Review: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2

Rating



Director

Sam Raimi

Screenplay

Alvin Sargent (Comic: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko)

Length

127 min.

Starring

Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (For stylized action violence)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

The masked crime buster Spider-Man makes a triumphant return as an unexpected threat erupts within the city.

Tobey Maguire marginally improves on his first lackluster performance as the amazing Spider-Man and his alter-ego Peter Parker. Over the past two years, Peter has moved into a rat-hole apartment, taken on a pizza-delivery job that he loses in the first 10 minutes of the film, and has come no closer to requiting his love for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst).

With his grades slipping, Peter has to balance his crime fighting with his mundane life. Spider-Man 2 does a good job putting its characters through dramatic situations that they must resolve through their own willpower. Peter has to write a report on a scientist that he respects. His choice is Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) whose interest in creating a renewable energy source through fusion leads to a disastrous accident that leaves four robotic arms attached to his spinal cord and in control of his body.

Named by the newspaper “Dr. Octopus,” or “Doc Ock” for short, Octavius is perhaps the most human villain ever represented in film. His pursuit to finish the project he started is noble while his limbs dictate that he commit crimes to obtain the financing and equipment he needs to complete his life’s work. Molina is superb in a role that could have been languid and over-the-top. He gives his character a drop of humanity that makes you concerned for his success, failure and redemption.

Inspired, no doubt, by the original’s success and the achievements of story-driven effects films like The Lord of the Rings and X2: X-Men United , Spider-Man 2 takes a winning formula of action-packed adventure and human interest storytelling and makes a fun example of cinematic entertainment.

Director Sam Raimi proves he has an eye for interpersonal drama which was suspiciously absent in the first film. His mise-en-scene is exceptional, his style is impeccable and, if it weren’t for a spate of lackluster performances, unnecessary characters and lazy first quarter, Spider-Man 2 would be a masterpiece.

As it stands, the first quarter tries to establish the characters as having more conflict than when they concluded the first film. It moves slowly, even as we see Peter delivering pizzas and having to make a 30-minute guarantee while sirens speed past him. The sequence is memorable just for its complete unexpectedness but it pales comparing to the rest of the film. Maguire has limited moments of acting inspiration while Dunst wanders aimlessly through a role that may be too normal for her. Then there is the pointless landlord and his daughter whose presence in the movie can be loosely credited as present for dramatic purpose. However, a better screenwriter would have eliminated them from the plot and replaced them with far more appropriate and useful characters and situations.

Spider-Man 2 is an improvement on the original and audiences will want to return time and time again as they find moments of true inspiration, such as the brilliant action sequence on the El in the third quarter. It’s the perfect film to capture and retain summer audiences. It will likely surpass its predecessor thanks to its pulp familiarity and lithe spirit.

Review Written

July 8, 2004

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