Review by Paul Stathakis | 2004

Spi­der-Man remains my favorite Mar­vel Comics cre­ation. The char­ac­ter rep­re­sents Stan Lee’s great­est work. To watch the super­hero in motion again, swing­ing from build­ing to build­ing, pro­tect­ing New York City and those clos­est to him, is revi­tal­iz­ing. Not only does the sequel pro­vide more loud­ly and extrav­a­gant spe­cial effect sequences, it is stronger in emo­tion, deep­er in plot, and sheds more light on the key char­ac­ters. “Spi­der-Man 2” is a well-made block­buster with great foreshadowing.

The sto­ry opens two years lat­er, fol­low­ing the untime­ly death of Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) uncle, Ben (Cliff Robert­son). Peter has­n’t changed. He still watch­es over his aunt May (Rose­mary Har­ris) and con­tin­ues to deny his feel­ings for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dun­st). His friend Har­ry Osborn (James Fran­co) seems more dis­tant this time, more trou­bled, and still upset at Spi­der-Man. Every­one who has seen the first install­ment should know why. Spi­der-Man killed Harry’s father (“The Green Goblin”).

The new vil­lain in town is “Doc­tor Octo­pus” (Alfred Moli­na). He wan­ders the city with his men­ac­ing fea­tures, almost inde­struc­tible, obsessed with com­plet­ing a dan­ger­ous sci­ence exper­i­ment. Doc­tor Octo­pus is played by a dif­fer­ent Alfred Moli­na. Although Moli­na’s char­ac­ter is less vicious than The Green Gob­lin, he pos­sess­es a more fright­en­ing look. And Moli­na plays the role with such ele­gance. If you thought Willem Dafoe was as evil as they get, think again. Moli­na makes for a sur­pris­ing­ly intim­i­dat­ing anti­hero, here.

Spi­der-Man 2” is an improved ver­sion of the first install­ment, char­ac­ter-devel­op­ment wise most­ly. It has more to work with and isn’t just one action moment after the next. Sure, it has its weak points but, in gen­er­al, it both­ers to hold back, to slow­down, and con­tin­ue telling the sto­ry the way it must be told. This movie blows “Hulk” and “Dare­dev­il” to shreds although I’m not a fan of the CGI bits. Yes, the effects look cool but com­pare them to those of “The Matrix” and it’s like com­par­ing apples to toma­toes. The stunts in “The Matrix” were high­ly implau­si­ble but looked very real. “Spi­der-Man 2” has a dif­fer­ent look and effects of its own. In this case, as imper­fect as the action may some­times appear, I still feel they do not defeat the movie’s pur­pose. I was still enter­tained by them, espe­cial­ly the scene where Spi­der-Man is forced into bring­ing a speed­ing train to a safe stop.

What is most­ly inter­est­ing about the sequel is the way direc­tor Sam Rai­mi focus­es on details and rev­e­la­tions. Park­er con­tin­ues to ques­tion his iden­ti­ty, his hero­ic duties, and even his place in soci­ety. The themes of sac­ri­fice and choice are also still present, as well as the for­bid­den love rela­tion­ship between Peter and Mary Jane. How­ev­er, this time the rela­tion­ship reach­es new heights that I won’t dis­close here. There is also an intense scene involv­ing Har­ry and a help­less Spi­der-Man. Again, my lips are sealed.

The sum­mer has arrived and I haven’t yet come across many remark­able films. “Spi­der-Man 2” is one of the first to impress me. It is a wor­thy sequel that does not cut any cor­ners or neglect any of its char­ac­ters. And this one evens adds more humor to the mix. I par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed the charm­ing “Rain­drops Keep Falling On My Head” sequence. It had me smil­ing in my seat. I could go on and on about the film’s details. “Spi­der-Man 2” is all about fun and con­firms that there is noth­ing big­ger than the lit­tle things.


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