Written by Alvin Sargent, Michael Chabon, Miles Millar, Alfred Gough, Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko
Directed by Sam Raimi
Spider-Man was big in our house right during the 2000’s. There was a growing boy residing there who seems to idolize two things: Transformers and Spider-Man. Gone were the days of zoos and construction sets. Marketing seemed to have taken hold quite well in his brain.
The second Spider-Man movie was released in time for the summer of 2004. It garnered mostly positive reviews and was faithful to the character as he was portrayed in comic books. Maybe a little too faithful.
Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man (portrayed by Tobey Maguire) is in a bad way. He’s having no luck holding a job as a delivery boy, plus he’s about to lose his job at the newspaper since he won’t give them any more pictures of Spider-Man. It would seem as if Mr. Jameson (portrayed by J.K. Simmons) is using the pictures to editorialize that Spider-Man is bad for the city, although the staff doesn’t seem to agree with him on that. Peter is also having problems making it to his college classes on time and his grades are suffering.
He’s also still pining for Mary Jane, MJ (portrayed by Kirsten Dunst), although he pushed her away at the end of the last film. She seems to still want him, although she’s trying to move on.
At his birthday party, his pal Harry (portrayed by James Franco) agrees to help Peter meet Dr. Octavius (portrayed by Alfred Molina) so Peter can write a paper for his classes. He visits Octavius’ laboratory and learns about his fusion experiment intending to create a perpetual source of energy for the Earth. Harry has inherited his father’s company and thus holds the purse strings for Octavius’ research.
As expected, something goes horribly wrong with the experiment. Octavius turns into Dr. Octopus and throughout the rest of the film, it’s a game of cat and mouse between the newfound villain and the hero. To complicate matters even further, Peter seems to have a problem with his Spidey-powers going kerflooey.
Spider-Man 2 is actually one of the strongest comic-book-based films I’ve had the pleasure to watch, for the shortcomings it has. The characters are multi-dimensional, even if events that occur are predictable. Harry’s angst over the death of his father and his desire to place blame everywhere but squarely on the head of his father seems quite genuine. The romantic tension between MJ and Peter also rings true as MJ struggles to move on after Peter’s rejection but can’t help feeling pulled back to her lifelong friend. Likewise, Peter’s struggles with the various aspects of his life and the pressure put on him by society as well as his own conscience also give him great depth.
While Alfred Molina did a terrific job with Octavius, I found his character to be the most predictable of the lot. He’s there to serve a purpose and he does it well, but there are few surprises in the events which occur surrounding his character. I also found Mr. Jameson to be totally cartoonish and the one character that annoyed me, although he seems to have been written mostly for comic relief. One other point of comic relief was the moments when Peter was on the sidewalks of New York listening to a street performer sing the Spider-Man Theme. I could see the “Huh?” expression on his face and Maguire’s reactions were hysterical.
The issues I have in the stories are rooted in the setting brought forth from the comic books. The biggest is that I’ve never understood the reason why Peter maintained his own apartment when (a) he can’t afford to pay the rent and (b) what little he could afford to pay would have gone a long way to helping his Aunt May (portrayed by Rosemary Harris).
The action sequences are terrific. There was plenty of tension and suspense throughout these scenes, although it’s pretty much a given how it’s going to end up. The special effects are excellent. I loved the shot of Dr. Octopus carrying Mary Jane up the side of the building. It didn’t come off as too cartoonish or animated, despite knowing that the majority of it was CGI. Watching some of the bonus material and seeing just how much of the effects were actually CGI really astounded me.
Tobey Maguire is really terrific. Viewing a movie for the second or third time helps with certain nuances, and here it’s just how differently he carries himself when he’s in the Spidey costume. It almost seems like a completely different actor. He makes the transformation real almost as if when he’s in the costume he’s somehow liberated from being the misfit Peter.
Kirsten Dunst doesn’t have much to do except stress over relationships and whine like a victim. I thought she was stronger in the first film. Some of the problems are the way she dresses in Spider-Man 2, although I can see how this draws the boys in. How many times can she be very obviously braless in nearly see-thru dresses? I can tell this will be one DVD that will get worn out when puberty rolls around.
Harry is also relegated to the background for the most part, although the scenes he has are very important to the development of his character in the future. Franco handles a son in denial and embraces only what he remembers as good about a parent quite well, making the most of what he’s given. The hints at the end of where his character will go in the next film are quite intriguing.
Spider-Man 2 is a great film and a lot of fun to watch. It holds up well on repeated viewings and kids just enjoy it all around. Some parents might have problems with the violent themes in it, so I suggest viewing it before showing it to your child and knowing what he or she is capable of processing. My son only started watching it when he was seven, and I think he grasped the fact that it’s a movie just fine. It’s something we all enjoy watching together as a family and it made a great lead-in to the release of the newest film.
• Cast & Crew Commentary with Director Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, Producer Avi Arad, and Co-Producer Grant Curtis
• Technical Commentary
• Spidey Sense 2 – informational text
• Music Video: Ordinary by Train
• Blooper Reel
• Making the Amazing a 12-part documentary tracking the path of this film from pre-production to premier
• Hero in Crisis
• Ock-Umentary Eight Arms to Hold You
• Interwoven: The Women of Spider-Man
• Enter the Web
• Art Gallery
• Spider-Man 2: SPinning the Game