Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 15, 2010 2:08 pm

The writers and filmmakers of this sequel to 2002's Spider-Man are to be commended for at least one thing: they actually advanced the story of Peter Parker and his acquaintances. The characters progress forward, a novel concept these days, and so this is not just a rehash of the first Spider-Man movie as with many sequels. I believe the writers, perhaps with director Raimi's input, consciously made this decision, so that we have that sense of actual changes happening to the hero and his supporting cast. It's staggering to think they spent $200 million on this but I guess that's what you need to perfect the computer FX - Spider-Man now looks realistic in nearly every shot, not just 50% of 'em.
It really is two years later: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) juggles college, part-time jobs, and super-heroing - all not very well. With only 24 hours in a day, why should this be a surprise? Though a job delivering pizza should be simple for him (considering his speed), he manages to blow even that, in a rather lengthy early sequence showing how holding down even a menial job in NYC is not easy. Something's got to give, and it turns out to be super-heroics. The central theme continues from the first film, that Parker sacrifices pretty much everything to continue in his role as mankind's helper - until, that is, psychological blocks in his mind cause his powers to peter (no pun intended) out. The story is based a lot on the key issue, #50, of the comic books, from the sixties, as well as Annual #1, in which he seems to lose his powers. In the film, it has to do with his continual lack of success of furthering his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), who gets engaged to John Jameson, astronaut son of J. Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) - this was a bit out of nowhere for me.  
In the books, the introduction of villain Dr. Octopus in issue #3 (way back in 1963) is also pivotal. Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) is another revelation here - they gave him a wife (Donna Murphy) here, contrary to the books - but this turns him into a sympathetic figure, despite his raw power and the havoc he causes. As Stan Lee himself would say way back when, the most interesting villains are the tragic ones. Molina's final scene is truly haunting, as a result, and trademark Raimi. Another Raimi trademark is the horrific style he lends to Dr. Octopus and his lively tentacles. Otto Octavius starts out a benevolent, even gentle scientist; there's the expected unforeseen tech accident, grafting a special harness and its four metallic tentacles to Otto's body. In the hospital's surgical room, the tentacles become murderous monsters, recalling several of Raimi's earlier films, including the Evil Dead ones.  Otto, now a mad doctor with power that may surpass that of Spider-Man, becomes obsessed with recreating the experiment which altered him, even though he may doom the whole city in doing so.
Also continuing from the previous film is the unrequited love for Mary Jane (Dunst). But, this thread definitely advances leaps & bounds by the end. Also advanced is Harry Osborn's (James Franco) character, now turning into a younger version of his deceased father (Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in the previous film); he is obsessed with revenge, i.e. slaying his father's supposed killer, Spider-Man. Not everything works - there are attempts at sublime comedy, such as an elevator scene with Hal Sparks in cameo that just comes off as flat and pointless. The more theatrical humor of Parker coming out of a closet and delaying himself with mops before delivering the pizzas is overdone and not very funny. The action scenes are very good, with even some magnificent tension generated when Spider-Man is faced with the task of halting an out-of-control train, though I do wonder at how Dr. Octopus withstands blows from the super-powerful Spider-Man when he himself supposedly has no such strength (only his tentacles do). The writers also pulled a daring stunt in having Spider-Man's identity revealed to so many people throughout the film, but it all works in underlining the enormous sacrifice required by Parker on a daily basis. Above all, it helps if you don't have just a faceless super-hero.  BoG's Score: 8 out of 10

Spidey Trivia: Stan Lee's cameo is similar to his cameo in the 1st one, a bystander dodging debris and saving a young girl; Bruce Campbell again pops up in one scene as an annoying wiseguy usher refusing Parker entry to a theater; Willem Dafoe also cameos as Norman Osborn, or actually as a delusion of Harry's, goading him and tormenting him into avenging him; this was the 2nd-highest grossing film of 2004, almost but not quite reaching the total gross of the first film - $373 million vs. $403 million (domestic only); there was one more sequel, Spider-Man 3 (2007), to complete the trilogy with this cast and then the film series was rebooted as The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012
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