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Spider-Man 2

Reviewed by Alex Strickland

I went on record as saying the first Spider-Man was "by far my favorite ‘super-hero/comic-book’ movie in existence." Seeing that, in many ways, Spider-Man 2 improves upon its predecessor, I guess I’ll have to revise that statement.

The sequel starts off with Peter Parker struggling to keep up with his two personas: Spider-Man, and the normal, everyday guy who’s struggling to juggle school, work, and family and friends. He is not a very good juggler. He’s just been fired from his pizza delivery job, his grades are steadily declining, and the woman he loves has gotten fed up with his "never being there."

In a crisis of faith, he abandons his self-imposed duties in an effort to lead a normal life. Unfortunately, this comes at a very inopportune time. For one, Mary Jane is getting married to astronaut John Jameson (J. Jonah’s son!) in an effort to get over her love for Peter. For another, a horrible accident has transformed the brilliant Dr. Otto Octavius (Molina) into the psychotic "Doc Ock," who threatens the city with his plans to continue the experiment that created him.

What I really enjoy about the Spider-Man series (and the same can be said for the X-Men movies) is how I can connect with them better. It is both realistic and gloriously comic-y, if that makes sense.

Parker has the same problems as anyone else. . .he’s just a young man trying to cope with a great responsibility (which, Uncle Ben reminds us, comes with great power), and not sure how to.

And the villians are, to a degree, sympathetic. Octavius is a nice guy before his accident leaves him at the mercy of his creation, just like Osborn was a decent kind of guy before he turned into a complete nutbar. I kind of prefer villians that are a tad less black-and-white than standard super-hero fare. As much as I like Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Burton’s Batman, the character was pretty much a prick before his mishap, anyway.

The action scenes are amazing (and - surprise, surprise - the web-slinging is still fun!), but the character moments, as in the last film, also work. The scene where Peter confesses to Aunt May that he blames himself for Uncle Ben’s death, or where May talks about heroes and their role. . .these scenes work. True, they may lack the subtlety of a more "artsy" drama, and they may be emotionally manipulative, but, I don’t give a shit. They work, damn it.

The acting is smashing all-around, from Maguire as the troubled Peter, to Molina as the brilliant-doctor-turned-monster Octavius, to Dunst as the lovelorn Mary-Jane, to Franco as the revenge-minded Harry, to Harris as the loving Aunt May, to Simmons as the brilliantly sarcastic and pompous Jameson, to Bruce Campbell(!) as a snooty doorman. Capital cast, my good man!

Basically, all that needs to be said is, a few head-scratchers in the plot aside, Spider-Man 2 improves on what Sam Raimi and Company established with the first film, and takes it to even greater heights. So, what are you waiting for? A clever ending for my review? Too bad. Just go out and see the movie. I’m done.

Go now. The review is over.

 

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Director
Sam Raimi

Screenplay
Alvin Sargent

Released
June 30, 2004

Cast
Tobey Maquire
Kirsten Dunst
James Franco
Alfred Molina
J. K. Simmons
Rosemary Harris

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray (but only in a combo pack with the other two films in Raimi's trilogy)