Spider-Man 2 (2004) dir. Sam Raimi
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirstin Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina
“Spider-Man 2” is one of the rare feats of a sequel that is better than the original – in fact much better than the original. The first Spider-Man seemed to suffer from a budget too small for Raimi’s creative vision. Most of the effects suffered from B-movie-style tricks – including overreaching poorly rendered CGI. Even the mechanics of the story were sloppy, cumbersome, and rudimentary and only slightly more interesting than “Daredevil”. Comic book adaptations nowadays have to be written for adults before kids and therefore they require more sophistication and polish. “Spider-Man 2” is not in the realm of the “Batman Begins” reboot, but it's still one of the best superhero films out there.
“Spider-Man 2” picks up right where the first installment left off; in fact Raimi cleverly summarizes the first film as graphic frames in the credit sequence. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are still in love, but cannot be together because of his burden of power and the responsibility that comes with it. With Parker’s alter-ego taking up too much of his time he finds himself late with his job, his classes and his relationship with MJ. To repair the damage in his life Parker decides to abandon Spiderman in favour of a civilian life. Raimi expresses Parker’s new found freedom in a montage using Burt Bacharach’s song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. It’s a lengthy sequence which could have been cut out, but it certainly helps retain the light, humourous tone of the film.
The dark side of the story involves the new baddie, Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) who has developed a form of ‘controllable fusion’ which would supply everyone with infinite renewable energy(no, there’s no activist subtext here). As usual his experiment goes awry and Ock is fused permanently with his mechanical arms which are attached to his back. His malevolent mechanical arms now control him - damn that flimsy machine intelligence inhibitor chip!
Meanwhile, Harry Osborn still harbours hatred for Spiderman for killing his father (the Green Goblin from numero 1). He employs Doc Ock to find Spiderman so he can kill him and exact his revenge. After a magnificent Spidey/Dr. Ock battle which moves from the Chrysler Building to the above-ground subway line, Spidey is captured. Spider-Man is forced to reveal his true identity to Harry Osborn, which somehow shocks him. Harry saves the battle for later and lets Parker/Spidey go to save MJ who has been kidnapped by Dr. Ock. Spider-Man saves the day and rescues Mary Jane, but not before he is forced to reveal his true identity to her as well.
“Spider-Man 2” sets up high expectations for number 3 by taking away Parker’s veil of anonymity. This is the plot device that all comic books of its kind use to make its human alter-ego 'complex'. The fact is it’s a tired device and lazy storytelling. I’m interested to see if the filmmakers have the skills to pull it off as a final act to the trilogy, or will it sag and wilt like “Matrix Revolutions” or “X-Men 3”.
“Spider-Man 2” is infinitely more interesting than the first because of the presence of Alfred Molina who is more interesting baddie. Wlliem Dafoe’s flying circus act was childish and more like the Krantz cartoon than new millennium filmmaking. Unfortunately we’ll have to endure more of him in part 3 as, apparently, Harry Osborn will continue his father’s legacy of villainy.
I sure hope Raimi and the bunch will be done with “Spider-Man”. I was reminded the other day of “A Simple Plan” – the movie, not the band - and forgot how great that film was. Sam, put down the toys and go back to making real movies – 3 Spider-Man movies is not a challenge for you.
Buy it here: Spider-Man 2.1