 release date. You might think that with two critical darlings and box-office smashes under his belt, the director had earned the faith of the studio by this point. You'd be wrong.
A story was broken that would pay off plot threads from the preceding films. Harry Osborne assuming his father's mantle was inevitable, and it was decided that a film about revenge and forgiveness would incorporate this plot and give Peter Parker another valuable lesson to learn. Here is the cover letter for the original 30-page story outline for Spider-Man 3, handed in by Sam and Ivan Raimi August 10th, 2004:
The studio executives were happy. The story provided a good amount of human drama and super-human conflict. The new villains would add the appropriate visual flair, and the continuing stories of Peter and his friends would go to new and interesting depths. There was one issue that reared its head however: Venom.
Eager to cash-in on a fan favourite character, the producers became fixated with the idea of inserting Eddie Brock and the symbiote into the story. Raimi was a fan of the earlier issues of the comic; unfamiliar with this character, and not particularly interested. The producers persisted. With a release date looming, script meetings and revisions would occur over the next few months, and Venom would often be the subject of debate. Sam and Ivan Raimi continued to develop their ideas for a Sandman/Vulture team-up, while Alvin Sargent worked separately on a story containing Venom. By March 2005, scripts were merged and Vulture was officially dropped in favour of Venom, but not before the character was story-boarded and Ben Kingsley was lined up for the part. If you ever thought Spider-Man 3 was juggling too many plots, this would be why.
But enough about what the script could have been, lets talk about what it was. The first completed screenplay was unveiled in June 2005 and underwent changes all the way through to June 2006, three weeks before shooting wrapped. Anyone who has read the official novelization -based on the original screenplay- will be aware of just how much material was cut from the theatrical release. While it is unclear just how much of this was shot, there is sufficient evidence that a number of significant sequences were indeed filmed and ended up on the cutting room floor. And there was some really good stuff.
The character that appears to have suffered the most from the cull is Sandman. Several of his scenes were cut, and those choices are baffling. The first scene took place after he robbed an armoured car during the Spider-Man celebration. Marko pays a visit to a doctor he was writing to from prison. He hands over some stolen money and intimidates Dr. Wallace into helping him cure his daughter Penny. Wallace tries to convince Marko that there isn't enough time or money to find a cure but he isn't listening. He'll get more money.
Another major scene comes after Spider-Man flushes Sandman into the sewers. Marko is seen at a play park watching over his daughter. He turns into an elaborate sand castle for her to play with. Penny sinks her hand into the castle, and a larger hand-print appears next to it. Penny and her mother leave without noticing.
Immediately after this scene is where an alternate Sandman/Venom scene takes place. Eddie is stalking Marko as he watches over his daughter, and comes to him with a proposition. This scene makes a lot more sense that the version used in the film, where Eddie somehow knew Marko's story with no explanation, and gives more weight to Marko's decision to team up.
The final Sandman sequence known to be shot takes place at the construction site finale. Penny and her mother appear during the conflict, and Penny convinces her father to stand down. This precedes Marko's conversation with Peter, and informs his peaceful surrender.
Sandman wasn't the only character to lose out. Eddie Brock had a number of cuts also, including the aforementioned alternate team-up scene, an extended rant in the church (as seen in a trailer), and a sequence where he attempts to visit Gwen at her home before he is told to leave by Captain Stacy.
Also glimpsed in the trailer is a scene where Mary Jane visits Harry and talks to him about forgiveness, cementing the film's theme (and probably superseding the conversation between Harry and his butler – rightfully mocked by all).
[Harry has a number of interesting beats in the novelization, namely some more interaction with his father and a scene where he ponders his own sanity when he snaps at his butler who appears to vanish. It's unclear whether these were shot however.]
And finally, there's this iconic shot from the trailer where Peter gets a sobering glance of the symbiote's monstrous form in his own reflection.
Spider-Man 3 is a mess of a film, but not without its redeeming qualities. There's ground-breaking effects, thrilling action sequences, a great score and some fun performances. It's fair to say that Raimi mishandled the symbiote story, however it was really a plot best handed to another director. Venom may get his due later, though it is a shame Raimi didn't finish his time on with the franchise on a high note. With the series rebooted, it is time to give closure to the old, release the extra footage, and give this maligned threequel a second chance to soar.
If you would like to see these deleted scenes, please take the time to sign the petition below:
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What the hell, a couple more shots: