- Directed by Sam Raimi
- June 22, 2004 (Mann Village Theater) / June 30, 2004 (US)
Peter is trying to strike a balance between his life as Spider-Man and his life as a student when a new foe arrives on the scene.
Spider-Man 2 is the rare sequel that equals and at points exceeds the original. It is just as exciting and fun as its predecessor. It is a positive superhero movie that does not try to be ironic or subvert your expectations. More importantly it honors the source material. This is not a one for one translation which would be difficult given the decades of mythology built up in the comics but rather it respects what came before and tries its best-often succeeding-to be true to the spirit of the comics.
The story itself draws inspiration from a storyline in the comics where Peter has to come to emotional terms with being Spider-Man. There are elements from Doc Ock’s (Alfred Molins) first appearance in 1963 and the 1966 storyline “If This Be My Destiny…!” as well as the 1967 storyline “Spider-Man No More!” If you are familiar with them, you can certainly see the inspiration.
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) wants to have a life. He wants to date-specifically Mary Jane-and have a future and go to college and everything that normal people get to do but he is also dealing with Uncle Ben’s words to him “With great power comes great responsibility.” He has abilities that other people do not, and he has been using them to fight the good fight but this is causing problems in his life. He is late to school if he shows up at all. He is often late to work which costs him his job. And his inability to even follow through on the small things is pushing away Mary Jane whom he has been keeping at a distance out of fear of her getting harmed.
I never got the hype over James Franco. Up until his sexual misconduct issues he seemed to have a pretty strong following, but I never got what the big deal was. His performances in Spider-Man as well as this one were okay. He was kind of monotone in his delivery and his moments when he should have been angry he was just irritated.
There is no better Mary Jane Watson than Kirsten Dunst. Not only does she look the part, but she is the part. In this film she was able to craft an MJ that justifies why she is Peter Parker’s reason for everything. You can understand why Peter would be the way he is when it comes to her.
Rosemary Harris as Aunt May is just perfect. This is how I imagined her being in real life. The way she is portrayed here is exactly how she came off to me from the comics. She cares for Peter as her own and provides him with guidance often not knowing she is doing just that.
Alfred Molina does not get nearly enough praise for his part is Dr. Otto “Doc Ock” Octavius. He gets a shit ton of praise, but he deserves a shit ton more. Molina is a great actor and his Otto Octavius is just brilliant. He is a villain you feel sympathy for. His introduction demonstrates he is not a terrible man. Maybe a little single minded at times but at his core he is not evil and what he does in this film is not because he wants to but because he is being forced to by the influence of his tentacles. That sounds weird when you write it.
JK Simmons returns as the perfect version of J. Jonah Jameson. He defined the character’s presentation in film. He is blustery and a bit comically greedy.
Once again they really did little with the spider banter. I wish they had. There is maybe one or two instances where Spider-Man makes a quip but nothing. It is one of those things that is noticeably missing to a fan of the comics.
I do draw a little issue with the finale as well. I just never understood how dropping a miniature sun in the East River would put it out. At least put it out with nothing bad happening. A sun is a delicate balance between implosion and explosion. I admit I am no physicist but I would think that either the heat would be too intense to be extinguished by mere water or should the water be able to do anything that would set the balance between explosion and implosion off and you would have a rather nasty explosion.
Then again this is a superhero movie where the villain as well as the hero get smashed into walls and damages those walls yet the characters are able to get up and walk away. Spider-Man is not wearing any special armor or padding in that suit. It is essentially very nice spandex so how does he get up and move around after being slammed into the wall by Doc Ock. How does Dr. Octopus, who is wearing a trenchcoat and a tentacle backpack, move away after being slammed into a car without suffering serious internal injuries? How? Because this is a superhero movie that aims to be like the comics and it shows in the quality that we get.
The action is great and frenetic. You are brought to the edge of your seat with every fight and every save that Spider-Man has to do. But this is also a story with some heart. Spider-Man is a hero to the people despite what the media might say about him. They can see the truth and the truth is he is just someone doing the right thing because it is right and because he can.
This movie understands that superhero films can be fun. It also benefits from focusing on the title character. Sure Sam Raimi uses names and characters from the comics but the focus is on Spider-Man and the conflict that he must overcome. It is not crowded with guest appearances from numerous other characters from other films.
Spider-Man 2 is an amazing sequel to an amazing film. I dare call it spectacular. This is a great film for not only comic book fans but for movie fans as well. Watch it!