Should I Watch..? 'Spider-Man 2'
What's the big deal?
Spider-Man 2 is an action superhero film released in 2004 and is the second film in Sam Raimi's trilogy of Spider-Man films. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film exists long before Marvel Studios began producing their own intertwined series of films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film sees Peter Parker struggle with the responsibility of being a superhero while his personal life falls apart around him and New York falls under threat from a villainous scientist hell-bent on revenge. The movie stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, JK Simmons and Rosemary Harris. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning more than $783 million worldwide as well as an Academy Award. It was also often cited as being one of the best superhero films ever made and would pave the way for a third film, Spider-Man 3, in 2007.
What's it about?
Teenager Peter Parker is suffering as a result of his secret identity, the masked web-slinger Spider-Man. Growing increasingly estranged from his best friend Harry Osborn and love interest Mary-Jane Watson, Peter is also struggling to hold down his job as a photojournalist at the Daily Bugle under the ever-watchful gaze of editor J. Jonah Jameson and quickly discovers that his guardian Aunt May is facing eviction. Worse still, he is suffering from recurring but temporary loss of his power. Faced with an ever-growing list of distractions, Peter must choose whether to abandon his new life or somehow find a way of managing the two.
Meanwhile, Harry Osborn has now moved to become the head of research at his late father's company Oscorp. Funding the ground-breaking work of Doctor Otto Octavius and his fusion reactor, Harry and Peter witness a horrific accident which kills Otto's wife and leave four mechanical arms fused onto Otto's back to help him during his research suddenly gaining sentience. As Doctor Octavius slowly succumbs to his criminal desires and murderous thirst for revenge, Peter realises that now might not be a good time for questioning one's responsibilities...
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Doctor Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus
J. Jonah Jameson
Alvin Sargent *
Release Date (UK)
16th July, 2004
Action, Adventure, Superhero
Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nominations
Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing
What's to like?
The first Spider-Man was a fun, effects-driven leap into a fresh world of comic book escapism, before such polished movies became commonplace. Spider-Man 2 is every bit as good, if not better. Maguire's baby-faced angst is perfect as Parker while Franco and Dunst have more to do this time around. But the real star is Molina as Doctor Octopus, bringing one of my all-time favourite baddies to the screen with an almost tragic backstory and turning the film into a fascinating clash between two super-powered individuals who never wanted to be what they've become.
Raimi's passion for visceral film-making remains, however, and the film indulges in a number of brutal scenes of violence as well as references for the geeks in the audience - I especially liked the chainsaw reference to Raimi's more recognisable zombie horror, The Evil Dead! Simmons' uncanny portrayal of Jameson is also great fun as he abuses his staff and relishes being the bad guy. The film's effects have been tweaked so they look a little less like computer sprites swinging around New York while the story includes plenty of character development amid the web-slinging and wall-crawling. There is much here to admire - all that's missing is a gratuitous cameo from Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark.
- The alley where Parker leaves his Spider-Man suit in the trash is the same alley in the first film where he and MJ kissed. It also replicates an iconic panel from the issue Spider-Man No More! on which this film is loosely based.
- Molina was appearing in a stage adaptation of Fiddler On The Roof while shooting the film. At one point, he starts humming the signature tune If I Was A Rich Man and the puppeteers moved his mechanical arms in time with the song.
- The film also features two characters who, in the comics, go on to become supervillains themselves. Dr Curt Conners, seen during the experiment on the fusion reactor, is the Lizard while John Jameson become Man-Wolf.
What's not to like?
Of course, these days we have a plethora of superhero films with polished effects and winning storylines. With Marvel's ever-expanding MCU raking in billions at the box office, films like this need something different to make them stand out from the crowd. And frankly, Spider-Man 2 doesn't. It is a very entertaining and enjoyable movie with plenty for fans of the character to savour whilst enticing newcomers to the franchise. But it can't quite compete with the very best films the MCU has to offer, from the blockbusting spectacle of Avengers Assemble to the off-kilter sci-fi comedy behind Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Maybe I'm being harsh here - after all, the MCU was just a pipe-dream when this film was first released. Maguire still struggles to convince as Spider-Man because he just looks too fresh-faced. And the film still uses too much CG for my personal tastes - that buzz you should feel when we follow Spidey as he swings his way around the Big Apple just isn't there because we know it's not real. It's like watching the two sequels to The Matrix - nothing feels genuine any more because the magic has gone.
Should I watch it?
Spider-Man 2 is a fantastic superhero movie from a time when such things just didn't exist. It's a huge amount of fun with great performances, thrilling set pieces and imaginative action and story-telling. It just doesn't quite push on into five-star territory because it sticks too rigidly to its own formula. But hindsight aside, any fans of Marvel's current output will get a real kick from this superb slice of escapism.
Great For: comic nerds, fans of the MCU, people wanting to escape for a few hours
Not So Great For: mad nuclear scientists
What else should I watch?
All three of Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy have their good points, in varying quantities. The first one is an enjoyable origin story with Willem Dafoe's patented "mad guy" act in full throttle as the insane Green Goblin. Spider-Man 3 has the good sense to bring in one of Spidey's best baddies, Venom, alongside veteran villain Sandman. However, the film's narrative delivers some bizarre twists and character development while Topher Grace's performance as Eddie Brock is noticeably poor. My advice is to stick with this film because you won't be disappointed.
Now that Marvel have their hands back on the character's rights after the disappointing Amazing Spider-Man 2, it's interesting to see how they'll handle one of their most popular characters' integration into the MCU. Their first full-length attempt after his cameo in Captain America: Civil War was Spider-Man: Homecoming which has already banished memories of Andrew Garfield's brief tenure in the role. Tom Holland is well suited to the role of Parker but do Marvel trust him enough to build up a new franchise? Only time will tell.
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© 2017 Benjamin Cox