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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