Friday, April 19, 2024

Spider-Man 2

With Sony’s rerelease each of the Spider-Man movies, we turn back to the clock two decades to 2004 and the film that set the standard for a live-action Spider-Man movie which swings back into theaters this Monday. Returning all the notable stars from the first film (including both Willem Dafoe and Cliff Robertson in a pair of questionable cameos), the sequel focuses on the toll Spider-Man has caused on Peter Parker's (Tobey Maguire) life. 

Fired from yet another job, falling further behind in his studies, facing the wrath of Harry (James Franco) for his friendship with Spider-Man, in ever-increasing debt, and having lost Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), Peter Parker's life is floundering. The only part of his life that is working efficiently is his time as Spider-Man, but that soon starts to fall apart as well as his powers begin to malfunction and fade eventually giving Peter an excuse to close the book on Spider-Man.

The film is primarily about Peter and his core relationships. How he treats MJ over the course of the film is pretty shabby to say the least, but the story does bring the pair finally back together in the second of two epilogues. Just as important is Peter's relationship with Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) who is given the best speech in the film prodding Peter to pick up the mantle of Spider-Man once more.

Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius works far better as a foil for Peter than the first film's Goblin. The scientist with good intentions whose obsession leads to madness works great on film, and the robotic arms of Dr. Octopus are amazing effects (even 20 years later) even if their evil consciousness is one of the weirder aspects of the film that is never really explored. Spidey ultimately bests Otto not through heroics or acrobatics but in Peter making an argument that the scientist cannot refute.

Other notable newcomers this time around include Dylan Baker as Dr. Curt Connors, Elya Baskin and Mageina Tovah as Peter's neighbors, and  The Originals Daniel Gillies as MJ's new beau John Jameson. In the comics J. Jonah Jameson's (J.K. Simmons) astronaut son eventually becomes a werewolf. Unfortunately for the actor who played one of the oldest vampires on television, this version character doesn't stick around long enough to have any further impact than being stranded at the altar.

Franco returns as an increasingly dickish Harry in the film who nearly gets both Peter and MJ killed in his attempts to avenge his father's death. The peak of his story comes in the film's first epilogue involving Harry talking to his dead father and finding the stash of Goblin gear. While it's well shot, and a cool looking scene, the sequence makes absolutely no sense and doesn't pay off all that well in the franchise's third, and final, installment.

In a movie based more on character than action, the film still features some great sequences of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man including the train sequence, Peter and MJ being interrupted by a flying car, and Doc Ock's bank robbery which includes the abduction of Aunt May. Director Sam Raimi also throws a bone to Evil Dead fans with a thrilling sequence involving the reawakening of our villain now under the control of his robotic limbs. The effects hold up quite well, as does the story.

While the Spider-Verse animated movies have taken the hero to new heights, Spider-Man 2 set the bar for live-action Spider-Man films - a standard that has yet to be equaled. None of the villains in the more recent films work as well as Doc Ock (or look as good on screen), this is the best this version of Peter and MJ on-screen, we get some terrific character moments from the supporting characters, and it looks truly amazing. Sure, there are nagging issues (such as why the good doctor didn't take the time to make the chip controlling the arms more secure or consider that a sun would have gravitational pull), but by and large the film is the highlight of the this Spidey trilogy and a rare example of the sequel being better than the original.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Spider-Man 2
  • IMDb: link

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